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

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The soldier bath or Artillerymen, 1915, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the gap will probably keep growing…

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

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

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

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

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

Kathe Kollwitz, “Never Again War!”, 1924

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRANZ MARC The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913

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

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

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

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

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

The stage is thus being set for chaos

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

So, that’s my Ted Talk for the day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Fighting the Same Old Fights

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s been nearly a month since Ida turned Southeast Louisiana into a gigantic mess. It’s cooler now and sunny,  Fall seems to have treated us with an on-time appearance. My streets are free from the garbage that was not picked up for weeks on end.  Yesterday, they removed all the tree debris from the neutral ground.   There were some huge trunks there from one of the neighbor’s very old oak trees. They probably were riddled with Formosan Termites.

It continues to be difficult watching White Male Republican Christianists and their enablers tear at the very foundation and dream this country was built on. We should be a country where just about anyone should be able to come, seek refuge, and work their way up into the middle class, at least.  Our outcomes shouldn’t depend on our race, our gender, who we love, and the beliefs we hold. We are fighting the same fights for a more perfect union and watching the white male patriarchal nationalists continue to fix the game in their favor, morally objectionable people get thrown onto court benches for holding extremist positions. We’re reminded daily of this as the same group of suspects in state governorships rev up extremist laws that should be unconstitutional with the purpose of handing the decision to stacked courts.

There is now an intersection between two of the most objectionable and worthless Supreme Court Justices with a penchant for sexually assaulting women.  Anita Hill is back in the headlines with a new book. BB pointed me to this article last night in The Atlantic by Anita Hill herself.  “What It Was Like for Me to Watch Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony. From my own experience in 1991, I knew that her life would never be the same.” No matter what we do by changing laws and providing prevention and legal means to change the situation, predatory men still get rewarded by the system. She views the Kavanaugh hearing through the eyes of Christine Blasey Ford.

I had never spoken with Ford directly, but once the Judiciary Committee chair, Chuck Grassley, who also had heard my testimony about Clarence Thomas three decades earlier, announced that Ford would testify, emails flooded my inbox. Some suggested politely, “I would like to see you sitting behind Dr. Ford as she testifies on Thursday.” Others argued that my presence “would certainly send a message to those, dare I say, incorrigible, ignorant men who did not listen to your honest pleas to be heard those many years ago.”

My instinct told me that those “ignorant men” and many others would make political hay out of any gesture I made to show my support for Ford. I recalled the claims from 1991 that left-wing, pro-abortion-rights feminists had duped me into testifying about Thomas’s behavior. I was certain that Ford was hearing something of the same.

My biggest hope for the day was that it would be a completely different experience for her than it had been for me—that a lot of hard work by activists, researchers, lawyers, and others raising claims and demanding change in their workplace in the 27 years since I had faced that same Senate committee had resulted in the evolution of a new awareness of gender violence. But with some of the same senators from 1991 sitting on the Judiciary Committee and with Grassley in charge, I could not bring myself to be optimistic that the entire committee had evolved.

The 1991 committee was entirely made up of white men, and men in the Senate outnumbered women 98 to two. That the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee included women, one of whom was Black, as well as a Black man, gave me hope for a greater understanding of gender and power, as did the fact that 23 women were Senate members. I wanted to believe that, between 1991 and 2018, enough senators had read the Department of Justice or CDC reports about the prevalence and health consequences of sexual violence to counter the committee’s naysayers.

We know how that turned out.  Margaret Sullivan–writing for The Washington Post–refers to the two women as a “club of two”.

During a recent conversation recorded for a new podcast, Hill, now 65 and a Brandeis law professor, told Ford, 54 and a psychology scholar at Stanford and Palo Alto University, that she felt a sense of overwhelming kinship as she watched the 2018 testimony — a feeling that she knew was shared by a large community of like-minded women.

“A spiritual solidarity,” Hill called it.

Their conversation is a high point in “Because of Anita,” a new four-part podcast series that debuts in October. I listened to a segment of it Thursday and found it moving, instructive and — as podcasts sometimes can be — surprisingly intimate. The two had met and spoken before but not, until now, for the public to hear.

The conversation took place on Zoom in late August with Hill and Ford in their home offices in Massachusetts and California. The podcast hosts — activist and scholar Salamishah Tillet and journalist Cindi Leive, longtime editor of Glamour magazine — were in San Diego and Brooklyn.

Hill and Ford discussed the intensity of their experiences, and how it lingered far beyond their moments in the harsh spotlight — moments remembered by many Americans as a still image of each woman with her right hand raised.

They also agreed on their motivation: that it was not, at heart, to persuade those who would vote for or against the nominees but rather, a desire to be clear and honest about their experiences — to simply say what they knew and not to be attached to the outcome.

The most obvious outcomes, of course, were similar. Thomas and Kavanaugh both were confirmed by narrowly divided Senate votes: 52 to 48, and 50 to 48, respectively.

But both Hill and Ford sound as if they have made their peace with that — and say they would do it again, though they acknowledge how much the searing experiences have changed their lives.

Hill is still fighting the good fight against gender violence.  Samantha Simon has this to say about her in a piece for InStyle.  This is an interview with Hill who is part of a series speaking with “badass women”.

“Once you get on this track, you don’t stop. You just realize there’s something else to accomplish,” she says. “Right now, I’m feeling like I have time. I wish for everyone the feeling I have about how I live my life: I can do things to make the world better for other people, and that’s really a gift. Not everyone feels they have that kind of power.
The concentration of power — who holds it and the ways they use it to harm those who don’t have enough — has been central to Hill’s work all along. “This has been a public crisis long before the #MeToo movement, and people are still facing resistance to their ideas or identities in the workplace and can’t come forward,” she says. “As long as those conditions exist, I will be doing this work.”

That’s what I think it feels like for all of us working on Social Justice Issues. We’re fighting and refighting the same things. For example, some on needs to tell Lindsey Graham whipping black people with a leash went out with the end of the civil war.

There is nothing I can say to folks that try to lessen the impact of that image. It’s just another way we see another era in our country when people could be property.   It’s not supposed to be that way anymore.

I’m going to end here with something that happened to me this week. On Tuesday, I was sitting in my little virtual office online waiting patiently to see students or help students. The usual chat request came in with only the letter e typed in. What followed was this question. “Are you a (n-word)? Of course, the university is investigating it. It rattled me more than I thought possible given the amount of hate I’ve seen all around the Quarter when the White Male Christianists come to hate on women and the GLBTQ community. But, it reminded me that none of us really have a safe space which really, is what everyone wants.  Protecting privilege as vehemently as today’s Republicans do is just hard to deal with day-in-and-out.  But we are the majority.  That is what scares them. We must use our power as the majority and stop them. If I was a Christian, I would sure be pushing back on what they say is the path of Jesus. I’m allied with kindness, compassion, and civility.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Totally Tuesday Reads: Curbing Presidential Powers

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

BB’s had a bad week or so with her pain issues so I’m sitting in for her today.  She’s going to be talking to her doctor so hopefully, she’ll get some relief sometime today!  It’s the last day of summer also. I hope we can get some relief from the heat.

Charlie Savage has written this piece in the New York Times today: “Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers ut to appeal to Republicans, a bill being introduced in the House to impose checks on executive authority may be broken into pieces in the Senate.”

House Democrats are planning to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power on Tuesday, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.

Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways that Donald J. Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

The legislation would make it harder for presidents to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption, refuse to respond to oversight subpoenas, spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations, and fire inspectors general or retaliate against whistle-blowers, among many other changes.

The legislation’s lead sponsor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, said he hoped it would receive a floor vote “this fall.”

Here’s another example of things that should not happen.  Thank goodness for courts and prosecutors!

“Tongue Fashion”, from the “Annunciation” series (1969) Wilfredo Lam

Yeah, right “Russian Hoax” Blah. Blah. Blah.  This is from the AXIOS link cited above.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul’s niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

The details: The indictment, unsealed on Monday, outlines allegations of a convoluted money trail from the unnamed Russian national through a consulting firm run by Benton and to a Trump joint fundraising committee.

  • The Russian national was determined to underwrite a Trump fundraising event in order to get a photo with the former president, according to communications between Benton and Weed cited in the indictment.
  • The indictment alleges that Benton received $100,000 from the Russian national and passed on $25,000 to the joint fundraising committee, allegedly pocketing the remaining $75,000.
  • Wead and Benton each face six criminal charges, including conspiracy and abetting illegal foreign political contributions.

For the record: Efforts to reach Wead were not immediately successful. Benton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

  • Benton was previously convicted of filing false statements in connection with a scheme to funnel money from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign to an influential Iowa politician who backed Paul in the state’s presidential caucus.
  • Trump pardoned Benton in December, shortly before leaving office.

Rebecca Shabad of NBC news provides these details: “Many of the bill’s provisions are a response to the way Donald Trump operated as president.”  So this is the type of behavior the bill addresses.

The measure would limit a president’s pardon power, require presidential candidates to be transparent with their tax records, and extend a deadline for prosecuting former presidents and vice presidents for federal crimes committed before or during their time in office, according to the group Protect Democracy, which is advocating for the measure.

It would also ensure that incoming presidents have access to resources for the transition period following an election, and would require the disclosure of contacts between the White House and the Justice Department.

“The proposals respond to longstanding vulnerabilities in our democracy that have allowed for the aggrandizement of presidential power, many of which have been exploited over decades by presidents of both parties, and some of which reached new heights through the actions of the Trump administration,” the group says on its website.

Donald Trump, for example, has refused since his campaign for president to release his tax records, repeatedly claiming that he couldn’t do so because the IRS was conducting an audit of his documents.

Before Trump left office, he pardoned hundreds of people including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his former adviser Roger Stone, his other former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

President Biden addresses the United Nations today and is speaking–at this writing–on Climate Change in a quite colorful language.  Here’s that part of the speech.  I can speak directly to climate change.  I’m not sure how long it will take to take care of things after Ida down here in Southe East Louisiana.  There really are some towns that may not come back.  You may thank your rising gas prices to the hurricane’s destructive path that hit Port Fouchon

Twitter is full of horror over a whip being used by a Border patrol officer on people fleeing political chaos in Haiti border patrol.  This is reported in the New York Times. “Mayorkas says he was ‘horrified’ by images of horse-mounted Border Patrol agents confronting Haitian migrants.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that he was “horrified” by images of horse-mounted Border Patrol agents attempting to grab Haitian migrants and use their animals to push them back toward Mexico and promised a “swift” investigation.

“I was horrified by what I saw,” Mayorkas said during an appearance on CNN. “I am going to let the investigation run its course, but the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly.”

Mayorkas was responding to scenes captured by news cameras and photographers Sunday along the Rio Grande. In one instance, an agent is heard on video shouting an obscenity as a child jumps out of a horse’s path.

“One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child,” Mayorkas said. “That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. …Let me be quite clear: That is not acceptable.”

The stench of Trump and Steven Miller are all over the Border Patrol.  I personally feel they should all be fired and made to reapplyou.

It’s going to take a long time to deal with the aftermath of the Trump administration and its culture of grift and dismissal of the rule of law and expected protocol. I’m still amazed we’re still standing some days

So, I hope you feel better BB!  Take care of yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Trump Continues to Threaten U.S. Democracy

Good Morning!!

I wish I could stop reading and writing about Donald Trump; but I can’t, because he continues to be a serious threat to U.S. Democracy. Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the Capitol insurrection that Trump incited. Republicans are pretending it was no big deal, and Trump is moving toward celebrating it as a patriotic exercise. 

Over the weekend, Trump began demanding the name of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt and defending her actions on January 6. From Philip Bump at The Washington Post:

The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.

At a rally in Florida over the weekend, he demanded to make public the name of the person who had fired the bullet.

“People know the name. People know where he came from,” he said. “Now if that were on the other side” — meaning, not on Trump’s side — “the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung.”

He reiterated the theme at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The person that shot Ashli Babbitt — boom, right through the head,” Trump said. “Just, boom. … They’ve already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty.”

(Babbitt was not shot in the head. She was shot in the neck.)

Importantly, Trump also said that there was “no reason” for Babbitt’s having been shot. When protesters were outside the White House in May 2020, crossing the fence would have meant being mauled by dogs or otherwise being “really badly hurt, at least.” But a member of a huge, violent mob surging into a secure area of the Capitol that tried to press forward toward evacuating legislators? No reason for law enforcement to use deadly force.

This, at its heart, is Trump’s view of justice. Those on his side are exempt from accountability for their actions. Those on the other side, however, most be dealt with harshly — more harshly than the law allows.

Trump also demanded to know why people who participated in the insurrection are still in jail. It’s obvious that he is trying to recast the attack on the Capitol as a patriotic effort to save democracy, and many Republicans will follow his lead. It’s already happening in Florida. Raw Story: Florida GOP rally will call for release of ‘political prisoners’ charged in Capitol insurrection.

One week after former president Donald Trump visited Florida and questioned why so many accused Capitol rioters are still in jail, his supporters in the Sunshine State will gather on Saturday to call for the release of “political prisoners” charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Florida has more people charged in the insurrection than any other state, including the most defendants connected to right-wing groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, according to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Saturday’s “Free Our Patriots Rally in Tally” outside the state Capitol will call on Republican Gov. Ron Desantis “to demand immediate release of the incarcerated patriots and to use all the power and leverage at his disposal to make this happen.”

The event is being organized in part by Luis Miguel, a far-right candidate who is challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP primary.

“Folks, The patriots who have been hunted down by the corrupt, communist FBI are suffering,” Miguel wrote on Twitter. “Many of them are veterans who fought for this nation. Let’s do our part to ensure they’re liberated. We can’t allow this in America. Be there at the Florida Capitol July 10.”

Another organizer of the rally is Angel Harrelson, the wife of former Army Sgt. Kenneth Troy Harrelson, an admitted member of the Oath Keepers who remains behind bars after being charged in the insurrection.

Angel Harrelson told a YouTube radio program this week that among other things, she plans to play a recording of her husband and other alleged insurrectionists singing the national anthem over the phone from jail.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Chilling Message of Trump’s Embrace of Ashli Babbitt Martyrdom.

Babbitt’s death, while tragic, occurred for a very good reason. The Air Force veteran, who had been fully converted into the most dangerous and fantastical pro-Trump conspiracy theories, had joined the aggressive vanguard of the January 6 insurrection. Babbitt died trying to squeeze through the smashed window of a barricaded door that led to the inner sanctum where members of Congress were hiding from the mob.

Talia Lavin’s profile of Babbitt, in the current issue of the magazine, notes her emergence as a martyr on the far right. As Lavin points out, Babbitt is not the only Trump supporter who lost her life during the insurrection. Rosanne Boyland also died, but the manner of her death — trampling by the mob — does not serve the same propagandistic purpose. The whole point of Babbitt’s centrality is that she was leading the mob violently forward toward its goal of threatening or killing officials who refused to cooperate with their objective of overturning the election result.

It is revealing that Trump has only taken up Babbitt’s cause now, six months after the insurrection. In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Republicans were briefly furious enough to contemplate writing Trump out of the party and even voting to impeach him. Then they decided not to expunge him, and to hope the ugly events simply faded from memory. A few months later, they decided to purge Liz Cheney, allegedly because she refused to let go of the insurrection. Shortly after that, the party voted to block a bipartisan investigation of the insurrection.

All the political momentum is on Trump’s side. He has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents….

By throwing himself behind this message, Trump is endorsing the most radical interpretation of his presidency. January 6 was not a minor misstep after a successful era, as fans like Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham now say. It was the heroic culmination of a righteous uprising.

Wajahat Ali at The Daily Beast: Why Trump Is Anointing Ashli Babbitt as MAGA’s First Martyr.

We’ve all heard the old adage that “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

With Ashli BabbittDonald Trump and the GOP have found a perfect martyr to rationalize their perpetual victimhood and inspire future “freedom fighters” to assist in their full-scale assault on democracy.

Babbitt was one of thousands of Trump supporters who decided to join the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and overrun the U.S. Capitol in hopes of canceling a free and fair election. She was shot by a Capitol police officer while climbing through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby. She died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs.

In April, the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. His identity has not been released due to death threats that inevitably increased after Trump released a one-line statement last week asking “Who Shot Ashli Babbit?” That echoed Rep. Paul Gosar, an ally of avowed white supremacists, who accused the police officer of supposedly “lying in wait” to “execute” Babbitt….

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump’s Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs….

The goal is to keep enraging and confusing their base, convince them of a far-reaching “Deep State” conspiracy committed to depriving them of power and glory and “replacing” them, and deflect from the Jan. 6 investigations that will further document the extremist elements embedded within the GOP and conservative movement.

Ali argues that Babbitt is the perfect martyr for Trump’s and the GOP’s purposes.

Babbitt—a woman, a wife, an Air Force veteran, and a true believer for Trump who, according to them, was “assassinated” by the “Deep State”—is an ideal character to glorify in death for a conservative movement that has turned into a racket and cult, a “victim” who can no longer speak for herself and can thus embody whatever fiction and grievance they want to promote.

On right-wing social media platforms she is being called “the first victim of the second Civil War” and a “freedom fighter.” Until last week, Sears and Kmart were selling “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” T-shirts on their websites. Even Vladimir Putin is getting in on the action to deflect from his own abuses of power. When asked by NBC News’ Keir Simmons if he ordered the assassination of political dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin hit back, “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”

How comforting to know that Putin shares the same script and talking points as Trump, Gosar, and right-wing media personalities.

Ultimately, the purpose of anointing Ashli Babbitt, and demonizing the officer who shot her in the process, is to justify the GOP’s goal of attacking our democratic institutions to ensure minority rule. If the base believes that they are being prosecuted, oppressed and even “assassinated” like Babbitt, then they will justify any and all means to reject Democratic rule and future elections that deprive them of power.

There’s no doubt that U.S. democracy is in danger as long as Republicans remain in thrall to Trump. I’ll end with this piece from NBC News: What’s keeping democracy experts up most at night? An overturned election.

There’s no legal avenue for Trump to reverse the 2020 results. But a half-dozen scholars who study democracy and election laws told NBC News they are increasingly worried that 2024 could be a repeat of 2020, only with a party further remade in the former president’s image and better equipped to sow disorder during the process and even potentially overturn the results.

“Obviously the insurrection was horrific in its violence and assault on democracy, but it didn’t disrupt the true winner of the election,” said Edward B. Foley, a professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University who researches election law. “What you don’t want is it to have been a rehearsal.”

Nightmare scenarios include local or state officials refusing to certify votes, governors and state legislatures submitting electoral votes that disagree with each other or overrule the apparent vote counts, fights over the legitimacy of judges overseeing the process and the House and Senate disagreeing on the winner. A chaotic transition could create an opening for further violence, either from extremists attempting to disrupt the process again or mass unrest if the winner is viewed as illegitimate.

“We should not pretend these dangers are fantastical or that these are absurd hypotheticals,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Given what we saw Trump actually do in 2020, these things are now within the realm of possibility and need to be legislated against and organized against so we have a fair election process going forward.”

A bit more:

New and proposed laws in states like Georgia and Arizona have sought to wrest power from state and local election officials, some of whom played a role in resisting the former president’s demands last election.

Republicans face significant pressure from their base to make these types of systemic changes — and potentially go much further. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, released survey data last month that found 46 percent of Republicans supported empowering state legislatures to overturn election results in states President Joe Biden won, as Trump demanded they do in 2020….

Some observers worry the party’s increased willingness to even entertain these scenarios could create perverse incentives in which state or local officials try to boost the odds of a poorly administered election that would give partisan leaders more flexibility to intervene….

In 2020, every governor and state legislature accepted the election results, but the midterms could reshuffle the landscape. Trump has sought to punish Republican incumbents like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with primary challenges. Trump has also lashed out at otherwise supportive Republican legislators in states like Wisconsin and Michigan who have affirmed the results.

“The fact that it held in 2020 doesn’t guarantee it will hold in 2024,” Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, said. “You need ethical people in these jobs, and we’re seeing a lot of ethical people leaving in part because they’ve been threatened or attacked by partisans or because the level of vitriol they’ve been subject to is not worth the effort.”

The whole article is well worth reading.

That’s it for me today. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

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Two Cats and a Woman, by Peter Harskamp

Today is Juneteenth, and for the first time it is being celebrated as a national holiday and in some states as a state holiday. While this is a victory for anti-racists, it’s obviously a symbolic and cosmetic one. It’s certainly significant that a large majority of Republicans in the house supported the bill. But at the same time Republicans are making a phony issue of an academic approach to systemic racism–“critical race theory.”

At The Atlantic, Kellie Carter Jackson, a Black historian at Wellesley College, writes: What the Push to Celebrate Juneteenth Conceals

When you are Black in America, how do you celebrate progress? How do you honor the history and memory of emancipation, liberation, and advancement? How do Black people mark a moment when a positive change transformed the trajectory of their lives, their nation? For many Black Americans that moment has been Juneteenth, or June 19, the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, received word that they were free, some two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. But when I think about Juneteenth, I am mostly stuck on that delay: the time it took for more than 250,000 enslaved Texans to experience what some 3 million other formerly enslaved Americans already had. Though Texan planters had long known the Civil War was over, they had hoped to get one more harvest out of their human property. In this country, hiding history has always been about maintaining control, denying concession, and delaying justice.

This spring, I have been perplexed by anniversaries meant to honor history. Memorial Day, a holiday created by Black people to honor Black veterans in Charleston, South Carolina, seemed this year to focus more on remembering George Floyd and commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. This Juneteenth also feels different, as more non-Black Americans are now incorporating it into their summer celebrations and lawmakers have pushed to observe the holiday at a federal level. Yet it seems the memory of Juneteenth is being shaped by symbolic rather than substantive gains. Moreover, the proliferation of Juneteenth events is taking place at the same time as the banning of critical race theory and curricula focused on slavery’s lasting effects. It is impossible to celebrate Juneteenth and simultaneously deny the teaching of America’s foundational legacy….

Holidays, like memories, are chosen. They are collective social agreements employed to acknowledge an event or a person. Often composed of parades, barbecues, and corporate sponsorships, the observation of a holiday is relatively low-stakes and usually distanced from the full history that compelled it. Though Black folks have honored their ancestors in meaningful ways on Juneteenth for more than a century, to many non-Black citizens it marks a day off from work and little else. But holidays cannot be divorced from history. Americans cannot discuss freedom and the Fourth of July without invoking slavery. Americans cannot celebrate Memorial Day without paying homage to those who died in service of their country. Americans cannot recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day without confronting the violence of white supremacy. Choosing to remember palatable histories over painful histories serves no one—it merely fosters fantasy.

Critical race theory, an examination of the social, political, and economic impact of racism and white supremacy in America, counters that fantasy. This is the charge of historians and educators: to make sense of the past and grapple with its implications. 

Read more about the significance of critical race theory at the link. 

La robe Verte, Jean Metzinger

La robe Verte, Jean Metzinger

I have to admit, I had never heard of critical race theory until Republicans started obsessing about it. Here’s a brief definition from Education Week: 

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.

A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

This article at The Atlantic that explains the history and development of CRT: The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Obsession.

The late harvard law professor Derrick Bell is credited as the father of critical race theory. He began conceptualizing the idea in the 1970s as a way to understand how race and American law interact, and developed a course on the subject. In 1980, Bell resigned his position at Harvard because of what he viewed as the institution’s discriminatory hiring practices, especially its failure to hire an Asian American woman he’d recommended.

Black students—including the future legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who enrolled at Harvard Law in 1981—felt the void created by his departure. Bell had been the only Black law professor among the faculty, and in his absence, the school no longer offered a course explicitly addressing race. When students asked administrators what could be done, Crenshaw says they received a terse response. “What is it that is so special about race and law that you have to have a course that examines it?” Crenshaw has recalled administrators asking. The administration’s inability to see the importance of understanding race and the law, she says, “got us thinking about how do we articulate that this is important and that law schools should include” the subject in their curricula.

Crenshaw and her classmates asked 12 scholars of color to come to campus and lead discussions about Bell’s book Race, Racism, and American Law. With that, critical race theory began in earnest. The approach “is often disruptive because its commitment to anti-racism goes well beyond civil rights, integration, affirmative action, and other liberal measures,” Bell explained in 1995. The theory’s proponents argue that the nation’s sordid history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination is embedded in our laws, and continues to play a central role in preventing Black Americans and other marginalized groups from living lives untouched by racism.

Now Republicans have suddenly decided to attack this 40-year-old academic theory even though they likely have no idea what it is all about. The same Republicans who voted for the largely symbolic Juneteenth national holiday are spending lots of energy trying to prevent children from learning about America’s ugly history of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism.

cat-behind-a-tree-1911-franz-marc

Cat Behind a Tree, by Franz Marc

The Washington Post: Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in critical race theory.

President Donald Trump was watching Fox News one evening last summer when a young conservative from Seattle appeared with an alarming warning, and a call to action.

Christopher Rufo said critical race theory, a decades-old academic framework that most people had never heard of, had “pervaded every institution in the federal government.”

“Critical race theory,” Rufo said, “has become, in essence, the default ideology of the federal bureaucracy and is now being weaponized against the American people.”

Critical race theory holds that racism is systemic in the United States, not just a collection of individuals prejudices—an idea that feels obvious to some and offensive to others. Rufo alleged that efforts to inject awareness of systemic racism and White privilege, which grew more popular following the murder of George Floyd by police, posed a grave threat to the nation. It amounts, Rufo said, to a “cult indoctrination.”

Spurred by Rufo, this complaint has come to dominate conservative politics. Debates over critical race theory are raging on school boards and in state legislatures. Fox News has increased its coverage and commentary on the issue. And Republicans see the issue as a central element of the case they will make to voters in next year’s midterm elections, when control of Congress will be at stake.

It’s the latest cultural wedge issue, playing out largely but not exclusively in debate over schools. At its core, it pits progressives who believe White people should be pushed to confront systemic racism and White privilege in America against conservatives who see these initiatives as painting all White people as racist. 

Read more at the WaPo.

And then there are the U.S. Catholic bishops and their obsession with controlling women’s bodies. A few days ago, the Vatican warned Catholic bishops not to try to deny communion to President Biden and other Catholic politicians who support women’s right to choose. But the bishops have decided to defy the Pope’s order.

The New York Times: Targeting Biden, Catholic Bishops Advance Controversial Communion Plan.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a push by conservative bishops to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.

Fernand Léger, Woman and CatThe decision, made public on Friday afternoon, is aimed at the nation’s second Catholic president, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief since Jimmy Carter, and exposes bitter divisions in American Catholicism. It capped three days of contentious debate at a virtual June meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The measure was approved by a vote of 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed.

The Eucharist, or holy communion, is one of the most sacred rituals in Christianity, and bishops have grown worried in recent years about declining Mass attendance and misunderstanding of the importance of the sacrament to Catholic life.

But the move to target a president, who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices, is striking coming from leaders of the president’s own faith, particularly after many conservative Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of former President Donald J. Trump because they supported his political agenda. It reveals a uniquely American Catholicism increasingly at odds with Rome and Pope Francis….

The text of the proposal itself has not been written and would ultimately require approval by a two-thirds majority vote. The proposed outline, earlier reported by America Magazine, said it would “include the theological foundation for the Church’s discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith.”

Some conservatives want to use such a statement as theological justification to deny communion to Mr. Biden and Catholic politicians like him who support abortion rights.

A bit more from The Washington Post:

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who leads D.C.’s archdiocese and has stated that his priests would not deny Communion to Biden, said a document on such a sensitive topic needed more time and discussion.

“The choice before us at this moment is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity or settle for a document that will not bring unity but will very well further damage it,” he said.

Part of the division on display stems from the focus on Biden, a lifelong Catholic who attends Mass regularly, and what some say was a failure to criticize President Donald Trump, who has had two divorces, three marriages and an extramarital affair, and whose administration separated families at the border and revived the federal death penalty.

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Cat and Woman, by Peter Harskamp

Raw Story: ‘I dare you to deny me communion’: Dems rip bishops for move to punish Biden by ‘weaponizing’ eucharist.

Before their three-day meeting that culminated Friday with a vote to move toward denying America’s second Catholic President, Joe Biden, communion over his stance of supporting a woman’s right to choose an abortion, the Vatican told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to not politicize communion or other sacraments.

They did it anyway, and now powerful Democrats – and many others – are furious.

“Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion,” U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat of California, and a Catholic, with a massive 1.6 million followers on Twitter, threatened the Bishops.

His comments were in response to Friday’s news of the USCCB’s politically-motivated decision, and in response to SiriusXM host Michelangelo Signorile, who asked if other Catholics will be denied communion over their “sins.” Signorile pointed to Newt Gingrich, whose history includes adultery, divorce, and re-marriage. Gingrich’s wife was President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the Vatican.

A few more stories to check out:

Macy Gray at MarketWatch: Opinion: For Juneteenth, America needs a new flag that all of us can honor.

Buzzfeed News: The Delta Variant Could Create “Two Americas” Of COVID, Experts Warn.

The New York Times: How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections.

Jack Shafer at Politico Magazine: The Simple Remedy for Jan. 6 Trutherism. It’s old-fashioned, hard-nosed inquiry. And if Congress won’t do it, journalists must.

The Washington Post: The slow-building conservative effort to turn Ashli Babbitt into a martyr.

HuffPost: Trump Commerce Boss Wilbur Ross Hoovered Up $53 Million While In Public Office.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great weekend everyone!!