Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Democracy-in-PerilYesterday Joe Biden commemorated Memorial Day with a speech honoring those who served the country in wartime, while cautioning that “democracy…is in peril.”

Politico: Biden on Memorial Day: Democracy is ‘in peril,’ worth dying for.

President Joe Biden marked Memorial Day with an address at Arlington National Cemetery, pledging to never forget or fail to honor fallen veterans’ sacrifice and saying that democracy is “worth fighting for” and “dying for.”

Democracy, which he called the “soul of America,” is in danger, Biden said on Monday.

“Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world,” Biden said, speaking to military officials and people who have lost military loved ones after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “What we do now, what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure.”

Throughout the speech Monday, Biden praised veterans’ sacrifice for democracy and defended democracy’s aspirations, though he said the U.S. hadn’t always lived up to them. He called empathy “the fuel of democracy.”

The president said that “we all” take democracy “for granted,” saying “the biggest question” is whether the system of democracy can win out over opposing “powerful forces.”

“All that we do in our common life as a nation is part of that struggle,” Biden said. “A struggle for democracy. It’s taking place around the world, democracy and autocracy.”

Democracy is in danger because the Trumpist Republican Party opposes it. Since their cult leader lost the 2020 election, Republicans are focused on making voting more difficult. The latest effort took place in Texas. Fortunately, Democrats in the Texas legislature were able to fend off the new Jim Crow law for now.

The Daily Beast: Democrats Finally Step Up and Smack Down Texas Jim Crow Law.

In a dramatic surprise, Texas Democrats stopped the GOP’s latest and lowest voter suppression effort at the eleventh hour (literally – the session was adjourned at 11pm Monday night). They used tricks, stunts, and gambits. They chased the headlines, and grabbed them. Democrats, this is how you do it.

For months, these outrageous, baseless, anti-democratic, and cravenly self-interested Republican efforts in state after state have been the “sleeper story” of the year. In some ways, Republican voter suppression isn’t new; they’ve been lying about voter fraud for years, even though it has never existed on a widespread level. And some of the concrete measures are familiar: closing voting locations in predominantly Black areas (yes, it really is that brazen), restricting early and absentee voting, and so on….

GHJFADFEVNEK3EHRR3RZ6KXX7MSo far, Democrats have failed to stop this racist and anti-democratic freight train. It’s barreled through FloridaGeorgia, and Iowa. It’s rigged the 2022 elections by making it harder for Black voters (and voters who can’t get off of work easily, or need help getting to the polls) to vote. It’s a national disgrace.

But it’s barely made the news….

These efforts should be headline freaking news. The blatantly racist nature of these policies. Their likely effects on the next election. And their foundation in the same conspiracy theory that led to the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. All of these are beyond outrageous, but journalists can’t just make news happen; that’s up to politicians and other public figures who give us something to report.

Which is exactly what Texas Democrats did Sunday night.

They raised every possible technical and procedural objection to the vote. They indulged in long-winded Q&A sessions. They stretched the process out for hours. And then, right before eleven at night on the eve of Memorial Day, they walked out, depriving the Texas State House of Representatives of a quorum.

Even the walkout was dramatic. Texas State Representative Chris Turner texted party members at 10:35, writing, “Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building. ~ Chris”

Gotta love it.

But the bill could still pass. What’s needed is national legislation to protect voting rights.

The Washington Post: After defeating restrictive voting bill, Texas Democrats send loud message: ‘We need Congress to do their part.’

Texas Democrats who defeated a Republican effort to pass a suite of new voting restrictions with a dramatic late-night walkout from the state House chamber on Sunday have a message for President Biden and his allies in Congress: If we can protect voting rights, you can, too.

The surprise move by roughly 60 Democratic lawmakers headed off the expected passage of S.B. 7, a voting measure that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, by denying Republicans a required quorum and forcing them to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote.

downloadThe coordinated walkout just after 10:30 p.m. Central time jolted the national debate on voting rights, putting the spotlight on Democratic-backed federal legislation that has been stalled in the Senate all spring, even as state Republicans move to enact new voting rules.

“We knew today, with the eyes of the nation watching action in Austin, that we needed to send a message,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat, said at a news conference held at a historically Black church in Austin early Monday, shortly after he and other lawmakers left the state Capitol. “And that message is very, very clear: Mr. President, we need a national response to federal voting rights.”\Republicans control every branch of Texas government and hold firm majorities in both the House and Senate. While Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vowed late Sunday to bring the voting measure back at a special legislative session for redistricting later this year — and threatened to defund the legislature in a tweet on Monday — the walkout represented an unmistakable and shocking defeat for Republican leaders who had assumed the bill would pass ahead of the House’s midnight deadline to finish its 2021 business.

Unfortunately, Congress is not stepping up so far.

Nicolas Fandos at The Washington Post: Push for Voting Overhaul in Congress Falters.

In the national struggle over voting rights, Democrats have rested their hopes for turning back a wave of new restrictions in Republican-led states and expanding ballot access on their narrow majorities in Congress. Failure, they have repeatedly insisted, “is not an option.”

But as Republican efforts to clamp down on voting prevail across the country, the drive to enact the most sweeping elections overhaul in generations is faltering in the Senate. With a self-imposed Labor Day deadline for action, Democrats are struggling to unite around a strategy to overcome solid Republican opposition and an almost certain filibuster.

Republicans in Congress have dug in against the measure, with even the most moderate dismissing it as bloated and overly prescriptive. That leaves Democrats no option for passing it other than to try to force the bill through by destroying the filibuster rule — which requires 60 votes to put aside any senator’s objection — to pass it on a simple majority, party-line vote.

cg607453581752eBut Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the Democrats’ decisive swing vote, has repeatedly pledged to protect the filibuster and is refusing to sign on to the voting rights bill. He calls the legislation “too darn broad” and too partisan, despite endorsing such proposals in past sessions. Other Democrats also remain uneasy about some of its core provisions.

Navigating the 800-page For the People Act, or Senate Bill 1, through an evenly chamber was never going to be an easy task, even after it passed the House with only Democratic votes. But the Democrats’ strategy for moving the measure increasingly hinges on the longest of long shots: persuading Mr. Manchin and the other 49 Democrats to support both the bill and the gutting of the filibuster.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Meanwhile, extremist Republicans–including the former guy–are openly supporting insurrection. As Dakinikat reported yesterday, disgraced retired General Michael Flynn attended a Q-Anon meeting and called for a military coup in the U.S. 

Donnie O’Sullivan at CNN: Echoing QAnon forums, Michael Flynn appears to suggest a Myanmar-style coup should happen in the United States.

Michael Flynn, former President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, appeared to endorse a Myanmar-style coup in the United States on Sunday.

For months, QAnon and Trump-supporting online forums have celebrated the deadly military coup in Myanmar and suggested the same should happen in the United States so Trump could be reinstated as President.

Flynn made the comments at an event in Dallas on Sunday that was attended by prominent peddlers of the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Big Lie.

“I want to know why what happened in Minamar (sic)can’t happen here?” a member of the audience, who identified himself as a Marine, asked Flynn.

“No reason, I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right,” Flynn responded….

Some QAnon followers are obsessed with the idea that the US military will somehow put Trump back into office. Some believed and hoped Trump would declare martial law on Inauguration Day to stop Joe Biden from entering the White House.

Speaking at the same event in Dallas, Flynn earlier in the weekend falsely claimed, “Trump won. He won the popular vote, and he won the Electoral College vote.”

Trump himself claims he will be “reinstated” as president, according to Maggie Haberman.

4060f4bbe7fc4726bd17af60a9fda86dRaw Story: Trump expects to be ‘reinstated’ as president by August: reporter.

Former President Donald Trump reportedly believes he’s going to be “reinstated” as president within the next two months.

According to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August” because the widely criticized “audit” he’s backing in Arizona will show he actually won the 2020 presidential election.

“He is not putting out statements about the ‘audits’ in states just for the sake of it,” Haberman reports. “He’s been laser focused on them, according to several people who’ve spoken with him.”

Haberman notes that Trump’s obsession with retaking the White House this year comes as he’s staring at the possibility of being indicted by the New York Attorney General’s Office, which is conducting a criminal probe of the Trump Organization for potential tax fraud.

If you want to know more about the conference of Q-Anon crazies that took place over the weekend, check out this article at Vice: QAnon’s Wildest Moments From Their Massively Disturbing Conference.

QAnon’s biggest celebrities threw a three-day conference in Dallas over the weekend—and it did not disappoint.

Whether you wanted to hear a former US Army general calling for a military coup or Roger Stone’s social media advisor calling for Hillary Clinton’s execution, there was something for everyone.

There were auctions selling $1,000-blankets and $8,000 baseball bats. A sitting Congressman appeared on stage and literally embraced QAnon influencers. Dozens of members of a shadowy militia provided protection—some with their own pugs in tow. And then there was Kraken-lawyer Sidney Powell trying to sing the national anthem….

The “For God and Country: Patriot Roundup” event took place over Friday, Saturday and Sunday in downtown Dallas with thousands of QAnon supporters paying at least $500 for a ticket to the event.

The event took place in the city-owned Omni Hotel despite opposition from local residents whose petition was signed by more than 20,000 people.

The organizer of the event, John Sabal (known online as QAnon John) claimed prior to the  event that it was not a QAnon conference, despite multiple high profile QAnon figures speaking there.

The event was a coming-out party for many well-known figures in the QAnon world, but also highlighted just how far the conspiracy movement is bleeding into mainstream Republican politics, with one sitting Congressman, Rep. Louie Gohmert, speaking on stage, along with the chairman of the Texas GOP, Allen West.  

Read more highlights at the Vice link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following? As always, this is an open thread.


Friday Reads: This and that and the other …

“The popular artist @PENPENCILDRAW created an illustration in response to that ruling, depicting “an Indian judge’s guide to being an ideal rape survivor”. The illustration went viral.”

Hi Sky Dancers!

I’m still exhausted from end-of-term madness. We’re still caught up in reacting to Trumpist news.  I’ll go there but not quite yet.

My neighbor tweeted this BBC article this morning on the terrifying rape culture in India.  Read this and see how the judge on the case dismissed a work-related rape.  It’s horrifying!  I need to post a trigger warning here!  The judge actually describes what he finds “appropriate” behavior for a rape victim. There should be global outrage on this one.

As many of you may know, I’ve been an advocate of battered women and children and also rape victims since high school.  I’ve been involved in this well into my current state of cronehood.  I fear for my daughters and for my soon-to-be-born granddaughters.  How can we ever get rid of these attitudes?  This is from India but I’ve run into these same attitudes here.

The illustration came from the following article.

Arianna Vairo

From the BBC World News article above:

Is there an appropriate way for a rape victim to behave?

That’s the question many are asking in India after a judge threw out charges against a man accused of raping a female colleague and questioned the behaviour of the alleged victim.

Judge Kshama Joshi wrote that in photographs taken shortly after the alleged assault, the young woman was “smiling and looked happy, normal, in [a] good mood”.

“She did not look disturbed, reserved, terrified or traumatised in any way even though this was immediately after she claims to have been sexually assaulted,” the judge wrote in a 527-page judgement.

The charges against Tarun Tejpal, the high-profile former editor of Tehelka magazine, were dismissed. The Goa government, which has appealed the decision, asked on Thursday for an early hearing, saying “we owe it to our girls” and that the acquittal order was “erroneous in law” and “unsustainable”. The High Court judge agreed and said he would hear the case on 2 June.

Endless debunking of these myths has led to little progress.  The root causes are power and control.  Never forget!

The fight to remove power and control from women also continues on the fight to preserve access to legal abortions.  This is from WBUR: “The Supreme Court, Abortion And The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Long Game.” The forced birth movement will never be satisfied an end to Roe V Wade.  Here’s a list of articles discussed in the broadcast.

CNN: “How Trump and McConnell set the final pieces for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade” — “Conservatives have been waiting decades for this moment: a transformed Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an abortion case that directly challenges women’s reproductive rights tracing to the 1973 Roe v. Wade milestone.”

Wall Street Journal: “The Mississippi Abortion Case at the Supreme Court: What You Should Know” — “The question of abortion rights is making a return to the Supreme Court, with justices on Monday agreeing to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after about 15 weeks of pregnancy.”

Ms. Magazine: “Unprecedented Surge in Anti-Abortion Laws Proposed and Passed Across the U.S.” — “In the first four months of 2021, anti-abortion lawmakers introduced 536 abortion restrictions in 46 states, including 146 abortion bans, according to a report released by the Guttmacher Institute on Friday. They enacted 61 restrictions in 13 states, including eight bans that would go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Governors signed 28 restrictions into law in eight states just last week.”

The Hill: “Democrats: Roe v. Wade blow would fuel expanding Supreme Court” — “Democratic senators say if the Supreme Court strikes a blow against Roe v. Wade by upholding a Mississippi abortion law, it will fuel an effort to add justices to the court or otherwise reform it.”

Susanna and the Elders, Restored – X-Ray
1998 Kathleen Gilje

The headlines are quite bleak. This is from New York Magazine and was written by By Irin Carmon and Benjamin Hart. “The Radicalism of the Abortion Law the Supreme Court Granted”.

Irin: I would call this catastrophic for abortion rights. Not even the 5th circuit, arguably the most conservative appeals court in the country, thought it was worth upholding this ban, because it so egregiously flouts almost a half-century of precedent. There’s no circuit split — the dissent among lower courts that usually obliges the Supreme Court to step in. The court has had many chances to change its rule as to whether states can ban abortion before viability and never has. This suggests at least four justices (which is how many it takes to take up a case) think now is the time.

This is the from the local Erie News about the radical set of abortion legislation advanced by republicans in the Pennsylvania house.  I have not put the headline up because it contains mislabelling of the Forced Birth movement

Pennsylvania conservatives have previously pushed anti-abortion legislation, but several bills have stalled in committee, including when the Republican-controlled Legislature had a Republican governor to sign their agenda into law.

Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011 signed into law stricter standards for abortion clinics and in 2013 signed a law that denied abortion coverage through Obamacare.

But nothing as restrictive as what was introduced Tuesday got close to law during the Corbett years.

The three bills Republicans advanced this week include a heartbeat bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected; a ban on abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis; and another that requires medical facilities to disclose burial options for miscarriages and abortions.

Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York County, said during the committee meeting that supporting the ban on abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis is a “no brainer.”

“We shouldn’t allow them to be discriminated against,” she said.

“Children with Down syndrome, they lead amazing lives,” Klunk added. “They are contributing in so many ways, but they need the chance at life to be able to do that.”

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny County, called the ban “dystopian” during the meeting and said the General Assembly is creating more fear while denying access to healthcare.

Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon County, introduced the bill on burial options because of his own experience after losing a child, a story he has shared previously.

He said he was “asking the ladies in the room” to “recognize how men feel.”

He said his bill is optional and gives families a chance at closure after losing a baby, he said.

“This is about giving choice to those people whose faith says that life begins at conception,” Ryan said.

Frankel argued that Ryan’s bill mandates cremation or burial and does not make it optional after abortion or miscarriage. To get a burial, a death certificate would also be required for abortions and miscarriages.

This is also about power and control.  This is from The Guardian “Anti-abortion movement bullish as legal campaign reaches US supreme court.”

The anti-abortion movement in the US is emboldened and optimistic after the supreme court announced it would hear a direct challenge to laws underpinning the right to abortion in the US, and Texas enacted a law intended to ban abortion after six weeks.

The high court decision to take up the case and the Texas move come during the most hostile year for reproductive rights in the nearly half-century since pregnant people won the constitutional right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy in the landmark 1973 case Roe v Wade.

“The long-predicted scaling back of abortion rights by the supreme court just got a lot more likely,” said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian, author of Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v Wade to the Present, and law professor at Florida State University.

Today, abortion is legal in all 50 states up to the point the fetus can survive outside the womb, a legal concept called “viability” established in Roe. This is generally understood to be about 24 weeks (a full-term pregnancy is 39 weeks).

The case taken up by the court, called Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will answer whether Mississippi can limit abortion to 15 weeks, and is brought by the state’s last abortion clinic. If upheld, it would reduce by more than two months the time in which a woman could choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“It’s really hard to see why the court would take this case unless they’re interested in reversing part of Roe or all of Roe,” said Ziegler. Further, the court chose to answer “the most explosive question in the case”, which “suggests they’re not really worried about the political fallout”.

On the right, the hopes are clear: that the court will end the legal right to an abortion, and potentially allow room to criminalize the procedure.

“We’re all hopeful the court will be intellectually honest and acknowledge what the science is clear on – that a unique human life starts at fertilization,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the anti-abortion advocacy group Life Action. Rose is widely seen as the face of the millennial anti-abortion movement.

Mississippi is just one of 29 states across the south and midwest considered hostile to abortion rights, where 58% of American women of reproductive age live, and which would probably act to further restrict abortion rights.

The supreme court case represents the most severe challenge ever presented to Roe, and is a reflection of how the country has splintered in a decade of Republican-led voting restrictions and partisan gerrymandering, the process of redrawing politicians’ districts to favor one party.

“We’re becoming two countries, and your voting rights and your reproductive rights are increasingly likely to depend on where you live,” said David Daley, a senior fellow at FairVote and the bestselling author of Rat F**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count.

The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Pablo Picasso, 1962

The purge continues in education.  Not only is sex education in many states illegal but now summer school classes in Oklahoma have been cancelled because they don’t teach the white male version of racism. From Oklahoma City Local News station 5: “Oklahoma teacher says summer class canceled due to bill that bans teaching critical race theory.”

A teacher is disappointed with Gov. Kevin Stitt after one of her summer classes was canceled due to House Bill 1775, which bans educators from teaching certain concepts of race and racism.

Melissa Smith told KOCO 5 that she’s taught race theory-type classes for six years and is confused why there’s an issue now.

“I’m not happy. This is information everyone needs to know,” Smith said.

The high school and community college teacher said House Bill 1775 has caused her to lose a class she was supposed to teach this summer at Oklahoma City Community College.

“I’ve actually been teaching race and ethnicities in the United States for multiple years,” she said.

The recently signed legislation restricts what can be taught about racial divisions through history in Oklahoma classrooms.

“I got an email a week or so ago, saying due to this new law, they were canceling my completely full race and ethnicities class,” Smith said.

Her students won’t be able to take her class even though it was required for some to graduate. Also, Smith won’t be paid.

“This was a huge chunk of my income,” she said.

When Stitt signed the bill, he said, “We can and should teach the history without labeling a young child as an oppressor or requiring he or she feel guilt or shame based on their race or sex. I refused to tolerate otherwise.”

Yaqiu Wang • CHINA

So, this is AmeriKKKa.  This is from The New Yorker and Susanne B. Glasser: “American Democracy Isn’t Dead Yet, but It’s Getting There.  A country that cannot even agree to investigate an assault on its Capitol is in big trouble, indeed.”  

Before leaving town for their Memorial Day recess, in fact, Senate Republicans were expected to use the legislative filibuster for the first time this session to block the proposed bipartisan panel. Their stated arguments against a commission range from the implausible to the insulting; the real explanation is political cynicism in the extreme. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is so far delivering on his pledge to focus a “hundred per cent” on blocking Biden’s agenda, even claimed that an investigation was pointless because it would result in “no new fact.” John Cornyn, a close McConnell ally, from Texas, was more honest, at least, in admitting, to Politico, that the vote was all about denying Democrats “a political platform” from which to make the 2022 midterm elections a “referendum on President Trump.” For his part, Trump has been putting out the word that he plans to run for reëlection in 2024—and exulting in polls showing that a majority of Republicans continue to believe both his false claims of a fraudulent election and that nothing untoward happened on January 6th. Needless to say, these are not the signs of a healthy democracy ready to combat the autocratic tyrants of the world.

“Turns out, things are much worse than we expected,” Daniel Ziblatt, one of the “How Democracies Die” authors, told me this week. He said he had never envisioned a scenario like the one that has played itself out among Republicans on Capitol Hill during the past few months. How could he have? It’s hard to imagine anyone in America, even when “How Democracies Die” was published, a year into Trump’s term, seriously contemplating an American President who would unleash an insurrection in order to steal an election that he clearly lost—and then still commanding the support of his party after doing so.

This is the worrisome essence of the matter. In one alarming survey released this week, nearly thirty per cent of Republicans endorsed the idea that the country is so far “off track” that “American patriots may have to resort to violence” against their political opponents. You don’t need two Harvard professors to tell you that sort of reasoning is just what could lead to the death of a democracy. The implications? Consider the blunt words of Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in a ruling on a case involving one of the January 6th rioters at the Capitol, issued even as it became clear that Republican senators would move to block the January 6th commission from investigating what had caused the riot:

The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away; six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near daily fulminations of the former President.

It’s worth noting that Jackson released this ruling this week, the same week that Trump issued statements calling the 2020 vote “the most corrupt Election in the history of our Country,” touting himself as “the true President,” and warning that American elections are “rigged, corrupt, and stolen.”

Via HuffPo: “Sen. Lisa Murkowski Says Mitch McConnell Is Blocking Jan. 6 Commission For Political Gain.

“To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on Jan. 6, I think we need to look at that critically. Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another?” Murkowski said.

She added: “Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear. And one of those is that we have free and fair elections… I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election cycle.”

So, I rather thought this post would be something else than it became as I wrote. Once again, I went down a dark rabbit hole.  We are losing our democracy and our selves in a series of right wing autocratic attempts to make laws and send them to courts stacked with religionists, autocrats, white nationalists, and enablers of patriarchy. Trumpism is radicalizing me. It’s something we must vote against, march against, and speak out against.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trumpism Isn’t Over Yet

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, Paul Wonner

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, by Paul Wonner

Good Afternoon!!

It’s great to finally have a normal president who actually cares about the American people and isn’t completely focused on his own needs. But it’s going to take a long time for the country to recover from four years of Trump. For one thing, Trumpism still controls the Republican Party. There is also the aftermath of Trump’s immigration and tax policies as well as his destructive influence on nearly every aspect of the Federal government, including the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security and the intelligence community, as well as his efforts to corrupt U.S. elections. And of course Trump had a dramatic impact on the Supreme Court that will likely last for decades. In this post, I’m going to highlight some of the continuing influences of Trumpism in our politics and our justice system.

Trump loves the death penalty, and his first SCOTUS appointee Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote that led the execution of an innocent man in Arkansas in 2017.

The New York Times: 4 Years After an Execution, a Different Man’s DNA Is Found on the Murder Weapon. Lawyers’ request to conduct additional DNA testing before Ledell Lee was executed had been denied.

For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

Girl with a Cat, Franz Marke

Girl with a Cat, by Franz Marke

Four years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern on the Gorsuch vote, April 21, 2017

On Thursday night, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee—the state’s first execution in 12 years. Lee is one of eight men whom Arkansas originally planned to kill over 11 days before one drug in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail expires. Four of these men have received stays of execution, but Lee’s final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected by a 5–4 vote. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote allowing Lee to die. It was his first recorded vote cast as a justice of the court….

with Gorsuch’s vote, the court’s conservatives were able to ignore their four liberal colleagues and permit the execution. Lee was given midazolam, then a drug to paralyze and suffocate him—which may have been purchased under false pretenses. Finally, the state administered a chemical to stop his heart. Lee was declared dead shortly before midnight, Central Time. Had one more justice voted in his favor, Lee would still be alive today.

Lisa Lerer at The New York Times on Trump continued control of his party: Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans.

Locked out of Facebook, marooned in Mar-a-Lago and mocked for an amateurish new website, Donald J. Trump remained largely out of public sight this week. Yet the Republican Party’s capitulation to the former president became clearer than ever, as did the damage to American politics he has caused with his lie that the election was stolen from him.

Jennifer Gennari

Painting by Jennifer Gennari

In Washington, Republicans moved to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her House leadership position, a punishment for denouncing Mr. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud as a threat to democracy. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas advanced sweeping new measures that would curtail voting, echoing the fictional narrative from Mr. Trump and his allies that the electoral system was rigged against him. And in Arizona, the state Republican Party started a bizarre re-examination of the November election results that involved searching for traces of bamboo in last year’s ballots.

The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an unprecedented assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation’s elections are legitimate.

They also provided stark evidence that the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has also persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy, health care and other issues.

“We’ve just gotten so far afield from any sane construction,” said Barbara Comstock, a longtime party official who was swept out of her suburban Virginia congressional seat in the 2018 midterm backlash to Mr. Trump. “It’s a real sickness that is infecting the party at every level. We’re just going to say that black is white now.”

Read more at the NYT link.

From the Editorial Board of the Financial Times: Republicans drift ever further into Trumpism. The right must find ways to head off disaster for party and country.

Six months after Trump was defeated in the US presidential election, no Republican can dispute his claim that Joe Biden stole it and expect to prosper among their peers. Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump’s account came after he had egged on the mob that assaulted Capitol Hill on January 6 in what was the most serious threat to American democracy since the civil war. Since then, Trump’s language has only grown more ominous. Republicans who think they can keep their head down and wait out the Trump era are probably deluding themselves. Trump is only consolidating his hold over their party — and shows every sign of planning a 2024 presidential run.

What should principled conservatives do? One option is to follow the example of Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, who correctly reminds her colleagues that last year’s election was legitimate and the assault on Congress was sedition. She will almost certainly be removed from her position next week.

August Macke

Painting by August Macke

This is nothing to do with ideology. Cheney is among the most conservative figures in the House. Elise Stefanik, who is set to replace her, is more moderate. Stefanik, however, has an unblemished record of echoing whatever Trump says, including that America’s voting is rigged. Like any revolution, the demands on its children grow more outlandish. The more preposterous the conspiracy theory, the greater the demonstration of loyalty from those who embrace it. The downsides to Cheney’s act of courage are obvious. She will lose her influence and ultimately even her Wyoming district to a Trump loyalist. Others among the principled holdouts, including Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, are also at risk.

A parallel line of attack would be to point out that Trump is already jeopardising his party’s hopes of regaining control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections, and the White House two years later. Trump lost the presidency, but his party did far better in non-presidential races. Millions of voters who endorsed Biden switched to Republicans down ballot. Not once in four years did Trump’s approval rating exceed 50 per cent. Biden’s has not yet fallen below that. 

Trump can keep the party united through fear of defenestration but his grip will make the party less appealing to the larger electorate. Sadly, there is little hope right now of severing Trump’s bonds to a party that is now largely his — 70 per cent of its voters say the election was stolen. 

Liz Cheney is getting a great deal of attention right now, and although I probably disagree with her on every political issue, I have to admire her principled stand against Trumpism. And now the GOP Trump cult is trying to excommunicate her.

The Washington Post: Liz Cheney’s months-long effort to turn Republicans from Trump threatens her reelection and ambitions. She says it’s only beginning.

Rep. Liz Cheney had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Paul Wonner cat painting

Painting by Paul Wonner

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican.\At issue: Should the Republican Party continue to defend Trump’s actions and parrot his falsehoods, given his overwhelming support among GOP voters? Or does the party and its leaders need to directly confront the damage he has done?

I think we all know how that is going to turn out.

On the corruption of the Justice Department, Devlin Barrett broke this startling news yesterday at The Washington Post: Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Post reporters’ phone records.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Mackee

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Macke

News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference.

It is rare for the Justice Department to use subpoenas to get records of reporters in leak investigations, and such moves must be approved by the attorney general. The letters do not say precisely when the reporters’ records were taken and reviewed, but a department spokesman said the decision to do so came in 2020, during the Trump administration. William P. Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general for nearly all of that year, before departing Dec. 23, declined to comment.

A few more stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution against foes, commanding the spotlight and total domination of GOP.

Joyce Vance at NBC News: Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s Barr rebuke opens the door to DOJ accountability.

CBS News: The Arizona GOP’s Maricopa County audit: What to know about it.

NBC News: Sen. Lindsey Graham says the GOP can’t move forward without Trump.

Brad Bannon at The Hill: GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories.

Have a great weekend everyone!! As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: GOP Surrenders to the Crazies

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Dakinikat posted this article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic on the growing radicalization of the GOP. Wehner cites reporting by Sarah Longwell of The Bulwark that shows more formerly “normal” Republicans fleeing Fox News and tuning in to conspiracy-oriented outlets like Newsmax and OneAmerica network.

A second finding, according to Longwell, is that for the first time, she’s hearing people say they pretty regularly tune in to Newsmax or One America News Network, two conspiracy-theory-minded MAGA television news outlets. She’s heard from some people in her focus groups that “Fox has gone too far left.” Overall, what she sees isn’t Trump supporters fleeing Fox in huge numbers so much as experiencing some cooling of their enthusiasm and a willingness to look to other sources of information. (Tucker Carlson, the most malicious and influential figure at Fox News, does have a certain rock-star status in MAGA world.)

It appears that Fox is responding by airing even more insane conspiracy theories. For example, last night Tucker Carlson took his anti-mask crusade to a new level. You have to see this to believe it.

The Daily Beast: Tucker Carlson Tells Fox Viewers to Call the Cops if They See Kids Wearing Masks Outdoors.

Raging against face masks on Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson told his viewers they should openly harass anyone they see wearing masks outside and go so far as to call the police or social services on the parents of any children with masks on.

Carlson, who was a proponent of mask-wearing to help stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as recently as last March, has since become a fierce critic of face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions, guidelines, and mitigation efforts

“Masks have always been incompatible with a free society,” he fumed. “We used to know that. Masks strip people of their identity as individuals, transform people from citizens into drones. They isolate us and alienate us to shut us off from one another, they prevent intimacy and human contact. If I can’t see your face, I can’t know you.”

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Stating that a large portion of liberals suffer from an “actual mental health condition” because a recent Pew survey shows they are critical of others who don’t mask up near them, Carlson called on his audience to instead openly mock mask-wearers in public.

“The rest of us should be snorting at them first. They’re the aggressors. It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” he said. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.’” [….]

Carlson then took it several steps further by urging his viewers to take far more drastic measures if they see children wearing masks.

“As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal,” the Fox News star huffed. “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact Child Protective Services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse, and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”

This is going to get people killed–either by the virus or by more violent interactions in between Trump crazies in businesses that require masks or just ordinary mask-wearing people going about their business.

Here are some are other MAGA conspiracy theories that have gone viral lately. 

Yahoo News: How a false claim about beef and Biden’s climate plan spread.

On Sunday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out a Fox News graphic about President Biden proposing a reduction in red meat consumption. “Not gonna happen in Texas!” proclaimed the Republican, who serves nearly 30 million constituents.

Abbott was retweeted by fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little, who said, “Idahoans also have beef with this agenda and for dinner!” The two governors followed in a line of conservative politicians, pundits and news outlets who spent days proudly stating their opposition to a provision of Biden’s climate plan that doesn’t exist.

The false narrative stems from coverage of Biden announcing his new climate goals last week in honor of Earth Day, including cutting U.S. carbon emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. The plan drew immediate Republican condemnation, but the beef-specific narrative stems from a Thursday article in the Daily Mail, a conservative British tabloid. The lengthy headline reads, “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs.”

The piece cites a University of Michigan study that analyzes what different changes in the U.S. diet could mean for greenhouse gas emissions. This was translated into the Fox News graphic shared by Abbott and others, which stated that the Biden proposal would cut 90 percent of red meat from Americans’ diet, allowing them a maximum of 4 pounds per year and one burger a month.

A primary issue in using the paper to condemn the Biden climate plan is that it was published in January 2020, when Biden was involved in a tight Democratic primary and a year away from being sworn in as president. His climate plan does not have any provisions regulating citizens’ ability to consume meat.

Gregory A. Keoleian and Martin Heller, two of the study’s authors, told Yahoo News that “to our knowledge, there is no connection between our study and Joe Biden’s Climate plan.”

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880, by John Singer Sargent

The Washington Post: No, officials are not handing out Harris’s picture book to migrant kids.

“After learning officials are handing out Kamala Harris’ book to migrants in facilities at the border, it’s worth asking… Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden’s border crisis?”

— Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, in a tweet, April 26, 2021\“The Biden administration’s weakness caused a surge of illegal immigration. Now they’re forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris’s book to give to those illegal immigrants?”\— Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in a tweet linking to a report in the New York Post, April 25, 2021

“Harris’s children’s book Superheroes Are Everywhere is included in welcome packs for migrant children arriving at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, a recently converted influx facility, along with basic hygiene supplies and clothing, photographs show.”

— Reporting on Fox News, April 24, 2021

“Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children’s book, ‘Superheroes are Everywhere,’ in their welcome kits.”

— Reporting in the New York Post, April 23, 2021

It’s like a bad game of telephone.

The New York Post reported that a children’s picture book written by Vice President Harris was being handed out in “welcome kits” to young migrants at a shelter in Long Beach, Calif.

Fox News, which is owned by the same family as the New York Post, then amplified the story with its own version of the article.\Cotton and McDaniel ran with these reports and posted critical tweets. But they should have dug deeper.

Long Beach city officials told The Washington Post that Harris’s book is not being handed out in welcome kits. A single copy of the book was donated during a citywide donation drive, officials said.


Sunday Reads: Atlas

Good morning…

Some tweets to think about:

So proud to say…these are my senators:

This looks like it could be one hell of a story:

I had lunch with one of my old friends yesterday who told me this word for word:

She and I fully understand that we don’t agree on things like tRump…and the pro-choice rights of women…we love each other. She is like my family. It is so hard for me to hear some of the things she says. I spent the last year away from this family and we reconnected lately. I love her… and want her in my life.

Family and friends in the time of tRumpism. Even though he is out of office…his disruptive wake is still rocking boats that are moored in the bay.

This is an open thread.

Be careful, and take care of yourself.