Tuesday Reads

Good Day!!

henri-manguin, Dream Landscape

Henri Manguin, Dream Landscape

Is it me or is the news today even more dispiriting than usual?

Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked in his home last week and is still in the ICU in at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and around the country Republicans are minimizing and even joking about the horrific attack by a MAGA/Qanon crazy.

The New York Times: Republicans Continue to Spread Baseless Claims About Pelosi Attack.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, continues to post jokes about it.

Dinesh D’Souza, the creator of a discredited film about the 2020 election called “2000 Mules,” accused the San Francisco Police Department on Monday of covering up the facts.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote that the “same mainstream media democrat activists” who questioned former President Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia were now silencing the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk.

The reason: Mr. Musk deleted a post linking to a newspaper that once claimed Hillary Rodham Clinton was dead when she ran for president in 2016.

In the days since Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder asking, “Where is Nancy?”, a litany of Republicans and conservatives have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the assault and its motives.

Although the police have not yet detailed all the circumstances of the crime, these theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream. While many Republican officials have denounced the violence, others have at the very least tolerated, and in some cases cheered, a violent assault on the spouse of a political rival.

The disinformation “isn’t just political,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and chief executive of Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit. “It’s much bigger than that; it’s deeper. They’re really rethinking and reshaping a lot of our norms.”

The attack on Mr. Pelosi in the couple’s home in San Francisco early on Friday morning has raised fears about the rise of political violence against elected officials — increasingly, it seems, inspired by a toxic brew of extremism, hate and paranoia that is easily found online.

The assailant, identified by the police as David DePape, 42, posted a series of notes in the days before the attack suggesting that he had fallen under the sway of right-wing conspiracy theories and antisemitism online. Some of the flurry of posts by others questioning the circumstances of the attack appeared intended to deflect attention from Mr. DePape’s views.

the-courtyard-of-the-hospital-in-arles-1889. Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles, 1889

Super MAGA Trump follower Kari Lake, who is likely to be the next governor of Arizona, got a big laugh from the audience when she joked about the attack on Pelosi. NBC News: Arizona GOP nominee Kari Lake mocks attack on Paul Pelosi at campaign event.

The Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, made light of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in remarks at a campaign event Monday, drawing laughter from the audience.

Asked about school security, Lake suggested the protection afforded to federal lawmakers should be available to students, as well.

“Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said at a campaign event in Scottsdale, Arizona, sparking laughter from many in attendance….

Lake wasn’t asked about the remark in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News but said: “We can’t talk about all these issues, because the media has told us they’re prohibited. You can’t talk about vaccines, you can’t talk about elections, you can’t talk about Paul Pelosi, and now you can’t talk about Nancy Pelosi.

“I’m talking about all of those things,” she added.

Paul Pelosi was still in intensive care, surrounded by family members, a source with knowledge of the situation said Monday.

Even New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, supposedly moderate Republican has now gone MAGA. William Saletan at The Bulwark: Even the Sane Republicans Are Embracing Election Deniers.

Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, is one of the saner people in today’s Republican party. He concedes that the 2020 election was free and fair. He acknowledges climate change. He has criticized Republican leaders for ostracizing Rep. Liz Cheney and other principled dissidents while protecting the party’s worst extremists.

That’s why Sununu’s decision in the final weeks of the 2022 campaign to embrace election deniers is a particularly bad sign. Like other Republican officials, he has decided that sabotage of public faith in democracy doesn’t matter, as long as the saboteurs are Republicans. And he’s defending their reckless behavior with pernicious excuses.

On Sep. 13, election deniers won the Republican primaries for two of New Hampshire’s three federal offices. Don Bolduc, who has insisted that “Trump won the election” in 2020, captured the GOP nomination to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. And Karoline Leavitt, who has said Trump “absolutely” won, got the nomination for one of the state’s two congressional seats.

Sununu could have said that he considered these nominees unfit for office. At a minimum, he could have kept his distance. Instead, he has endorsed Leavitt and praised Bolduc.

Last Tuesday, in a gubernatorial debate, Sununu was asked why he supported candidates who claimed “without evidence that elections were stolen.” He didn’t dispute that characterization of their views. Instead, he said endorsement decisions should be based on more than just “one issue,” as though election denial were no different from energy subsidies or water management.

Two days after Sununu’s comment, Bolduc—who had indicated after the primaries that he would tone down his allegations of fraud—again insinuated that elections were being stolen. In a Senate debate, he said the people of New Hampshire “don’t like the fact that they can’t trust the mail-in ballot system,” that there were “proven irregularities with voting machines,” and that “same-day voter-registration causes fraud.” He added: “We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote.”

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection, and has decided to go the Trump route and refuse to concede. The Daily Beast: Bolsonaro Plays Trump Card: Won’t Concede as Fans Block Roads.

SÃO PAULO—The biggest and busiest city in South America was forced into a stunning standstill Monday night after supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blocked roads across the city to protest the results of a fair and free election.

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters, embittered by the victory of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on Sunday, blocked the highway to the main airport in São Paulo, setting up barricades, chanting phrases like “Lula the robber!,” and starting fires in the middle of the road.

Hundreds of roadblocks in every state in the country threaten to plunge Brazil into chaos.

The populist rightwinger has yet to concede the election since the unprecedentedly close result was announced Sunday, with leftist former president Lula winning by just 1.8 percentage points. With fears mounting that Bolsonaro could take a leaf from the playbook of his close ally, Donald Trump, and refuse to accept the result, truckers loyal to the incumbent have taken matters into their own hands.

Roadblocks and protests demanding a military coup to stop Lula being certified as president have erupted in all but two Brazilian states, according to reports. Brazil’s federal highway police said over 300 protests had partially or completely shut down roads around the country, while authorities in the capital Brasilia closed traffic access to the central government esplanade amid fears that Bolsonaro’s supporters were planning to stage a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court, which they perceive as having given Lula favorable treatment.

Videos shared on social media show blockages along the 1,000 mile-long BR-163 highway which links companies in the Amazon basin with ports in the north of the country. One clip shows a fire burning as vehicles block the road, with a remix of a Brazilian song using the lyrics “Bolsonaro 22” playing in the background.

Read more at the Daily Beast link.

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the right-wing Supreme Court is going to end Affirmative Action in universities. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Has No Reason to End Affirmative Action. They’re Doing It Anyway.

Oral arguments in a pair of much-anticipated cases about the future of affirmative action sprawled over almost six hours on Monday, yet the outcome was obvious within the first 30 minutes: The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority appears poised to overturn almost 50 years of precedent and outlaw race-conscious admissions at institutions of higher education. One case—arising from the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action program—was argued over two and a half hours. The second, a challenge to Harvard’s program, took up the better part of the afternoon. These arguments suggested that six justices will deem affirmative action to be unconstitutional chiefly because the effort to promote diversity in education has reached its sell-by date.

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

What was perhaps most remarkable in these largely predictable arguments was how much time the conservative justices devoted to pure policy arguments. These justices dislike affirmative action for a whole lot of deep emotional reasons that, it turns out, have nothing to do with the Constitution. They barely even considered the meaning 14th Amendment until Justice Elena Kagan finally brought it to their attention two and a half hours into the UNC arguments. Kagan, along with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, were vastly more interested in the history of the Constitution’s equal protection clause than their ostensibly originalist colleagues. If and when the supermajority does eradicate race-conscious admissions, everyone will be able to weigh the strength of their arguments. But no one should pretend the decision was remotely rooted in actual law.

The history of affirmative action at the Supreme Court is not particularly complicated. In 1978’s Bakkedecision, a majority found that universities could consider race to build a diverse student body, identifying educational benefits that flow from diversity. At the same time, a majority prohibited quotas and other rigid metrics that reduced applicants to their race, requiring universities to undertake a holistic review of each applicant. The Supreme Court affirmed this principle in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger and again 2016’s Fisher v. Texas.

Although these cases involve both public and private institutions, the Supreme Court has consistently held that federal law simply applies the equal protection clause to private universities that receive federal funds. So, in theory, the justices should’ve been debating the meaning of the Constitution. Instead, the conservative justices continually reverted to free-floating policy discussions about how affirmative action makes them feel. (Hint: they feel bad.)

John Roberts has also put a hold on releasing Trump’s taxes to Congress. The Washington Post: Chief Justice Roberts temporarily delays release of Trump tax records.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday temporarily halted the release of former president Donald Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee, and called for more briefing in the case.

Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as Thursday.

Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.

Roberts, the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, put the release on hold and called for a response from the committee by noon on Nov. 10. A committee spokeswoman said in a statement, “The Ways and Means Committee maintains the law is on our side, and will file a timely response as requested. Chairman [Richard E.] Neal (D-Ma.) looks forward to the Supreme Court’s expeditious consideration.” [….]

The Supreme Court generally has not been receptive to Trump’s assertions that he should be allowed to keep records private and that he was immune to investigation while in office. The justices in 2020 upheld Congress’s right to subpoena that information with some limitations, and last year declined to block the release of Trump’s financial records for a New York state investigation.

I hope this really is just temporary.

A_Forest_Stream_by_Peder_Mork_Monsted

A Forest Stream, by Peder Mork Monsted

Finally, it looks as if Elon Musk is about as competent to take over Twitter as Trump was to be POTUS. Rebecca Kern at Politico: Musk’s Twitter: ‘This is exactly what many of us were worried about.’

A day after Elon Musk seemed to confirm critics’ worst fears about his ownership of Twitter by tweeting out right-wing misinformation from his personal account, political leaders and operatives wrestled with a loaded question: Would the most important social-media platform in the political world survive his ownership?

And if it did, should they stay on it?

“This is exactly what many of us were worried about,” said Mark Jablonowski, the managing partner of Democratic digital advertising firm DSPolitical.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel on consumer protection, said she was worried about Twitter becoming “a platform that is a sewer of hateful and harmful content” and planned to leave if Musk allowed it to become more of a Wild West.

The immediate anxiety comes from a false story about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that Musk personally tweeted over the weekend. Musk has now deleted the tweet, but the story continues to ricochet around the conservative political world.

In the larger sense, political players are worried that Musk’s promises to bring Twitter’s policies closer in line with his own ideas about politics and society, as well as his firing of its top accountability executives, will permanently change a platform they’ve come to rely on, and trust to police misinformation and hate speech.

Musk has left no doubt who’s in charge of the company since he took Twitter private Thursday night. He renamed himself “Chief Twit” on his official bio, and told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he dissolved the board and named himself sole director.

Musk doesn’t understand that what makes Twitter so popular is the well known journalists, experts, and popular personalities who post content on the platform. Now he wants to charge these people for being verified with blue checks. The Hollywood Reporter: Elon Musk Defends Controversial $20 Blue Checkmark Twitter Plan to Stephen King.

Elon Musk has responded to Stephen King’s horrified reaction at his reported plan to charge for a blue checkmark — and in the process, confirmed that the surprising and controversial idea is in the works.

On Monday, King went viral with his reaction to a report that Musk wanted to charge verified users a whopping $20 per month to keep their blue checkmarks. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” When a reader told King he could afford the fee, he replied, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

Henri Manguin

Trees, by Henri Manguin

Five Thirty Eight political guru Nate Silver similarly wrote to his 3.5 million followers: “I’m probably the perfect target for this, use Twitter a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.”

Early Tuesday, Musk responded to the uproar, replying to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?” Musk then added: “I will explain the rational in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat bots & trolls.”

But critics have pointed out that verified accounts are not simply a free perk for a certain level of user, but rather a utility that makes the wild-west social media platform/hellscape more credible. Blue checks help everyday readers — as well as journalists — determine whether a comment being made by a public figure is actually from that person instead of their fans or impersonators. It is, in other words, a way of preventing fake news. TechCrunch dubbed Musk’s idea a potential “misinformation nightmare.”

“Musk and his buddies view this plan as a way to get people to actually give Twitter money,” TechCrunch noted. “But by monetizing a symbol that currently has value, they will ultimately remove all of that existing value.”

I’ll end there. Please share your thoughts on these and other current happenings. I hope you all have a great Tuesday!!


Wednesday Reads: Dog Lips

Morning all…I forgot it was my turn to post the thread…so this is going to be a quickie.

Cartoons from Cagle:

This is shitty news.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

robin-morgan-2020

Robin Morgan

Yesterday, thanks to a series of tweets by Delphyne, I read an excellent essay by Robin Morgan on religion and U.S. politics, specifically focused on the shadowy Catholic group Opus Dei. It’s long, but I highly recommend reading it, because members of the group dominate the Supreme Court and strongly influence the Republican Party. Although the post is about the Catholic Church, Morgan notes that protestant evangelicals are equally dangerous to our democracy. I’ll try to give you the gist with some excerpts:

Opus Dei is a powerful, secretive organization with members in political, economic, and church leadership throughout the world. Opus Dei reveals no details about its finances, maintains a high degree of control over its members, and censors their reading matter as “appropriate or inappropriate.” Women’s membership has been another source of criticism, due to rank misogyny in its teachings and practice: for example, women are supposedly treated as equals, but are separated from men in their personal spiritual training and in separate branches; in many male Opus Dei centers, women visit every evening to cook for the men, and then leave with no social interaction whatsoever. Sexual abuse cases in Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, and the United States have been investigated, with canonical sanctions (but not civil or criminal charges) applied to the perpetrators. These “controversies” include those above-mentioned, plus recruiting methods aimed at teenagers being separated from their families; illicit use of psychiatric drugs; misleading of the lay faithful about their status and rights under Canon Law; extreme fasting and mortification of the flesh practiced by celibate members; elitism; and support of authoritarian governments….

Founded in 1928, Opus Dei was formally approved by the Holy See in 1950 as a secular institute—a new form of religious association whose members “profess evangelical councils in secular life.” On November 28, 1982, Pope John Paul II, a staunch supporter of Opus Dei, designated it a “personal prelature,” the first and only independent and personal Prelature in the Church–under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate, and with jurisdiction over persons rater than a geographic area. Later, John Paul II also allowed an unusually swift canonization of Escrivá–faster than any saint in history–because Opus Dei had bailed out the Vatican Bank with $250 million in 1985.

Fortunately, Pope Francis recently reduced the power of Opus Dei within the Church and ordered them to report to him more frequently.

How has Opus Dei influenced the U.S. government and the courts?

Scattered lists of prominent Opus Dei members are available, if they’ve “outed” themselves first. These include the president of Spain’s largest bank in assets and the president of Spain’s third biggest bank, the chief financial officer of Ireland’s largest bank, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee. The group also targeted for conversion political and business leaders such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback; Judge Robert Bork (Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee); Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and Larry Kudlow (Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, who wrote in 2016 that plutocracy is “just what America needs”).

300px-Leo

Leonard Leo

The infamous “troika” that served Donald Trump’s regime so effectively was constituted of the arch-conservative, powerful, Federalist Society, the CIC (Catholic Information Center, an ultra right-wing think tank), and Opus Dei. Pat Cipollone, who served as Trump’s White House Counsel from December 2018 to January 2021, was listed as a member of the CIC Board until CIC stopped publishing their board list in October 2018; today, his daughter-in-law is a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. William Barr chaired the CIC board in 2014 and served there until 2017, when he joined Trump as Attorney General. Following his departure as AG in January 2021, Barr returned to the CIC as a senior fellow, and last October (2021) became the new “St. Thomas More Chair.”

Interlocking troika board members and officials are stunningly hidden in plain sight. Leonardo Leo, a self-declared Opus Dei operative, was also the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the CIC (which, by the way, is two blocks from the White House). Leo hits every base. All this is a matter of record….

The extremely powerful man who forwarded five names to the Senate for approval as supreme court justices was Leonardo Leo. It was Leo who pushed Mitch McConnell to nominate Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The troika’s role in installing Trump’s justices is also a matter of record. According to Church and State, “Of the Supreme Court members, six (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett) are current or former members.”

Others have also identified the late Justice Antonin Scalia as an Opus Dei member; his wife attended Catholic Information Center events and his son has spoken there. Church and State Magazine writes that “Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas,” and that when John Roberts was nominated for the Court, Leonard Leo “assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy” (who apparently went “squishy” and liberal).

I’ve probably quoted too much, but I think this is vitally important information for understanding the right wing attack on on the separation of church and state and the need to fight to preserve American democracy generally.

I wasn’t able to watch the NASA video feed yesterday, but I know some Sky Dancers were very excited about it. Here’s a report from The Washington Post: NASA crashes spacecraft into asteroid, passing planetary defense test.

NASA managed Monday to crash a small spacecraft directly into an asteroid, a 14,000-mile-per-hour collision designed to test whether such a technology could someday be deployed to protect Earth from a potentially catastrophic impact.

The violent end of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft thrilled scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operated the mission under a NASA contract.

The asteroid, Dimorphos, is the size of a stadium — or the Great Pyramid of Giza, as one scientist put it Monday — and is about 7 million miles from Earth at the moment. It orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos. Neither poses a threat to our planet now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

This was just a test, NASA’s first demonstration of a potential planetary defense technique, called a kinetic impactor. The idea is to give a hypothetically dangerous asteroid just enough of a blow to alter its orbital trajectory.

Launched last November from California, the spacecraft was small, roughly the size of a vending machine or golf cart. Dimorphos is rather big — roughly 500 feet or so in diameter, although its precise shape and composition were unknown before the final approach. Scientists anticipated a plume of debris from the asteroid upon impact but no significant structural change. This is more akin to a bug splattering on a windshield.

“This isn’t just bowling-ball physics,” Applied Physics Laboratory planetary scientist Nancy Chabot told reporters. “The spacecraft’s gonna lose.”

But even small effects on an asteroid’s movement could prove a planet-saver. An early collision with an asteroid, if done early enough — say, 5 to 10 years in advance of its projected encounter with Earth — could be just enough to slow it down and make it miss.

Read more at the WaPo.

Denver Riggleman

Denver Riggleman

I’m torn about how to take the revelations in the new book by former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, released today. Is it really that important for the January 6 Committee to keep all their findings secret until they reveal them in their rare public hearings? Frankly, I would have liked to see many more hearings and more information released to the public. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m no expert, but I think Riggleman has some good points. If you’re interested, I suggest watching the 60 Minutes interview (in which Riggleman says he resigned because the Committee refused to subpoena Ginni Thomas) and reading this post from Riggleman’s co-author Hunter Walter: Walking You Through ‘The Breach’

The book was written by Denver Riggleman, an ex-congressman and former senior adviser to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Helping Denver tell his story was the honor of a lifetime. As any regular reader of this site knows, I was at the Capitol on January 6 and, ever since, have dedicated myself to exposing what happened that day. Bringing Denver’s story to the world is the culmination of those efforts.

I believe this book contains some of the most dramatic revelations about the attack on the Capitol and the involvement of the Trump administration as well as Republican members of Congress in the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

 — Denver advised the committee from August 2021 through April 2022. During that time, he led and assembled a team that was focused on telephone analysis. These investigators helped the committee obtain phone records from persons of interest including high-level associates of President Trump and individuals who have been charged with participating in the Capitol attack. The team used this data to compile maps that — quite literally — show the direct links between the political and militant components of the effort to overturn the election. The largest map was dubbed “The Monster” [see graphic above] by Denver and his team. He discussed it in more detail in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. 

— Phone records obtained by Denver’s team showed there was a call to a rioter’s cell phone that was connected through the White House switchboard during the Capitol attack. Following Denver’s appearance on “60 Minutes,” CNN identified the rioter who received the call as Anton Lunyk, a Brooklyn, New York man who entered the Capitol building on January 6….

 — The committee’s link maps also show extensive coordination between militant groups that took part in the attack, namely the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Along with communicating with each other, these groups were in extensive contact with Trump associates and activists who planned rallies that occurred in Washington on January 6.

— Denver’s team also helped analyze and decipher thousands of text messages that were provided to the committee by Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He describes these messages as “irrefutable time-stamped proof of a comprehensive plot — at all levels of government — to overturn a free and fair election and leave Trump in power.”

There’s more at the link.

More interesting stories, links only:

Julia Ainsley at NBC News: Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators.

CNN: Meadows texts reveal direct White House communications with pro-Trump operative behind plans to seize voting machines.

The Washington Post: Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who exposed U.S. surveillance.

Timothy Noah at The New Republic: Hell Is a World in Which Everybody Writes Like Axios.

CNN: Historic trial for Oath Keepers leader and his top lieutenants over January 6 set to begin.

Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Sedition Trial of Oath Keepers to Get Underway.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: Ex-Staffer Says DeSantis TORCHES Trump in Private: ‘Moron Who Has No Business Running For President’

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Ron DeSantis: The Making and Remaking (an Remaking) of a MAGA Heir. 

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking. Putin is running out of time.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Trump’s Terrible Day

Good Afternoon!!

Whew! Yesterday was quite a day! It began with New York Attorney General Tish James announcing a 250 million lawsuit against Trump, three of his children, the Trump Organization and two of its top employees; it ended with the 11th Circuit appeals court thoroughly rebuking Judge Loose Cannon and restoring the DOJ’s access to the classified documents needed for their criminal investigation of Trump and for the intelligence assessment of the damage caused by Trump’s thievery. Meanwhile Trump went on Fox News and incriminated himself in an insane interview with Sean Hannity. Here’s a sample from that hour-long clusterfuck:

Since I’m not a lawyer, it’s difficult for me to write about all this legal stuff, but I’ll do my best to post stories that explain what all this means.

First up, this piece by University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck at CNN: Opinion: How Trump’s terrible day went from bad to worse.

For most people, having the Attorney General of the nation’s fourth most populous state file a sweeping new lawsuit accusing you and your family of “staggering” fraud would be a terribly ominous development.

For former President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the worst legal news he received on Wednesday. That came later in the evening, when a unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted a district court ruling that had partially blocked the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump unlawfully retained at Mar-a-Lago (and refused to return) a large tranche of government documents.

The immediate effect of the panel ruling is to clear the way for the Justice Department to continue its work. But the broader significance of Wednesday night’s ruling — significance that, at least for now, clearly transcends the possibility of what might come of the civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — is the fact that a panel that included two Trump appointees poured very cold water on the only arguments he had left to defend against the Mar-a-Lago search.

The issue before the Eleventh Circuit was whether to freeze part of the injunction that US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon had entered on September 5 — an injunction that purported to block the Justice Department from using most of the materials it recovered from its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago until and unless they could be reviewed by a court-appointed special master. (The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, expressed a fair amount of skepticism toward Trump’s claims at his first hearing on Tuesday).

What the three-judge panel–including two judges appointed by Trump–said:

Across 29 pages, the three-judge Eleventh Circuit panel made quick work of Cannon’s ruling — holding that the Justice Department was almost certain to succeed in having that ruling thrown out, and so should have the ruling frozen, at least as it applied to classified materials, while the appeals process runs its course.

Among other things, the panel, which included Judges Robin Rosenbaum (appointed by President Barack Obama) and Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher (appointed by Trump), highlighted the absence of any evidence that Trump had declassified any of the classified information discovered at Mar-a-Lago, and also the extent to which that entire issue is a “red herring” for the broader debate over whether those documents belong to Trump or the government….

But it was in a more subtle section of the opinion that the panel handed Trump his most significant defeat. Across two pages and a footnote that non-legal-readers could be forgiven for skipping past, the three judges rejected, in unequivocal terms, claims made by Trump and his supporters (including the State of Texas, which had filed a highly unusual friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 10 other red states) that the investigation into the former President and search of Mar-a-Lago were all just bad faith harassment from the Biden administration….

In other words, the three-judge panel on one of the more conservative federal appeals courts in the country looked at the Mar-a-Lago search and the broader criminal and national security investigation into the former President of the United States and could not “see any evidence in the record” to support the claim that the Biden administration was using its law enforcement authorities to harass Trump — as opposed to conducting a genuine, above-the-board investigation into serious potential violations of federal criminal statutes.

You might also check out this straight news piece by Charlie Savage, et al. at The New York Times: 

In a strongly worded 29-page decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an order by a Florida federal judge that has kept the department from using about 100 files with classification markings in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.

The appeals court also agreed with the Justice Department that Mr. Trump’s lawyers — and an independent arbiter recently appointed to review the seized materials — need not look at the classified documents that the F.B.I. carted away from Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8.

The Justice Department “argues that the district court likely erred in exercising its jurisdiction to enjoin the United States’ use of the classified records in its criminal investigation and to require the United States to submit the marked classified documents to a special master for review,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. “We agree.”

The decision by the Atlanta-based court was a repudiation of the decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to broadly intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation. The appellate ruling will permit the arbiter, known as a special master, to review most of the more than 11,000 files seized from Mar-a-Lago, but allow prosecutors unfettered access to the smaller batch of classified records.

Charlie Savage also reposted on Twitter an earlier article on how the declassification process works.

This piece at Just Security is a good explainer on the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Trump family and businesses: Has a Trump Tipping Point Been Reached? Analyzing The NY Attorney General’s Case Against Trump.

In the last month, the array of investigations involving Donald J. Trump and many of Trump’s associates and family members has reached an intense pitch. Today another bombshell detonated—one that may prove to be the most devastating.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced the filing of a monumental civil enforcement action against Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, the Trump Organization and many other Trump affiliates.

The sanctions sought by the New York Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) are sweeping and potentially devastating: disgorgement of $250 million in profits; the cancellation of business certificates for Trump’s corporate entities; appointment of an independent monitor at the Trump Organization; a 5-year ban on Trump and the Trump Organization entering into any New York commercial real estate transactions or from applying for any loans from any New York entity; permanently banning Trump and his adult children from serving as an officer or director of a New York corporation. In addition to the potential civil penalties associated with today’s complaint, AG James also announced criminal referrals to the Southern District of New York and to the IRS. Penalties resulting from those referrals could result in substantial fines, and potentially even imprisonment.

With today’s filing of this enforcement action, it is important to consider the factual and legal bases for the claims, and how it could serve as a tipping point in cases against Trump, especially in light of the many other existing federal and state investigations.

Read the rest at Just Security. Here’s John Buss’s commentary:

What about the January 6 Committee? What are they up to? Yes, more bad news for Trump–and Mark Meadows too.

From the article:

The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has come to an agreement with Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in the coming weeks, according to a source close to the committee.

Ginni Thomas’ attorney, Mark Paoletta, confirmed the voluntary interview in a statement, saying, “As she has said from the outset, Mrs. Thomas is eager to answer the Committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election. She looks forward to that opportunity.”

Members of the panel have long said they are interested in speaking with Thomas, particularly after CNN first reported text messages she exchanged with then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows prior to January 6 about overturning the election.

But in the months since those messages emerged, there has been little indication that compelling her to testify was a top priority for the panel despite subsequent evidence that Thomas also encouraged state lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate electoral win.

Thomas attended the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, as she said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, where she stressed that her and her husband’s professional lives are kept separate. She also said that she had left the gathering before the protesters turned violent.

She has also been publicly critical of the House January 6 investigation, calling on House GOP leaders to boot from their conference the two Republicans serving on the select committee.

It’s not yet clear what changed for Thomas and her attorney to now agree to this interview. The 64 thousand dollar question is how will this affect her husband Clarence? Will John Roberts finally decide to deal with him? Probably not, but you never can tell.

More news, links only:

Analysis by Stephen Collinson at CNN: Biden’s new mission: Heading off any possibility of a nuclear crisis with Russia.

The Washington Post: Over 1,300 arrests reported as Russians protest military mobilization.

CNN: Russia’s military divided as Putin struggles to deal with Ukraine’s counteroffensive, US sources say.

Analysis by Brad Lendon at CNN: Putin can call up all the troops he wants, but Russia can’t train or support them.

AP News: At least 9 killed as Iran protests spread over woman’s death.

NBC News: Enthusiasm for upcoming midterms is at all-time high, NBC News poll shows.

The New York Times: Trump Support Remains Unmoved by Investigations, Poll Finds.

Miami Herald: Operatives linked to DeSantis promised to fly migrants to Delaware — but left them stranded.

NBC News: House passes bill to prevent stolen elections, despite strong GOP opposition.

Ashton Pittman at the Mississippi Free Press on the Brett Favre scandal: Ex-Mississippi Welfare Leader Pleads Guilty To Federal, State Crimes In Exchange For Cooperation.

NBC News: Hurricane Fiona intensifies to Category 4 as Puerto Rico contends with aftermath.

Have a tremendous Thursday, Sky Dancers!!


Sunday Reads: Long Live the King

Today is pretty much all Queen…via Cagle:

No new cartoons for September 11th…except for Luckovich.

That is it for me, this is an open thread…and of course long live the king.

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

And sooner or later
Everybody’s kingdom must end
And I’m so afraid your courtiers
Cannot be called best friends

Caesar’s had your troubles
Widows had to cry
While mercenaries in cloisters sing
And the king must die

Some men are better staying sailors
Take my word and go
But tell the ostler that his name was
The very first they chose

And if my hands are stained forever
And the altar should refuse me
Would you let me in, would you let me in, would you let me in
Should I cry sanctuary

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

The king is dead, the king is dead
The king is dead, the king is dead
Long live the king