Finally Friday Reads: Fishy business and a Big Rotting Fish

Vladimir KushDeep Sea Project, 1996

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There’s one thing to say about the current Republican party that has so identified with Trump’s mash-up of severe personality disorders.  It’s this.  If they’re investigating something, it’s bound to be a projection of what they’ve been up to.  House Republicans are gearing up a House Select Panel targeting “DOJ and FBI and their ‘ongoing criminal ‘investigations.’  One of the most disgusting things about this panel is that consideration is being given to Republican Representative Scott Perry, who is currently a target of a criminal investigation. This committee will be rife with the craziest of the crazy Freedom Party members and was probably one of the concessions Kevin McCarthy gave to get his very limp and floppy Speaker’s Gavel.

This comes precisely as we learn more about the Barr Department of Justice and the Russian Inquiry and the role of the FBI Agent that was a Russian Asset in the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties. We’ve already heard all the fishy business surrounding the Secret Service and the destruction of evidence during the Trump self-coup. All that stink you smell are fishes rotting at the head.

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table (1934)

This astounding piece at the New York Times was covered extensively on the news last night. “How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled.” The review by John Durham at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it failed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.”  The byline is shared by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner.  It’s a story of how John Durham fell down the Trump Rabbit hole only to find the rabbit was Barr, who took him on a visit to an Italian Wonderland where the only whiff of a crime was a financial one committed by Trump himself.  It has become the giant nothing burger prepared since the Benghazi Committee and the Clinton Email debacle.  This was another one of those projections of Trump’s bad-faith dealings onto Hillary Clinton and the people around her.

You may remember it led to the indictment and trial of two people at the bottom of the ladder that was quickly dismissed. The once esteemed Durham’s career is now one of those dead things killed by Trump.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

The Times investigation uncovered these things about the Barr-Durham collaboration to appease Trump on the charges he colluded with Russia.  Which, of course, he did. There was also a leak of the criminal investigation, which set the Fox News propaganda channel on fire.  No mention was made that it was Trump who was the target of the investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

  • Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

  • Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

  • There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

 The Barbarians, 1937, Max Ernst

Steve Benen of MSNBC writes, “Details expose Barr’s Durham probe as a law enforcement scandal. John Durham’s probe set out to uncover a scandal. New details help prove that Bill Barr’s partisan investigation actually became a scandal.”

The original investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal, led by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, led to a series of striking findings: The former president’s political operation in 2016 sought, embraced, capitalized on, and lied about Russian assistance — and then took steps to obstruct the investigation into the foreign interference.

The Trump White House wasn’t pleased with the conclusions, but the Justice Department’s inspector general conducted a lengthy probe of the Mueller investigation, and not surprisingly, the IG’s office found nothing improper.

This, of course, only outraged Trump further, so Barr directed Durham, a federal prosecutor to conduct his own investigation into the investigation. That was more than three years ago.

At this point, Durham’s investigation into the Russia scandal investigation has lasted longer than Mueller’s original probe of the Russia scandal. Indeed, as of this morning, is still ongoing.

On the surface, what matters most is the conclusion: Barr told Durham to prove that the investigation into the Russia scandal was an outrageous abuse. We now know that this aspect of the endeavor was a spectacular failure: Durham apparently found no such evidence, and his prosecutorial efforts were an embarrassing debacle.

Around the Fish, Paul Klee, 1944

In other words, Trump is still the source of each “Crime of the Century”, not Hillary Clinton.  Details from the Times investigation continue to stun.

But just below the surface, the details uncovered by the Times paint an even uglier portrait. Instead of allowing the U.S. attorney to conduct an independent probe, Barr effectively oversaw the details of Durham’s probe, as the two met in the attorney general’s office “for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work.”

The same article uncovered a series of related and dramatic revelations — too many to reference here — including Durham pressuring the Justice Department’s inspector general, Barr pressuring Durham to release an anti-Clinton memo ahead of Election Day, and internal dissent among members of Durham’s team about the integrity of the investigation, including the resignation of the prosecutor’s top aide.

There was also this amazing tidbit of information:

Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

The Times also noted that Durham was ultimately forced to investigate suspected criminal wrongdoing from Trump — a detail that was hidden from the public — which we’ll explore in more detail a little later this morning.

But reading this amazing reporting, I found myself thinking, not of Main Justice, but of Capitol Hill. Among the first priorities of the new House Republican majority was the creation of a special committee that would investigate the political “weaponization” of the federal government.

The wonders of nature, 1953 by Rene Magritte

I’m sure the Republican clown show will continue with their crazy conspiracy theories and not the real thing.  Then, there’s the FBI agent that took money from Oleg Deripaska.  This is the same Russian oligarch connected with Paul Manafort.  This is from Insider.  “Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money”. Mattathias Schwartz has the byline.

Federal prosecutors charged McGonigal with money laundering and making false statements in his mandatory employee disclosures to the FBI. He was also charged with taking money from a representative of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who McGonigal had once himself investigated, in violation of US economic sanctions against Russia; the indictment alleges that Deripaska paid him to investigate a rival oligarch. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

McGonigal was not an ordinary FBI agent. He led the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning as well as a search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA. While working at FBI headquarters in Washington, he played a role in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts that was later dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

But it was McGonigal’s final FBI job, special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI’s New York field office, that was his most important assignment at the bureau. It was his job to find enemy spies and recruit his own.

“New York City is a global center for espionage and counterespionage,” says one senior law-enforcement insider who was closely familiar with the specifics of McGonigal’s role. “You have visits from foreign business elites and politicians. You have the United Nations. You have ethnic populations. Who runs the pitches to recruit spies from all those other countries? The FBI. So the access you get in that job is extraordinary. It’s almost bottomless. So if you’re running FBI counterintelligence in New York, you can get your hands on almost anything you want, and you don’t always have to make excuses for why you’re asking for it.”

The impact of the McGonigal indictments is still rippling out through the law-enforcement world. The charges accuse an official at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation of secretly selling his own access, accepting bundles of cash in surreptitious meetings with someone who had ties to Albanian intelligence. McGonigal, a top-tier member of the city’s law-enforcement community, a man who had fully integrated himself into a powerful circle of trust where favors get swapped and sensitive intelligence gets circulated, is accused of himself being on the take. If the indictments are correct, McGonigal was leading a dangerous double life, right under the noses of some of the sharpest cops in America.

But what might be most striking about the case against McGonigal is how cheaply he is alleged to have rented out his law-enforcement powers. One indictment suggests that for $225,000, McGonigal’s associates got him to lobby the Albanian prime minister about the awarding of oil-field drilling licenses and then open an FBI investigation connected to a US citizen who had lobbied for one of the prime minister’s political opponents. Arranging a meeting for an executive from a Bosnian pharmaceutical company with a US official at the United Nations was said to be a pricier item — $500,000, one indictment claims. It is unclear whether that money ever materialized.

Sparky’s Dream,Vicky Knowles, 2008

You can read more at the link. And of course, the fall out from the Secret Service and the Trump Supporters in their ranks continues to gather headlines. This is from a month ago.  “Joe Biden Reportedly Struggled to ‘Trust’ Some of His Secret Service Detail Who Were Donald Trump Supporters.”

A new book, The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House by Chris Whipple, is alleging that Joe Biden has “trust” issues with several members of his security detail. “A bigger problem was Biden’s discomfort with his Secret Service detail; some of them were MAGA sympathizers. He didn’t trust them,” Whipple wrote in an excerpt obtained by The Hill.

Joe Biden was used to a smaller group of Secret Service agents when he was vice president under Barack Obama’s administration and suddenly felt like he was surrounded by people on the Trump train, according to Whipple. The feeling was that “the Secret Service is full of white ex-cops from the South who tend to be deeply conservative.” The author wrote, “Surrounded by a new phalanx of strangers, Biden couldn’t help but wonder, Do these people really want me here?

I can only imagine what the next few years will be like.  This is especially true now that Trump has been let back on to major Social Media Sites.  I’ll be really surprised if CSPAN doesn’t have trouble getting the righ access to these hearings too.  Welcome to Surreal Dystopia Story Time.  I’ll take Drag queens any time over Fish Tales.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Late Thursday Reads: Postpartum Psychosis

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would prompt a mother to do such a thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures tell that happy story.

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

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

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

And then Karen suffered postpartum psychosis.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday Late Thread

Sorry for the lateness…I forgot it was Wednesday!

Some of you may not know but I have been bingeing (is that spelled correctly…) RuPaul’s Drag Race since Christmas. I can’t believe it either! So far I’ve seen all 14 seasons of the regular, 7 seasons of Allstars, and 1 season of UK…with some untucked sprinkled here and there…has it gotten a bit overkill, of course…but that is what makes it so fucking fantastic.

So aside from adding the word, Bitch, to everything I say…and that is with the accent on the biach…I have come to appreciate how much the show does for the young people out there who aren’t in a community that is open to “accommodate” or accept LGBTQ people and culture.

Anyway, I just wanted to make that point, and if any of you have not seen the show…it is hilarious. I suggest Season 7 of AllStars…the competition was fierce.

Ok, enough of that shit. On with the post.

Cartoons via Cagle:

Take a look at these video clips:

That is it for today…be safe and this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Day Sky Dancers!!

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

CNN Reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to the post I began before this happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That shooting happened at a Kentucky retail store in 1981.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some analysis gun violence in the U.S.:

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

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

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

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

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

There’s much more information at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entire ordeal lasted about 4 minutes.

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

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

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

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

Here’s the video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday Reads: Death has a sense of Irony

Under the Orange Tree, Berthe Morisotsot, 1889

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Folks may think they’re done with Covid-19, but Covid-19 is not done with us.  I’m thinking of JJ and her daughter Bebe who struggled with the virus and lost dear friends.  Covid deniers in the US and other places have made hell on earth for the rest of us with their blatant acts to ensure its spread.  Not only do they cough on you, but they seem hell-bent on proving themselves right. Well, another one bites the dust. Death may take a vacation, but it also has a deep sense of Irony. That’s my literary take, but the deal is you can’t fight scientific findings with Iron Age folk tales. You do not want to see people dying of anything, but most of all, from stupidity. This is from The Daily Beast. “Conservative Activist Dies of COVID Complications After Attending Anti-Vax ‘Symposium’.”

“I am truly heartbroken to learn that my dear friend Kelly Canon has passed away from complications from Covid pneumonia. Just yesterday around 4pm she told a group of friends that she definitely felt better and that the docs had told her she had ‘turned the corner’ with improved blood test results. She was talking about wanting to come home. Later last night she developed an acute abdominal issue, was given pain meds and put on the ventilator,” wrote Maggie Clopton Wright“

See more

More recently, Canon had been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and pandemic-related restrictions. In one of her final Facebook posts, Canon shared several links to speeches she attended at a “COVID symposium” in Burleson in early December devoted to dissuading people from getting the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available. The event was organized by God Save Our Children, which bills itself as “a conservative group that is fighting against the use of experimental vaccines on our children.”

Canon had shared similar content on Twitter, where her most recent post was a YouTube video featuring claims that the coronavirus pandemic was “planned” in advance and part of a global conspiracy.

As news of her death spread Tuesday, pro-vaccine commentators flooded her Facebook page with cruel comments and mocking memes, while her supporters unironically praised her for being a “warrior for liberty” to the very end.

I’m not sure she deserves to be mocked, but her example is not one to follow. That may not be the case in this Congress.

Berthe Morisot,
Julie Manet picking cherries, 1891

Since I’m already on this topic, I might dive in fully. This is from Common Dreams.  “Christian Nationalism vs. the Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers wisely recognized what religion would become in the hands of charlatans: a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” as a way to manipulate voters for political gain.”

What a sorry little God he would be if he weren’t more open-minded than his closed-minded children who insult him by their demeaning image of him and use that caricature as their puppet who “reveals” to them alone what he wants for their country or political party!

Whether such proselytizing zeal is disguised aggression, megalomania, or repressed self-doubt that feels both threatened and driven to convert others to dispel that doubt, these are very dangerous people and should never be part of government or have their theological views of the Second Coming guide an administration’s foreign policy toward Israel and that tinderbox of the Middle East.

And yet, unbeknownst to themselves, these individuals render the nation an inestimable service by being a constant reminder of the very reason for upholding this Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers believed that religion was, and must always remain, a private affair because bringing the volatility of “religious enthusiasm” into the public arena would only trivialize religion and destabilize a nation. They feared the political effects of interdenominational feuding, the polarization caused by doctrinal differences, the demonization of dissenters, and the eruption of religious intolerance and hatred.

There was also a second reason why the Founders feared religion in politics — the rise of religious opportunists who would inflame political passions to promote themselves. Religion would become in the hands of these charlatans a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” to manipulate voters for political gain.

An unscrupulous politician could disguise his lack of convictions by holding his finger to the wind to determine which way the wind was blowing and telling his audience whatever he thought it wanted to hear. This individual well understood the art of inciting “enthusiasm” or hysteria toward some plan of action and call it “the Will of God.”

The Founders would have blanch­ed at politicians returning to their constituents and pandering to their sincerely held religious convictions to gain a following or court popularity — not that they couldn’t take part in religious services as private citizens, but not as representatives of their government lest people think they were lending the prestige of their office to their particular church or religion.

These Founders also knew their Bible, as it played such a pivotal role in their 18th-century world. They knew of Christ’s admonition in Mat­thew 6 about not playing the hypocrite by standing on the street corner and making a public display of one’s piety, for one would have already received one’s reward. Instead, one should withdraw to one’s room, close the door, and in privacy pray to God as grandstanding didn’t count as prayer with the Lord! As experienced men of the world, they knew only too well how politicians might cynically abuse religion to seek power and votes.

They were also highly educated, even erudite, men, especially Thomas Jefferson, whose library contained a Who’s Who of “great authors,” one of whom was the celebrated French playwright Moliere, author of “Tartuffe,” the embodiment of religious hypocrisy. It is both an uproarious romp into the glacial regions of inner emptiness, as well as a manual for observing the bobbings and weavings of unctuous sanctimony raised to high art.

In that great patrician school of Parisian sophistication, it was thought that the only way to effect moral change was never by sermons but by ridicule. Many don’t mind being considered a scoundrel, but never a fool! Castigat ridendo mores (“Comedy corrects manners”) was the essence of Moliere’s art that skewered human folly by laughter alone.

This caustic mockery of his characters and the gales of laughter that broke forth from the audience were much more effective in pillorying vice than sermons delivered from Notre Dame’s pulpit. Moliere, the French Aristophanes, was and always has been a moral institution for the French, who can laugh at themselves in his characters with no loss of face.

Jefferson and his colleagues well understood that some members of government might be tempted to play Tartuffe on the political stage. One Tartuffe, or a group of them, could do untold harm to a nation by using religion for political ends. To the educated, the 18th century was an age of taste and decorum, moderation and dignity, and everything had its proper place. Religion especially could never be allowed to be vulgarized or cheapened by demagogues toying with people’s religious emotions.

There would be no limit to their unbridled ambition and religious hypocrisy in saying whatever would ingratiate themselves to the favor and trust of an audience. So profound was their cynical abuse of religion for being elected that they would wax rhapsodic on the metaphysical subtleties of Hottentot theology if they thought it would secure them a “leg-up” over their political rivals at election time.

I must admit that I’ve never understood the religious right, the moral majority, or the radicalism of Emp-ty G.  One line of my father’s family–Huguenote French Protestants and Jewish folks–fled Alsace Lorraine after the region after the Catholic Church was handed all their belongings and began the persecution of both groups when Napolean handed them the region. Both sides of my family had signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, so I had a firm grounding in staying out of another’s religion.  I was horrified by Pat Robertson’s minions when they moved on Iowa and captured the Reagan version of the Republican Party.

Renoir, Girls Picking Flowers in a Meadow, about 1890

This depressing article was in the New York Times today. “How Kevin McCarthy Forged an Ironclad Bond With Marjorie Taylor Greene. The close alliance that has developed between the speaker and the hard-right Georgia Republican explains his rise, how he might govern, and the heavy influence of the extremes on the new House G.O.P. majority.” I had difficulty understanding Phyliss Schafly’s actions and speech back in the day, but this new group of right-wing women is beyond explanation.  It just seems this entire group just will do anything for attention.

Days after he won his gavel in a protracted fight with hard-right Republicans, Speaker Kevin McCarthy gushed to a friend about the ironclad bond he had developed with an unlikely ally in his battle for political survival, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“I will never leave that woman,” Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, told the friend, who described the private conversation on the condition of anonymity. “I will always take care of her.”

Such a declaration from Mr. McCarthy would have been unthinkable in 2021, when Ms. Greene first arrived on Capitol Hill in a swirl of controversy and provocation. A former QAnon follower who had routinely trafficked in conspiratorial, violent and bigoted statements, Ms. Greene was then widely seen as a dangerous liability to the party and a threat to the man who aspired to lead Republicans back to the majority — a person to be controlled and kept in check, not embraced.

But in the time since, a powerful alliance developed between Ms. Greene, the far-right rabble-rouser and acolyte of former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. McCarthy, the affable fixture of the Washington establishment, according to interviews with 20 people with firsthand knowledge of the relationship, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Their political union — a closer and more complex one than has previously been known — helps explain how Mr. McCarthy rose to power atop a party increasingly defined by its extremes, the lengths to which he will go to accommodate those forces, and how much influence Ms. Greene and the faction she represents have in defining the agenda of the new House Republican majority.

“If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” Mr. McCarthy said. Both he and Ms. Greene agreed to brief interviews for this article. “When she picks a fight, she’s going to fight until the fight’s over. She reminds me of my friends from high school, that we’re going to stick together all the way through.”

It is a relationship born of political expediency but fueled by genuine camaraderie, and nurtured by one-on-one meetings as often as once a week, usually at a coffee table in Mr. McCarthy’s Capitol office, as well as a constant stream of text messages back and forth.

Mr. McCarthy has gone to unusual lengths to defend Ms. Greene, even dispatching his general counsel to spend hours on the phone trying to cajole senior executives at Twitter to reactivate her personal account after she was banned last year for violating the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy.

Ms. Greene, in turn, has taken on an outsize role as a policy adviser to Mr. McCarthy, who has little in the way of a fixed ideology of his own and has come to regard the Georgia congresswoman as a vital proxy for the desires and demands of the right-wing base that increasingly drives his party. He has adopted her stances on opposing vaccine mandates and questioning funding for the war in Ukraine, and even her call to reinvestigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to show what she has called “the other side of the story.”

Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1891, Berthe Morisot

This does not bode well.

Yesterday was supposed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Instead, the same group is not happy with its’ overturn. They’ve moved on to more extremism under their limited view of Christianity. Vice President Kamal Harris gave a rousing speech on the need to protect women’s abortion rights.  This is from NPR. “On 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Kamala Harris urges federal abortion protections.”

Vice President Kamala Harris commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by imploring Americans to work to enshrine abortion rights into law.

“For nearly 50 years, Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected,” Harris said at a speech delivered in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday. “Today, however, on what would have been its 50th anniversary, we speak of the Roe decision in the past tense.”

The landmark Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 1973, guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion for nearly half a century. The U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade in June, which immediately rolled back abortion rights in almost half of the states, and led to many more restrictions. In speaking in Florida, Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, delivered a speech in a state which passed a 15-week abortion ban into law.

In her speech, Harris spoke directly to the anti-abortion rights policies implemented by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and state officials.

After the Food and Drug Administration changed a rule to allow retail pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration reportedly sent a letter out to pharmacists telling them that dispensing the abortion pill could lead to criminal charges.

“Here, in Florida, health care providers face prison — prison! — for up to five years for simply doing their job,” Harris said. “And now the state has also targeted medication abortion, and even threatened Florida pharmacists with criminal charges if they provide medication prescribed by medical professionals.”

President Biden moved to support legal access to chemical abortions.

Fillette portant un panier, Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1888, Berthe Morisot

This is from The Guardian. “In a more just world, this would be the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, written by Moira Donegan.  Until last year, Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their choices, not merely by their bodies”

If the supreme court hadn’t overturned it last June, undoing a longstanding precedent and inflicting untold harm to women’s well-being and dignity, Sunday 22 January would have been the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Over those 50 years, Roe changed American life dramatically. Abortion became a routine part of life, a resource people planned their lives around having. In contrast to its political controversy, abortion in the Roe era was – as it is now – aggressively common. Approximately one in four American women will have an abortion at some point in the course of their reproductive lives.

The figure lends credence to the pro-choice assertion that everyone loves someone who had an abortion – and the accompanying quip that if you think you don’t know a woman who has had an abortion, you really just don’t know any women who trust you enough to tell you. But part of the legacy of Roe is not just that these women you know and love have been able to have freer, healthier, more volitional lives, but also that their abortions, for many of them, are not worth confessing. For most, abortions were not tragedies to be whispered about, or life-altering moments of shame, but banalities, choices to which they were unquestionably entitled, and from which they could move unconflictedly on. But Roe is gone. Now, for many women, these choices are crimes.

It’s worth reflecting on what we had during those 49 years. While it stood, Roe offered a promise: that women’s lives need not be circumscribed by so-called “biological destiny”; that gender – its relations, performances, and obligations – might not be something that is imposed on women, but something that they take up and discard on their own terms. In the Roe era, this frank entitlement by women to determine the courses of their own lives was the decision’s greatest legacy. Individual women’s distinction and determination, or their conflictedness and confusion, or their ambivalence and exploration: once, before Roe, these parts of a woman’s personality almost didn’t matter; they were incidental eccentricities along the inevitable road to motherhood. Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their characters, not merely by their bodies.

It is easy to speak of Roe’s impact in material terms – the way it enabled women’s long march into paid work and into better paid work, how it was a precondition for their soaring achievements in education and the professions, their ascents into positions of power and influence. So little of the vast and varied lives of twentieth-century American women could have been achieved in the absence of abortion or birth control – these women, their minds and careers, are gifts the nation could never have received if they’d been made to be pregnant against their wills, or made to care for unplanned, unlonged-for babies.

But it is less easy to discuss the sense of dignity that Roe gave to American women, the way that the freedom to control when and whether they would have children endowed American women, for the first time, with something like the gravitas of adults. Roe opened a door for women into dignity, into self-determination, into the still wild and incendiary idea that they, like men, might be endowed with the prerogatives of citizenship, and entitled to chart the course of their own lives.

Mid-Century, Roger Etienne, Man In a Flower Hat

This is from the ACLU.” Roe’s 50th Year Undid Its Promise”.

On this anniversary episode, we are going to look at the reality that people are facing in a post-Roe America, both those seeking care and those providing it. Without Roe, a key component of reproductive care has become illegal or restricted for more than 20 million people, throwing many into painful and life-threatening situations. We are joined by Community Organizer, Kaitlyn Joshua, who experienced firsthand how new restrictions on abortion endanger the lives and well-being of pregnant people, and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN, reproductive health educator, author, and Executive Director of Mayday Health, an organization focused on providing information on abortion access and options for people, regardless of where they live.

You may listen to the podcast at the link.

I think we have enough today to discuss and think about.  By the way, you reap what you sow.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?