Posted: May 23, 2022 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Barbara F. Walter, Civil War, Donald Trump, January 6 insurrection, Republicans
The news this morning is full of stories about corruption by Trump and his cronies; but even more horrifying, Trump himself spent the weekend ranting on Truth Social–his own social media company–and he seemed to suggest that he wants a civil war in the U.S.
Business Insider: Trump reshares post on Truth Social that appears to suggest or predict a civil war in America.
Trump re-posted a suggestion from a Truth Social user called “MAGA King Thanos,” who commented on a screenshot of a tweet from El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele.
In the tweet, Bukele wrote: “The most powerful country in the world is falling so fast, that it makes you rethink what are the real reasons. Something so big and powerful can’t be destroyed so quickly, unless the enemy comes from within.
Bukele’s remarks came in response to a Bloomberg tweet on coping with inflation in the US if one earns under $300,000 a year.
The post that Trump re-shared captured the Truth Social user’s comment on Bukele’s tweet, which read “Civil war.”
Here’s the post Trump shared:
More from Business Insider:
Bukele is El Salvador’s millennial president — a controversial figure who once switched up his Twitter bio to call himself “the coolest dictator in the world.”
Trump’s re-post was picked up on by conservative political activist George Conway, the husband of former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.
“Nothing to see here. Just a former president of the United States sharing a social media post advocating or predicting civil war in the United States. No biggie,” he tweeted.
Trump’s comment was also swiftly rebuked by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of Trump’s staunchest critics in the GOP.
“Any of my fellow Republicans wanna speak out now?” Kinzinger tweeted. “Or are we just wanting to get through ‘just one more election first…?”
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell also weighed in on Trump’s post, tweeting: “Donald Trump is calling for Civil War. Of course, like Vietnam and the walk to the Insurrection, he won’t be man enough to fight it.”
In January, Barbara F. Walter published a book called How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them. I believe I put something in a post about it at the time. Here are some articles from the time the book came out.
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: ‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says.
A startling new finding by one of the nation’s top authorities on foreign civil wars says we are on the cusp of our own.
Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States, but Walter, a longtime friend who has spent her career studying conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere, applied the predictive techniques herself to this country.
Her bottom line: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”
Indeed, the United States has already gone through what the CIA identifies as the first two phases of insurgency — the “pre-insurgency” and “incipient conflict” phases — and only time will tell whether the final phase, “open insurgency,” began with the sacking of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6.
Things deteriorated so dramatically under Trump, in fact, that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.
Dropping five points in five years greatly increases the risk of civil war (six points in three years would qualify as “high risk” of civil war). “A partial democracy is three times as likely to experience civil war as a full democracy,” Walter writes. “A country standing on this threshold — as America is now, at +5 — can easily be pushed toward conflict through a combination of bad governance and increasingly undemocratic measures that further weaken its institutions.”
The Boston Globe published an interview with Walter by Shannon Larson: Q&A with Barbara F. Walter, author of ‘How Civil Wars Start,’ on the prospect of open civil conflict breaking out in the US.
Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, has spent over three decades studying civil conflict. In her new book, “How Civil Wars Start: and How to Stop Them,” Walter examines the rise of violent extremism on a global scale and warns of the increasing likelihood of a second civil war breaking out in the United States.
“January 6, 2021 was a gift to the American people,” she tweeted on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. “It made it impossible for the country to ignore or deny the cancer that has been growing out of the public eye for years. We can fix this!”
From the interview:
1) In your book, you write that the United States is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” How did you reach that conclusion?
“I’m a quantitative social scientist who studies civil wars. That means that I don’t study just one civil war in one country. I study all civil wars that have occurred over the last 80 years (and there have been over 200 of them). There has been an enormous amount of data collected by scholars on the factors that lead to civil war — so we know what things tend to put countries at greater risk of civil war.
“In addition, between 2017 and 2021, I served on the Political Instability Task Force run by the US government. The Task Force included political scientists, economists, anthropologists, and data analysts. The task of the Task Force was to put together a predictive model that would help the US government predict where around the world political instability and political violence was likely to break out. The Task Force included over 50 variables in the model — variables that the experts thought might matter, like poverty, income inequality, the ethnic diversity of a country, the size of a country, etc. Only two factors turn out to be highly predictive: anocracy and ethnic factionalism.”
2) What is an anocracy? What does it mean when a government is defined as such?
“Anocracy is a term that political scientists use for a government that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, it is something in between. You can think of it as a partial democracy, weak democracy, illiberal democracy. It turns out that it is in this middle zone — between democracy and autocracy — that most civil wars occur. The second factor was whether a political faction had emerged in an anocracy that was based on ethnic, religious, or racial identity, and that faction then had the goal to gain power in order to exclude everyone else.”
3) What are some of the more notable examples in recent history demonstrating that the country is heading down the path toward a civil war?
“The US’s democracy has been weakening since 2016. It was downgraded first in 2016, then again in 2019, and then finally again after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, when it was classified as an anocracy for the first time since 1800.
“And then, one of America’s two big parties — the Republican Party — has become a faction based on race. As late as 2008, white Americans were equally likely to be a Democrat as a Republican. Today, 90 percent of the Republican Party is white, and it is doing everything possible to disenfranchise those who don’t vote Republican.” [….]
6) What would a modern civil war look like?
“The next civil war will look nothing like the last civil war. 21st-century civil wars tend to look much more like insurgencies — often fought by multiple factions, militias, and paramilitary groups — sometimes working together, sometimes competing. And they tend to use unconventional methods such as terrorism and guerilla warfare. It will look more like Northern Ireland and the 1st and 2nd intifada than Gettysburg.”
I’ve quoted quite a bit of the article, because it is behind a paywall.
This piece by Stephen Marche at The Guardian is also an important read. The next US civil war is already here – we just refuse to see it.
The United States today is, once again, headed for civil war, and, once again, it cannot bear to face it. The political problems are both structural and immediate, the crisis both longstanding and accelerating. The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible.
The legal system grows less legitimate by the day. Trust in government at all levels is in freefall, or, like Congress, with approval ratings hovering around 20%, cannot fall any lower. Right now, elected sheriffs openly promote resistance to federal authority. Right now, militias train and arm themselves in preparation for the fall of the Republic. Right now, doctrines of a radical, unachievable, messianic freedom spread across the internet, on talk radio, on cable television, in the malls.
The consequences of the breakdown of the American system is only now beginning to be felt. January 6 wasn’t a wake-up call; it was a rallying cry. The Capitol police have seen threats against members of Congress increase by 107%. Fred Upton, Republican representative from Michigan, recently shared a message he had received: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your family dies.” And it’s not just politicians but anyone involved in the running of the electoral system. Death threats have become a standard aspect of the work life of election supervisors and school board members. A third of poll workers, in the aftermath of 2020, said they felt unsafe.
Two things are happening at the same time. Most of the American right have abandoned faith in government as such. Their politics is, increasingly, the politics of the gun. The American left is slower on the uptake, but they are starting to figure out that the system which they give the name of democracy is less deserving of the name every year.
An incipient illegitimacy crisis is under way, whoever is elected in 2022, or in 2024. According to a University of Virginia analysis of census projections, by 2040, 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate. Eight states will contain half the population. The Senate malapportionment gives advantages overwhelmingly to white, non– college educated voters. In the near future, a Democratic candidate could win the popular vote by many millions of votes and still lose. Do the math: the federal system no longer represents the will of the American people.
The right is preparing for a breakdown of law and order, but they are also overtaking the forces of law and order. Hard right organization have now infiltrated so many police forces – the connections number in the hundreds – that they have become unreliable allies in the struggle against domestic terrorism.
I’ve focused this post on civil war, because I think this is where the Trumpists and the rest of the Republicans who cower in fear of their base are taking us. And I don’t think the Democrats are taking this seriously enough. I hope I’m wrong about that.
More stories to check out today:
The New York Times: Kushner’s and Mnuchin’s Quick Pivots to Business With the Gulf.
Crew: The Secret Service spent nearly $2 million at Trump properties.
The Guardian: Capitol attack panel to hold six public hearings as it aims to show how Trump broke law.
Just Security: Prosecuting Trump for the Insurrection: The Well-Founded Case f.or Optimism.
The Daily Beast: How Trump’s Fear of Getting Pied in the Face May Come Back to Cream Him.
The Washington Post: Russian diplomat resigns protesting Putin’s ‘aggressive war.’
The New York Times: U.S. Military Airlifts Baby Formula From Europe.
CNN: Biden says US would respond ‘militarily’ if China attacked Taiwan, but White House insists there’s no policy change.
Melissa Murray at The New York Times How the Right to Birth Control Could Be Undone.
Politico: State Democrats, abortion-rights activists ‘incredibly frustrated’ with federal inaction.
Have a nice Monday, Sky Dancers!!
Posted: May 21, 2022 Filed under: just because
By Ophelia Redpath, British artist
Just a short time ago, I knew almost nothing about Tesla owner Elon Musk; and now I wish I’d never even heard his name. This man is another Donald Trump–narcissistic, childish, completely self-involved, and devoid of empathy. What. An. Asshole.
Obviously, Musk’s bid to buy Twitter was a desperate ploy for attention. He’s gotten it, but much of the attention has been negative. Now both Tesla and Twitter stock are losing value and he has been credibly accused of sexual harassment. According to Business Insider, Musk exposed himself to a Space X flight attendant and asked her to perform a sex act, then paid her $250K for her silence when she refused. Even more shocking, the BI story said that Space X flight attendants were required to provide massages to Musk and other passengers and it was suggested that they get professional massage training and pay for it themselves. On top of that, yesterday Musk began baselessly attacking Hillary Clinton.
Jack Ewing at The New York Times: Tesla’s Aura Dims as Its Plunging Stock Highlights the Risks It Faces.
Investors are reassessing the premise that justified Tesla’s astronomical stock price and made its founder, Elon Musk, the richest person in the world.
Tesla’s $1 trillion valuation made sense only if investors believed the electric car company was on a path to dominate the auto industry the way Apple rules smartphones or Amazon commands online retailing.
But Tesla’s shares have declined more than 40 percent since April 4 — a much steeper fall than the broad market, vaporizing more than $400 billion in stock market value. And the tumble has called attention to the risks that the company faces. These include increasing competition, a dearth of new products, lawsuits accusing the company of racial discrimination and significant production problems at Tesla’s factory in Shanghai, which it uses to supply Asia and Europe.
Mr. Musk has not helped the stock price by turning his bid to buy Twitter into a financial soap opera. His antics have reinforced the perception that Tesla lacks an independent board of directors that could stop him from doing things that might damage the company’s business and brand.
“From a corporate good governance perspective Tesla has a lot of red flags,” said Andrew Poreda, a senior analyst who specializes in socially responsible investing at Sage Advisory Services, an investment firm in Austin, Texas. “There are almost no checks and balances.”
Even longtime Tesla optimists are having doubts. Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, has been one of the most steadfast believers in Tesla on Wall Street. But on Thursday, Wedbush lowered its target price for Tesla — the firm’s estimate of the shares’ fair market value based on future earnings — to $1,000 from $1,400. Mr. Ives cited Tesla’s problems in China, where lockdowns have throttled the supply of crucial parts and materials and demand for cars.
Dick and Puffin, by Nan Youngman, 1931, British artist
This is from Business Insider, via Yahoo Finance: 3 years after SpaceX is said to have paid a former employee $250,000 over Elon Musk’s sexual misconduct, women at Musk’s companies continue to complain about inappropriate behavior.
Even after SpaceX paid $250,000 in 2018 to a contract worker flight attendant so that she wouldn’t sue its billionaire chief Elon Musk over sexual misconduct….three years since that settlement, female employees continue to raise sexual harassment issues at Musk’s companies, SpaceX and Tesla.
“In the past year alone, I have had to bring multiple different incidents of sexism to HR,” former SpaceX engineer Ashley Kosak said in an essay published in December on Lioness. Kosak said she started as an intern in 2017 and became an engineer in 2019.
But “nothing was done” after she flagged these incidents to HR, she said. The company promised mandatory training about sexual harassment, but “matters of this nature were too private to openly discuss with the perpetrators,” according to Kosak.
“Ultimately, the stress that had mounted from my years of working at SpaceX broke my health down in ways I had never previously experienced,” said Kosak, and she left the company in late November….
SpaceX is not the only company founded by Musk that faced allegations of sexual misconduct and harsh work conditions.
At Tesla, at least 24 women have sued the carmaker in the past five years, alleging that they were sexually harassed, groped, or even physically assaulted, according to an Insider report in March. Some said they were denied pay raises and promotions, the article added.
In late 2021 alone, Tesla was hit by at least eight lawsuits alleging sexual harassment at the company by female workers, according to reports from Insider and The Washington Post.
Painting by Jiří Petr
Six women filed individual lawsuits on December 14 alleging that Tesla fostered a culture of sexual harassment at its factories, The Post reported.
A few days prior, on December 8, an employee alleged that the carmaker failed to stop “a pattern of continuous and pervasive” sexual harassment and retaliating against her at its Fremont factory, Insider reported.
And in November, a worker sued the company for operating like a “frat house” by subjecting female employees to “rampant sexual harassment.”
Perhaps in response to the NYT report yesterday or knowledge of the upcoming sexual harassment story, Musk posted a Trumpian tweet suggesting he planned to begin suing people who dared to insult him. Raw Story: ‘There will be blood’: Elon Musk seeks to hire ‘hardcore streetfighters’ as Tesla stock tanks.
“Tesla is building a hardcore litigation department where we directly initiate & execute lawsuits. The team will report directly to me,” Musk posted to Twitter, which he is seeking to acquire.
He included an email address and asked people to “please send 3 to 5 bullet points describing evidence of exceptional ability.”
“Looking for hardcore streetfighters, not white-shoe lawyers like Perkins or Cooley who thrive on corruption,” he explained.
“There will be blood,” the billionaire added ominously.
Musk was roundly mocked on Twitter for this; some tweeters suggested Musk had tried to hire high-profile attorneys who weren’t interested in his childish games. Kind of like Trump–I wonder if Musk pays his legal bills?
And then there’s this from psychologist John Gartner:
Yesterday, Musk actually replied approvingly to a tweet by Jim Jordan and attacked Hillary Clinton for a tweet she sent in 2016. The right wingers are trying to lock Hillary up again because she approved giving information to a journalist about a possible connection between the Trump organization and Alpha Bank. The last I heard, giving a tip to a reporter is not a crime.
Business Insider: Elon Musk called out Twitter over 2016 Hillary Clinton tweet linking the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.
Elon Musk has accused Twitter of allowing “disinformation” on its platform by failing to act on a 2016 tweet by Hillary Clinton that linked the Trump Organization to a Russian state-owned bank.
Musk, who is in the process of buying Twitter, was prompted by a user who said they had reported the tweet — a screengrab of a statement from her policy adviser in response to a Slate article — to “the powers that be” at the social media giant for “misleading disinformation.”
Musk replied: “You are absolutely correct. That tweet is a Clinton campaign hoax for which their campaign lawyer is undergoing a criminal trial.” Musk linked to a BBC article from May 18 about a trial in which Michael Sussmann, Clinton’s lawyer, has been accused of trying to “manipulate” the FBI in the run-up to the 2016 election.
There’s more stupid stuff at the link if you’re interested. How is this guy any different from Trump?
One more Musk/Trump-related story from The Washington Post: Oracle’s Larry Ellison joined Nov. 2020 call about contesting Trump’s loss.
Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder and chairman of the software company Oracle and the biggest backer of Elon Musk’s attempted Twitter takeover, participated in a call shortly after the 2020 election that focused on strategies for contesting the legitimacy of the vote, according to court documents and a participant.
Painting by Sasha Bassari
The Nov. 14 call included Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.); Fox News host Sean Hannity; Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Donald Trump; and James Bopp Jr., an attorney for True the Vote, a Texas-based nonprofit that has promoted disputed claims of widespread voter fraud.
Ellison’s participation illustrates a previously unknown dimension in the multifaceted campaign to challenge Trump’s loss, an effort still coming into focus more than 18 months later. It is the first known example of a technology industry titan joining powerful figures in conservative politics, media and law to strategize about Trump’s post-loss options and confer with an activist group that had already filed four lawsuits seeking to uncover evidence of illegal voting….
Details of the November 2020 call and questions about Ellison’s role in it were revealed in new filings made in litigation brought against True the Vote and its representatives by Fair Fight, a political action committee associated with the voting rights organization founded by Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
“Jim was on a call this evening with Jay Sekulow, Lindsey O. Graham, Sean Hannity, and Larry Ellison,” True the Vote’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, wrote to a donor on the night of the call, referring to Bopp, her organization’s lawyer. “He explained the work we were doing and they asked for a preliminary report asap, to be used to rally their troops internally, so that’s what I’m working on now.”
Ellison’s participation in the call was confirmed by a participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters. This person said Ellison, as a technology executive, may have been enlisted to assess claims about voting machines made by Sidney Powell, a onetime member of Trump’s legal team. And the person said the GOP megadonor was probably looped in by Graham, as part of a discussion about whether the Trump campaign had assembled an effective legal team.
Did Ellison urge Musk to buy Twitter to either help Trump get his account back or help right-wingers get control of the platform in preparation for 2024?
In other stupid right-wing news, check out this story at NBC News: Laws restricting lessons on racism are making it hard for teachers to discuss the massacre in Buffalo.
Two days after a white gunman opened fire and killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, teacher Elizabeth Close began her high school ethnic studies class in Austin, Texas, by reminding her students about a new state law that requires her to provide balanced perspectives on “widely debated and currently controversial issues.”
Oscar Wilde, by Theo Daamen
Close told her students that under the law, one of several recently implemented across the country that limit the ways teachers can discuss racism and current events, she was obligated to inform them that there’s more than one way to view Saturday’s mass shooting.
On one hand, she explained that authorities are investigating the killings as a racially motivated hate crime carried out by an 18-year-old who reportedly wrote of his belief in a conspiracy theory that white Americans are being “replaced” by people of color through immigration, interracial marriage and integration.
“But I’m also supposed to tell you that that’s just one perspective,” Close recalled telling her students. “Another perspective is that this young man was out defending the world — or his kind — from being taken over.”
Close waited for her comment to fully register with her students, then added: “If you guys want to know why I’m thinking about quitting at the end of the year, it’s because of these types of policies — the fact that I have to have this conversation with you.”
I might as well stick with the stupid right-wingers theme. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy is getting a lot of attention for a racist remark about high rates of deaths of women in childbirth. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy: Our Maternal Death Rates Are Only Bad If You Count Black Women.
Louisiana, which has a…trigger law that will go into effect upon Roe being reversed, maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the nation. But according to GOP senator Bill Cassidy, the rate at which women die during pregnancy or shortly after is not as bad as it seems—if you subtract the deaths of Black women, which apparently don’t count.
In an interview with Politico, the following words came out of Cassidy’s mouth: “About a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So, if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it’d otherwise appear. Now, I say that not to minimize the issue but to focus the issue as to where it would be. For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality.” There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the idea that Cassidy—who wants to defund Planned Parenthood is all, Yes, on its face, our maternal mortality rates are abysmal, but if you only count white women, they’re not that bad!
Then there’s the phrase “for whatever reason.” In fact, there is one very big reason in particular— perhaps you can take a guess? “It’s no mystery why maternal mortality rates are so high among Black women,” Michelle Williams, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health said in response. “They are high because of the devastating impacts of structural racism and individual bias.”
By Ophelia Redpath
One more from The Daily Dot about the right-wing Georgia rep who was asked by the January 6 committee to explain what he was doing showing a group of people around the Capitol building on January 5: EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Loudermilk gave a radio interview that blows up his denials about hosting Jan. 6 protesters in his office.
The Daily Dot has obtained a radio interview from Jan. 6, 2021, from WBHF in Cartersville, Georgia, in which Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) says, “about a dozen” people were present in his congressional office in Washington, D.C. the day before the Capitol riot.
Yesterday, Loudermilk said in a statement that “a constituent family” visited him the day before the Capitol riot. That is an updated version of a previous statement by Republicans on the Committee on House Administration—which Loudermilk is a member of—that originally stated “there were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on” given by him or other Republicans in advance of the Capitol riot.
But in the interview—given as the riot was winding down—Loudermilk made it clear that he met with people who were planning to protest on Jan. 6, and that he discussed how they wanted to be in the crowd that day to protest the results of the 2020 election.
Yesterday, the January 6th Select Committee sent a letter to Loudermilk, requesting his testimony. In the letter, they noted that “Republicans on the Committee on House Administration … claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that ‘[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.’ However, the Select Committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial.”
That’s it for me today. Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!
Posted: May 19, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus, Covid-19, Democracy in peril, Donald Trump, election deniers, fascism, food shortages, Idaho, midterm elections 2022, Ukraine war
Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam
Here’s what I see as the major topics in the news today: world events stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine; the ongoing Trumpist attack on U.S. democracy; and the new wave of Covid-19 cases.
Outgrowths of Ukraine War
Fascism and totalitarianism expert Timothy Snyder at The New York Times: We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist.
Fascism was never defeated as an idea.
As a cult of irrationality and violence, it could not be vanquished as an argument: So long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated. Now it’s back — and this time, the country fighting a fascist war of destruction is Russia. Should Russia win, fascists around the world will be comforted.
We err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust. Fascism was Italian in origin, popular in Romania — where fascists were Orthodox Christians who dreamed of cleansing violence — and had adherents throughout Europe (and America). In all its varieties, it was about the triumph of will over reason.
Because of that, it’s impossible to define satisfactorily. People disagree, often vehemently, over what constitutes fascism. But today’s Russia meets most of the criteria that scholars tend to apply. It has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin. It has a cult of the dead, organized around World War II. It has a myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness, to be restored by a war of healing violence — the murderous war on Ukraine.
You’ll need to read the whole essay to get the full impact of Snyder’s argument, but here’s a bit more:
We understand more about fascism than we did in the 1930s. We now know where it led. We should recognize fascism, because then we know what we are dealing with. But to recognize it is not to undo it. Fascism is not a debating position, but a cult of will that emanates fiction. It is about the mystique of a man who heals the world with violence, and it will be sustained by propaganda right to the end. It can be undone only by demonstrations of the leader’s weakness. The fascist leader has to be defeated, which means that those who oppose fascism have to do what is necessary to defeat him. Only then do the myths come crashing down.
Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte
As in the 1930s, democracy is in retreat around the world and fascists have moved to make war on their neighbors. If Russia wins in Ukraine, it won’t be just the destruction of a democracy by force, though that is bad enough. It will be a demoralization for democracies everywhere. Even before the war, Russia’s friends — Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson — were the enemies of democracy. Fascist battlefield victories would confirm that might makes right, that reason is for the losers, that democracies must fail.
Had Ukraine not resisted, this would have been a dark spring for democrats around the world. If Ukraine does not win, we can expect decades of darkness.
The Economist: The coming food catastrophe. War is tipping a fragile world towards mass hunger. Fixing that is everyone’s business.
By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will destroy the lives of people far from the battlefield—and on a scale even he may regret. The war is battering a global food system weakened by covid-19, climate change and an energy shock. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened. Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.
The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the un secretary general, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten “the spectre of a global food shortage” that could last for years. The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.
Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.
Landscape with rain, Wassily Kandinsky
Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.
Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.
The Trumpist Attack on U.S. Democracy
This is from The Washington Post news analysis by Leigh Ann Caldwell, Theodoric Meyer: Trump uses Pa. primary to continue effort to undermine electoral system.
Donald Trump‘s continued effort to discredit or manipulate the electoral process is playing out in two distinct but related ways in the wake of Tuesday’s primary contests in Pennsylvania.
First, he is casting doubt on the result of the Senate GOP primary by once again making baseless claims that mail-in ballots are causing problems and suggesting his preferred candidate, Mehmet Oz, should just declare victory.
“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said, providing no evidence, on his social media platform Truth Social, our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports.
Second, the nominee he backed for governor, Doug Mastriano, won the primary and if he wins the election in November, Mastriano would have considerable influence over how the state’s presidential election results are handled in 2024 when Trump may be on the ballot as our colleague’s Rosalind S. Helderman, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey explain.
Mastriano has been one of the staunchest backers of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and the steps he wanted officials to take to deny Joe Biden victory.
Rain swept street, by Mike Barr
“As governor, Mastriano would have the opportunity not just to speak, but to act,” Roz, Isaac and Josh write. A possibility that is “worrying experts already fearful of a democratic breakdown around the 2024 presidential contest.”
“Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.”
Read more at the WaPo link.
Reid Epstein at The New York Times: Midterm Stakes Grow Clearer: Election Deniers Will Be on Many Ballots.
Republican voters in this week’s primary races demonstrated a willingness to nominate candidates who parrot Donald J. Trump’s election lies and who appear intent on exerting extraordinary political control over voting systems. The results make clear that the November midterms may well affect the fate of free and fair elections in the country.
In Pennsylvania, Republican voters united behind a nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot, and who has since promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden’s victory in his state.
In North Carolina, voters chose a G.O.P. Senate nominee, Representative Ted Budd, who voted in Congress against certifying the 2020 results and who continues to refuse to say that Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.
And in Idaho, which Mr. Trump won overwhelmingly in 2020, 57 percent of voters backed two Republican candidates for secretary of state who pushed election falsehoods, though they lost a three-way race to a rival who accepts Mr. Biden as president.
The strong showings on Tuesday by election deniers, who have counterparts running competitively in primaries across the country over the coming months, were an early signal of the threat posed by the Trump-inspired movement.
This story about what’s happening in Idaho was published before yesterday’s primaries, but it’s still an important read. Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: Living With The Far-Right Insurgency In Idaho.
IDAHO — White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.
“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people, and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”
Foxx, 36, isn’t from Idaho. He only recently moved from California to Post Falls. But in the video, he showed off photos of himself posing with a string of prominent Republican politicians in the state as he explained who he’s supporting in the upcoming primaries, slated for May 17.
Gregory Thielker,, Rainy Day in Washington, DC
He was especially excited about a selfie he’d taken a week prior: It showed him and fellow white nationalist Dave Reilly, a recent Pennsylvania transplant also living in Post Falls, standing alongside Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. All three were smiling.
“We’re supporting her,” Foxx said, bragging of his movement’s “deep connections” to McGeachin, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed in the GOP primary race for governor. Foxx then explained how his particular brand of Christian white nationalism is poised to conquer Idaho, then the country.
“The solution is local politics: Amassing power in these pockets of the country until it’s time to unify,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months and I’m tapped in the way that I am. You can do it too.”
Fascists like Foxx are famous fabulists, experts at exaggerating their influence and success. But Foxx wasn’t just talking shit.
He is one of many far-right activists who have flocked to Idaho in recent years, where a large and growing radical MAGA faction in the state’s Republican Party has openly allied itself with extremists to a shocking extent, even for the Trump era. This faction is accruing more and more power in Boise, the state capital: Imagine a statehouse full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Steve Kings. At the local level, they have seized seats on school boards and county commissions at a fast clip.
Please read the rest. This could easily happening in other small states.
New Covid Wave
The Washington Post: Top Biden health officials sound warning on rising covid infections.
Top Biden administration officials warned Wednesday that one-third of Americans live in communities experiencing rising levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and urged them to resume taking personal protection measures, including wearing masks.
The increase in new infections — nearing 100,000 a day — comes as the nation heads into Memorial Day weekend with its large gatherings and travel. That case count is almost certainly an undercount, officials said, given the widespread use of at-home tests for which results are often not reported to health officials.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strongly encouraged those living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating they have large numbers of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other steps to protect themselves.
“As we’re currently seeing a steady rise of cases in parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent further infection and severe disease, including wearing a mask, getting tested, accessing treatments early if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted,”she said.
Wednesday’s warnings from Walensky and two other officials — Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser — came on the same day the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million covid-19 deaths, a toll that even the starkest predictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020 did not anticipate.
In the Rain, Franz Marc
Also from The Washington Post: How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.
Experts say Americans can assume that infections in their communities are five to 10 times the official counts.
“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state or national level is a severe undercount,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, housed at theRockefeller Foundation. “Everyone knows someone getting covid now.”
Hospitalizations nationally have increased 57 percent since bottoming out six weeks ago. But the roughly 23,000 covid patients in hospitals over the last week still represent nearly the lowest hospitalization levels of the entire pandemic.The recentincrease is led by the Northeast, where hospitalization rates are almost twice as high as in any other region.
Reported cases of covid have also tripled in the Northeast in just over a month, driving much of the growth nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The country has averaged about 100,000 new cases each day over the past week —more than three times as high as at the lowest point in March.
The latest uptick in infections is testing a new CDC alert system adopted by many local and state governments that categorizes community levels of covid-19 as “low” even with the number of new cases rising to a level once considered high.
More than two-thirds of Americans live in low-risk areas under these metrics. But 43 percent of residents in the Northeastlive in areas considered high-risk, compared with 9percent in the Midwest and less than 1 percent each in the South and West.
I recommend clicking the link and reading the entire article.
Morning on the Seine in the rain, Claude Monet
CNBC: U.S. faces unnecessary Covid deaths if Congress fails to pass funding bill, top health official warns.
Top U.S. health officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for Congress to pass funding for the nation’s fight against Covid-19, warning that failure to act now would result in an unnecessary loss of life in the fall and winter.
Their warning comes as new infections and hospitalizations are on the rise as the more transmissible omicron subvariants sweep the U.S.
The nation is reporting more than 94,000 new infections daily on average as of Monday, a 25% increase over the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, hospitalizations have increased 18% over the past week with about 3,000 people admitted with Covid every day on average, according to CDC data.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House Covid response coordinator, said the fact that many people are now taking at-home tests, results of which are not captured in the data, has to be taken into consideration.
“We know that the number of infections is actually substantially higher than that, hard to know exactly how many, but we know that a lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests,” Jha said during a White House update on the pandemic Wednesday. “We’re clearly undercounting cases. There’s a lot of infections across America.”
Those are today’s top stories as I see it. What do you think? What stories are you following?
Posted: May 17, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Buffalo racist massacre, Elise Stefanik, Fox News, GOP mainstreams violence, mass shootings, Payton Gendron, red flag laws, replacement theory, Republicans, Tucker Carlson, Wendy Rogers, White supremacists
Garden Cats, Hilary Pecis, 1979
I’m really late getting started today, because I had a chance to get a second Moderna booster shot and I took it. My town held a booster clinic in my apartment building late this morning. My arm is sore and I expect I’ll have some symptoms for a few days like I did with the last shot. I hope it won’t be too bad.
Anyway, there’s lots happening today. Of course there’s quite bit of discussion of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and I’m going to focus on that. The massacre has also put a spotlight on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson’s hate filled rants and drawn attention to NY Rep. Elise Stefanik promotion of the so-called “great replacement theory.” Another Trumpist politician in Arizona is also being investigated for her claims about the Buffalo mass shooting.
The Washington Post: Buffalo shooting suspect wrote of plans 5 months ago, messages show.
Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, wrote in increasing detail of his plans to murder dozens of Black people in statements posted online over the past five months, according to a compilation of messages by a writer who identified himself as Gendron.
A review of more than 600 pages of messages by The Washington Post found that Gendron resolved in December to kill those he slurred as “replacers,” and decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population. In March, he performed a reconnaissance-style trip to monitor the store’s security and map out its aisles, the messages show. When a store guard confronted him about why he had repeatedly entered that day, Gendron made excuses and fled in what he described as “a close call,” the messages state.
Having identified the supermarket as “attack area 1,” Gendron detailed two additional Buffalo locations as areas at which to “shoot all blacks,” according to the messages, which showed that he had charted routes to each location, worked out the times needed for each shootout and assessed that more than three dozen people in all could be fatally shot.
Wind from the sea, Edward Gordon
Police confirmed on Monday that they suspected Gendron had intended to attack multiple locations. Also on Monday, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in a call with various law enforcement officials and community leaders: “I want to be clear, for my part, from everything we know, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”
Gendron, from Conklin, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in relation to the attack on Saturday. Three other people were also injured before Gendron was arrested at the grocery store. The shootings were streamed live online. In a separate 180-page document published two days before Saturday’s shooting, Gendron cited a racist theory that non-Whites were brought to the United States to replace White people for political purposes.
The 672-page compilation of messages reviewed by The Post was published during the weeks before the attack in Buffalo. The messages featured a screen name that Gendron used on other platforms, contained images of Gendron’s face in selfies and referenced events in his personal life, such as a speeding ticket, which The Post verified.
You can read much more about Gendron and his plans at the WaPo link.
NBC News: New York’s red flag law should have helped thwart the Buffalo mass shooting. What went wrong?
Less than a year after a white teenager in upstate New York was investigated for making a threatening statement at school, he legally purchased a firearm, which he is accused of using to gun down 10 Black people in a racist rampage, authorities said.
The massacre at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday should have been thwarted by New York’s red flag law, which aims to stop people from buying or possessing firearms when they show they’re threats to themselves or others, gun policy experts said.
“It was designed exactly for this circumstance,” said David Pucino, the deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, a gun-safety group.
Instead, after Payton Gendron appeared on the radar of New York State Police in June over a chilling comment about a murder-suicide he made in the classroom while he was still a minor, he was evaluated and cleared, paving the way for him to legally buy the semi-automatic rifle he is accused of using in the shooting 11 months later, law enforcement officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
No official involved in the investigation in June initiated a court process that could have helped prevent Gendron from buying the rifle, a New York State Police spokesperson said Monday.
Now, state legislators are looking into whether those involved followed the proper protocol. “I’ve asked for the investigation of exactly what transpired there,” Hochul told Buffalo’s WKSE radio on Monday.
Hochul said a teacher had asked Gendron about his plans just before the start of summer vacation last year. He responded, “I want to murder and commit suicide,” Hochul said.
The Summer Poppy Field, Claude Monet
NBC News: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson under fresh scrutiny after Buffalo mass shooting.
Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is facing intense scrutiny from extremism experts, media watchdogs and progressive activists who say there is a link between the top-rated host’s “great replacement” rhetoric and the apparent mindset of the suspect in the weekend’s deadly rampage in Buffalo, New York.
The white suspect accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood apparently wrote a “manifesto” espousing the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory — elements of which Carlson has pushed on his weeknight show.
The theory baselessly holds that a cabal of Jewish people and Democratic elites are plotting to “replace” white Americans with people of color through immigration policies, higher birth rates and other social transformations. The idea circulated on the far-right fringes before moving to the mainstream of conservative media.
“Tucker Carlson has made comments that directly reference this conspiracy theory on his show,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks white supremacy, hate groups and extremism.
“The rhetoric that he espouses finds its origins in white supremacist literature,” Hayden went on to say, citing examples of websites and other publications popular with white supremacists. He added that Carlson “stops short of naming” Jewish people as the orchestrators of the “replacement,” instead using more general terms such as “the elite.”
Annie Karni at The New York Times: Racist Attack Spotlights Stefanik’s Echo of Replacement Theory.
Over the past week, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking House Republican, has blasted President Biden for providing infant formula to undocumented immigrants while “American mothers” suffer amid a nationwide formula shortage.
Wheat field with a reaper, Vincent Van Gogh
She has attacked Democrats and “pedo grifters,” borrowing language from the baseless pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory that claims there is a Satan-worshipping cabal of liberal pedophiles, which has evolved into a movement on the right.
And after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, where a heavily armed white man is accused of killing 10 Black people at a supermarket in a racist rampage, Ms. Stefanik is under scrutiny for campaign advertisements she has circulated that play on themes of the white supremacist “great replacement” theory. That belief, espoused by the Buffalo gunman, holds that the elite class, sometimes manipulated by Jews, wants to “replace” and disempower white Americans.
Last year, in an ad on Facebook, Ms. Stefanik accused “radical Democrats” of planning what she described as a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.”
“Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington,” the ad said.
Stefanik originally ran as a “moderate,” but that was before she decided to suck up to Trump to advance her career.
ArizonaCentral.com: Arizona Senate to investigate Wendy Rogers over social media post on Buffalo shooting.
The Arizona Senate will investigate a social media post from state Sen. Wendy Rogers that suggested the shooter in a mass killing in Buffalo, New York, last weekend was a federal agent and part of a federal conspiracy.
The Senate voted 24-3, with three members not voting, to move forward with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. The committee will now examine Rogers’ remarks “relating to the Buffalo shooting as inappropriate of an elected official with this body.”
An effort to expel Rogers, pushed by Democrats, failed on a 11-15 vote just after 4 p.m.
Sea Watchers, Edward Hopper, 1952
Rogers, a Trump-endorsed, first-term politician who belongs to the Oath Keepers and has espoused conspiracy theories, was censured by her Senate peers on March 1 after she promoted hanging political enemies during an appearance at an event hosted by Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and threatened to destroy fellow Republicans’ careers.
Rogers also drew condemnation at the time for antisemitic statements and behavior, including a promotional photo of her next to do a dead rhino marked with a Star of David.
On Saturday, following the shooting deaths of 10 people at a Buffalo store, Rogers posted on the social media site Telegram, “Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo.”
Numerous political observers and journalists said that Rogers statement meant that she was calling the shooting was a “false flag” operation by federal authorities. The statement drew nearly 200 comments that were subsequently blocked from view by Telegram.
Two more articles discuss the GOP’s responsibility for racist violence:
David Leonhardt: The Right’s Violence Problem. The Buffalo killings are part of a pattern: Most extremist violence in the U.S. comes from the political right.
Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.
Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.
Nearly half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists:
As this data shows, the American political right has a violence problem that has no equivalent on the left. And the 10 victims in Buffalo this past weekend are now part of this toll. “Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written. “The numbers don’t lie.”
The pattern extends to violence less severe than murder, like the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. It also extends to the language from some Republican politicians — including Donald Trump — and conservative media figures that treats violence as a legitimate form of political expression. A much larger number of Republican officials do not use this language but also do not denounce it or punish politicians who do use it; Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, is a leading example.
Talia Lavin at Rolling Stone: The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican.
There’s no such thing as a lone wolf — an appellation often given, in error, to terrorists who act alone, particularly those of the white supremacist variety. There are only those people who, fed a steady diet of violent propaganda and stochastic terror, take annihilatory rhetoric to its logical conclusion.
Such was the case on Saturday, when a teenaged white supremacist named Payton Gendron opened fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, while livestreaming the carnage on the live-video site Twitch. Prior to the shooting, he had posted a 180-page manifesto in which he laid out his rationale clearly: He was an adherent of what is called Great Replacement Theory, the idea that white people, in the United States and white-majority countries around the world, are being systematically, deliberately outbred and “replaced” by immigrants and ethnic minorities, in a deliberate attempt to rid the world of whiteness. It’s a conspiracy theory that has inspired terror attacks in New Zealand and Pittsburgh, San Diego, and El Paso – an ideology that marries demographic panic with the idea of a cunning, nefarious plot. Reading through the document, what struck me hardest, however, was how very close the killer’s ideas were to the American mainstream – the white-hot core of American politics.
Apple tree, Gustav Klimt
Five years ago, when white supremacists walked down the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and carrying tiki torches, few people understood their intent – the fact that they were referring to replacement theory. The idea seemed outlandish, even incomprehensible; at the time, it was a fairly obscure rallying cry, based around a 2012 book by French novelist Renaud Camus fearmongering about a nonwhite-majority Europe, absorbed into the fetid stew of white-supremacist cant, where it acquired a vicious antisemitism. For many white supremacists, it is Jews who are orchestrating the “reverse colonization,” as Camus put it, of white countries, in order to more easily manipulate a nonwhite and therefore more malleable general populace. In Gendron’s manifesto, after explaining in detail why he picked the particular supermarket he did — it was in a majority-Black neighborhood with a majority-Black clientele — he felt the need to explain why he did not choose to attack Jews. “[Jews] can be dealt with in time, but the high fertility replacers will destroy us now, it is a matter of survival we destroy them first,” he wrote, before listing his weaponry in detail with price points included — a manual for future murders. While Gendron’s choice to engage in mass slaughter puts him on the radical fringe of those who enforce their beliefs with bullets, and his overt antisemitism differs slightly from vaguer blame of “elites,” “Democrats” and “globalists,” his fixation on white birthrates and demographic change are neither fringe nor particularly unusual. The gnawing fear of a minority-white America has utterly consumed conservative politics for the past half-decade, creating a Republican party whose dual obsessions with nativism and white fertility have engendered a suite of policies engineered to change the nature of the body politic. What unites murderers like Gendron, and the long list of white supremacist attackers he cited with admiration, with the mainstream of the Republican party is the dream of a white nation.
What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?
Posted: May 14, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: abortion rights, cats relaxing, caturday, Clarence Thomas, January 6 Committee, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Republicans, Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS, Ukraine, women's rights
Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle
My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:
The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.
With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.
A coalition of groups such as Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.
Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.
Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.
“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….
Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….
Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”
The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.
“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.
The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.
What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.
Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.
Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.
This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.
Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.
Read more at the WaPo.
Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.
The leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.
“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.
“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”
Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.
I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.
In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”
The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.
Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.
In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.
The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.
The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.
The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.
Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.
“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”
I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.
Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.
The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.
Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….
The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
— Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”
What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.
That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?