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!!

2-Two-Cats-and-a-Woman-Peter-Harskamp

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.

8-Cat-and-Woman-Peter-Harskamp

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!!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Tea break Sylvie Vanlerberghe

Tea break, by Sylvie Vanlerberghe

Yesterday President Biden wrapped up his European trip by meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was a very different spectacle than the one in 2018 in Helsinki when the former guy humiliated himself and our country by rolling over for the Russian president.

The New York Times: A tale of two summits: Trump at Helsinki, and Biden at Geneva.

Helsinki, Finland, was where President Donald J. Trump had his own first face-to-face meeting with the Russian president, and the moment was highly anticipated, given the investigations then taking place into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its reported ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The meeting offered the American president a ripe opportunity to denounce the Kremlin on a public stage. He did not.

Instead, standing by Mr. Putin’s side, Mr. Trump dismissed the conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian meddling and said, in essence, that he believed the Russian president’s denials as much as he believed his own intelligence advisers.

“They said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.” For good measure, he said, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Trump met alone with Russian president for 2 hours, and we still don’t know what happened between the two men. In contrast, Biden was open about his meeting with Putin.

“Where we have differences,” he said just moments into the news conference, “I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say, and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.”

Mr. Biden said, “I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else. It’s for the American people.”

The japanese mask (1884), painted by Gustave Claude Etienne Courtois

The Japanese Mask (1884), painted by Gustave Claude Etienne Courtois

And he declared: “I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That’s just part of the DNA of our country.”

To that end, he cited the jailing of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, and the detentions of two Americans in Russia.

Mr. Biden also offered a warning on cyberattacks.

“I pointed out to him: We have significant cyber-capabilities — and he knows it,” the president said.

Edward Luce at The Financial Times: Biden politely reads riot act to Putin.

Summitry, contrary to a former British prime minister, is nothing like tennis. The outcome is rarely “game, set and match”. By the wide-eyed standards of Joe Biden’s last four predecessors, all of whom held ill-fated summits with Vladimir Putin, Biden went into this one with low expectations.

There were no illusions about his meeting of minds with the Russian leader, let alone souls. The modesty of Biden’s goal — to stabilise relations with America’s chief military adversary — conveyed a realism that eluded earlier presidents. 

All of which is far less exciting for the world media. Biden did not praise Putin’s ability to restore Russian freedom and prosperity, as Bill Clinton did in 2000 shortly after Putin was elected president. Nor did he get a sense of Putin’s soul, as George W Bush claimed in 2001, and trust what he saw. He did not aim for an ambitious “reset” of US-Russia relations, as Barack Obama fatefully did in 2009. Most notoriously Biden’s tone was a million miles from the one-man admiration society Donald Trump brought to Helsinki when he met Putin alone in 2018. 

After more than two decades in power, this Russian bear was unlikely to change its habits. Biden’s aim is to coax and cajole Putin into a moderately less dangerous stance. That goal is more difficult than it sounds. At home, Biden faces derision from Republican and some foreign policy specialists for even meeting Putin. The act of sharing a stage with America’s president is seen as an unearned reward for an adversary who sponsors regular cyber attacks on the US, not to mention waging information warfare on western democracy.

Read the rest at FT.

Woman with a book, Pablo Picasso

Woman with a book, Pablo Picasso

Max Boot at The Washington Post: Opinion: Biden wiped the smirk off Putin’s face.

Biden established an easy rapport with his fellow democratic leaders at meetings with the Group of Seven, the European Union and NATO. “I think it’s great to have the U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. As a congenial insider, Biden was able to accomplish far more than a testy outsider such as Donald Trump ever could. Biden got fellow leaders to agree on a 15 percent global corporate minimum tax, on sending 1 billion doses of covid-19 vaccines to the developing world (not enough, but a start), on speaking out about the challenge posed by China, and on settling a long-festering European-American trade dispute over aircraft subsidies….

The meetings with allies were, in some sense, merely a prelude for meeting with one of the United States’ most effective foes — Vladimir Putin. One cannot imagine a starker contrast between Biden and his predecessor than in their handling of the Russian strongman. At Helsinki in July 2018, then-President Trump simpered and cowered. In a low point of a presidency with more low points than Death Valley, Trump accepted at face value Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denials of complicity in the 2016 election attack. Putin emerged from that meeting smirking like the cat that swallowed the canary.

As the historian Michael Beschloss noted, there was no such grin on Putin’s lips when he did his solo press conference after meeting with Biden on Wednesday. While Putin engaged in his usual dishonesty and whataboutism — he compared his jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the prosecution of the Capitol rioters — his manner was subdued and far from triumphant. He attacked the United States but was careful not to insult Biden personally. He even compared the current president favorably to his predecessor: “President Biden is an experienced statesman. He is very different from President Trump.” (Ouch. That’s got to sting for Putin’s biggest fanboy in the United States.)

In his own remarks, Biden struck all the right notes. He made clear that he raised human-rights concerns with Putin. “How could I be the president of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?” he asked. It is almost unimaginable — had we not just witnessed the Trump presidency. Biden said he told Putin that, if Navalny dies in a Russian prison, the consequences would be “devastating for Russia.” He said he also raised Russia’s complicity in cyberattacks, its interference with humanitarian aid in Syria, and its invasion of Ukraine (he expressed support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”), while holding out the hope of cooperation on the Iranian nuclear program, stability in Afghanistan, nuclear arms control and other issues.

Takehisa Yumeji, Woman reading a book on the sofa

Takehisa Yumeji, Woman reading a book on the sofa

Now that he’s back home, Biden will sign a bill to create a new national holiday. The Washington Post: Congress votes overwhelmingly to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The day commemorates the end of slavery in Texas in 1865.

Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, elevating the day marking the end of slavery in Texas to a national commemoration of emancipation amid a larger reckoning about America’s turbulent history with racism.

It is the first new federal holiday created by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers voted to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day after a 15-year fight to commemorate the assassinated civil rights leader.

The vote was heralded by the bill’s supporters as a milestone in the effort to foster a greater recognition of the horrors of slavery in the United States and the long history of inequality that followed emancipation and continues to this day.

“It’s a long journey, but here we are,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), the lead proponent of the holiday in the House. “That racial divide has fallen out of the sky and we are crushing it to the earth. . . . This bill and this day is about freedom.”

The bipartisan support for the federal holiday comes at a time when Congress remains in a partisan deadlock on more substantive priorities for Black leaders, such as a push to federally guarantee voting access in the face of Republican-led state laws restricting it, as well as an effort to pass a federal policing overhaul to deter incidents of brutality and violence by law enforcement against racial minorities.

On the voting rights bill, Sen. Joe Manchin appears willing to make some concessions. The New York Times: Manchin presents his wish list for a voting rights and ethics bill.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, showing some flexibility on major voting rights legislation, indicated on Wednesday that he opposed the blanket prohibition on all voter identification laws in the Senate Democrats’ current version and would not support public financing of elections.

But he expressed support for statutory expansions of early and mail-in voting that would turn back dozens of voting restriction laws that have passed or are nearing passage in Republican legislatures in key states like Georgia, Florida and Texas.

Woman reading a book by Enach Dumitru Bogdan (Romania)

Woman reading a book by Enach Dumitru Bogdan (Romania)

He also suggested privately this week that he was working to alleviate pressure to end the legislative filibuster — a move that he has publicly promised to oppose — even though not even his version of a voting rights measure could overcome a Republican blockade.

For weeks, fellow Democrats have complained that Mr. Manchin would not say precisely what he needed — or needed to jettison — to get his signature as the 50th co-sponsor of the voting legislation, also known as S1. Instead, he simply said that he wanted a Republican to back the bill, thus making it bipartisan.

On Wednesday, he responded to that criticism with an exhaustive list of provisions for a voting rights, ethics and campaign finance bill that he could support. For Democrats, there was much to like. Mr. Manchin said he wanted Election Day to be a public holiday. He wants at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; a ban on partisan gerrymandering and the use of computer models to tailor House districts to a candidate’s political party; and a requirement that states send mail-in absentee ballots to eligible voters if they are unable to vote in person, among several other provisions to expand ballot access.

His provision would scale back the For the People Act’s mandated “no excuse” absentee ballot access, but remains broad.

On ethics, he would maintain many of S1’s efforts to address the abuses of President Donald J. Trump, including the mandatory release of presidential and vice-presidential tax returns, and the divestiture of all presidential business and financial interests within 30 days of taking office.

At Slate, election law expert Richard L. Hasan writes: Democrats Should Leap at the Chance to Take Joe Manchin’s Deal.

Yes, Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect. Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin’s list, such as felon reenfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted. It also would weaken some of the standards for restoring preclearance under the John Lewis bill, making it harder to get a jurisdiction covered by the requirement and easier for a jurisdiction to get out from under its coverage.

Again, this is a good deal being offered to Democrats, and Democrats should grab it. Voter identification is not necessarily bad, if it is implemented fairly, has ways for people lacking ID to still vote, and is funded fully by the government. Many of the items on the Democratic wish list not here are much less urgent than what is being offered and can be pursued another time.

'The Artist's Wife, Evelyn, Seated, Reading, Gerald Gardiner, 1935

The Artist’s Wife, Evelyn, Seated, Reading, Gerald Gardiner, 1935

Finally, a bit more good news, the Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act again. CNN: Supreme Court dismisses challenge to Affordable Care Act leaving it in place.

The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Thursday in a decision that will leave the law intact and save health care coverage for millions of Americans. The justices turned away a challenge from Republican-led states and the former Trump administration, which urged the justices to block the entire law.

The justices said that the challengers of the 2010 law did not have the legal right to bring the case.

Justice Stephen Breyer penned the decision that was 7-2. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

The court’s ruling comes as President Joe Biden — a firm supporter of the law that was passed while he served as President Barack Obama’s vice president — has expressed strong support for the law.

The justices noted that there is no harm to opponents from the provisions that they are challenging because Congress has reduced the penalty for failing to buy health insurance to zero.

“For these reasons, we conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”

More stories to check out today:

William Saletan at Slate: Trump Made the GOP More Friendly to Putin. It’s Sabotaging Biden.

The New Republic: Republicans Are on the Brink of Embracing the Capitol Rioters.

The Washington Post: GOP congressman refuses to shake hands with D.C. police officer who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Politico: GOP hands Dems a new line of attack: They’re for ‘Trump over the cops.’

Talking Points Memo: Inside Tom Cotton’s Insane World Of DNA Theft, Olympic Athletes, And Anti-China Conspiracies.

David R. Lurie at The Daily Beast: Liberals Need To Stop Whining About Merrick Garland Defending Trump.

Raw Story: ‘They have it’: Mueller prosecutor says if DA has documents and Trump’s comptroller — it’s over for Weisselberg.

That’s it for me today. I hope you all have a great Thursday!

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s barely made the news….

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

Which is exactly what Texas Democrats did Sunday night.

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

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

Gotta love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, Congress is not stepping up so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the WaPo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more highlights at the Vice link.

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


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

hym01art1On Tuesday, I wrote about the sudden mainstreaming of the so-called “lab leak theory” of the origins of Covid-19 in China. Today David Leonhardt has an “explainer” of this sudden attention to this long-dismissed notion.

Suddenly, talk of the Wuhan lab-leak theory seems to be everywhere.

President Biden yesterday called on U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” to determine the origin of Covid-19 and figure out whether the virus that causes it accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Major publications and social media have recently been filled with discussion of the subject.

The origin of the virus remains unclear. Many scientists have long believed that the most likely explanation is that it jumped from an animal to a person, possibly at a food market in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Animal-to human transmission — known as zoonotic spillover — is a common origin story for viruses, including Ebola and some bird flus.But some scientists have pointed to another possibility: that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As in other laboratories, researchers there sometimes modify viruses, to understand and treat them.

“It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told senators yesterday.

Leonhardt writes–as I did on Tuesday–that the reason this is suddenly getting so much attention is because a number of scientists have recently argued that the lab leak theory should be investigated.

Among the reasons: Chinese officials have refused to allow an independent investigation into the lab and have failed to explain some inconsistencies in the animal-to-human hypothesis. Most of the first confirmed cases had no evident link to the food market.

But has anything really changed?

In some ways, not much has not changed. From the beginning, the virus’s origin has been unclear. All along, some scientists, politicians and journalists have argued that the lab-leak theory deserves consideration.

Almost 15 months ago, two Chinese researchers wrote a paper concluding that the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” Alina Chan, a molecular biologist affiliated with Harvard and M.I.T., made similar arguments. David Ignatius and Josh Rogin, both Washington Post columnists, wrote about the possibility more than a year ago. Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, didn’t mention the lab-leak theory in early 2020 but he did argue that the U.S. should “not be taking China’s word” for how the outbreak started.

But these voices were in the minority. The World Health Organization initially dismissed the lab-leak theory as implausible.

Read the rest at the link–I’ve probably quoted too much.

covid_19_-_the_right_way_ditikalayakashyapIf you read the comments on the Tuesday post, you know that Quixote, who is quite knowledgeable on this subject, vehemently argued against the lab leak theory. Quixote posted another comment yesterday that I didn’t see until this morning:

The virus isn’t engineered because you can tell by the RNA sequence. If it had been, the inserted bits will be obvious when you compare it to related viruses. Sort of like Frankenstein’s monster is visibly sewn together from parts that don’t go together.

The early cases don’t particularly center on the lab or on people associated with it. They’re outside Wuhan, inside Wuhan, at the abandoned mine / bat cave, at the captured animal food market, and so on. The pattern is what you’d see if a virus mutated to be able to infect people, but wasn’t very good at it yet, and had been moving through the population for a while. In the course of simmering through the population, the most successful virus would be the one that changed enough to infect people easily.

It had enough time to do that, and that was exactly the threat the Wuhan lab, and also CDC people there, were looking for. (Trump, by the way, cut funding for both of those because what the hell do we need to be paying people in China for.) The danger was noticed by Chinese doctors (one of whom soon died of the disease) who tried hard to alert the world. They were squelched by the government. If the CDC people had still been there, it would have been a lot harder to squelch.

So tl:dr; no evidence covid19 was an intentional bioweapon thing. Poor evidence that it could have unintentionally leaked. It’s a fact that the attempted coverup by the Chinese let the pandemic get going. If procedures at the lab need improving, they certainly should be.

The other things you mention about China are all true. (Tibet too. Never forget Tibet.) It’s been obvious for decades that China was going to abuse whatever power it could get. But that’s another whole train of thought.

As bad as they are, covid19 does not fit the lab leak story at all well. Both things can be true: they’re bad and covid was an incompetent accident made infinitely worse by self-serving dictators all over the world, including China.

I agree that there certainly is no evidence for the lab leak theory. The only reason I thought there could be something to it was that several people in the lab got sick with something that looked like Covid-19 and were hospitalized. I thought they could have gotten the virus from the cave samples–not that the virus was engineered in the lab–and that somehow the virus got into the population that way. But there is no way to ever know if this happened, as China would never cooperate with any investigation.

Now that Biden has ordered an investigation, we will likely hear more about this, but I can’t see how we’re ever going to know for sure how the virus originated. The crossover from animal to human explanation makes the most sense.

It’s also worth checking out this thread on Twitter by a China expert.

In other Covid-19 news, The New York Times reports that two studies have found that Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years.

Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.

WehavecompassionCovid19Suzon

19 Faces of Covid-19, by Suzon Lucore

Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.

Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.

The other study, posted online at BioRxiv, a site for biology research, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection.

“The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.

Read more at the NYT.

There was another mass shooting yesterday–so what else is new? 

It’s also not new that the perpetrator had a history of violence against women. Fox News: San Jose shooting leaves 9 dead, deceased suspect identified; victims shot in separate buildings.

The eight people initially killed by a gunman at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday morning were shot in two separate buildings before the suspected shooter took his own life, authorities said Wednesday. 

A ninth victim died in a hospital late Wednesday evening, authorities said.

The mass shooting epidemic, credit Dana Gornall

The mass shooting epidemic, credit Dana Gornall

Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith expressed her grief for the families of the victims before praising the quick response of law enforcement officers who went into a Valley Transportation Authority building as the active shooting was happening. She said deputies and San Jose police officers were the first on the scene. 

The suspect was identified Wednesday as Samuel Cassidy, 57, who was a VTA employee, officials said. No motive is known for the shooting at this time.

An ex-girlfriend told the San Francisco Chronicle he was prone to alcohol-fueled mood swings and had been accused in a March 2009 court filing of rape and abuse. The documents were filed in response to a domestic violence restraining order that Cassidy had filed earlier that month. 

The former girlfriend alleged his mood swings worsened when he drank alcohol and that he played “several mind games which he seems to enjoy.” She listed several incidents of alleged sexual assault in which he would hold her arms and force his weight onto her. 

He would apologize and promised to never do it again afterward, the report said. 

(Emphasis added)

Cassidy’s ex-wife said he had threated workplace violence years ago. KCRA3.com: What we know about Sam Cassidy, the suspect in the San Jose VTA shooting.

The man who opened fire Wednesday at a rail yard in San Jose, killing nine other people and ending his own life, has been identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy. He was an employee of the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, authorities said.

RS31736_Photo-Jul-06-11-30-19-AM-qut-520x293Cassidy was identified as a maintenance worker at the Valley Transportation Authority….

According to The Associated Press, Cassidy had talked to his ex-wife about killing people at work more than a decade ago.

“I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now,” a tearful Cecilia Nelms told The Associated Press.

She said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.

“He could dwell on things,” she said. The two were married for about 10 years until a 2005 divorce filing and she hadn’t been in touch with Cassidy for about 13 years, Nelms said.

I’m still perplexed and fascinated by the Q-Anon phenomenon. There a couple of stories about it today.

NBC News: Study finds nearly one-in-five Americans believe QAnon conspiracy theories.

Washington, we have a problem — politically, informationally and societally — when 15 percent of Americans agree with the QAnon statement that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds “are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”

Or when 20 percent agree with this statement: “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”

Or when another 15 percent agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

These are the results of a PRRI-IFYC study that was conducted online March 8-30, but that was just released Thursday.

And the study finds that Republicans, those who trust far-right news outlets like OANN and Newsmax, and white evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants are all more likely to believe these statements than other Americans.

It’s hard to call something fringe when approximately one-in-five Americans believe these statements, especially one that true patriots “may have to resort to violence” to save the country.

Here’s the PRRI story: Understanding QAnon’s Connection to American Politics, Religion, and Media Consumption.

Three Components of the QAnon Conspiracy Movement

The far-right conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon emerged on the internet in late 2017 and gained traction throughout former president Donald Trump’s time in office. QAnon’s core theory revolves around Satan-worshipping pedophiles plotting against Trump and a coming “storm” that would clear out those evil forces, but the movement has also been described as a “big tent conspiracy theory” that involves a constantly evolving web of schemes about politicians, celebrities, bankers, and the media, as well as echoes of older movements within Christianity, such as Gnosticism.

e7d48eefa41a0d5dd2b2ae4f7062823421-QANON-COVER-NO-TYPE.rvertical.w1200To understand how this loosely connected belief system is influencing American politics, religion, and media, we fielded three questions, each containing a tenet of the QAnon conspiracy movement….

QAnon Beliefs and Partisanship

A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” while the vast majority of Americans (82%) disagree with this statement. Republicans (23%) are significantly more likely than independents (14%) and Democrats (8%) to agree that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.

Similarly, one in five Americans (20%) agree with the statement “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” while a majority (77%) disagree. Nearly three in ten Republicans (28%), compared to 18% of independents and 14% of Democrats, agree with this secondary QAnon conspiracy theory. Trends among demographic groups are similar to those of the core QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fifteen percent of Americans agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while the vast majority (85%) disagree. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as independents (13%) and four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence.

Click the link to read the rest.

So…that’s a mixed bag of news for you. What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.