Lazy Caturday Reads

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Happy Caturday!!

My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:

The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.

With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.

A coalition of groups such as Planned ParenthoodUltraVioletMoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….

The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.

Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.

Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.

f98f3f2f0a7f126cf8c3e9070096f64e“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….

Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….

Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”

The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.

“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.

The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4fe6739970b-600wiWhat is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.

Read the rest at the link.

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.

Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.

Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.

This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.

Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.

Read more at the WaPo.

Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wiThe leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.

“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.

“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”

Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.

I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.

In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4f00414970b-600wiThe surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….

“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”

The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.

Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.

The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.

The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.

The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.

Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.

“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”

88cba75816c3e74906a3af2d2eb71db4I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.

Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.

The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….

The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  — Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.

  — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”

What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.

That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?


Friday Reads: This and that and the other …

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

Hi Sky Dancers!

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

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

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

The illustration came from the following article.

Arianna Vairo

From the BBC World News article above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yaqiu Wang • CHINA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Supreme Court Blues

The Absinthe Drinker (1901), Pablo Picasso

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Losing the Supreme court to radical religionists is the fruit of the evil Republican tree of base pandering.  I can’t help but think we may see the demise of the NRA and could possibly see movement on laws ridding the system of dark money and the influence of billionaires with agendas.  However, the fact we have so many religious extremists on the court now may mean fights long fought and won will be taken to the streets again.

The system of court appointments was radically played by Mitch McConnell and no amount of precedent is going deter these radicals he placed on the court.  The Doctrine of stare decisis is one of the most traditionally conservative ideals in our system.  The fact it was ignored this term and will likely be ignored next term should make Senator Collins feel like Benedict Arnold.

Mississipi is nearly last in everything good and first in everything bad including infant mortality. So, why not increase that infant mortality rate a lot by restricting abortions after 15 weeks when a lot could still go very wrong with a pregnancy? Also, medical science does not consider a beating heart to be a sign of sentient life.  Ask any 6th grader who can get dead frog’s heart to beat with a few hits of that crazy new modern invention electricity!

Pablo Picasso – The Sleepy Drinker, 1902

This is from Robert Barnes writing for The Washington Post: “Supreme Court to review Mississippi abortion law that advocates see as a path to diminish Roe v. Wade.”

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will review a restrictive Mississippi abortion law that opponents of the procedure say provides a clear path to diminish Roe v. Wade’s establishment of the right of women to choose an abortion.

Abortion opponents for months have urged the court’s conservatives to seize the chance to reexamine the 1973 precedent. Mississippi is one among many Republican-led states that have passed restrictions that conflict with the court’s precedents protecting a woman’s right to choose before fetal viability.

In accepting the case, the court said it would examine whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” That has been a key component of the court’s jurisprudence.

The Mississippi law would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. It has not gone into effect because a district federal judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said that it could not be squared with decades of Supreme Court precedents.

“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and reaffirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the appeals court. “States may regulate abortion procedures before viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right but they may not ban abortions.”

The court has now accepted for the term that begins in October two issues dear to conservatives: gun rights and the ability of states to restrict abortion. It is what they had hoped for once the court reached a 6-to-3 conservative majority with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative nominated by President Donald Trump.

Get ready for the reality of Handmaid’s Tale.

The Vox tweet above links to an article written by Ian Millhiser. I cringe reading the words “biggest threat” and realize they’ve used a woman to bring us down.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law that prohibits nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. That means that Dobbs will be the first abortion case to be fully briefed and argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last October.

Barrett is an outspoken opponent of abortion, and she joined a Court that almost certainly already had five votes to roll back abortion rights before her confirmation gave Republicans a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.

Last June, four justices voted to uphold a Louisiana anti-abortion law that was virtually identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts cast a surprising vote in that June case, June Medical Services v. Russoto strike down Louisiana’s law. But Roberts’s opinion emphasized that he disagreed with many of the Court’s seminal abortion rights decisions, and that he only voted the way he did in June Medical out of respect for the principle that the Court should not simply ignore a ruling that it handed down just a few years earlier.

With Barrett on the Court, the four dissenters in June Medical no longer need Roberts’s vote to make significant incursions on reproductive freedom. And the legal issue in Dobbs is sufficiently distinct from the one in June Medical that Roberts is unlikely to vote with his liberal colleagues again on those grounds.

The legal issue in Dobbs is straightforward. A2018Mississippi law prohibits all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, “except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality.” Notably, this law applies even before thefetus is viable — meaning that it is capable of surviving outside the uterus. But, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”

Paul-Cézanne-Still-Life-with-Skull-1895-1900.-Image-via-www.ibiblio.org_

Paul Cézanne – Still Life with Skull, 1895-1900

I’m finally linking to The Bulwark which is something I thought I’d never do. Politics make strange bedfellows indeed.  “The GOP’s Telltale Signs of Authoritarianism.”

Having been established as the GOP’s undisputed ruler, Trump is encountering some of the headaches and tensions common to all autocrats. The first and most obvious is the lack of a clear succession principle. In 2020, the party proudly defined itself as an organization devoted to Trump, forgoing the creation of a party platform beyond ‘We ❤ Trump.’ No wonder other notables who would seem to have their own independent bases of support, like Nikki Haley and Sen. Mitch McConnell, can’t bring themselves to quit him, and dissidents like Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger face de facto excommunication. How could any of them make a claim to become the new leader of the party if the party only exists to serve the current leader? Because actively opposing Trump is impossible, Republicans with presidential ambitions have no choice but to ingratiate themselves with him in the hope of gaining an advantageous position in the squabble for his endorsement should he choose not to run.

Another issue common to both authoritarian regimes and the Trump-era Republican party is the paucity of trustworthy, honest information. Most autocrats struggle to figure out who is telling them the truth and who is a yes-man—the incentives of lower-level officials to inflate their success to their superiors are infamous. Trump embraces the problem, eschewing anyone who dares to give him bad news.

And then, of course, there’s the brain drain. One of the problems of strangling and restricting a society for political expediency is that there are always other options. The people with the most human capital—extraordinary abilities, intelligence, skills, etc.—are the most likely to defect. The Soviet Union and its allies leaked talent at an extraordinary rate. Judging by how many former Republican luminaries have publicly broken with Trump, the Republican party, or both, its brain drain could be even quicker.

The Republican party has shed many of its legal, economic, foreign policy, and political experts—the very people who enabled it to govern. Its new leading legal light is Rudy Giuliani. Its foreign policy guru is . . . maybe Sen. Rand Paul? (Sorry, Mike Pompeo.) Its most accomplished economist is Larry Kudlow.

The Trumpist “intellectual” movement is a bit like the Soviets’ ersatz space shuttle—it never really got off the ground.

Image45

“Le Viaduct de L’Estaque,”, George Brach, 1908

Republicans are blinding by superstitions and lies.  The Guardian caught one congress critter in a doozy of a lie. “Photo emerges of Republican barricading chamber doors during US Capitol attack after he compared rioters to ‘tourists’. ‘Do Georgians always barricade doors against normal, everyday tourists?’ one critic asked.”

A photo has emerged of Andrew Clyde, the Republican congressman who claimed “there was no insurrection” and compared US Capitol rioters to “tourists”, barricading the House chamber during the attack.

“The Rep. Clyde news reminded me of this,” Roll Call photographer Tom Williams tweeted this week, and included a picture of the Georgia congressman in a group of eight men pushing a piece of furniture against doors to the chamber.

Speaking on Wednesday to the House Oversight CommitteeRep. Clyde downplayed the actions of the pro-Trump mob who stormed the Capitol on 6 January as “a normal tourist visit”. The violent attack left five dead including one police officer.

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3pm from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection,” Mr Clyde told the committee.

“It was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful.”

Mr Clyde’s remarks were lambasted by lawmakers and law enforcement experts. Fred Wellman, the executive director of the Lincoln Project and a former commanding officer of US forces in Iraq, wrote: “How craven is Rep. Clyde to say there was no insurrection?”

“He helped barricade the doors from the ‘tourists.’ They know lying to the MAGA mob equals money. That’s all that matters.”

Also issuing a retort, House speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to death threats against her and former vice president Mike Pence, during a press conference on Wednesday.

It’s really difficult to keep up with all the lies and even more difficult to understand the people that believe them.  Republicanism and Religion are helluva drugs to paraphrase Rick James. Well, that’s enough of shining light on the politically insane.  I’m off to use Dial soap to get rid of the stupid cooties.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Bette Davis

Good Morning!!

I’m not an economist, but I’m going to post some economic news today. Dakinikat is an economist, and maybe she will weigh in on what’s happening.

Talks between Democratic Congressional leaders and Trump administration representatives have broken down.

CNN: Stimulus talks break down on Capitol Hill as negotiators walk away without a deal.

Negotiations over the next stimulus package intended to bolster the economy and help struggling Americans pay their bills have stalled on Capitol Hill with Democrats and Trump administration officials walking away after talks broke down on Friday and devolved into partisan finger-pointing.

At a hastily scheduled news conference at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club Friday evening, President Donald Trump laid out the executive actions he said he would pursue if Congress does not reach a deal.

No additional discussions are planned after nearly two weeks of daily meetings, and lead White House negotiators Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said they were recommending Trump move ahead with a series of executive orders.

Trump said Friday the actions would include a payroll tax deferment, extending unemployment benefits, extending an eviction moratorium and deferring student loan payments and forgiving their interest.

It’s not at all clear to me that any of this would be legal, especially cutting the payroll tax, which would starve Social Security and Medicare. Trump is obviously dying to do that. Back to the CNN story:

Cher

Trump said “they’re talking about” deferring the payroll tax until the end of the year. “And I can extend it at a certain period … and it will be retroactive until July 1,” he said. “I’m going to enhance unemployment benefits through the end of the year,” he added, without specifying any amount.

But the executive orders are expected to meet fierce resistance from Democrats who plan to challenge them in court. Democrats warn that executive action taken will be insufficient to address the extent of the economic and public health crisis faced by Americans during the pandemic.

CNN: Coronavirus has already dealt a blow to Social Security’s finances. Trump’s payroll tax holiday could make it worse.

This isn’t a far-off problem that retirees’ grandchildren would face. If this economic downturn is as bad as the Great Recession a decade ago, then the Social Security trust funds could run out of money in 2029, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. After that, beneficiaries could see a 31% cut in retirement payments.

The program’s trustees had projected earlier this year that the trust funds would be depleted in 2035, but that did not take the coronavirus pandemic into account.

It would be the first time the estimated insolvency date was within a decade since the crisis of the 1980s, which prompted several changes, including raising the retirement age, said Shai Akabas, the center’s director of economy policy.

“An already urgent situation has become even more pressing,” Akabas said, noting the severe drop in payroll tax revenue. “We expect that that trend is going to continue for many years as it takes the labor market to recover.”

Donna Reed

From Business Insider: Trump implementing a payroll tax cut through executive order would blow a hole in Social Security and Medicare’s finances, economists warn.

“Trump’s scheme would weaken the Social Security and Medicare trust funds by diverting the revenue from the employee portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and potentially the employer’s share of Medicare taxes, from the programs’ trust funds,” the memo from the Center for American Progress said.

Earlier this year, Congress deferred the employer-portion of the Social Security tax (6.2%) through 2022 under the CARES Act. But they replaced the lost money with an infusion of general Treasury funds.

Trump, the memo said, lacks the authority to appropriate funds, which is Congress’s purview.

Many economists say that implementing a payroll tax cut through an executive order wouldn’t lead to a bump in wages for most workers, since the executive branch can only defer tax payments up to a year and not forgive them. Wiping out the payment requires Congress to act.

Legally, employers remain on the hook for any delayed payment. Firms would likely keep the money since they fear being saddled with a hefty tax bill if Congress didn’t move to forgive it.

Obviously, the fact that this would be illegal won’t stop Trump from trying it.

Paul Krugman weighs in on the economic crisis we face: Coming Next: The Greater Recession. Krugman argues that without a second stimulus package being enacted very soon the economy is going to get much worse.

I’m not sure how many people realize just how much deeper the coronavirus recession of 2020 could have been. Obviously it was terrible: Employment plunged, and real G.D.P. fell by around 10 percent. Almost all of that, however, reflected the direct effects of the pandemic, which forced much of the economy into lockdown.

Ava Gardner, 1946

What didn’t happen was a major second round of job losses driven by plunging consumer demand. Millions of workers lost their regular incomes; without federal aid, they would have been forced to slash spending, causing millions more to lose their jobs. Luckily Congress stepped up to the plate with special aid to the unemployed, which sustained consumer spending and kept the nonquarantined parts of the economy afloat.

Furthermore, evidence from austerity policies a decade ago suggests a substantial “multiplier” effect, as spending cuts lead to falling incomes, leading to further spending cuts.

Put it all together and the expiration of emergency aid could produce a 4 percent to 5 percent fall in G.D.P. But wait, there’s more. States and cities are in dire straits and are already planning harsh spending cuts; but Republicans refuse to provide aid, with Trump insisting, falsely, that local fiscal crises have nothing to do with Covid-19.

Bear in mind that the coronavirus itself — a shock that came out of the blue, though the United States mishandled it terribly — reduced G.D.P. by “only” around 10 percent. What we’re looking at now may be another shock, a sort of economic second wave, almost as severe in monetary terms as the first. And unlike the pandemic, this shock will be entirely self-generated, brought on by the fecklessness of President Trump and — let’s give credit where it’s due — Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

In other news, Chief Justice John Roberts is showing his true colors when it comes to abortion.

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate Magazine: John Roberts’ Stealth Attack on Abortion Rights Just Paid Off.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in June Medical v. Russo was hailed by many liberal court watchers as a win for reproductive rights, as the court declined to overturn Roe v. Wade and formally eliminate the right to an abortion. On Friday, however, a federal appeals court ruled that June Medical significantly narrowed the constitutional right to abortion access. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel swept away an injunction that had blocked Arkansas from enforcing a slew of abortion restrictions, including a requirement that patients pregnant as a result of rape notify their rapists before terminating their pregnancy. The appellate court’s decision confirms that Chief Justice John Roberts’ controlling opinion in June Medical will serve as a tool to eviscerate abortion rights. Those who briefly heralded him as a champion of reproductive freedom were too caught up in the halftime show to see the game.

Olivia de Havilland

Friday’s ruling in Hopkins v. Jegley greenlights four Arkansas regulations passed in 2017. The first of these laws requires clinics to report the names of abortion patients under 18 to local law enforcement. These clinics must then preserve the fetal tissue and treat it like criminal evidence. The second law forces abortion providers to spend “reasonable time and effort” acquiring a patient’s medical records for her “entire pregnancy history” before performing the abortion. The third law grants equal rights over fetal remains to both partners, with no exception in cases of rape. A patient must notify her partner before the abortion and ask which method of disposal he prefers. If both partners are minors, the patient’s parents get to decide how fetal remains are disposed of. If the patient is a minor but her partner is an adult, then he—not the patient—makes the choice. These rules effectively prohibit medication abortion, which occurs at home, where the provider cannot control the disposal of fetal remains. The fourth and final law bans the safest and most common procedure for second-trimester abortions.

Abortion rights advocates challenged this legislation, arguing that they impose an unconstitutional burden on abortion access. A federal district court agreed in 2017, and blocked the new regulations. In Friday’s decision, three Republican-appointed judges on the 8th Circuit cleared away that injunction. The lower court had analyzed the laws under Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the 2016 Supreme Court decision that required courts to weigh the medical benefits of an abortion restriction against its burdens. But the Supreme Court’s decision last month in June Medical, the 8th Circuit wrote, overturned that standard.

One more story, just for laughs: Jerry Falwell Jr. was forced out of his job as president of Liberty University because of that photo he posted of himself with his pants unzipped and his arm around a woman with her pants also unzipped. Politico: Falwell placed on ‘indefinite leave’ from Liberty University.

Jerry Falwell Jr., one of President Donald Trump’s leading evangelical supporters, has agreed to take “an indefinite leave of absence” from his role as president of Liberty University after the release of a viral photo that showed him vacationing on a yacht with his pants unzipped, holding a drink, and with his arm around a woman.

Lauren Bacall

“The Executive Committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full Board, met today and requested that Jerry Falwell, Jr. take an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as President and Chancellor of Liberty University, to which he has agreed, effective immediately,” the university said in a statement on Friday.

The decision came a day after a top House Republican called on Falwell to resign as president of the large Christian school. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, the vice chair of the House Republican Conference and a former pastor, said that Falwell’s “ongoing behavior is appalling.”

Falwell earlier in the week was widely condemned, including by some conservatives, for posting and then deleting the yacht vacation photo. Liberty University has a strict code of conduct for students that, among other things, prohibits students from having sexual relations outside of a “biblically-ordained” marriage and consuming media with lewd lyrics, sexual content and nudity.

At Slate, Ruth Graham explains Why That Falwell Jr. Yacht Photo Was the Final Straw.

Students on Liberty’s campus are forbidden from drinking alcohol, and are instructed to dress modestly. A poster on Reddit compiled Falwell Jr.’s potential violations in the yacht photograph and an accompanying video, and calculated that a student captured in the same scene could have accrued more than $9,000 in school fines and 900 hours of required service, and possible expulsion.

Faculty and alumni who have been critical of the school’s direction under Falwell Jr. were both shocked and gratified by the news of his leave of absence. “For at least a decade, Liberty’s faculty have labored under Falwell’s increasingly autocratic leadership and been shamed by his public behavior besides,” said Marybeth Davis Baggett, who taught English at Liberty for 17 years and resigned this spring after publishing an op-ed calling for Falwell Jr.’s removal based on his handling of the coronavirus crisis. “One man cannot act this way without many enablers, and any meaningful reform of the school will require a thorough and brutally honest inquiry into the LU culture.”

Jane Fonda, photo by Genevieve Naylor, 1962

Falwell Jr., a businessman with a law degree and no pastoral experience, took over the college when his father died in 2007. He has built the school into a sports powerhouse with a campus filled with luxury amenities, and conservative activists and politicians regularly speak there. The school now boasts more than 15,000 residential students, and more than 100,000 students online.

But Liberty has also been under almost constant national scrutiny since Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald Trump in early 2016, months earlier than other white evangelical leaders embraced the crude casino magnate’s candidacy. Falwell Jr. began 2020 by calling for parts of Virginia to secede from the state and join West Virginia. As the coronavirus crisis encroached, Falwell Jr. initially dismissed it as “hype,” and called a Liberty parent who questioned him on Twitter a “dummy.” He was then criticized for welcoming back any students who wanted to return to campus after spring break. (Fewer than 2,000 of 15,000 residential students ultimately returned, and Liberty has avoided any outbreaks.) In May, Falwell Jr. tweeted a racist image in an attempt to needle Virginia governor Ralph Northam. He eventually deleted the tweet and apologized, but multiple Black employees publicly quit their jobs soon afterward; several high-profile Black athletes also departed. None of these media dust-ups seemed to dent Falwell Jr.’s favorability in the eyes of his hand-picked board of trustees.

There’s much more at the link if you’re interested.

So everything is still FUBAR, but as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, we can still be kind to ourselves and support each other through these terrifying times. As I learned in my recovery from alcoholism, it always helps to live one day at a time. We’re still here, and there’s still a chance we can rid ourselves of Trump and somehow hold onto and rebuild our democracy.


Tuesday Reads: Hide and Go Seek Authoritarian Style

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Protesters for women’s rights march to the Alabama Capitol to protest a law passed last week making abortion a felony in nearly all cases with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala.Butch Dill / AP

I woke up to electricity and drinkable water in the faucet so it’s a good day down here in New Orleans.  That still doesn’t mean we’re not living in a Banana Republic these days.  Folks are taking to the streets today in support of women and their doctors jointly deciding what health care is required.  We also have a series of court cases on deck for refusal to do right by House Subpoenas. 

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Women’s March, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other groups are organizing nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday to protest the wave of new state laws banning abortion.

The “extreme bans on abortion [are] stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access,” the groups said on the “Stop The Bans” protest website.

And Don McGahn was a no show defying a house subpoena to appear before Jerry Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee.. 

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn defied a congressional subpoena Tuesday by declining to testify before the House Judiciary Committee at the direction of the White House.

The hearing room chair reserved for McGahn sat empty behind microphones, as committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York opened the scheduled hearing.

“This conduct is not remotely acceptable,” Nadler said, referring to the White House’s instruction to McGahn not to appear. “Let me be clear: This committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

“We will hold this president accountable — one way or the other,” Nadler said.

The New York Democrat had warned in a letter to McGahn late Monday night, “The committee has made clear that you risk serious consequences if you do not appear tomorrow.” The committee could hold McGahn in contempt.

The call for starting an impeachment inquiry is building as House Dems met in a closed meeting with Speaker Pelosi (Via Politico).

House Democratic leaders sparred internally on Monday over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies rejecting the call to move forward for now, according to multiple sources.

Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda.

Pelosi dismissed this argument, asking Raskin whether he wanted to shut down the other five committees working on Trump investigations in favor of the Judiciary Committee.

“You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?” Pelosi quipped, referring to the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.

And in a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee stood up and demanded Trump’s impeachment. Pelosi then countered, “This is not about politics, it’s about what’s best for the American people,” said a member who attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Russian Potted Plant in the White House and his saplings continue to say they will fight all subpoenas.  Let’s see how this works out as an appeal for yesterday’s court  action will cross the desk of Judge Merrick Garland.

President Donald Trump’s attorneys have vowed to appeal Monday’s decision in favor of a House committee seeking his financial records, but people on Twitter were thrilled about where the case will end up.

“We will be filing a timely notice of appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told Politico.

The current chief judge there is Merrick Garland, who President Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016 after Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Senate Republicans stalled the nomination, refusing to vote or even hold a hearing until after the presidential election. Trump won and appointed Neil Gorsuch instead, which meant Garland remained on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he could now play a role in the looming showdown between the president and House Democrats.

Cases are heard by panels of three judges randomly assigned, so Garland is not necessarily going to hear the appeal (unless the decision is reviewed by the full court). But, the irony of the situation was not lost on Twitter users:

Yes. He appears to be asking for impeachment.

In a pre-Trumpian world, this sequence of events would set off a political crisis. In the surreal landscape we inhabit, it barely registers. But it is worth noting that Trump continues to commit impeachable offenses at an unprecedented pace. Last night’s threats to make good on his “lock them up” promises are merely one more in another recent flurry. The space between Trump’s long-standing authoritarian rhetoric and the deployment of his powers of office is slowly collapsing on several fronts.

Consider some of the events of recent days. Sunday, the New York Timesrevealed that Deutsche Bank’s internal investigators raised concerns that the portfolios of Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner involved money laundering. Trump is suing Deutsche Bank to block it from complying with congressional investigators. The notion that the president is entitled to engage in red-flagged dealings with money launderers, and conceal it from Congress and the public, is a wild transgression of transparency norms.

The same day, the Times reported Trump is preparing pardons for several American war criminals. Trump has long fantasized about war crimes and human-rights violations as part of his idealized military, from repeating a fantasized historical account of General Pershing shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood to proposing that the United States seize Iraqi oil as spoils of war. His prospective pardoning of war criminals are steps toward institutionalizing this vision as de facto law.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Michael Cohen told a closed House panel that Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, encouraged him to lie to Congress in 2017. Cohen’s lie concerned his handling of a deal to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow. The subject of the lie is itself a massive scandal: Vladimir Putin, who habitually corrupts foreign politicians with bribes disguised as lucrative deals, was dangling a contract worth several hundred million dollars, with no financial risk or downside to Trump.

Cohen has testified that Trump encouraged him to lie by repeating, in his characteristic mobster code — “There’s no Russia” — a cover story both men knew to be false. (Trump of course signed the letter of intent for the Moscow Project.) The new report shows that Sekulow was involved in crafting his false testimony, and that, far from the president’s lawyer freelance ordering perjury, Cohen understood Trump to be working through Sekulow:

Marcy Wheeler is on fire about this.  It’s not taking folks long to notice that the RNC wrote a big fat check to McGahn’s law firm. So, inquiring minds would naturally jump to a quid pro quo …

Supporters of legal access to abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

We also know that there are likely good reasons for Trump to be furiously trying to bury any attempt to get his full tax records.  This is from WAPO and Catherine Rampell.

When you look at the short span of President Trump’s political career, one question jumps out: How much of his craziest, most paranoid and norm-violating behavior is motivated by a desire to keep his financial arrangements secret?

It began with Trump’s bizarre refusal to release his tax returns, in defiance of both a nearly half-century practice and Trump’s own promise that he’d do so.

Then there was his refusal to divest from his sprawling multinational empire, or even put it into a blind trust — either of which would have forced at least some information disclosure to a third party.

There were also the interviews and tweetstorms calling journalists who report on his finances “enemies of the people,” and suggestions that federal officials who audit him are anti-Christian.

As well as his implicit threat in 2017 that he would fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III if he crossed a “red line” by examining Trump’s personal financial dealings.

Also, his curious personnel priorities. Once it became clear that House Democrats would exercise their explicit statutory authority to get Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, Trump asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to prioritize confirmation of Trump’s IRS general counsel nominee ahead of confirmation of a new attorney general. This IRS general counsel pick, mind you, also happened to have previously advised the Trump Organization on tax issues.

Trump’s treasury secretary has also been spending so much time safeguarding Trump’s tax returns, in violation of that explicit statute, that the activity is reportedly crowding out his day job.

All of which raises the question: Why exactly is Trump (and the rest of his administration) expending so much energy and political capital to keep these documents hidden? What could possibly be so disturbing or incriminating to justify such an effort?

One theory is that, maybe, if Trump’s tax returns or other financial records become public, his supporters would learn that he’s not nearly as rich as he says. Another is that his finances are not exactly on the up and up.

Of course, both explanations could be true.

Go read the rest for more on  Don the Con.   Meanwhile, enjoy some Leslie Dracarys Jones.

So, this is plenty to read and think about today.  I’m still trying to rest my eyes while keeping up with things.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?