Friday Reads: Back to the Dark Ages and a Funeral for Democracy

It’s a Sad Day Sky Dancers!

The machinations of religious extremists, Mitch McConnell seeking endless power, and white nationalists have brought us to this moment.  Many of the fundamental rights established over the last 100-plus years are now being disassembled by a Supreme Court stacked with extremists appointed under very dicey circumstances.

I never thought I’d ever see such a radical overreach to tear down well-established precedents backed up with stories bringing us back to the Wild West with its primitive firearms and the rejection of medical science and the establishment clause based on nothing but wild dreams of a white male religious zealot to drag us way back in time.  So a guy about 300 years ago who liked to dox witches gets a say in what happens to American Women’s bodies but they don’t?  The court made sure in case-after-case that we knew they didn’t care about established laws. Their religious, economic, and social agendas are dominant not anything else.

Our taxes can now be used for religious indoctrination.  Anyone can conceal/carry a weapon just about everywhere they want.   Most importantly, women have been designated state property with little control over their bodies. Police no longer are held responsible for reading folks their Miranda rights.  Who will they come for next?

I’m gratuitously using John (repeat1968) Buss for this thread because the images of the Spanish Inquisition are just about as horrid as you’d think they would be.  But that is exactly how I feel about the Roberts’ Court.  They are a group of inquisitors.

I am not state property.  My Daughters are not state property.  My granddaughters are not state property.  No Woman or girl in this country should ever be assigned the role of chattel again.

Here are some links to information on these horrible decisions.

Striking down Roe v. Wade

From the USA Today Tweet: “What Barack Obama, Mike Pence and others are saying about the end of Roe”.

Immediately following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, current and former lawmakers reacted to the end of Americans’ Constitutional right to an abortion.

The decision had been anticipated since the Supreme Court took the Dobbs v. Jackson case this year. A leak of the decision last month showed a 6-3 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which was indeed the final outcome.

The ruling:Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, eliminating constitutional right to abortion.

I’m going to highlight Speaker Pelosi’s words because she’s the one most responsible for getting rid of this abomination.

Speaker Pelosi says Dems will fight ‘ferociously’ to enshrine Roe

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is “outrageous and heart-wrenching” and vowed to fight against it in Congress and at the ballot box.

The ruling is the result of the GOP’s “dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions,” she said.

“Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers,” Pelosi said.

During her weekly news conference, shortly after the SCOTUS decision, she warned that Republicans in Congress want a nationwide ban. She indicated the only way to stop that was to keep the GOP from gaining a majority in the midterm.

“A woman’s right to choose is on the ballot in November,” Pelosi said.

And, from Hillary:

Hillary Clinton: Opinion “Will live in infamy”

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted that the Supreme Court’s decision “will live in infamy” as a step backwards for women’s rights.

“Most Americans believe the decision to have a child is one of the most sacred decisions there is, and that such decisions should remain between patients and their doctors,” she wrote.

Clinton also called on the public to support and donate to Democratic candidates, to protect reproductive rights by winning elections “at every level.”

 

Thousands of people gathered in New York City and across the country to show their support for abortion rights nearly two weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.  The New York Times

Abortion will be banned in thirteen states.  Each state will have to work out it’s own law to meet this horrid decision. Again, I’m just glad that My OB/GYN Doctor Daughter and her daughters are in Washington State. It’s enshrined in their State Constitution.  My Colorado Daughter says she’s safe there too. I can’t imagine having working equipment and living here in Lousyana.  My governor signed death sentences for many Louisiana women yesterday. 

This is bCaroline Kitchener writing in WAPO: “Roe’s demise marks new phase in state-by-state battle over abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the landmark precedent will prompt immediate changes to the country’s abortion landscape”.

The tremors from Friday’s sweeping Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade will ripple across the country almost immediately, with roughly half of all states poised to ban or drastically restrict abortion.

Thirteen states will outlaw abortion within 30 days with “trigger bans” that were designed to take effect as soon as Roe was overturned. These laws make an exception for cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but most do not include exceptions for rape or incest.

In many states, trigger bans will activate as soon as a designated state official certifies the decision, which Republican lawmakers expect to happen within minutes.

“They just need to acknowledge, ‘Yes, this has occurred,’ ” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert (R), who has championed much of his state’s antiabortion legislation, including its trigger ban. “I’ll be happy to see the butcher mill in Little Rock, Arkansas, shut down for good.”

All the Republican Politicians speaking out on this have their white patriarchal churchman voices out.  Like Rapert, quoted above, they use yellow prose and outrageous language.

Here’s the quick take from ScotusBlog on the Dobbs decision banning abortion.

Although the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey established such a right, Alito continued, those decisions should nonetheless be overruled despite the principle of stare decisis – the idea that courts should not overturn their prior precedent unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Noting that some of the Supreme Court’s other landmark decisions, such as Brown v. Board of Education, rejecting the “separate but equal” doctrine, had overruled precedent, Alito emphasized that Roe was “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging” and – along with Casey – should not be allowed to stand. Instead, Alito concluded, the issue of abortion should “return … to the people’s representatives.”

Roberts agreed with the decision to uphold the Mississippi law, but he would have done so without formally overruling Roe and Casey. Echoing a position that he took at the oral argument (which then, as now, did not seem to attract any other supporters), Roberts would have allowed states to continue to regulate abortion without regard to whether the fetus has become viable – that is, the point at which it can survive outside the womb. In Casey, the court ruled that states may not ban abortions after the point of viability, which is typically considered to be at 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The right to terminate a pregnancy, Roberts reasoned, should “extend far enough to ensure a reasonable opportunity to choose, but need not extend any further.” But the court could and should, Roberts wrote, “leave for another day whether to reject any right to an abortion at all.”

In a rare joint dissent, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan pushed back against the majority’s characterization of the decision as leaving the issue of abortion to the states. Friday’s ruling, they cautioned, is likely to have a “geographically expansive” effect, as states may pass laws that include restrictions on traveling out of state to obtain abortions. “Most threatening of all,” they added, nothing in the majority’s decision “stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape and incest.”

“Whatever the scope of the coming laws,” they concluded, “one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

BOSTON, MA – 5/7/2022 Members of The Boston Red Cloaks carried signs hung from clothing hangers as they marched on the State House and advocated for reproductive freedom on Saturday. The Boston Red Cloaks were joined by over a dozen others as they rallied in support of Roe vs. Wade. Erin Clark/Globe Staff
Topic: 08ROEVWADERAALLY

Let me just give you some links analysis at Scotusblog to the other decisions that will make all of us more unsafe.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court strikes down New York’s concealed-carry law.

Thursday’s landmark decision came less than six weeks after a gunman killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, and less than a month after 21 people – 19 children and two teachers – were shot to death at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. In response to those shootings, the Senate this week reached an agreement on bipartisan gun-safety legislation that, if passed, would be the first federal gun-control legislation in nearly 30 years. The 80-page bill would (among other things) require tougher background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 and provide more funding for mental-health resources.

The state law at the heart of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen required anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” for the license. New York courts interpreted that phrase to require applicants to show more than a general desire to protect themselves or their property. Instead, applicants must demonstrate a special need for self-defense – for example, a pattern of physical threats. Several other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, impose similar restrictions, as do many cities.

The lower courts upheld the New York law against a challenge from two men whose applications for concealed-carry licenses were denied. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court tossed out the law in an ideologically divided 63-page opinion.

The court rejected a two-part test that many lower courts have used to review challenges to gun-control measures. That test looked first at whether a restriction regulates conduct protected by the original scope of the Second Amendment and then, if so, whether the restriction is fine-tuned to advance a significant public interest. Instead, Thomas wrote, if “the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct,” the government has the burden to show that the regulation is consistent with the historical understanding of the Second Amendment.

Applying that new and more stringent standard to the New York proper-cause requirement, Thomas found that the challengers’ desire to carry a handgun in public for self-defense fell squarely within the conduct protected by the Second Amendment. The amendment’s text does not distinguish between gun rights in the home and gun rights in public places, Thomas observed. Indeed, he suggested, the Second Amendment’s reference to the right to “bear” arms most naturally refers to the right to carry a gun outside the home.

After reviewing nearly seven centuries’ worth of historical sources, beginning in the 1200s and going through the early 1900s, Thomas concluded that although U.S. history has at times placed some “well-defined restrictions” on the right to carry firearms in public, there was no tradition of a broad prohibition on carrying commonly used guns in public for self-defense. And with rare exceptions, Thomas added, there was no historical requirement that law-abiding citizens show the kind of special need for self-defense required by the New York law to carry a gun in public. Indeed, Thomas concluded, there is “no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

Thomas obviously missed the part about most sheriffs of small towns in the Wild West collecting guns at the city borders before anyone was allowed to head to the salon.  Is that okay Uncle Thomas?

From CNN: Supreme Court limits ability to enforce Miranda rights.  I mean who needs to know their constitutional rights anyway when you’re dead set on canceling them?

The Supreme Court limited the ability to enforce Miranda rights in a ruling Thursday that said that suspects who are not warned about their right to remain silent cannot sue a police officer for damages under federal civil rights law even if the evidence was ultimately used against them in their criminal trial.

The court’s ruling will cut back on an individual’s protections against self-incrimination by barring the potential to obtain damages. It also means that the failure to administer the warning will not expose a law enforcement officer to potential damages in a civil lawsuit. It will not impact, however, the exclusion of such evidence at a criminal trial.

The court clarified that while the Miranda warning protects a constitutional right, the warning itself is not a right that would trigger the ability to bring a civil lawsuit.

“Today’s ruling doesn’t get rid of the Miranda right,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “But it does make it far harder to enforce. Under this ruling, the only remedy for a violation of Miranda is to suppress statements obtained from a suspect who’s not properly advised of his right to remain silent. But if the case never goes to trial, or if the government never seeks to use the statement, or if the statement is admitted notwithstanding the Miranda violation, there’s no remedy at all for the government’s misconduct.”

These guys really like to give the state the power to oppress and let gun-toting fascists run free, don’t they?

The last one to be worried about is this one. Remember, Justice Roberts, hates voting rights.  This is from Scotusblog: “North Carolina Republican lawmakers win right to intervene in court and defend state’s voter-ID law.” All this analysis I keep quoting is from Amy Howe, btw.  I’d say this is a signal they are ready to get rid of more voting rights which is about the only way their kind stays in power.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that two Republican legislators in North Carolina can join a lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of the state’s voter-identification law. Two lower courts had rejected the legislators’ request, reasoning that the state’s Democratic attorney general and the board of elections were already defending the law, but the justices reversed those rulings. In an 8-1 opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court ruled that the Republican legislators have a right to intervene in the lawsuit.

Thursday’s decision addressed only the legislators’ right to join the lawsuit to defend the voter-ID law; it did not address the underlying issue of whether the law violates federal voting-rights protections.

The law at the center of the case requires voters to provide photo identification to cast a ballot and directs county election boards to provide ID cards at no cost to voters. The state’s legislature passed the law in 2018, and it went into effect over a veto by the state’s governor, Democrat Roy Cooper. The North Carolina NAACP then went to federal court, where it argued that the law violates both federal voting rights laws and the Constitution. When Philip Berger, the leader of the North Carolina Senate, and Timothy Moore, the leader of the state’s House of Representatives, asked to intervene in the lawsuit, the district court rebuffed their request, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld that decision.

In an 18-page opinion, Gorsuch explained that the first issue before the court was whether the Republican legislators had an interest in the outcome of the dispute that would be “practically impaired or impeded without their participation.” As a general rule, Gorsuch posited, barring a state’s authorized representatives from intervening in a federal lawsuit challenging a state law will have such an effect on a state’s interests. And in this case, Gorsuch continued, other provisions of North Carolina law had specifically given its legislative leaders the power to defend the state’s interests in cases like this one.

What’s more, Gorsuch added, the 4th Circuit was wrong to presume that the state’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Stein, had adequately represented the state’s interests. That inquiry, Gorsuch wrote, is backward, because the Supreme Court’s cases have made clear that would-be intervenors generally have to meet only a relatively low bar. But such a presumption, Gorsuch continued, “is inappropriate when a duly authorized state agent seeks to intervene to defend a state law.” “Normally,” Gorsuch said, “a State’s chosen representatives should be greeted in federal court with respect, not adverse presumptions.”

Gorsuch acknowledged the NAACP’s concern that allowing legislative leaders to intervene to defend state laws could in some cases make litigation more complicated and potentially unwieldy. “But that case is not this case,” Gorsuch stressed. The legislative leaders “bring a distinct state interest” to the case – and indeed, “federal courts routinely handle cases involving multiple officials sometimes represented by different attorneys taking different positions.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the lone dissenter.

This is bound to work its way back to them.

This has been the hardest post I’ve ever had to right except for the ones related to Trump taking over the presidency.  It’s obvious that elections have consequences. This includes the state and local levels.  These next two will show us if we’ve lost the Republic, our democracy, and hope for our future. Just do what you can to get out the vote.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Martin Luther King Day Reads: Whither Voting Rights

Today, we celebrate the life and works of Doctor Martin Luther King!  Good Day!

I was fortunate to live during a time when great change was possible that came from the grassroots up.  It did not come from a specific church, the military-industrial complex, or the whims of billionaires whose hobbies were to be funded by allowing them not to pay taxes.  A crooked president was shamed out of the office with a bi-partisanship agreement and on full-display on TV.  We achieved reproductive rights, voting rights, GBLT civil rights, and great scientific advances, and moved towards inclusion provided by the decisions of a balanced Supreme Court and Legislation hashed through with supporters on both sides of Congress.

This seems no longer possible due to the increasing belligerence of one party representing religious fanatics, billionaires, the war and fossil fuel machines, science deniers, white nationalists, and what still remains of the Confederacy. It’s all or nothing for them.  Our country is scorched earth. We’re experiencing extreme weather events, extremist violence including insurrection, and extreme wealth inequality.

We do not want to continue down this path. It will not end well.

This is from Dr. Hakeem Jefferson quoting Dr. King. I am glad he is on our side and can elucidate the struggle so eloquently.

[A]ll types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters.” Continuing, he argued that “The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.”

Jefferson’s San Francisco Chronicle op-ed is righteous, powerful, and urgent.

For me, I’ve found comfort in the words of Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who, when asked how she avoids despair at times like this, said, “I don’t know of anything in the history of Black people in this country in which I’ve read some account in which it ended with, ‘And then they gave up.’ That’s just not what we do.”

That, dear reader, is the legacy of King. That is the legacy of Black people in a country that has long failed to live up to its ideals. That is the legacy that gives me hope, even as there is much reason to despair. That is the legacy I call up today and every day because those committed to justice cannot rest “until justice rolls down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

There are many books being written these days on the move towards autocracy in these United States. I’d like to offer up the work of David Peper interviewed by reporter Paul Rosenberg who writes on “How the states have become “Laboratories of Autocracy” — and why it’s worse than you think. Former Ohio Democratic Party head David Pepper has a dire warning: Rigged state legislatures are destroying America.”  This is from Salon and it is an interview with David Pepper, the book’s author.

It was funny — it was when I thought of the term that the book came to me. I was going to tweet the words out, “You know, these states are no longer acting like laboratories of democracy, but laboratories of autocracy.” I didn’t send the tweet, because the minute I wrote it I thought, “Boy, there’s a lot more to say than this tweet.” And everything flowed from that.

Obviously, it comes out of this age-old term that Justice Louis Brandeis made famous but that many have used, a very idealized notion of states doing good things that then become models for the country. Clearly, that’s been the case sometimes. But as I argue in the book, in our history sometime it’s been the exact opposite. That’s how we got Jim Crow. States have enough power that in the wrong hands they can do great damage, and the point of the title was to say that’s what’s happening now in very stark ways.

But both words matter. “Autocracy” matters, as these states are hacking away at pillars of democracy that could lead to autocracy. But the “laboratories” part matters too, because they’re always learning, they’re always improving. So they are functioning as laboratories. Until you start adding some accountability and pushing back, they’ll just keep going. So my hope is that “autocracy” wakes people up, but “laboratories” is a really important part of that title because it explains how they operate.

I’ve been fighting the voting rights battle in Ohio for a number of years. The worst is still the purging of voters, but to have a secretary of state intentionally cause long traffic jams for the form of voting that he knew minorities and Biden voters were using, and lying over and over again about what the law actually, was such a troubling thing. And this was not your right-wing, Trump-type secretary of state. He had held himself out as more moderate.

So I tell the story because you look at the traffic jams that his one-drop-box-per-county policy created, and anyone with a commonsense response would say, “Don’t ever do that again.” But in a world of “laboratories of autocracy,” as I tell in the story, the state legislature of Ohio, seeing those jams, began pushing for bills to have traffic jams forever by making that not just a policy decision, but state law. And what do we see at the same time? States around the country looked at those traffic jams and saw the effect on — let’s be clear — Black voters waiting in long lines. So now we have the same effort in other states to minimize drop boxes and to do what happened here: Put the drop boxes where people are already voting early in person, which creates the maximum congestion possible. So it’s a great example of how they behave as laboratories against democracy.

We thought we could get so much done this last election only to see everything held hostage by two Democratic Senators. Ron Brownstein argues this in The Atlantic: “How Manchin and Sinema Completed a Conservative Vision. A nationwide standard of voting rights now seems like a pipe dream.”  What follows is a blasting damnation of Roberts’ decisions in Shelby County v. Holder.

Roberts, who served as a young clerk to conservative Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and as a Justice Department assistant in the Reagan administration, has long expressed hostility to federal oversight of voting and election rules. As the journalist Ari Berman recounted in his 2015 book, Give Us the Ballot, Roberts “led the charge” against the bipartisan 1982 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, which ultimately reversed a Supreme Court decision (supported by Rehnquist) weakening one key section of the law. Roberts wrote “upwards of 25 memos” opposing the legislation’s provision requiring that the Justice Department prove only discriminatory “effect” rather than purposeful “intent” in order to block state or local voting restrictions. (The Court had ruled the opposite, severely limiting the law’s applicability.)

In one memo reported by Berman, Roberts revealed his broader philosophy about voting rights: The test for federal objection to local voting laws should be extremely difficult to meet, he wrote, “since they provide the basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.”

That approach has guided Roberts on the Supreme Court. As the Harvard Law School professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, an expert in voting law, wrote in a 2019 law-review article, “The Roberts Court has … never nullified a law making it harder to vote.” To the contrary, in a series of landmark decisions, it has nullified efforts to ensure voter access, combat gerrymanders, and to limit political contributions and spending.

Those cases have included Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, which swept away federal prohibitions on undisclosed, unlimited corporate spending in federal elections; Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, which eviscerated the Justice Department’s authority under the Voting Rights Act to review, or “preclear,” any changes in voting procedures in states with a history of discrimination against minorities; Rucho v. Common Cause in 2019, which ruled that federal courts cannot overturn even the most extreme partisan gerrymanders; and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee in 2021, which severely weakened Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act—the same provision that Roberts, as a young Reagan aide, targeted all the way back in 1982.

Those decisions generally aligned every Republican-appointed justice on the Court at the time against every Democratic-appointed justice (with the exception of Citizens United, in which one GOP-appointed justice, the center-left John Paul Stevens, sided with the minority). The first three cases were decided by the narrowest possible 5–4 majorities, and the most recent one by a 6–3 count that reflected the Court’s larger GOP advantage. Roberts personally wrote the decisions in both the Shelby and Rucho cases.

Roberts has often appeared reluctant to let the Court be seen in purely partisan terms. But that instinct, as many critics have noted, has not extended to cases involving the core electoral interests of the two political parties—cases in which he’s been entirely willing to engineer sharply divided rulings that separate the justices along partisan and ideological lines. (No Democratic-appointed justice has supported any of these rulings.)

I’m pretty sure I’ve given you enough long pieces to read so I’ll end here.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: As the Insurrection Turns

The Magpie, Claude Monet,1868–1869

Happy New Year Sky Dancers!!

It’s the first Monday of the year!  The country is stilled mired by Covid-19 and the ongoing insurrection.   The Trumps and the pandemic dominate the news so far.

Jim McGovern–writing for The Boston Globe— has this Op-Ed headline: “The coup is still underway. Make no mistake — an aspiring dictator, egged on by his allies in Congress, failed to hold on to power this time. But those very same people haven’t given up.”

But a year later, a fundamental question remains: Will the Jan. 6 insurrection be swept under the rug, or seen for what it could be — the beginning of the end of American democracy as we know it.

Many of the people who failed to overturn the election are now using the levers of power at the state level to rig future campaigns.

They’ve introduced more than 440 bills across 49 states designed to hijack the election process and suppress the right to vote. This represents a dagger to the heart of the American experiment: that the people get to decide who is in charge. Chillingly, 34 of those bills have become law in 19 states.

Those who manufactured the crusade to steal the 2020 election know how and why they failed. They are laying the groundwork to overturn the next election successfully. The coup is still underway.

Make no mistake — an aspiring dictator, egged on by his allies in Congress, failed to hold on to power this time. But those very same people haven’t given up — they are analyzing their failures and will continue their brazen attempts to seize power by any means necessary. This is not some academic debate: In future elections, they might succeed in the unthinkable.

The Fox Hunt, Winslow Homer., 1893

Another Op-Ed in The Philladelphia Inquirer–written by Will Bunch–has this lede: “Is the ‘smoking gun’ in Trump’s Jan. 6 attempted coup hiding in plain sight? Trump insider Bernie Kerik claims ex-president drafted a letter to involve the Insurrection Act on Jan. 6. The American people need to see this.”

Thanks to a somewhat surprising source — the disgraced former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, a Team Trump insider — we now know the name of a document with the potential to become a “smoking gun.” Just its title suggests Trump was planning an unprecedented abuse of presidential power — to use the Big Lie of nonexistent 2020 election fraud to undo the results of a free and fair vote.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection that disrupted Congress and left five people dead or dying, the question that looms large over 2022 is whether the American people will ever get to see this proof, or the other evidence of the 45th president’s involvement in election tampering, in inciting those who violently rioted on Capitol Hill — and whether the endgame was an autocoup to seize power and deny Joe Biden the White House.

According to a letter from Kerik’s attorney, the document is called “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS” — and it’s believed to have been written on Dec. 17, 2020. That was a critical time for the Trump insiders who were accelerating their schemes to deny the presidency to Biden, even after the Democrat won 7 million more popular votes and the Electoral College by a 306-232 margin.

Here’s the catch: While Kerik, a longtime close associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, last week turned over some election-related materials to the House Select Committee tasked with getting to the bottom of Jan. 6, the draft letter from Trump is on a list of records that Kerik is refusing to turn over — claiming that the document is shielded as “attorney work product.” While some legal experts are already throwing cold water on that claim, the reality is that Team Trump has been remarkably successful for months in stonewalling — in keeping both key records and important witnesses out of investigators’ reach. In an echo of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, the future of democracy may hinge on Trump’s ability to thwart the probe.

Understanding why the 12/17/20 document could be a “smoking gun” means understanding where the concept of a national emergency and “seizing evidence,” which could include paper ballots or voting machines from the 2020 election, fits into the growing body of data showing both that an attempted Trump coup was afoot — and why it failed.

Many Republicans still believe the ‘big lie’, disregard the nature of the insurrection, as well as cling angrily to a huge set of lies about Covid-19.  What can you do when so many people live in alternative reality? This is from the NPR Tweet above.

Fewer than half of Republicans say they are willing to accept the results of the 2020 election — a number that has remained virtually unchanged since we asked the same question last January.

“There is really a sort of dual reality through which partisans are approaching not only what happened a year ago on Jan. 6, but also generally with our presidential election and our democracy,” said Mallory Newall, a vice president at Ipsos, which conducted the poll.

“It is Republicans that are driving this belief that there was major fraudulent voting and it changed the results in the election,” Newall said.

Nearly two-thirds of poll respondents agree that U.S. democracy is “more at risk” now than it was a year ago. Among Republicans, that number climbs to 4 in 5.

Overall, 70% of poll respondents agree that the country is in crisis and at risk of failing.

The country can’t even decide what to call the assault on the Capitol. Only 6% of poll respondents say it was “a reasonable protest” — but there is little agreement on a better description. More than half of Democrats say the Jan. 6 assault was an “attempted coup or insurrection,” while Republicans are more likely to describe it as a “riot that got out of control.”

Americans are bitterly divided over the events that led to Jan. 6, as well.

Breton Village in the Snow by Paul Gauguin, 1894

Politico‘s Kyle Cheney asks “Could Jan. 6 happen again? The Capitol Police has made progress under a new chief. But many on the Hill don’t have an easy answer.”

But the political blight that contributed to the attack has only worsened, inside and outside the Capitol. So while leaders feel readier today than they did on Jan. 5, no one is rushing to declare the threat has passed.

“The last thing that I want to do is say, ‘this could never happen again’ and have it sound like a challenge to those people,” said Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger, who took over the department in August after his predecessor’s ouster following the siege. “I’m not trying to be overconfident. We are much better prepared.”

The story of that preparation is only partially written, though. Capitol Police officers remain overtaxed and exhausted, logging crushing amounts of overtime as they grapple with a depleted force. Threats against members of Congress are still spiking. A Sept. 18 rally to support certain insurrectionists drew an overwhelming police presence that dwarfed the smattering of demonstrators, raising questions about an overcorrection and quality of intelligence.

And with the atmosphere under the dome as personally corrosive as ever, it’s tough to say the Capitol has moved forward from Jan. 6. Many of those who fled from or responded to the violence are indelibly scarred.

“My concern about the Capitol Police is that we’re making them work too hard and too long,” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees Capitol security, told reporters recently. “And we need to figure out a way to shift some of those responsibilities … or to figure out a way to recruit more people.”

January by Grant Wood.1940

The wheels of justice are moving albeit slowly.  Here are so updates.  This is from The New York Times: “New York A.G. Seeks to Question Trump Children in Fraud Inquiry. The attorney general, Letitia James, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump as part of a civil investigation.”

The New York State attorney general’s office, which last month subpoenaed Donald J. Trump as part of a civil investigation into his business practices, is also seeking to question two of his adult children as part of the inquiry.

The involvement of the children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, was disclosed in a court document filed on Monday as the Trump Organization sought to block lawyers for the attorney general, Letitia James, from questioning the former president and his children.

The subpoenas for the former president and two of his children were served on Dec. 1, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Eric Trump, another of Mr. Trump’s sons, was already questioned by Ms. James’s office in October 2020.

The attorney general’s effort to interview Mr. Trump under oath became public last month, but it was not previously known that her office, which has been conducting a civil investigation into the former president’s business practices for almost three years, was also looking to question Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

Winter Landscape by Edvard Munch (1915)

Lisa Mascaro of the Associated Press reports: “Schumer: Senate to vote on filibuster change on voting bill.”

Days before the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate will vote on filibuster rules changes to advance stalled voting legislation that Democrats say is needed to protect democracy.

In a letter Monday to colleagues, Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate “must evolve” and will “debate and consider” the rules changes by Jan. 17, on or before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the Democrats seek to overcome Republican opposition to their elections law package.

“Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness — an effort to delegitimize our election process,” Schumer wrote, “and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration — they will be the new norm.”

The election and voting rights package has been stalled in the evenly-split 50-50 Senate, blocked by a Republican-led filibuster and leaving Democrats unable to mount the 60-vote threshold needed to advance it toward passage.

Democrats have been unable to agree among themselves over potential changes to the Senate rules to reduce the 60-vote hurdle, despite months of private negotiations.

The breaking news on this is pretty intensive,  This is from the NPR tweet above. “Schumer tees up vote on rules change if voting rights legislation is blocked.”  It’s a new year and a new dawn.

“Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s ‘Big Lie’ about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions,” Schumer wrote in the letter.

Democrats say last year’s insurrection was propelled by former President Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him and that election fraud was rampant, allegations that spurred Republican state legislatures to implement new voting restrictions.

Democrats argue passing The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would, among other things, ensure that states have early voting, make Election Day a public holiday and secure the availability of mail-in voting, are necessary measures to combat the actions taken by somestate legislatures.

The GOP is expected to once again reject the bills, arguing they’re a form of federal overreach. In a 50-50 Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to join them to advance the legislation because of the 60-vote threshold required under Senate rules. But uniform Republican oppositionhas led voting rights advocates to urge Senate Democrats to abolish the filibuster, or carve out an exception for voting rights legislation.

In order for that to happen, all Democrats need to be on board. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have repeatedly defended the filibuster and may not be open toamending it, despite supporting the voting legislation itself.

Manchintook part in a series of meetings on potential rules changes with other Democratic senators during December, which continued through the holidays.

Senators have been discussing two different approaches to altering Senate rules: either setting up a “talking filibuster” that would give the minority the ability to block action on legislation or creating a carve out that would provide a path for Democrats to pass voting rights legislation with a simple majority, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

I’ll try to post updates as we get them.  Meanwhile, what’s your reading and blogging list?


Tuesday Reads: Surry Down!

Claude Monet – Luncheon on the Grass (1865-6)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

This isn’t a particularly newsy day.  I’m actually thinking that might be a good thing if only most of the headlines I see weren’t about Covid-19 and the upcoming anniversary of the sedition insurrection.  I’m going to take the time to dig into some other things. That’s an accidental hint because the first thing I’m going to share appeals to the kid in me that wanted to be an archeologist and you know, digging up bones and pottery of some lost tribes.

This is from NPR and involves the “big” finds of 2021 as determined by members of Trowelblazers which is “a group of four female archaeologists of different specialties dedicated to highlighting the historic and integral role of women in the “digging sciences”.” The first discovery is that of a family group of Neandertals–including children–whose footprints show that gathering may have been a family business. Is this a precursor to the family picnic?

While these aren’t the first Neanderthal footprints to be discovered, they are very special.

“This is especially nice, because it’s a group – mixed age, including children, some of which are quite young. They seem to be sort of foraging around on the edge of a lagoon,” Wragg Sykes said.

The diversity in age is key here and actually helps to challenge a common assumption that Neanderthals foraged in solitude, with the adults peeling off from the group to find food for the children.

The discovery instead gives support to the theory that hunting and gathering might have been a family affair, involving a collaborative and intergenerational effort.

Adorably, the paper also noted that some of the footprints which belonged to children were “grouped in a chaotic arrangement,” as if they were playing.

“That’s an angle on the Neanderthal life that we don’t often get to see,” Wragg Sykes said, adding that the discovery helps give a sense of humanity to this not-so-distant human relative.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Harvesters (1565)

Other finds include powerful women in ancient Spanish society, a million-year-old mammoth, and early tracks in Tanzania that were previously thought to belong to bears but instead, the prints “are an estimated 3.6 million years old, are the oldest evidence of bipedal locomotion of a human ancestor.”  It’s a really interesting set of reads.

We lost another American feminist icon this week. “Sarah Weddington, Who Successfully Argued Roe v. Wade, Dies at 76. She went before the U.S. Supreme Court at 26 with almost no legal experience and won one of the most consequential cases in American history.”  This is from her NYT Obit.

The Supreme Court first heard appeals on Dec. 13, 1971, with Ms. Weddington making the oral arguments.

“Weddington enjoyed the public stage as much as Coffee disliked it,” Joshua Prager, a journalist, wrote in Vanity Fair in 2017. “Moreover, despite her brilliance, Coffee could come across as bedraggled. And optics mattered. ‘She was younger than I was,’ Coffee said of Weddington. ‘She was blond, blue-eyed.’”

Jay Floyd, who was representing Texas, opened his argument with what commentators have called the “worst joke in legal history.” “It’s an old joke,” Mr. Floyd told the court, “but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they are going to have the last word.”

As it happened, only seven of the nine justices heard the arguments that day — two others had retired and had not yet been replaced. The justices then decided that the case should be reargued before the full court. All justices were sitting when Ms. Weddington came back on Oct. 11, 1972, and reargued the case.

Their 7-2 decision held that Texas had violated Roe’s constitutional right to privacy as outlined in the First, Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The decision was widely praised at the time. But with the rise of the religious right a few years later, abortion became a volcanic political issue, and it remains one of the most divisive in American society. Ms. Weddington received death threats and often traveled with security.

Renoir – Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81)

An important case in voting rights today will be heard in the Ohio Supreme Court. It concerns the highly gerrymandered new congressional districts. Governor DeWine’s son is on the bench and refused to recuse himself.  Given the Governor is one of the parties being sued by the ACLU the people there should be outraged.  The hearing is being broadcast live here.

Today’s Oral Arguments: 2021-1428/ Regina C. Adams, et al. v. Governor Mike DeWine, et al. 2021-1449 League of Women Voters of Ohio, et al. v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, et al.

This article discusses how Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine’s refusal to recuse himself from the lawsuit involving his father may be unprecedented. It’s from Cleveland.com.  It is written by Cory Schaffer.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick DeWine’s refusal to recuse himself from trio of redistricting lawsuits, in which his father — Gov. Mike DeWine — is a defendant who will testify as a witness, might be unprecedented.

Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer set out to find a case where the Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice considered whether a judge, at any court level, should be allowed to preside over a case in which his or her parent or child was a participant. The outlet searched through dozens of cases where the chief justice was asked to force a judge off of a case. Cleveland.com also spoke with multiple attorneys, all of whom declined to comment for this story.

Okay, one article on what we’re learning about what could’ve happened on sedition day.  This is from TPM: “EXCLUSIVE: There Was ANOTHER Rally Planned On Jan. 6 … At The Supreme Court. The same people who organized Trump’s fateful rally on the Ellipse had something else in store on Jan. 6: a rally planned in front of the Supreme Court.” Josh Kovensky has the byline.

The same people who organized Trump’s fateful rally on the Ellipse had something else in store on Jan. 6: a separate, previously unreported rally planned in front of the Supreme Court.

According to text messages and invoices obtained by TPM and provided to the House Jan. 6 Committee, the rally outside of the Supreme Court was set for the afternoon of Jan. 6 with some of the same speakers scheduled to appear.

The plan for a Supreme Court rally after the event at the Ellipse reveals a new and different perspective on the geography and timing of the attack on the Capitol.

We already knew that President Trump amassed supporters at the Ellipse, at the White House end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and dispatched them toward the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue, declaring that he would walk with them before promptly returning to the White House. But whether the rally at the Ellipse was planned as a march on the Capitol, even though it was never issued a march permit, remains a hotly contested issue. Regardless, rioters penetrated the Capitol even as the President was still speaking at the Ellipse.

But now TPM’s reporting suggests that the Ellipse rally organizers intended to hold a separate 2 p.m. ET event on the steps of the Supreme Court, across the street from the Capitol, where Congress began certifying the Electoral College vote at noon ET. It suggests that organizers wanted to keep up the pressure on Congress through an event far closer to the Capitol.

And to get there, Big Lie supporters would have had to walk past the Capitol building, traversing a geographic bit of irony: Constitution Avenue.

It’s a long read but try to skim through it at least.  The Augusta Chronicle reports that the county is closing 7 of 8 polling places in Lincoln County Georgia. The county is deep in rural Georgia. Officials argue that one location will make it more convenient for people to vote. The county is heavily black and has no public transportation.

Lincoln County is trying to close all but one polling place for next year’s elections, a move opposed by voting and civil rights groups.

Relocating voters from the county’s seven precincts to a single location will make voting “easier and more accessible” and eliminate the need to transport voting equipment and staff the remaining sites, according to a news release. Community members disagreed.

“Lincoln County is a very rural county. Some people live as far as 23 miles from the city of Lincolnton,” said Denise Freeman, an activist and former Lincoln County school board member. “This is not about convenience for the citizens. This is about control. This is about the good old boys wanting to do what they’ve always done, which is power and control.”

The move was made possible after the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year disbanding the Lincoln County Board of Elections. The chief sponsor of Senate bills 282 and 283 was Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, whose district includes Lincoln County. The newly-appointed board agreed to move forward with the “consolidation” plan and was expected to vote on it last week, but appeared to lack a quorum, several said.

I imagine they will keep trying just like the Radical Republican Right did in Texas. I intend to keep my jaded eyes on gerrymandering cases and voting rights and that is my new year’s resolution.  Oh, that and spending a lot more time in my PJs with a cuppa!

So, that’s enough for me today. Thanks to BB for helping me out yesterday!  I made it through my last dentist appointment for the year. I intend to continue to stay in my pjs doing exactly what I want this week.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Meanwhile, surry down to a Stoned Soul Picnic! 


Friday Reads: May Peace Abide!

Yule log

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Gosh there are so many headlines today that it’s hard to find any major theme other than we’re all dealing with chaos right now. As BB wrote yesterday, the Omicron Virus is proving to be more dangerous than we thought and a huge surge is on the way.  Most of the surge will be in the unvaccinated and a serious mask is indicated if you’re out and about. (Via. NPR.)

With another coronavirus variant racing across the U.S., once again health authorities are urging people to mask up indoors. Yes, you’ve heard it all before. But given how contagious omicron is, experts say, it’s seriously time to upgrade to an N95 or similar high-filtration respirator when you’re in public indoor spaces.

“Cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron,” says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air.

Omicron is so much more transmissible than coronavirus variants that have come before it. It spreads at least three times faster than delta. One person is infecting at least three others at a time on average, based on data from other countries.

“It’s very contagious,” says Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “And the kind of encounter that you could have had with prior versions of the virus that would have left you uninfected, there’s now a good chance you will get infected from it.

WAPO reports White House reporters ask for virtual press briefings during the latest covid surge.”  The list of vaccinated Senators and Congress members with COVID-19 positive tests is amazing.

The White House Correspondents’ Association has proposed holding the daily briefings on Zoom or some other online platform to avoid face-to-face contact in the White House’s cramped briefing room.

The WHCA is concerned that reporters face an elevated risk of being infected with the highly contagious omicron variant — or infecting their colleagues with it — while congregating in the 49-seat briefing room or the narrow workspaces behind it.

In a memo sent to members on Tuesday, the group’s president, Steven Portnoy, noted that President Biden himself had said in a speech earlier in the day that omicron cases are likely to be widespread in many workplaces, including at the White House.

This is what a Republican used to look like.  I’ve never really been into this guy but this is a nice move on his part.

Brigit hugs one of her beloved hares

Then there is this story from Rolling Stone. I really wish Krampus would’ve of drug all these people off in his wooden cart. “MAGA Diehards Melt Down Over Trump’s Pro-Vax Push.  Anger and confusion reign as Trump endorses vaccines many followers believe are poison”

In fairness to the boo birds, the pro-booster message was an about-face for Trump, for whom consistency has never been a virtue. Over the summer he dismissed the notion of a third jab as “a money-making operation for Pfizer.” This message vibed with the anti-vax fever swamps, which have long decried Big Pharma for raking in profits by pushing vaccines that (they believe against all evidence) poison patients, instead of protecting them.

As the president’s new, unabashed booster endorsement rippled out across right-wing social media, it was met with an combustible mix of anger, confusion, contorted excuses, and denial so pure it’s as if the former president had never uttered a word.

For a sign of just how severely Trump wrong-footed himself with his base by endorsing boosters, look no further than the editorial cartoonist Ben Garrison. The doodler’s devotion to the 45th president has been slavish, but Garrison’s opposition to the vaccine has also been stalwart. His latest cartoon opus shows Trump riding aboard on the “Big Pharma Vaccine Bandwagon” as he’s booed by the MAGA-hatted masses.

There’s a lot of other weirdness in the news today!

The LAPD have proved themselves craven again. This is from the NYT.

They couldn’t have just nabbed the guy without shooting up a retail store during the last-minute holiday shopping crowd?

The teenager had been in the dressing room with her mother, the Los Angeles Police chief, Michel R. Moore, told LAist.com, adding that the shooting was the “worst thing anyone can imagine.” The police did not immediately release the girl’s name.

Chief Choi described the encounter as a “tragic and unfortunate sequence of events” and said it remained under investigation. He said that the investigation had indicated that the girl had been fatally shot by the police.

“Preliminarily, we believe that round was an officer’s round,” he said.

He said investigators had not yet reviewed body-camera video or the store’s security-camera footage, although it appeared the dressing room had been in the officer’s line of fire.

Orange Caligula has taken his plea for hiding his complicity in the Insurrection to SCOTUS. The committee has zeroed in on his stalling during the insurrection and is considering criminal charges.  This is from MSNBC: In bid for Jan. 6 secrecy, Trump asks Supreme Court for help. Two weeks ago, Donald Trump said he has “nothing to hide” about Jan. 6. Today, he asked the Supreme Court to help him hide Jan. 6 materials. This was written by Steve Benen.

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump appeared on Fox News and was asked about the investigation into the Jan. 6 attacks. “Honestly, I have nothing to hide,” the former president said. “I wasn’t involved in that.”

For a guy who has nothing to hide, the Republican continues to invest a lot of effort into keeping Jan. 6 materials hidden. NBC News reported this afternoon:

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to block the National Archives from turning over White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. In a petition filed with the high court, lawyers for Trump said the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals erred in its ruling earlier this month directing the records to be turned over, and urged the Supreme Court to intervene.

For those who may need a refresher about how we arrived at this point, it was two months ago when the bipartisan House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack requested extensive materials from the White House, prompting Trump to demand absolute secrecy.

In fact, the former president and his team have tried to exert “executive privilege” to block the select committee’s requests. As NBC News recently noted, as a matter of tradition, sitting presidents have shielded White House materials at the request of their predecessors. But not this time: President Joe Biden and his team concluded that there are “unique and extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

Trump and his team sued both the committee and the National Archives, which houses presidential records.

In November, a federal district court ruled against the Republican, reminding him, “Presidents are not kings.” Two weeks ago, a unanimous federal appeals court came to the same conclusion.

As regular readers may recall, the ruling was unsparing in its rejection of the former president’s arguments. “President Trump bears the burden of at least showing some weighty interest in continued confidentiality that could be capable of tipping the scales back in his favor…. He has not done so,” the three-judge panel wrote. “He has not identified any specific countervailing need for confidentiality tied to the documents at issue, beyond their being presidential communications. Neither has he presented arguments that grapple with the substance of President Biden’s and Congress’s weighty judgments. Nor has he made even a preliminary showing that the content of any particular document lacks relevance to the Committee’s investigation.

Ed Pilkington–writing for The Guardian–sums up a report showing just how much Republicans in state and local governments are trying to destroy democracy.

The Republican assault on free and fair elections instigated by Donald Trump is gathering pace, with efforts to sabotage the normal workings of American democracy sweeping state legislatures across the US.

A year that began with the violent insurrection at the US Capitol is ending with an unprecedented push to politicize, criminalize or in other ways subvert the nonpartisan administration of elections. A year-end report from pro-democracy groups identifies no fewer than 262 bills introduced in 41 states that hijack the election process.

Of those, 32 bills have become law in 17 states.

The largest number of bills is concentrated in precisely those states that became the focus of Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign to block the peaceful transfer of power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. Arizona, where Trump supporters insisted on an “audit” to challenge Biden’s victory in the state, has introduced 20 subversion bills, and Georgia where Trump attempted to browbeat the top election official to find extra votes for him has introduced 15 bills.

Texas, whose ultra-right Republican group has made the state the ground zero of voter suppression and election interference, has introduced as many as 59 bills.

“We’re seeing an effort to hijack elections in this country, and ultimately, to take power away from the American people. If we don’t want politicians deciding our elections, we all need to start paying attention,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center which is one of the three groups behind the report. Protect Democracy and Law Forward also participated.

One of the key ways that Trump-inspired state lawmakers have tried to sabotage future elections is by changing the rules to give legislatures control over vote counts. In Pennsylvania, a bill passed in the wake of Trump’s defeat that sought to rewrite the state’s election law was vetoed by Democratic governor Tom Wolf.

Anyway, I don’t go back to the podium until next year and I’m celebrating my 4th day in pjs.  I hope you get a chance to relax and that the expectations of what should be this time of year don’t overwhelm you!  Whatever your plans are, be kind to yourself and the ones around you.!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?