Virulant Friday Reads: Get Ready for the Next Wave

Indianapolis artist Kat Silver creates oil paintings based on her vision of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Read more about her here at the Indianapolis Star.

Happy Avoiding Black Friday Day!

I spent Thanksgiving with my neighbors, which is so lovely on many levels.  It really felt like the first typical holiday for me in a few years. The last one was the Mardi Gras, where I woke up with something that made me highly ill for weeks. I was really hoping to make it to Seattle, but I’m still afraid of crazies on planes and the maskless roaming airports. Now, I’m delighted I just zoomed the grandbabies and enjoyed the bags of groceries my daughter sent me so I could do my own family-style Thanksgiving at home.  The Dow has fallen this morning, and countries are racing to end flight contact with South Africa.  There’s a new Covid-19 variant.  This is the headline from WAPO: “Announcement of new virus variant alarms world, crashing stocks and banning flights.”

A new, possibly more infectious coronavirus variant, with an unusual number of mutations, had scientists sounding the alarm, countries moving to impose travel bans and financial markets tumbling on Friday, as the world feared another setback on the long road out of the pandemic.

Major questions remain about the variant’s transmissibility, whether it might make people sicker and whether it might be able to evade vaccines, but Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Britain’s Health and Security Agency, warned that the new variant found in southern Africa is the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

The variant, known as B.1.1.529, was first detected in Botswana, but scientists in South Africa convened a news conference Thursday and said they had linked it to an exponential rise of infections in their country. Cases have also been identified in Hong Kong and Belgium.

By the next morning, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged about 800 points or 2.2 percent, the S&P 500 index fell 1.5 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index was off 1.1 percent. Crude oil prices tumbled as well.

France, Britain, Japan and Israel began to ban or order quarantines for air passengers arriving from the southern African region. The European Union is also expected to also propose a ban on air travel arriving from southern Africa.

“Our view is very clear,” Dana Spinant, deputy chief spokeswoman for the European Commission, said at a news conference Friday. “We need to act very fast, we need to be vigilant, and we need to take all measures that are appropriate at this stage to prevent this virus from entering Europe.”

Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease official, said banning flights to the United States from southern Africa is a “possibility,” but that a decision has not been made yet.

Kat’s paintings, including these done on toilet paper which has been available for $20

I keep telling all my Mardi Gras-loving friends not to get overly excited about the possibility of parades again. This thing is not through with us yet. It should be called the Trump Virus by now.  Reuters reports on Dr. Fauci’s comments. 

“There is always the possibility of doing what the UK has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN.

“That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do. You’re prepared to do everything you need to protect the American public. But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that,” he said.

“Obviously as soon as we find out more information we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can.”

Fauci said U.S. scientists would speak with South African counterparts on Friday about the new variant, called B.1.1.529, which has raised concern about its transmissibility and whether it might evade immune responses.

He added that there was no indication that the new variant was already in the United States.

Here we go again!  Our healthcare continues to be threatened by right-wing Trumperz and Trumperz clones.

From the NYT: “Texas Abortion Law Complicates Care for Risky Pregnancies. Doctors in Texas say they cannot head off life-threatening medical crises in pregnant women if abortions cannot be offered or even discussed.”  I am so glad my daughters have moved to states that let medical science rather than superstition abide.

A few weeks after Texas adopted the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, Dr. Andrea Palmer delivered terrible news to a Fort Worth patient who was midway through her pregnancy.

The fetus had a rare neural tube defect. The brain would not develop, and the infant would die at birth or shortly afterward. Carrying the pregnancy to term would be emotionally grueling and would also raise the mother’s risk of blood clots and severe postpartum bleeding, the doctor warned.

But the patient was past six weeks’ gestation, and under the new law, an abortion was not an option in Texas because the woman was not immediately facing a life-threatening medical crisis or risk of permanent disability.

“So we look at them like a ticking time bomb and wait for the complications to develop,” Dr. Palmer said of her patients.

In this case, the woman had the means to travel, and she obtained an abortion in another state, an option unavailable to many low-income and working class women.

Texas’ new measure was intended to impose stringent limits on abortion. But it is also affecting women who have no desire for termination but are experiencing medically risky pregnancies. Many doctors say they are unable to discuss the procedure as an option until the patient’s condition deteriorates and her life is at risk.

Abortion is permitted in Texas after six weeks only when a woman is facing a life-threatening or disabling medical emergency linked to her pregnancy. The law makes no exceptions for nonviable pregnancies in which the fetus has no chance of survival.

Even crazier are these calls to action by the QAnon Queen of Canada reported in VIce. “QAnon’s ‘Queen of Canada’ Calls for Followers to ‘Kill’ People Vaccinating Children. QAnon influencer Romana Didulo told her 70,000 followers that “duck-hunting season is open” and by ducks, she means healthcare workers, politicians, and journalists.” Vigilantism is sure en vogue with these dangerous nutters. Oh, Canada!

Earlier this week, the so-called QAnon Queen of Canada opened up “duck-hunting” season in the Great White North.

Now, to be clear, we aren’t talking about hunters in hip waders going after our fine-feathered friends with a loyal hound by their side. These “duck hunters” are “soldiers” of Roman Didulo—a Canadian woman who has convinced thousands of QAnon adherents that she’s the secret ruler of Canada—targeting health care workers administering COVID-19 vaccines to children, politicians, journalists, and others who make up the cabal at the heart of the QAnon conspiracy.

In a post on Sunday to her over 70,000 followers on Telegram, Didulo issued an order to the soldiers of her “Kingdom of Canada’s Military.” She demanded the mass arrests of those they consider opposition, and wanted her soldiers to take control of newspapers and seize the border.

“Shoot to kill anyone who tries to inject Children under the age of 19 years old with Coronavirus19 vaccines/ bioweapons or any other Vaccines,” she wrote. “This order is effective immediately.”

A follow-up post on Tuesday changed the wording from “shoot to kill” to “arrest.”

“Please, use airports, hospitals, schools, stadiums, and other public venues to hold and detain all traitors,” the post said. “They will stay there until Military Tribunal is held for each one of them until the day they are executed via firing squad or hanging.”

Here are two articles to read.

This Guardian article is specific and prescient. It comes from 2020 directly after the election.  Have we made any progress since a year ago?

As Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, put it: “The United States just allowed an autocratic person to ascend to the presidency, to serve in it for four years and to very nearly extend that term. The big question is: how did that happen, what went wrong there?”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, expressed a similar thought in Slate: “Our voting system is fundamentally broken,” she wrote. “The future of our country unequivocally depends on our ability to reform it.”

This Op-Ed by   MSNBC Opinion Columnist–is provocative because we really have not faced these threats head-on.

There are a lot of different ways that democracies can fail. Some collapse under the weight of political leaders who assume authoritarian control, arrest opponents, or refuse to allow new elections to take place. Others suffer at the hands of citizens who support political violence, dehumanize other political parties as “evil,” or call for civil war. Still others struggle with voter suppression and intimidation efforts, weakened trust in institutions, and falling political participation.

The U.S. is facing all these problems, and more. We are witnessing challenges to the integrity of elections, rooted in disinformation spread by our own elected officials and in widespread conspiracies that circulate online. A third of election poll workers reported feeling unsafe this year, after an “unprecedented” number of them received threats. The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 came at the hands of thousands of ordinary citizens who aimed to disrupt the democratic certification of the presidential election and prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.

We also face rising harassment and violence from extremist groups, citizen vigilantes, and unlawful militias who threaten minority groups, disrupt our freedom of assembly and demonstration with shows of violent force, and violate civil rights like the right to “public accommodations,” as recent court rulings have shown. We have seen repeated violent attacks, harassment, and even death threats directed at front-line workers and public officials, including school board members, health care workers, teachers, flight attendants, and restaurant hostesses.

The U.S. isn’t the only democracy that is eroding. Democratic stability is backsliding across the globe, as nations suffer from compromised elections, dismantled checks on government, challenges to a free media, and reductions of minority protections. But there is a particular urgency in the U.S. warning signs, not least because we are a nation of citizens who are now armed at previously unimaginable levels. This year is on track to be the second-highest year of firearm sales in history, following a “record shattering” year in 2020, in which 21 million background checks for firearms sales took place — far above the average of about 8.6 million annual checks.

Luckily, just because a democracy is in crisis does not mean it will collapse. On average, it takes about a decade from the onset of democratic backsliding to end in either democratic breakdown or recovery. But we are long overdue for a course correction.

We are facing back-sliding on so many civil liberties issues that I am astounded daily. Will SCOTUS overturn Roe v. Wade?  Will we be able to correct the inequities that its decision on the Voting Rights Act caused? How do we deal with vigilantism; especially in communities where the police encourage it! Can we get some criminal justice reform?  Haven’t we all seen enough to know how necessary it is?

These are all eyes-on-the-prize questions to me.  What are yours?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Darwin Award Issue

Masks, 1911, Emil Nolde

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The state of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans opened up right before Halloween dropping some of the mask mandates. I’m not sure how smart of an idea that was given that we’ve seen the same pattern of plague rat invasion as tourists come back to the city from places where vaccine adoption is low.  The 4th of July comes to mind.  However, we did have good numbers, and I’m now starting the countdown to Thanksgiving to see if we surge again. I’m still masking and staying my fat ass home mostly. I’ve come to enjoy having things delivered.  Halloween should have been a big party with best mask awards.

So, anyway, today’s New York Times and David Leonhardt have some startling–but not surprising–statistics to report. “U.S. Covid Deaths Get Even Redder. The partisan gap in Covid’s death toll has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.” This is essentially why I worry when we just invite the surrounding parishes and states to let their people out of the state to aim a deadly cough at anyone.  The differences in death rates between this year and last are astounding.

Then the vaccines arrived.

They proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes toward them so different, that a gap in Covid’s death toll quickly emerged. I have covered that gap in two newsletters — one this summer, one last month — and today’s newsletter offers an update.

The brief version: The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.

In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.

Some conservative writers have tried to claim that the gap may stem from regional differences in weather or age, but those arguments fall apart under scrutiny. (If weather or age were a major reason, the pattern would have begun to appear last year.) The true explanation is straightforward: The vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing severe Covid, and almost 40 percent of Republican adults remain unvaccinated, compared with about 10 percent of Democratic adults.

And while we’re on the subject, how can you possibly get triggered by Big Bird?

Jackson Pollock, Mask,
1941

Plague rats indeed.  Red is Dead.  Meanwhile, the worst of them are triggered by Big Bird talking to kids about his vaccine. There’s a lot of a pearl-clutching about doing mass vaccinations in schools while many of us are old enough to have stood in line for a lot of those in the 1950s and 1960s. Many Republicans are acting like that never happened.

So, if they think public health actions are a governmental overreach, why are they down with authoritarianism?  Is it because it wears a white face?  This is from The Bulwark. ” Notes on an Authoritarian Conspiracy: Inside the Claremont Institute’s “79 Days to Inauguration” Report. Claremont’s post-election war game provides a window into the group’s ambitions.”

John Eastman has a prominent place in all of this along with all the white nationalist domestic terrorists. It’s a tough read but a necessary one.

The sun rises on January 6, 2021 while a nation is in crisis.

Michigan’s presidential electors are in dispute after a mysterious fire in Detroit destroyed thousands of mail-in ballots, ultimately throwing the election to Congress.

The nation’s capital is overwhelmed by riots organized by left-wing radicals.

A Republican member of Congress is attacked and critically injured in the violence, potentially depriving Donald Trump of the decisive vote.

However, the representative heroically insists on being taken to the House floor. “With IVs and blood transfusions being administered, the member casts the deciding vote, giving Trump 26 state delegations and the needed majority.”

This is the grisly climax of a report published in mid-October 2020 by the Claremont Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) called “79 Days to Inauguration,” prepared by “Constitutional scholars, along with experts in election law, foreign affairs, law enforcement, and media . . . coordinated by a retired military officer experienced in running hundreds of wargames.”

Among these luminaries were figures such as John Eastman—lawyer for Donald Trump and author of a memo advising Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally block certification of Joe Biden’s win in order to buy time for GOP-controlled state legislatures to send competing slates of electors—and K.T. McFarland, who served as deputy national security advisor under Michael Flynn in the Trump White House.

Other participants include Kevin Roberts, then-executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (soon to be head of the Heritage Foundation), Jeff Giesea, “a [Peter] Thiel protégé and secret funder of alt-right causes,” and Charles Haywood, a fringe blogger who anxiously awaits an American “Caesar, authoritarian reconstructor of our institutions.”

Masks, 1925′ James Ensor

The MSM needs to be screaming a lot louder about this than talking about sausage-making behind any policy.  Leave the latter worry to Nancy, Chuck, Kamala, and Joe.  More from that Bulwark article:

Remember, this narrative is the result of a role-playing exercise in which the participants imagined themselves as key decision-makers in the federal government. The actions described, therefore, might be best understood as a combination of group therapy and suggestions for how they believe the federal government and law enforcement should behave in a moment of constitutional crisis.

Some of the report is revealing. Some of it is sad. Some of it is darkly funny. For instance, the authors’ recommendation for mass, politically motivated arrests “to remove the players from the picture” sits oddly next to the right’s outraged reaction to the prosecution of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

There’s more irony in how the task force imagines right-wing gangs would operate during such a period: with quiet discipline and in cooperation with law enforcement.

A lack of social media activity and overt action by the rioting by members of the Proud Boys draws the attention of law enforcement officials suspecting they may be operating covertly on the ground in several major urban rioting areas, but their exact involvement is unknown. Reports of militias moving into suburban areas is being monitored. Several groups affiliated with the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers have openly offered to assist law enforcement in putting down the violence via social media, touting significant current and retired law enforcement and military membership.

Which is . . . not how the Trumpist forces behaved during the actual crisis:

Go read it and try to open a few eyes around you by sharing it.  Then see who they really are when you read this.

A man who allegedly participated in the Capitol riot Jan. 6 and is wanted by the FBI is now seeking asylum in Belarus, the country’s state media reported Monday, presenting him as a “simple American whose shops were burned by Black Lives Matter activists.”

Evan Neumann, who appears to have sat down for an interview with Belarusian state television in a segment titled “Goodbye, America,” is wanted in the United States on charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, as well as for assaulting, resisting and obstructing law enforcement during civil disorder.

Both Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have frequently referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the United States because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.

When mass protests broke out across Belarus last year over its presidential election, which the international community has widely denounced as rigged, thousands of demonstrators were brutally beaten by police and arrested. Many said they were tortured in prison.

But Neumann could be welcomed in Belarus as part of the regime’s anti-Western propaganda efforts. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has said the United States stoked last year’s opposition movement to unseat him.

Tim O’Connor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Belarus, which is based in Vilnius, Lithuania, said in a statement that the embassy has “seen Belarusian state media reporting about Mr. Neumann. Due to U.S. privacy laws, we are limited in what we can say about individual U.S. citizens.”

“The United States is a country where the rule of law is respected and where government is transparent and accountable for its actions,” O’Connor added. “Every citizen can count on an impartial and objective court system. There has not been a single case of transparent, accountable investigation into and prosecution of the actions of Belarusian police that resulted in deaths, systemic torture and the continued repression of Belarusian citizens, of whom over 800 remain in jail for peaceful protest against the regime.”

Death and the Masks, 1897, James Ensor

Maybe Belarus could take all the Trumps and the Trumperz in and deal with them.  That way we’d have a lot fewer problems.  NBC reports on a poll that shows deep partisan differences in social media usage. Well, if they all went to Belarus they wouldn’t have to worry about social media at all.

Our most recent NBC News poll asked respondents about their social media consumption, and the results told a clear story that doesn’t require 280 characters.

Twitter isn’t real life — at least when it comes to party identification and political attitudes.

In the poll, 69 percent of adults say they have an account on Facebook, 28 percent say they use Twitter, 27 percent use TikTok and 27 percent don’t have an account on any of these social media platforms.

And those who use Twitter and TikTok are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans; are more likely to be Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than Joe Biden during the 2020 Democratic primary season; and are — not surprisingly — more likely to be younger than the general population.

That figures.  Most people I know on Twitter use it to find breaking news.  I don’t really look for news on Facebook other than that related to my friends’ cats, dogs, bunnies, and grandchildren.

So, I’ll leave all this to you to discuss.  Are you still masking everywhere?  I walk Temple sans mask but I don’t go near people without one in a building if I go at all.  Like I said, I’m beginning to enjoy front door service.

What’s on your news and reading list today?


Finally Friday Reads: Lock the Big Lie Enablers Up!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

We’re six months past a soft coup d’etat that investigations show was way worse than we thought. It came after months of careful, planning, changes in staffing at DOJ and the Pentagon, and many attempts to manipulate state officials.  The brutality to Capitol Hill Officers during the insurrection was terrifying. However, there was a clear, cynical lead-up for planners in the White House–clearly led and encouraged by Trump–as shown by a Senate Committee investigation.  This post follows up on BB’s post yesterday as more information becomes available.

Peasant Couple,
Maqbool Fida Husain ,1950

From CNN: “Senate Judiciary Committee issues sweeping report detailing how Trump and a top DOJ lawyer attempted to overturn 2020 election”.  Trump “relentlessly” sought to overturn the election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday released a sweeping report about how former President Donald Trump and a top lawyer in the Justice Department attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times to undermine the election result, and his chief of staff Mark Meadows broke administration policy by pressuring a Justice Department lawyer to investigate claims of election fraud, according to the report, which is based on witness interviews of top former Justice Department officials.

The Democratic-led committee also revealed that White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatened to quit in early January as Trump considered replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ lawyer who supported election fraud conspiracies.

After the eight-month investigation, the findings highlight the relentlessness of Trump and some of his top advisers as they fixated on using the Justice Department to prop up false conspiracies of election fraud. The committee report, the most comprehensive account so far of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, described his conduct as an abuse of presidential power.

The massive plot to overturn the election that eventually led to the January 6 soft coup is laid out bare at the CNN link.  You may watch the coverage and continue reading there. This intersects nicely with the 1/6 Commission’s work.  They’ve issued subpoenas and Donald Trump has asked four big players to ignore them. From The Independent: “Four of Mr Trump’s associates were sent subpoenas by House select committee investigating 6 January”

Confirming that Mr would not be cooperating, The Washington Post reported the text of a letter from Mr Bannon’s lawyer to the committee citing the former president’s executive privilege.

“It is therefore clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those privileges … we must accept his direction and honour his invocation of executive privilege,” attorney Robert Costello wrote.

Mr Bannon’s response was also confirmed by another source who told CNN that a second of Mr Trump’s inner circle asked to cooperate with the investigation, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, has responded, but it is as yet unknown whether he will or will not cooperate.

Four of Mr Trump’s associates were sent subpoenas by the House select committee. It is not yet known if the other two, Karsh Patel and Dan Scavino, have responded.

Lawyers working for the former president sent letters to the four men on Wednesday saying that Mr Trump viewed the subpoenas as an infringement of executive privilege and that they should not cooperate.

Trump continues to push the false narrative that he has some kind of blanket executive privilege after office.  He clearly does not as witnessed by the flurry of documents released to both committees by the real President.

Susan B Glasser has penned this for The New Yorker: “The Battle of January 6th Has Just Begun. Nine months after the storming of the Capitol, Trump is more popular with the G.O.P. and his Big Lie is more widely believed.”

But look at where our politics are, nine months after the insurrection, and they tell a radically different story. Trump is, per Pew and other recent polls, both the overwhelming favorite among Republicans for 2024 and their continuing spiritual leader. (Two-thirds of the Republicans and Republican-leaning independents that Pew surveyed wanted Trump to continue to be a major national figure, a total that’s gone up by ten points since January. Yes, that’s not a typo—it’s gone up.) Just as important, he has succeeded in selling his party on his Big Lie about the 2020 election, on January 6th revisionism, and on taking a series of specific actions—from changing how states certify elections to purging state Republican officials who did not go along with his 2020 coup attempt—that will affect American democracy for years to come, whether or not Trump runs again.

Consider one metric I’ve been obsessed with: the increase in the percentage of Republicans who believe Trump’s falsehoods about the election. In January, a CNN poll found that seventy-five per cent of Republicans said that Biden was not legitimately elected President. In April, that number declined to seventy per cent, but now, according to the most recent CNN survey, it has risen to seventy-eight per cent. Yes, more Republicans believe that the 2020 election was stolen now than did when the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

On January 7th, it was still possible to anticipate a different outcome. But, on October 7th, we have to acknowledge that this didn’t happen. Nine months ago, in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, enough Republican leaders and Trump White House officials viewed the Trump-inspired attack on the democratic transition of power as an event of such horrifying excess that it was difficult to imagine them normalizing, justifying, and rationalizing it as they had the Trumpian excesses of the previous four years. Yet that is exactly what has taken place in the intervening months. “Republicans initially started down the road to a post-Trump party, as opposed to a Trump party . . . and they backed up in record time,” Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told me, on Thursday. “They have missed the historic opportunity to put Trump in the past.” The result is that the political crisis today is worse than it was, not better. The unacceptable has been accepted by a shockingly large part of the population and its political leadership.

Krishen Khanna, News of Gandhiji’s Death (1948). Oil on canvas.

This long form analysis is shocking, indeed!  But this viewpoint is very on point!

The survey, which is worth reading in its entirety, shows that this is not a problem of ideology or policy or the other markers of conventional American politics. It is something much deeper and more intractable: two parties whose members now hate one another with a fierce, anti-democratic, Constitution-threatening passion. Eighty-four per cent of Trump voters said that Democratic officials are a “clear and present danger” to society; seventy-eight per cent of Trump voters also said that Americans who strongly support Democrats are a “clear and present danger.” This level of antipathy is fully reciprocated by Democrats; eighty per cent of Biden voters surveyed said that Republican officials represent a “clear and present danger,” and seventy-five per cent of them said the same about Americans who strongly support Republicans. Things are so bad that fifty-two per cent of Trump voters and forty-one per cent of Biden voters said that they would favor seceding from America. January 6th may not have been the end of Trump so much as the beginning of something even worse.

Which is time to discuss today’s events.

Let’s dive deeper into that.  From HuffPo and Sara Boboltz: “Trump Told 4 Officials To Ignore Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena: Report. The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol wants to hear from Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel.”

Select Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in each of his Sept. 23 letters to the witnesses that the panel is “investigating the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend to the House and its relevant committees corrective laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations.”

Thompson’s committee has already taken steps to get its hands on communications from the Trump White House relating to the attack. In August, it sent a sweeping records request to the National Archives, which handles presidential records, and to several federal agencies asking for documentation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated last month that President Joe Biden was unlikely to block any Trump-era records from making their way onto committee members’ desks, but the administration later issued a clarification saying it would evaluate such requests individually.

Krishen Khanna. 
The Game 1, the early 1980s

Thompson additionally made comments to press on this matter and has indicated that all options are on the table. He did say that Criminal Referrals will be issued on October 1st. Today is basically the first day that contempt of congress charges are applicable.  Newsweek reports this information.

Patel issued a statement to The Washington Post on Thursday before the deadline, pointing to his website where he is seeking to raise $250,000 “to fund a top-notch legal team.”

“I will continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6, and I am putting our country and freedoms first through my Fight with Kash initiative,” he told the newspaper.

The committee had been unable to physically locate Scavino in order to serve him with a subpoena as of Thursday.

It’s not entirely clear what steps the select committee will take if the four former aides refuse to cooperate, but Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who sits on the committee, suggested on Thursday that they could face contempt charges.

“I believe this is a matter of the utmost seriousness and we need to consider the full panoply of enforcement sanctions available to us, and that means criminal contempt citations, civil contempt citations and the use of Congress‘s own inherent contempt powers,” Raskin said.

I’m willing to give the Congressman the benefit of the weekend.  And, do have a good weekend!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Now We Know They’re Still Traitors!

Louis Frey, Artist
Sequoia National Park Poster

Good Day Sky Dancers!

One of the weird things I’ve learned growing up in these United States was that no matter how far in the past the Civil War was fought, parts of the Deep South have never got over it or gone much beyond it.  This is especially true in rural areas although there are also some Western and Mid-Western states that are mostly rural and as backasswards about stuff as much as the Deep South.

I grew up in the Heartland and spent every moment feeling like I lived in a cultural desert even though the combined area of Council, Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha. Nebraska is fairly large in terms of middle-of-the-country cities.  I’m thankful my daughters are in Denver and Seattle that are big enough population areas to drive the rural parts of their state to mostly obscurity on the state level.

So, this was no surprise to me:

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Volcanoes National Park

I’ve heard better solutions to the red state/blue state gap and believe me, I was ready to make a movement for France to reclaim New Orleans quite a few times during the entire Hurricane Katrina period.  But seriously, who wants to live near this kind of behavior?  Gabrielle Hays files this story for the PBS News Hour.  This happens to come from my mother’s hometown which I thought was super-sophisticated grown up in comparison to Omaha. A pro-slavery petition is the latest racist incident at this Kansas City high school. Parents say they’ve had enough.”  WTF?

An online petition to reinstate slavery that made its rounds at a high school in Kansas City this month is the latest in a series of incidents sparking outrage from parents and students who say race-related controversies at the school are an all-too-common occurence.

In an email to parents at Park Hill South High School dated Sept. 22, Park Hill School District Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd acknowledged the petition – which was brought to officials’ attention nearly a week prior – by saying many people are “hurting” because of “unacceptable and racist statements online,” adding that Board of Education “prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation” and that discipline could equal “suspension or expulsion.” Cowherd did not share any specifics regarding the students involved nor whether they have been disciplined. The email also noted the district will set up meetings to “give people the opportunity to share how they feel.”

But parents say the district is doing little to mitigate the ongoing problems, including individual attacks on students based on their race.

“I have a disheartening feeling about the incident that happened at Park Hill South. I don’t feel like it was addressed properly or at all,” parent Jeff Holmes said during public comment at a Park Hill school board meeting last Thursday, adding that these issues span across the school district.

“I’ve heard all of the nice, kind words and I guess that they are okay, they are what they are but they are meaningless, hollow and insincere if we don’t see action,” he said.

Park Hill South is only the latest school over the past week to make headlines for its handling of racial incidents. Just days after the petition circulated, school officials at Olathe South School, 30 minutes away from Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating a homecoming proposal poster that read “If I was Black I would be picking cotton but I’m white so I’m picking you for HOCO?” A photo of the offensive poster made its rounds on social media before school administrators caught wind of it.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle said these types of derogatory occurrences are not new.

“All students – no matter their race or place – have a right to a public education in a safe learning environment. But right now, many of our students are scared, anxious, and feeling threatened. What happened at Park Hill South High School isn’t an isolated incident nor did it happen by accident,” she said in a statement to the PBS NewsHour.

NEA, a teachers union that advocates on behalf of educators nationwide, has received reports of “hostile and hateful environments” in schools across the country, she said.

Brittney Lewis of Bybrije, Artist
Yosemite National Park

There have been threats made to school board members across the country as well as a documentary by NBC on an incident that sparked the critical race theory kerfuffle which basically erases slavery, Jim Crow, and whatever we happened to stumble across in our history books like the Tulsa Race Massacre.  Greg Abbott just signed a law to make white folks feel comfy with their slave-owning, KKK klan, lynch-happy ancestors.  Many southern states actually are experiencing an increase in the population of black southerners as many Black Americans are moving to the large, affluent cities of the south.  This might be one way of turning more southern states blue.

Then, of course, we’ve spent lots of time on the Abbott anti-women and anti-voting rights legislature making Texas basically into something akin to Texastan with its Cristoban tyrants seeking to make women, people of color, and the LGBT community outcasts and lesser citizens. What the Hell is going on?  Why do we have a tyranny of a minority?

But what about the American Outback where many states have fewer people than your normal Chicago, New York, or LA Zip codes.  I watched Steve Kornacki show how much political power these states have because they all have two senators.

I mean, what we`re talking about here is the partisan distribution of voters. A couple different ways, I guess, to look at this. First, the map everybody knows. This is the 2020 election. Biden wins. There`s the electoral vote count. Here are the red states. Here are the blue states.

You see, basically, we know Democrats concentrated a lot on the West Coast, the Northeast, somewhat here in the Midwest. Biden was able to flip a couple states. But in that clip you played, you had Michael Steele talking about the county strength.

Now, the 50 states in the country, there`s more than 3, 100 counties in the United States. So this map is going to change here in a second, and you`re going to see all of the counties in the country.

This is the red/blue map for the counties. And, obviously, you see a lot more red here than blue. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won more than 2, 500 counties. Again, there`s just over 3, 100 of them. More than 2, 500 went for Donald Trump.

Now, obviously, not every county is the exact same size. Here`s like a very dramatic example I could give you. If you were to really Zoom in here in Southern California, I`m going to circle it. What I just circled is Los Angeles County in Southern California.

This is a big blue county, the city of Los Angeles, about 10 million people. There`s about 10 million residents in Los Angeles County. Joe Biden won Los Angeles County overwhelmingly. In terms of population, though, Los Angeles County would be the same size as Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, roughly.

If you were to combine all of those red states, the population would be about the same as Los Angeles County. And yet obviously the number of counties, the land distribution, there`s a lot more landmass, there`s a lot more red than blue one here, land vs. population. So that gets the story this divide here that you see in the county map.

Here`s the actual number, Trump won 2, 574 counties, Biden 539. This has become — this century, at least, this has become the story of our politics. And Clinton in the 1990s won a ton of counties. He won a lot more of the interior of the country.

But this has become the story. But this, by the way, what you`re looking at here, is if you sized every state in every county relative to its population, this would be the map. But this is just a blob here. It looks like a Rorschach test.

But if you were to size the high population areas to the same scale as low end — in low population areas much lower, this would become what the red/blue map looks like. But, again, Ari, what it basically gets at here is, look, the distribution of the popular, Democrats in cities, increasingly in suburbs.

Sage Aune of Sagepizza, Artist Joshua Tree National Park

You may watch the analysis at this clip that also includes Howard Dean and Michael Steele. The map is fascinating.

We’ve talked about Senator Joe Manchin was has been the focus of disruption in the Senate Democratic Caucus.  Eyes recently on Arizona’s Krysten Sinema who is going for the complete enigma look.  This is from Axios’ Hans Nicholls: “Cracking the Sinema code.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s political allies have some free advice for anyone trying to bully the wine-drinking triathlete into supporting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget bill: She doesn’t play by Washington’s rules — and she’s prepared to walk away.

Why it matters: For all her flash, Sinema — unlike fellow holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — rarely telegraphs her precise intentions, leaving political adversaries guessing about her ultimate goals.

  • In conversation with colleagues, she’ll suggest that her top priority is passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal she brokered this spring over late-night, wine-fueled negotiations. Beyond that, you’re piecing together clues.
  • President Biden and his top aides met her four times over the course of a day this week without totally cracking the code.
  • Sinema on Thursday tweeted a statement saying, “Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator [Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer are false” and they “are fully aware of Senator Sinema’s priorities, concerns and ideas.”

Between the lines: Progressives could be forgiven for presuming that Sinema, 45, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, who’s easy to spot in her trademark sleeveless dresses, wry wigs and acrylic glasses, would share their woke politics.

  • They’ve been befuddled, and increasingly enraged, when she behaves more like the late Republican Sen. John McCain, another Arizonan who didn’t mind challenging party orthodoxies.
  • At her core, Sinema is something of a fiscal conservative, which disappoints progressives, leading them to whisper about a primary challenge in 2024.
  • She’s unconventional (see: recent internship at a Sonoma winery) and a force to be reckoned with. She’s known to rise between 4-5 a.m. to train for her next race, and she was forced to take up aqua jogging after breaking her foot this summer in something called the “Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.”

The big picture: While Manchin has been intensely focused on price tag of spending, setting his limit at $1.5 trillion, Sinema has signaled she’s more concerned with the tax side of the equation, including who pays them.

    • She’s suggested to some allies that she’s reluctant to support any increase in the corporate tax rate, but she’s more likely to accept a smaller increase to the headline rate — likely in the 24% range, well short of Biden’s proposed 28%.
    • She’s raised flags about increasing the rate on corporations’ international profits, which she believes could harm their competitiveness.
    • On capital gains, she’s also indicated that she’s opposed to Biden’s headline 39.6% rate but could accept a number in the mid-twenties.

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Death Valley National Park

There are so few conservative Dems and centrist Republicans that the Senate is as split as the country.  However, the right-wingers of the Republican base have more cows and coyotes for neighbors than people. The graph shown by Kornacki makes me agree with Dr. Howard Dean.

DEAN: Well, the central problem — there are several central problems.

The biggest problem of all is that the counties and the states that Michael talked about and that Steve talked about are older, getting older and whiter. And they`re terrified of the future. Their kids are leaving. They`re teaching stuff in the schools that`s not useful.

The older people don`t know how to use an Internet. They`re losing their jobs. And if they can`t use the Internet, they can`t get another job. And this is pure fear and anger that`s motivating Trump`s voters. And it`s why he`s so successful.

The problem is that the future, first of all, belongs to the blue areas, at least right now. Young people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, not because they love the Democrats, but because that horrible, pessimistic, furious vision of the Republicans is just totally unacceptable to people who are young.

And it also highlights the structural defects that we have got that are now an emergency after 250 years, the Electoral College, which doesn`t make any sense at all. The corrupt election laws that are being passed, we have had experience with that through Jim Crow.

We have the new Jim Crow in Georgia, and they still voted for two Democratic senators for the first time since segregation was broken. So, the country is really at an inflection point, a point. And the fury and anger between the red and the blue is explainable by how terrified the right-wing is and the conservatives are of the future.

Let me know return to what’s behind that first twitter with a direct link to the study.

The University of Virginia Center for Politics has partnered with Project Home Fire, a new initiative dedicated to finding common ground in American politics, on an innovative new data analytics and polling project to explore the social, political, and psychological divides between those who voted for Donald Trump and those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

Some of the key takeaways from today’s release are:

— Majorities of Trump and Biden voters express support for several elements of the bipartisan infrastructure and reconciliation bills being debated in Congress, but there are marked differences in their levels of support. (see Table 1 below)

— Majorities — often large majorities — of both Biden and Trump voters express some form of distrust for voters, elected officials, and media sources they associate with the other side. A strong majority of Trump voters see no real difference between Democrats and socialists, and a majority of Biden voters at least somewhat agree that there is no real difference between Republicans and fascists. (see Table 2 below)

— Significant numbers of both Trump and Biden voters show a willingness to consider violating democratic tendencies and norms if needed to serve their priorities. Roughly 2 in 10 Trump and Biden voters strongly agree it would be better if a “President could take needed actions without being constrained by Congress or courts,” and roughly 4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union. (see Table 3 below)

The Center for Politics and Project Home Fire will be releasing findings from this study in the coming weeks through a series of articles in Sabato’s Crystal Ball and other publications, as well as public symposiums that will each explore major, divisive subjects in American life. Those topics include: immigration, political violence, pandemic response, and other prominent national issues.

Yup. We’ve got a bunch of secessionists out there but they are not the majority. What are we going to do with this situation?

The National Park Posters are available to purchase to help raise funds for the NPS.  You can read more about them and their artists at this link at Forbes.  The link is old but still interesting.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Right Wing America always thinks it’s All about them!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers! 

The Big Easy isn’t so easy at the moment.  I lost my cable and internet again on Saturday.  Right now, I have no water and probably won’t for a few hours.  We’re a case study in aging infrastructure combined with Climate Change disasters and the Republicans aren’t interested in either.  Plus, here we are still watching the neighboring states work really hard to kill people in the cause of crank science and white privilege masked as liberty.  Right-wing grievance basted in white nationalist hatred has always been a problem in our country and always has a terrible cost in both life and liberty for others.

Here’s Michael Beschloss reminding us that it always hangs out in some of our key institutions.  It’s been over 100 years since the communist scare struck their blessed little hearts with fear.  Here’s a reminder of what it looked like around 60 years ago.

We’re well known for basically thinking everyone but a White Christianist male is subservient and not fully human. These white nationalist movements–egged on by the Trumpist regime today–are really frightened of losing the hegemony they’ve enforced for years. They’ve always used over-the-top rhetoric and boogymen.  In those same years, communism was in charge of the fluoridation of water. Remember this scene from Dr. Stranglove?

Despite this seemingly inexorable progression, a vocal opposition has persisted—perhaps most famously embodied in the grizzled and gruff cigar-chomping and gun-toting General Jack Ripper of Dr. Strangelove. In that 1964 film Ripper explains his rationale for inciting nuclear war: “Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?

Though General Ripper’s speech caricatured anti-Red paranoia, right-wing groups like the John Birch Society have long implied dark motives behind fluoridation. But more common are groups raising safety questions. Anti-fluoridation literature goes back over half a century, with titles like Robotry and Water: A Critique of Fluoridation (1959)

We suddenly see communism again in arguing that a past president should still have executive privilege among tons of other things. The Ghost of Roy Cohen should be pleased. Indicting Trump’s crime syndicate is communist too!  Why do we keep coming back to this?

The soldier bath or Artillerymen, 1915, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Now, see how David Leonhardt–writing for the New York Times–studies the patterns of death by thinking communism is in charge of a privately-developed set of vaccines. “Red Covid. Covid’s partisan pattern is growing more extreme.”

During the early months of Covid-19 vaccinations, several major demographic groups lagged in receiving shots, including Black Americans, Latino Americans and Republican voters.

More recently, the racial gaps — while still existing — have narrowed. The partisan gap, however, continues to be enormous. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 86 percent of Democratic voters had received at least one shot, compared with 60 percent of Republican voters.

The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state …

How is it that every public health issue still shakes a few little people into thinking their superior genes protect them and jump straight to the communist plot rationale?  Mask mandates are communistic too right?

Since Delta began circulating widely in the U.S., Covid has exacted a horrific death toll on red America: In counties where Donald Trump received at least 70 percent of the vote, the virus has killed about 47 out of every 100,000 people since the end of June, according to Charles Gaba, a health care analyst. In counties where Trump won less than 32 percent of the vote, the number is about 10 out of 100,000.

And the gap will probably keep growing…

I guess we’re not really joking when we say the Republican Party is killing its base.

It’s also trying to kill our democracy and economy.  Senate Republics are full-on crazy-go-nuts if they think blocking the debt ceiling will do anything but cause chaos in the global economy.  Maybe that is what they want.  Joe Biden must fail for them to replace our democracy with some Trumpy autocrat.  This is from The Washington Post and Tony Romm: “Senate Republicans prepare to block measure to fund government, stave off U.S. default. The expected vote Monday sets up a last-minute scramble ahead of two critical fiscal deadlines.

Senate Republicans on Monday prepared to block a bill that would fund the government, provide billions of dollars in hurricane relief and stave off a default in U.S. debts, part of the party’s renewed campaign to undermine President Biden’s broader economic agenda.

The GOP’s expected opposition is sure to deal a death blow to the measure, which had passed the House last week, and threatens to add to the pressure on Democrats to devise their own path forward ahead of a series of urgent fiscal deadlines. A failure to address the issues could cause severe financial calamity, the White House has warned, potentially plunging the United States into another recession.

They want a recession. Their political goals for the mid-terms demands everything be more awful than they and Trump left us.

Kathe Kollwitz, “Never Again War!”, 1924

Lee Brutman writes this for FiveThirtyEight: “Why Bipartisanship In The Senate Is Dying.”

-So, what changed? Well, pretty much the entire nature of American electoral party politics.

One way to clearly see this change is to map American partisan competition. From the 1960s through the early 2000s, both Democrats and Republicans were genuinely national parties in the Senate. That is, Senate Democrats and Republicans used to hail from all parts of the country.

This was important because it kept both parties politically diverse and thus moderate overall. Moreover, because Senate elections were more about local issues, both parties were able to compete nationally. Voters didn’t care as much whether they sent a Democrat or a Republican to Washington. What mattered was whether they sent somebody who could represent their state well. And senators could prove their worth by bringing home federal funding for roads and bridges — just the kind of issue that used to facilitate bipartisan dealmaking.

But today’s political campaigns and voters care far less about roads and bridges. They care far more about national culture-war issues — and which party controls the majority in Congress. As a result, Democrats can’t win in much of the Southeast and the Mountain West, and Republicans are now perpetual losers in the West and the Northeast. Only the Southwest and the Midwest remain competitive, and that’s only because state populations are currently balanced between liberal cities and conservative exurbs.

It’s also why bipartisanship in the Senate is waning. Republican senators in solidly Republican states do not have to worry about winning over some Democrats; the senators’ general election win is all but assured. Rather, the most likely way they could lose is if they face a primary challenge to their right. And the most likely way they could draw such a challenger is if they were to publicly work with Democrats.

In other words, a bipartisan record has become a liability in today’s electoral environment.

There are a lot of charts and numbers there showing the trends.

FRANZ MARC The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913

So let’s go back to the idea of a Constitutional Crisis as elucidated by The Washington Post Op-Ed Cited in that above tweet.  This is ‘conservative’ Robert Kagan and has been hashed about for days.

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial. But about these things there should be no doubt:

First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running.

Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest.

Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.

The stage is thus being set for chaos

I see that word chaos a lot these days and Republican obfuscation of every important issue of the day is at the root. Getting a vaccine should not be this big of a deal. Getting the debt ceiling raised or getting rid of that obscure law that demands it should not be that big of a deal.  Free and Fair elections with expansive access to the vote should not be this big of a deal.  Passing laws that protect women and children from Violence should not be that big of a deal. Passing gun safety laws that get weapons of war off the street should not be that big of all deal.  All of these things have been done before but recently it’s been impossible to renew any of them.  The only policy Mitch McConnell has is to ensure a train wreck every time a Democratic candidate gets the Presidency. This is an anti-democratic position and should be intolerable to any American.

So, that’s my Ted Talk for the day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?