Tuesday Reads

Solitude (Lonliness), Paul Delvaux, 1956

Solitude (Loneliness), Paul Delvaux, 1956

Good Morning!!

As Daknikat wrote yesterday, it looks as if Republicans will win enough seats to control the House with a very small majority. But they won’t be able to do much. I suppose they’ll spend their time and energy investigating Hunter Biden and any other crackpot problem they can dream up. The good news is than Lauren Bobert’s seat is still undecided for now.

AP News: California wins leave GOP poised to seize US House control.

Two threatened U.S. House Republicans in California triumphed over Democratic challengers Monday, helping move the GOP within a seat of seizing control of the chamber while a string of congressional races in the state remained in play.

In a bitter fight southeast of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeated Democrat Jay Chen in a district that was specifically drawn to give Asian Americans, who comprise the largest group in the district, a stronger voice on Capitol Hill. It includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese community.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert notched a win over Democrat Will Rollins. With 80% of the votes tallied, Calvert, the longest serving Republican in the California congressional delegation, established a nearly 5,500-vote edge in the contest.

Ten races in the state remained undecided as vote-counting continued, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to break either way.

It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans have locked down 217 seats so far, with Democrats claiming 205.

Should Democrats fail to protect their fragile majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would be in line to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

Read about the remaining undecided races at the link.

The Independent: Lauren Boebert – live: Republican under fire for ‘embarrassing’ tweet as she leads race by just 1,200 votes.

Lauren Boebert has taken aim at Nancy Pelosi and called for the House Speaker’s ousting while her own future in politics continues to hang in the balance.

“Waiting this long for election results is going to make firing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House that much sweeter,” she wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Automat, Edward Hopper

Automat, Edward Hopper

Republicans are just one seat away from control of the House of Representatives, with the balance of power potentially hinging on th eoutcome of Ms Boebert’s race among serveral others that have not yet been decided.

Ms Boebert’s race is still too close to call and it is unlikely that the outcome will be known until the end of the week – at the soonest.

The far-right Republican is currently leading Democratic challenger Adam Frisch by just 1,122 votes in what has shaped up to be an unexpectedly close race. The race could be headed for an automatic recount if neither candidate fails to win by a margin of more than 0.5 per cent.

If only she would lose! This is from Newsweek yesterday: Lauren Boebert in Danger as Rejected Mail-in Ballot Checks Could Help Rival.

The race for Colorado’s third congressional district remains too close to be called, as Trump-endorsed Rep. Lauren Boebert is currently only slightly ahead of her rival, Democrat Adam Frisch.

But the incumbent congresswoman’s narrow lead could once again be overturned if thousands of likely rejected votes in favor of her challenger were to be “cured”, as a recount looms over the Colorado race.

Every year in Colorado, thousands of ballots are reportedly rejected for issues related to signature verification, such as a missing signature or a discrepancy in the signature. Local officials then alert voters of the issue, giving them a week to fix the problem and make their vote count. The process, which is done in 23 other state besides Colorado, is called “ballot curing.”

Boebert was widely projected to win the midterms, with polling website FiveThirtyEight giving her a 97 in 100 chance of victory in the days ahead of the vote.

As of November 14 and with nearly all of the ballots being counted, Boebert is leading with 50.1 percent of the vote (162,040 votes) against Frisch’s 49.8 percent (160,918 votes).

A recount could be called if the final margin between Boebert and Frisch is less than or equal to 0.5 percent of the leading candidate’s vote total. At the moment, the gap between the two candidates is 0.38 percent.

Frisch could still oust the Republican incumbent, an election denier and one of Donald Trump‘s most ardent supporters, if thousands of votes likely rejected for signature verification were cast in support of the Democratic nominee.

So it’s still up in the air.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs finally triumphed in the race for governor. AZ Central: Katie Hobbs elected Arizona’s 5th female governor, defeating election denier Kari Lake.

Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic election chief who built a national profile by standing up to false claims about the 2020 presidential election, has won the state’s race for governor.

The Associated Press, NBC News and CNN called the race for Hobbs shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, following a nail-biter week of election returns that highlighted the competitiveness of politics in the state.

the-lonely-ones-1935, edvard Munch

The Lonely Ones, by Edvard Munch, 1935

“Democracy is worth the wait,” Hobbs posted on social media before issuing a statement thanking her family, volunteers and staff for their work.

“This was not just about an election — it was about moving this state forward and facing the challenges of our generation,” the statement read, ending: “Let’s get to work.”

Late-in-the-race polling showed her Republican opponent Kari Lake, the former television news anchor, with the momentum as Nov. 8 neared. Instead, voters offered a stunning rebuke of Lake, who was one of the nation’s most prominent election deniers.

With Hobbs’ win, Arizonans followed voters in other battleground states who rejected gubernatorial candidates who pushed false claims about election results.

As Arizona’s 24th governor, Hobbs will be the fifth female to hold the top elected office, more than in any other state.

That’s amazing. We just finally got our first female governor here in Massachusetts.

Donald Trump is supposedly announcing that he’s running for president today, and The New York Times and Washington Post can hardly wait. The NYT even hired another “Trump whisperer” to go along with their star access journalist Maggie Haberman. This is from Emptywheel: In the Wake of Trump’s Third Electoral Failure, NY Times Boasts of Hiring a Third Trump Whisperer.

…Jonathan Swan is a good reporter. Indeed, his move to the NYT, which frees him to write like a human being rather than a McKinsey consultant (AKA Axios style), will likely be a significant improvement on his coverage of DC politics.

But it is downright insane that, at a time the GOP and Fox News are at least making noise about ditching Trump, the NYT pitched this hire — and their own political reporting — in terms of Trump.

Our insightful, authoritative and addictive coverage of the election this year drove home an essential truth: The Times’s political team is simply the best in the business.

Take our coverage of Republicans and Donald J. Trump.

We have Maggie Haberman, the dominant reporter of the Trump era, whose prolific, revealing and exclusive coverage has become indispensable to millions of readers. We have Michael Bender, whom Maggie admired as her “fierce competitor” from his days at The Wall Street Journal, and who has delivered exclusives on everything from the former president’s plans to buy Greenland to examinations of how Trumpism remade the Republican party.

And today we are thrilled to tell you that Jonathan Swan, a gifted, dogged and high-impact reporter, will be joining The Times. Jonathan, a national political reporter at Axios, is one of the biggest news breakers and best-sourced reporters in Washington.

Even if you have never met Jonathan, you know his stories. He first reported that Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate deal, that Steve Bannon would be fired and that Paul Ryan would retire from Congress.

Or perhaps you watched his riveting interview with then-President Trump in 2020, which won Jonathan an Emmy (and made his facial expressions famous.) Ben Smith, the former media columnist for The Times, wrote at the time that it was “perhaps the best interview of Mr. Trump’s term.’’

Jonathan’s nine-part written series on the final days of the Trump administration won broad acclaim, and the podcast on which it was based rose to No. 1 on the Apple charts. [my emphasis]

Alan_Parry_ Weekend Retreat

Weekend Retreat, by Alan Parry

Again, I think the Swan hire is a net good for reporting — but aside from the degree to which Swan is an improvement over Jonathan Martin, who just moved to become Politico’s Politics Bureau Chief — that has nothing to do with the NYT.

Particularly accompanied as it is by Maggie’s multiple efforts to suggest Trump is still The One, the pitch of Swan as a Trump-whisperer — rather than simply as a very good reporter of right wing politics — this announcement commits to keeping Trump (as a politician, rather than, for example, a criminal suspect, something none of these three are very good at reporting) the center of attention.

The Washington Post article hyping Trump’s announcement–two years ahead of the 2024 election–of courses features gossip reporters Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: Trump campaign operation takes shape ahead of expected 2024 announcement.

Really, who the hell cares? Why don’t these newspapers cover President Biden, who is actually accomplishing plenty, while Trump is likely to be indicted before 2024? Or they could cover the fact that Russia is still working to influence our elections, which CNN reported this morning: CNN Exclusive: US intelligence suggests Russia put off announcing Kherson retreat until after midterm elections.

The US has intelligence that Russia may have delayed announcing its withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Kherson in part to avoid giving the Biden administration a political win ahead of the midterm elections, according to four people familiar with the intelligence.

Senior Russian officials discussed the US midterms as a factor during deliberations about the withdrawal announcement, one person familiar with the intelligence said. Waiting until after the US election was always a “pre-planned condition” of Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson, a second person familiar with the intelligence told CNN.

Still, the election was far from the only consideration in Russia’s retreat, officials said. Military analysts say Russia had few other operational options and had been preparing to pull back for weeks, leading US officials to wonder when the Russians would officially acknowledge the withdrawal.

While the intelligence is not a formal assessment of Russia’s intentions, it is a sign that Russia has a continued interest in influencing the US political landscape — although the sources said Russia probably miscalculated the impact such an announcement would actually have on the elections.

“I doubt Americans would really have noticed,” said another source familiar with western intelligence.

President Joe Biden last week appeared to hint that the US believed that the timing of Russia’s announcement was more than mere coincidence.

“I find it interesting they waited until after the election to make that judgement, which we knew for some time they were going to be doing, and it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems – the Russian military,” Biden said at a press conference last Wednesday.

Carl_Gustav_Carus_-_Woman_on_the_Balcony_-_Google_Art_Project

Carl Gustav Carus, Woman on the Balcony

I’m going to end with this shocking story from The New York Times about Iran: Stymied by Protests, Iran Unleashes Its Wrath on Its Youth.

One girl, a 14-year-old, was incarcerated in an adult prison alongside drug offenders. A 16-year-old boy had his nose broken in detention after a beating by security officers. A 13-year-old girl was physically attacked by plainclothes militia who raided her school.

A brutal crackdown by the authorities in Iran trying to halt protests calling for social freedom and political change that have convulsed the country for the past two months has exacted a terrible toll on the nation’s youth, according to lawyers in Iran and rights activists familiar with the cases.

Young people, including teenage girls and boys, have been at the center of the demonstrations and clashes with security forces on the streets and university campuses and at high schools. Iranian officials have said the average age of protesters is 15.

Some have been beaten and detained, others have been shot and killed on the streets, or beaten in the custody of security services, and the lives of countless others have been disrupted as the authorities raid schools in an effort to crack down on dissent.

The authorities are targeting thousands of minors, under the age of 18, for participating in the protests, according to interviews with two dozen people, including lawyers in Iran involved in cases and rights activists, as well as parents, relatives and teenagers living in the country. Rights groups say that at least 50 minors have been killed.

The lawyers and many of the individuals interviewed for this article asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

The targeting of young people comes amid a broader crackdown on protesters in which 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations. On Sunday, state media said an unidentified person had been sentenced to death for setting fire to a government building.

There’s much more at the link. Sorry to hit you with this horrifying story, but I thought it was urgent. What can the U.S. do about this? The U.N.?

Please share your thoughts and any other stories that interest you in the comment thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Sandra Bierman2

By Sandra Bierman

Happy Caturday!!

I’m completely exhausted! I spent most of my time since Tuesday glued to the TV and Twitter, obsessing on the vote counts. My eyes feel as if they are about to fall out. But democracy seems to be surviving for now, thanks to voters who clearly understood the danger and who didn’t like the Supreme Court trying to turn women into broodmares. And thanks to the young people who turned out to vote in swing states.

The New York Times: Young Voters Helped Democrats. But Experts Differ on Just How Much.

Preliminary figures indicate that Democrats, particularly in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, benefited from a strong turnout of young voters, aged 18-29, the age group that regularly shows the strongest support for the party — and regularly votes the least.

But less certain and much debated after Tuesday’s vote was whether the turnout was particularly strong this year, or more a continuation of support seen in the last midterm election in 2018 — which restored the party’s control of the House of Representatives — or the 2020 vote that elected President Biden and gave the party control of both chambers of Congress.

Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, perhaps the most assiduous tracker of young voters, estimated on Thursday that 27 percent of 18-to-29 voters cast ballots in midterm elections — and that 63 percent of them voted for Democrats in House of Representatives elections.

That estimate was based on a nationwide exit poll of voters jointly conducted by the three major television networks and CNN; those preliminary numbers will be updated with data from actual voting. The turnout rate for all voters was 47 percent, according to a preliminary estimate by the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida….

“What’s clear from the data is that young Democrats turned out,” said Victor Shi, the director of strategy for Voters of Tomorrow, a Generation Z-centered civics advocacy group. An analysis of early voting data, he said, indicated that young people had cast a million more Democratic votes than Republican ones. And he said that early voting by young Democratic supporters exceeded 2018 totals in three battleground states — Georgia, Michigan and Ohio.

Independents also broke for Democrats. Everyone except the crazies is sick and tired of Trump and his whining. The Wall Street Journal: Why Independent Voters Broke for Democrats in the Midterms. GOP candidates closely aligned with Trump turned off some centrists and in-play Republicans.

Lisa Ghelfi, a 58-year-old registered Republican in Arizona, voted for Donald Trump for president two years ago but has grown tired of his election-fraud claims. It is the main reason she voted for Democrats for governor, senator, secretary of state and attorney general this fall and plans to change her registration to independent.

“Not allowing the election to be settled, it’s very divisive,” Ms. Ghelfi, a semiretired attorney from Paradise Valley, said of the 2020 race. “I think the election spoke for itself.” She said she voted for Republicans down-ballot who weren’t as vocal about election fraud or as closely tied to Mr. Trump, yet couldn’t support Arizona’s four major Republican candidates because they echoed Mr. Trump’s false claims.

Republicans succeeded in one of their top goals this year: They brought more of their party’s voters to the polls than did Democrats. But in the course of energizing their core voters, Republicans in many states lost voters in the political center—both independents and many Republicans who are uneasy with elements of the party’s focus under Mr. Trump.

Control of the House and Senate, which had seemed poised to land with the Republican Party, is coming down to a handful of races that so far are too close to call, though the GOP remains on track to winning a narrow majority in the House. Republicans have won nearly 5.5 million more votes in House races than have Democrats, a tally by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report finds, as many voters were motivated by anxiety over high inflation and a low opinion of President Biden’s response.

Pierre Bonnard - Marthe à la Chatte, 1912

Pierre Bonnard – Marthe à la Chatte, 1912

We are still waiting on Nevada’s Senate race, but it looks like Catherine Cortez Masto has a good chance to win, Right now, she is only behind Laxalt by 862 votes, according to Jon Ralston, with Las Vegas still outstanding. If she wins, the Democrats will control the Senate. Nate Cohn at The New York Times: Mail Ballots Around Las Vegas Are Likely to Put Democrats Ahead.

Democrats appeared on the cusp of securing control of the Senate over the weekend, as the counting of mail ballots in Nevada brought Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democratic incumbent, within 1,000 votes of overtaking her Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, for the final seat the party needs to maintain its 50-50 Senate majority.

All eyes will be on Clark County, home to Las Vegas, which is a Democratic stronghold. Ms. Cortez Masto has led mail ballots tabulated after Election Day there by nearly two to one, a margin that would be more than enough to overtake Mr. Laxalt if the trend continues among the approximately 25,000 mail ballots that remain to be counted.

The bulk of the remaining mail ballots in Clark County are expected to be reported on Saturday (though the deadline to have all ballots counted is not until Tuesday). That could be enough to allow news organizations to project a winner, depending on the number of ballots counted and the size of Ms. Cortez Masto’s lead.

Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, are reluctant to call races when the leading candidate is ahead by less than half a percentage point, or about 5,000 votes in this case.

Even so, Ms. Cortez Masto would build a lead of more than 5,000 votes if she fares as well in the final Clark mail ballots as she has in those counted so far. She is also expected to have an advantage in the remaining mail ballots from Washoe County, as well as the more than 10,000 mail ballots that voters can “cure” after being initially rejected for a bad signature match.

Only a few thousand mail votes remain from the state’s rural, Republican counties.

From The Washington Post last night: Congressional Republicans panic as they watch their lead dwindle.

With control of the House and Senate still undecided, angry Republicans mounted public challenges to their leaders in both chambers Friday as they confronted the possibility of falling short of the majority, eager to drag Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) down from their top posts as consequence.

The narrowing path for Republican victory has stunned lawmakers from both parties, freezing plans for legislation and leadership maneuvers as they wait to see who takes control and learn the margins that will dictate which ideological factions wield power. Regardless of the outcome, the lack of a “red wave” marks a devastating outcome for Republicans, who believed they would cruise to a large governing majority in the House and possibly flip the Senate.

Isabelle Breyer,

By Isabelle Breyer

The GOP faces a small but real prospect that it may not reclaim the House majority despite high pre-election hopes based on the disapproval of President Biden, record inflation and traditional losses for the party that holds the White House. Late Friday, Democrats moved one Senate seat closer to retaining their majority in the chamber as Sen. Mark Kelly won reelection in Arizona. Winning either in Nevada — which was still counting votes — or in Georgia, where a runoff is set for Dec. 6, would allow them to stay in power.

House Democrats also were closely watching uncalled races in those states, as well races as Maine, Oregon, Washington and California, to determine whether they have a pathway to keep the majority. Even if they don’t, as many Democratic aides expect, there is a recognition from both parties that Democratic votes will be critical in a narrow House GOP majority.

“It’s an unworkable majority. Nothing meaningful will get passed,” a dejected aide to a senior House Republican said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal tensions….

Outgoing Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) told The Washington Post he knew the evening of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that the GOP would have a difficult time proving to voters they should be in the majority in two years.

“By midnight on January 6, it was obvious that if we continued to sleepwalk down the path of crazy we’d face a rude awakening,” he said. “Instead of facing those facts, the GOP spent the last two years heading in the same direction and actively avoiding any internal reckoning. After Tuesday, we have no choice but to heed voters when they say that ‘the grass is green, the sky is blue, and by the way, you just got your ass handed to you.’ But waking up to that reality is going to be rough.”

Meijer lost in the Michigan primary after he voted to impeach Trump.

More good news for democracy: election-denying candidates lost bigtime. Last night Mark Finchem in Arizona went down to defeat. NBC News: Election denier Mark Finchem loses secretary of state race in Arizona.

Republican Mark Finchem, a prominent election denier, has lost to Democrat Adrian Fontes in the race for Arizona secretary of state race, NBC News projects.

Fontes, a former top elections official for Maricopa County, will succeed Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor.

Finchem was among a host of GOP candidates for statewide office who have repeatedly cast doubt over Joe Biden’s presidential victory or falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump in Arizona.

Last year, Trump backed Finchem’s candidacy and highlighted his record of defending the stolen election claims. “Mark was willing to say what few others had the courage to say” about the 2020 election, Trump said in offering his public support….

With his loss, Finchem joins numerous other election deniers who fell short on Election Day. In Michigan, election deniers lost bids for governor, secretary of state and attorney general. Republican Doug Mastriano, a prominent election denier in Pennsylvania who was on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, lost his bid for governor, along with similar GOP gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota and New Mexico.

Other prominent election deniers in Arizona, including attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and Kari Lake, the party’s pick for governor, are still locked in tight races with their opponents several days after the election.

Katie Hobbes still has a chance to win the governor’s race.

Sandra Bierman

By Sandra Bierman

Republicans are angry with Trump for backing crazy, incompetent, far-right candidates. Liz Goodwin writes at The Washington Post: A red wave of criticism crashes into Donald Trump after midterm losses.

As Republicans grapple with their lackluster performance in Tuesday’s midterm elections, one man has begun to take on an unusual amount of criticism from his fellow partisans: Donald Trump.

The former president, who boosted some inexperienced Senate candidates in their primaries who underperformed on Tuesday, declared before the midterms that he wanted “all the credit” if Republicans won. “If they lose, I should not be blamed at all,” he told NewsNation.

But now that Republicans are facing the prospect of being in the minority in the Senate and are still waiting to see whether they will officially nab an uncomfortably narrow majority in the House, some unexpected voices within the party are beginning to question Trump’s influence.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican who strongly supported Trump, said the poor performance of some of his endorsed candidates is a sign he should step aside.

“It turns out that those he did not endorse on the same ticket did better than the ones he did endorse,” she said. “That gives you a clue that the voters want to move on. And a true leader knows when they have become a liability to the mission.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) — who cruised to victory as the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Don Bolduc lost by a large margin — told SiriusXM on Friday that Trump could “muck up” the opportunity for GOP Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker to win if he announces his run before a December runoff in the state.

“What the former president doesn’t understand is if he announces … he’s not going to keep anyone else out of the race,” Sununu said, calling it an “awkward” thing to do. “I don’t think they’ve started out very well.”

The volume of open criticism illustrates a rare moment of weakness for Trump among Republicans just as he prepares to announce his 2024 presidential bid next week. Exit polls showed his favorability as even lower than President Biden’s on Tuesday, and polls of Republican voters suggest he is losing ground to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in hypothetical presidential matchups.

Brian Klaas, an expert on authoritarian leaders, doesn’t think Republicans will abandon Trump: Will Republicans Defy Trump’s Authoritarian Cult of Personality?

On Tuesday, Donald Trump had a bad night. He leveraged his cult leader-style sway over the Republican base to shoehorn terrible candidates through GOP primaries. These were cartoon caricatures, figures so absurd they seemed to have responded to a casting call for unelectable villainy. A quack doctor who lamented the rising cost of crudité faced a long drive home to New Jersey after losing a winnable seat in Pennsylvania. An outspokenly pro-life candidate in Georgia has paid for a seemingly limitless number of abortions, thinks climate change means that China is sending America “bad air,” and allegedly has a penchant for threatening people with guns. In Arizona, the Republican candidate was a venture capitalist who enjoyed military cosplay was running against a literal astronaut. And don’t get me started on Doug Mastriano, who apparently loves dressing up as a Confederate soldier and wants to charge women who get abortions with murder.

Elena Shlegel, 1965

By Elena Shlegel, 1965

The Trump candidates were authoritarian extremists. They mostly lost.

The conventional wisdom, which you’ll now hear repeated over and over by pundits and insiders is that Trump is toast. Let the DeSantis coronation begin. Republicans will fire Trump “like a dog,” as Trump was so fond of saying when getting rid of Rex Tillerson or some other forgotten Trumpian trivia question who may, if we’re lucky, never infect another brain cell of our thoughts ever again.

There’s good reason for Republicans to ditch Trump. Since 2016, he has been an electoral liability. The right way to think about Trump’s strategic “genius” is that the guy had two strokes of genuine political genius: he realized that immigration was an electrifying third rail in US politics and understood that a significant chunk of his party’s voters were latent authoritarians, meaning that the only reason they weren’t voting for a strongman was because one hadn’t been offered to them on the ballot. Those insights propelled him to the presidency. Once he got there, he shot himself in the foot repeatedly, a level of savvy political skills that culminated most deliciously in the Four Seasons Total Landscaping debacle, a fitting coda to a disastrous, slapstick presidency.

But here’s the bad news: Trump isn’t going anywhere. To understand why, you need a frame of reference for US politics that isn’t learned in glitzy political consulting firms, one they don’t teach you if you graduate from the Ronald Reagan school of political history, even if you have read every biography of Lincoln and JFK that’s ever been published.

Read the rest at the above link.

I hope you’re all having a nice long weekend. Let’s hope we’ll get more good news from Arizona and Nevada by tonight. The good news is that democracy has survived for the time being.


Tuesday Reads

Bowes, Josephine, 1825-1874; Study of Birch Trees

Bowes, Josephine; Study of Birch Trees; The Bowes Museum.

Good Morning!!

Today’s January 6 Committee hearing has now been scheduled for 1PM. As you know, the hearing will focus on Trump’s efforts to pressure state lawmakers to set up slates of fake electors. It could be a blockbuster. Politico just broke the news that Ginni Thomas’s communications with Arizona lawmakers could come up in the questioning.

From the Politico Playbook:

The logistics … Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) are expected to open the hearing, and Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) will play a key role. There will be four witnesses broken up over two panels.

— The first panel features (1) Arizona House Speaker RUSTY BOWERS(2) Georgia Secretary of State BRAD RAFFENSPERGER and (3) his deputy, GABRIEL STERLING.

Bowers is expected to describe the pressure campaign from Trump, RUDY GIULIANI and VIRGINIA THOMAS, the wife of Supreme Court Justice CLARENCE THOMAS. In one phone call, Trump and Giuliani pushed Bowers to change Arizona law retroactively “to allow the Legislature to choose a different slate of presidential electors than picked by voters.”

And the Playbook also broke this news this morning:

SCOOP: The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 sent a subpoena last week to ALEX HOLDER, a documentary filmmaker who was granted extensive access to President DONALD TRUMP and his inner circle, and who shot interviews with the then-president both before and after Jan. 6. The existence of this footage is previously unreported.

Landscape with trees, Felix Edouard Vallotton

Landscape with trees, Felix Edouard Vallotton

A source familiar with the project told Playbook on Monday night that Holder began filming on the campaign trail in September 2020 for a project on Trump’s reelection campaign. Over the course of several months, Holder had substantial access to Trump, Trump’s adult children and VP MIKE PENCE, both in the White House and on the campaign trail.

According to the subpoena, which was obtained exclusively by Playbook, the committee wants three main things from Holder:

(1) Raw footage from Jan. 6.

(2) Raw footage of interviews from September 2020 to present with Trump, Pence, DONALD TRUMP JR.IVANKA TRUMPERIC TRUMP and JARED KUSHNER.

(3) Raw footage “pertaining to discussions of election fraud or election integrity surrounding the November 2020 presidential election.”

Holder is expected to fully cooperate with the committee in an interview scheduled for Thursday. Read the full subpoena

The second panel will focus on an election worker from Georgia:

— The second panel has just one witness: SHAYE MOSS, an election worker in Georgia. She and her mother processed ballots in 2020 and were targets of a smear campaign by Trump allies. David Wickert at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a deep dive on Moss, who was accused “of rigging the November 2020 election for Joe Biden with ‘suitcases’ of ballots on election night. The pair were featured in a video that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani called a ‘smoking gun’ for voting fraud.”

A committee aide said that Moss would outline how “being targeted by the former president has upended her life and that of her mother. … They were subjected to death threats, intimidation, coercion, forced to go into hiding.”

Raffensperger and Sterling are relatively well known now, but I had not heard of Rusty Bowers before. Here’s some information about him from The Washington Post: Who is Rusty Bowers?

Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers, a Republican, was pressured by Donald Trump and other members of his party to refuse to accept the results of Arizona’s election in 2020. Bowers is expected to be Tuesday’s first live witness before the Jan. 6 panel.

Vickerman, Stanley, 1922-1997; Tree Roots

Vickerman, Stanley; Tree Roots; Kirklees Museums and Galleries

Bowers, 69, supported Trump’s 2020 campaign. When the former president lost the election in Arizona by 10,457 votes, he and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani called Bowers to persuade him to block the state legislature from certifying the results.

Bowers refused.

His decision to stand firm against Trump put him at the center of the ire of the former president’s supporters. Armed protesters gathered outside his house and screamed that he was a pedophile. Last summer, the state’s right-wing Patriot Party attempted to recall Bowers from office, complaining that he did not do enough to support an audit of the 2020 election. The effort failed, the Arizona Republic reported.

The state lawmaker, who will not be in charge of the Arizona House next year — he decided to seek a state Senate seat instead — received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in April for resisting intimidation from Trump.

Adam Schiff will take the lead in today’s hearing. From Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Jan. 6 committee to highlight Trump’s state-level pressure to overturn the 2020 election.

The select committee intends to lay out Tuesday how Trump leaned on statehouse Republicans — from Pennsylvania, to Georgia, to Michigan, to Arizona and others — to pull off a scheme that would culminate on Jan. 6, 2021, when then-Vice President Mike Pence presided over the counting of electoral votes.

Under Trump’s plan, Pence would be presented with competing slates of electors — those certified by the governors, and those certified by state legislators — and he would assert the extraordinary power to choose which slates to count. But no state legislature responded to Trump’s demand, and Pence, without any genuine controversy, rejected the scheme as illegal.

In fact, the legality of the plan will be at the heart of Tuesday afternoon’s hearing, which will be led in part by panel member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). It’s the select panel’s fourth public hearing as investigators lay out their findings.

Dancing around the large trees at Perros Maurice Denis - 1914, Bo Fransson

Dancing around the large trees at Perros Maurice Denis – 1914, Bo Fransson

Trump-aligned lawyers concocted the effort, leaning on fringe constitutional theory and the guidance of John Eastman, a primary architect of the effort to pressure Pence on Jan. 6. Eastman himself acknowledged in emails obtained by the select committee that the Pence plan would be “dead on arrival” without the backing of state legislatures — yet he pushed ahead anyway, suggesting that the confusion around alternate electors would give Pence enough cover to act.

Trump’s own White House counsel’s office also raised doubts about the plan, according to testimony released by the select panel in court filings. And in the days before Jan. 6, Pence’s chief counsel Greg Jacob engaged in an intense debate with Eastman, contending that not a single justice of the Supreme Court would back his plan — a point he said Eastman reluctantly conceded.

Select committee aides told reporters Monday that the hearing would highlight new evidence of Trump’s direct awareness and involvement in the fake electors scheme. To highlight the issue, the panel plans to hear from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his aide Gabriel Sterling and other state and local officials. Several of Tuesday’s witnesses were subpoenaed to appear. Schiff told the Los Angeles Times Monday the panel would also highlight proof of then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ involvement in Georgia.

I don’t want to miss a minute of this!

This is from yesterday’s Washington Post: Trump campaign documents show advisers knew fake-elector plan was baseless.

The convening of the electoral college on Dec. 14, 2020, was supposed to mark the end of the wild, extended presidential election that year.

But when the dayarrived, a strange thing happened. In seven swing states won by JoeBiden, when the Democrat’s electors assembled to formally elect him president, Trump supporters showed up, too, ready to declare that their man had actually won.

“The electors are already here — they’ve been checked in,” a state police officer told the group in Michigan, according to a video of the encounter, as he barred the Republicans from the Capitol in a state Biden won by more than 154,000 votes.

In Nevada,a state Biden had won by about 33,600 votes,a photo distributed by the state Republican Party showed Trump supporters squeezing around an undersize picnic table dressed up with a bit of bunting, preparing to sign formal certificates declaring that they were “the duly elected and qualified” electors of their state.

Ellison, R.; Oak Trees

Ellison, R.; Oak Trees; Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service

At the time, the gatherings seemed a slapdash, desperate attempt to mimic President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede.

But internal campaign emails and memos revealthat the convening of the fake electors was apparently a much more concerted strategy, intended to give Vice President Mike Pence a reason to declare that the outcome of the election was somehow in doubt on Jan. 6, 2021, when he was to preside over the congressional counting of the electoral college votes.

The documents show that Trump’s team pushed ahead and urged the electors to meet — then pressured Pence to cite the alternate Trump slates — even as various Trump lawyers acknowledged privately that they did not have legal validity and the gatherings had not been in compliance with state laws.

Adam Schiff spoke to The Los Angeles Times about Mark Meadows’ role in interfering in the Georgia election: House Jan. 6 committee to reveal Meadows’ pressure on Georgia election officials.

The House Jan. 6 committee plans to show in its fourth hearing Tuesday that President Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows “had an intimate role … in this plot to put pressure on [Georgia] state legislators and on elections officials,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the panel, told The Times in an interview.

Among other things, Schiff said the committee investigating the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will release new information about Meadows’ appearance at a key election meeting in Georgia and text messages revealing that he wanted to send autographed Make America Great Again hats to people conducting the audit….

With the Jan. 6 probe, Schiff and House Democrats have a powerful tool they lacked in the previous investigations: Some of Trump’s closest allies have spelled out in sworn testimony the details of the former president’s actions leading up to Jan. 6 and, in many cases, how they advocated against such moves.

In the interview, Schiff, a former prosecutor, expressed surprise that the House committee got so many people to speak on the record.

“I’m glad these people are coming forward,” he said. “I’m glad they’re speaking out. It took a long time for [former Atty. Gen.] Bill Barr to do the right thing. It took a long time for many others who enabled Donald Trump to say ‘I can’t go any further.’”

But he added, if they had spoken out earlier, “we might have been spared all the trauma we went through.”

Bough, Samuel, 1822-1878; Entrance to Cadzow Forest, near Glasgow

Bough, Samuel; Entrance to Cadzow Forest, near Glasgow; York Museums Trust.

I’ll end with some Ginni Thomas news that The Washington Post broke last night: Speaker at meeting of Ginni Thomas group called Biden’s win illegitimate long after Jan. 6, video shows.

Two months after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to help President Donald Trump stay in office, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, attended a gathering of right-wing activists where a speaker declared to roaring applause that Trump was still the “legitimate president,” a video recording of the event shows.

“There is a robbery that is going on in this country right now,” pastor and conservative radio personality C.L. Bryant told the crowd, according to video posted to Facebook by an attendee. “In fact, I say it to you and I’ll say it loud and clear, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I won’t bite my tongue. I do believe that Donald John Trump is the only legitimate president.”

The event on March 6, 2021, was a meeting of Frontliners for Liberty. The group vaulted from obscurity to national attention last week with the disclosure that Thomas had invited pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman to speak to its members in December 2020.

The revelation, originating from emails that a judge ordered Eastman to turn over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, showed that Thomas was in contact with Eastman, a key legal architect of the attempt to subvert the election. The judge, David O. Carter of the Central District of California, wrote in a June 7 opinion that the emails, including two in which the group’s “high-profile leader” invited Eastman to speak — were relevant to the committee’s work.

While text messages and emails unearthed in recent weeks have shown that Thomas was involved in those efforts before Jan. 6, her attendance at the Orlando gathering indicates that her alliance with election deniers continued even after Joe Biden was inaugurated. Frontliners has hosted hard-right lawmakers, insisted on strict secrecy and proclaimed that the nation’s top enemy is the “radical fascist left,” according to social media posts, court filings and interviews with several people involved in the group.

I can’t wait for 1:00! If you’re watching the hearing, please share your thoughts in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

House by the Railroad, Edward Hopper

House by the Railroad, Edward Hopper.

Good Morning!!

Revelations just keep on coming about Trump’s crazy efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The New York Times and CNN have obtained emails that show how the White House tried to get the Justice Department to investigate insane claims about election conspiracy theories, including a baseless theory about Italian satellites changing votes.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims.

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud.

Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers.

Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.

The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him.

The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results….

The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including one that claimed people associated with an Italian defense contractor were able to use satellite technology to tamper with U.S. voting equipment from Europe.

Yellow House in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh

Yellow House in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh

Benner reports much more insanity in this article. Here’s just a bit more:

Much of the correspondence also occurred during a tense week within the Justice Department, when Mr. Rosen and his top deputies realized that one of their peers had plotted with Mr. Trump to first oust Mr. Rosen and then to try to use federal law enforcement to force Georgia to overturn its election results. Mr. Trump nearly replaced Mr. Rosen with that colleague, Jeffrey Clark, then the acting head of the civil division.

Mr. Rosen made clear to his top deputy in one message that he would have nothing to do with the Italy conspiracy theory, arrange a meeting between the F.B.I. and one of the proponents of the conspiracy, Brad Johnson, or speak about it with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

“I learned that Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani, who regarded my comments as an ‘insult,’” Mr. Rosen wrote in the email. “Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses’, and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this.”

More details from CNN: New emails show how Trump and his allies pressured Justice Department to try to challenge 2020 election results.

The emails also provide new detail into how Mark Meadows, then-White House chief of staff, directed Rosen to have then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark — who reportedly urged Trump to make him acting attorney general instead of Rosen — investigate voter fraud issues in Georgia before the US attorney there resigned in January.

Amid the pressure, Rosen said he refused to speak to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

When Meadows sought to have Rosen arrange an FBI meeting with a Giuliani ally pushing a conspiracy theory that Italy was using military technology and satellites to somehow change votes to Joe Biden, Rosen said he would not help Giuliani.

Weatherside, 1965, by Andrew Wyeth

Weatherside, 1965, by Andrew Wyeth

“I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ and re-affirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this,” Rosen wrote to Donoghue.\The new emails provide additional detail to reports earlier this month from CNN, The New York Times and others on Meadows’ emails to Rosen after the election, which revealed how the top White House aide had urged the Justice Department to take action for Trump’s benefit. The emails included a list of complaints about voting procedures in New Mexico, alleged “anomalies” in a Georgia county and the claims about Italian satellites.

The emails also show how Trump directed allies toward Rosen, who had been named acting attorney general following Barr’s December 2020 resignation after Barr had publicly said there had not been widespread fraud in the election.

Kurt Olsen, a private attorney, reached out to John Moran at the Justice Department on December 29 requesting a meeting with Rosen, promising he could meet at the Justice Department with an hour’s notice. He attached a draft complaint modeled after the Texas Supreme Court lawsuit unsuccessfully challenging the election results in four states, and wrote in a follow-up email that Trump directed him to meet with Rosen to discuss the US bringing a similar action.

“The President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action,” Olsen wrote. “I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after the meeting.”

The same day, Trump’s White House assistant also forwarded the draft complaint to Rosen and Donoghue to review, saying it had also been shared with Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

By the end of the year, it was clear Rosen and Donoghue had tired of the pressure campaign from the White House.

At least it’s good to know there was pushback from some Trump appointees.

The insanity continues in Arizona and elsewhere. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Republicans Now Want to ‘Audit’ Election Results in States That Trump Won.

In the wake of the Arizona audit’s success at grabbing publicity across right-wing media, Republican lawmakers in states that Trump won are demanding Arizona-style audits or other election inspections of their own.

The Republican hunt for voter-fraud evidence even in states that voted for Trump reveals how far inside the party the idea has spread that the election was stolen.

Houses at Falaise in the Fog, Claude Monet

Houses at Falaise in the Fog, Claude Monet

Focusing on fraud claims allows Republican officials to raise money and attention from devoted Trump supporters, according to former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye. It also helps lawmakers align themselves with Trump’s claims of widespread fraud, ingratiating themselves with the energized Trump grassroots as they try to claim more power in the party.“

This is about two things, and these are symbiotic,” Heye said. “The continued fealty for all things Trump, and placating the base or the portion of the base that still can’t accept a clear loss.” [….]

The prospect of audits that could somehow dispute Biden’s electoral college win have become articles of faith for Trump supporters unable to get over the former president’s defeat, as Republican-held legislatures across the country use a sense that the election was stolen to push voting restrictions across the country. Some Republican voters have also become fixated on a “domino theory” about the election, which holds that if Arizona’s audit finds fraud in their election, other states that voted for Biden will fall like dominos.

In other news, today the Biden administration released a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” You can read the White House statement at that link.

The New York Times: Biden Administration Forms Blueprint to Combat Domestic Extremism.

The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism.

President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

Changing a Flat, Norman Rockwell

Changing a Flat, Norman Rockwell

The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.

“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

The new strategy was widely expected to detail a position on whether the government should establish a domestic terrorism law that prosecutors could use to investigate and charge homegrown extremists instead of relying on assault, murder and hate crime charges. The strategy instead indicates that the administration is focused for now on bolstering methods of combating extremism already used by the government, despite Mr. Biden calling for such a law during the presidential campaign.

The Guardian: White House unveils first national strategy to fight domestic terrorism.

The White House has published its first ever national strategy for countering domestic terrorism five months after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

The framework released on Tuesday by the national security council describes the threat as now more serious than potential attacks from overseas but emphasises the need to protect civil liberties.

Anticipating Republican objections that Joe Biden could use counterterrorism tools to persecute supporters of Donald Trump, the strategy is also careful to state that domestic terrorism must be tackled in an “ideologically neutral” manner.

Houses in Munich, 1908, Wassily Kandinsky

Houses in Munich, 1908, Wassily Kandinsky

It cites examples such as “an anti-authority extremist” ambushing, shooting and killing five police officers in Dallas In 2016; a lone gunman (and leftwing activist) wounding four people at a congressional baseball practice in 2017; and an “unprecedented attack” on Congress on 6 January.

“They come across the political spectrum,” a senior administration said on a media conference call. “We acknowledge the shooting at the congressional baseball, the attack on police officers in Dallas, just as we acknowledge the attack in Charlottesville and the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

“So it’s not motivating politics or ideology that matters for us or, more importantly for the strategy and its implementation. It’s when political grievances become acts of violence and we remain laser focused on that.”

Of course Biden is in Europe right now, and he will meet with Vladimir Putin soon. David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Here’s What Biden’s Team Expects From His Meeting With Putin.

The political world and the media have zeroed in on President Joe Biden’s meeting this week with Vladimir Putin as the most important diplomatic event in which this young administration has participated. But the truth is that the heaviest diplomatic lifting with regard to the US-Russia relationship, and American national security, will have already taken place before the meeting in Geneva begins—or it will come in its wake.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Biden would be arriving at the Geneva meeting “with the wind at his back.” What he meant by that, according to a senior official traveling with the president, is that “in many respects, the most important part of the president’s message to Putin will have been made in the days before the meeting.” The official cited the achievements associated with Biden’s meetings with the U.K. leadership, G7 leaders, his NATO counterparts and top officials from the EU.

House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne

House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne

Trump not only distinguished himself from all previous American presidents by publicly bending the knee before his political sponsor Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, on Twitter and whenever he had the chance, the only coherent part of Trump foreign policy was that he effectively rejected three-quarters of a century of U.S. history by seeking to dismantle the international order America had tried to build since World War II. He attacked our allies. He condemned NATO. He disparaged the EU. And whenever he was given a chance, he rewarded Putin despite his invasion of Ukraine, his murder of his opponents (including on foreign soil), his freelancing in Syria, his efforts to erode the west’s relationship with Turkey and more.

Biden has been one of those who helped build the international system Trump attacked. He has been committed to undoing the damage Trump did. Just in the last week, Biden announced an effort to revitalize the Atlantic Charter, mended ties within the G7, made an unprecedented pledge of 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the G7’s commitment to provide 1 billion doses to needy nations worldwide, and re-engaged with our allies on terms more consistent with the pro-democracy, anti-autocracy message of our past.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

That’s it for me. What’s on your mind today?


The Tax Payer-Funded Dumbing of America

jesus_raptors It’s hard to believe that we’re living in a political environment where elected officials are bemoaning waste in all levels of government while sending so many public funds and assets to underwrite religious indoctrination and profit private businesses.  Southern states are the bottom crawlers of any measurement of academic outcomes. My state of Louisiana is no exception.  Texas is definitely a problem.  However, it’s a national problem so those of you that live in other parts of the country shouldn’t feel smug or think it couldn’t happen to your children or grandchildren.  Two fellow Louisianans–Melissa Harris Perry and Zack Kopplin– have found that vouchers spread creationism.  That cannot be good for a future that’s dependent on educated people who need to know real science.  Let’s examine exactly what our tax dollars are funding.

First, here’s the results of Zack’s study.  Zack is currently studying at Rice University.

I first began investigating creationist school vouchers as my part of my fight against creationism in my home state of Louisiana. Over the past few months, I’ve learned creationist vouchers aren’t just a Louisiana problem—they’re an American problem. School vouchers are, as James Gill recently wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “the answer to a creationist’s prayer.”

Liberty Christian School, in Anderson, Indiana, has field trips to the Creation Museum and students learn from the creationist A Beka curriculum. Kingsway Christian School, in Avon, Indiana, also has Creation Museum field trips. Mansfield Christian School, in Ohio, teaches science through the creationist Answers in Genesis website, run by the founder of the Creation Museum. The school’s Philosophy of Science page says, “the literal view of creation is foundational to a Biblical World View.”  All three of these schools, and more than 300 schools like them, are receiving taxpayer money.

So far, I have documented 310 schools, in nine states and the District of Columbia that are teaching creationism, and receiving tens of millions of dollars in public money through school voucher programs.

There is no doubt that there are hundreds more creationist voucher schools that have yet to be identified. The more than 300 CreationismWitchDoctorschools I have already found are those that have publicly stated on their websites that they teach creationism or use creationist curricula.

There are hundreds more voucher schools, across the country, that are self-identified Christian academies, that appear very similar in philosophy to the ones I’ve identified in my research as teaching creationism. These schools may not blatantly advertise that they teach creationism on their websites, or often don’t even have a website, but there is a good chance that hundreds more voucher schools are also teaching our children creationism. Some states, Arizona and Mississippi, haven’t even released lists of schools participating in their voucher programs for the public to audit.

Here are a few highlights from creationist voucher schools I have identified:

  • The Beverly Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, teaches “Evidence of a Flood,” and “Evidence against Evolution,” and ”The Evolution of Man: A Mistaken Belief.”
  • Creekside Christian Academy in McDonough, Georgia says,“The universe, a direct creation of God, refutes the man-made idea of evolution. Students will be called upon to see the divine order of creation and its implications on other subject areas.
  • Life Christian Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma says their life science class will “lead the student to recognize that God created all living things and that these living things are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Evolution is taught only in history class, where students “evaluate the theory of evolution and its flaws.” The school uses the creationist Bob Jones and CSI curriculums.
  • The principal of the Claiborne Christian School, in West Monroe, Louisiana, says in a school newsletter, “Our position at CCS on the age of the Earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s Word is in error.” She also claims that scientists are “sinful men” trying to explain the world “without God” so they don’t have to be “morally accountable to Him.”
  • Trinity Academy, in Gary, uses the creationist A Beka curriculum and says it “presents the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the man-made idea of evolution.”
  • Rocky Bayou Christian School, in Niceville, Florida, says in its section on educational philosophy, “God mandates that children be discipled for Christ. They must be trained in the biblical world view which honors Jehovah, the sovereign Creator of the universe. It recognizes that man was created in the image of God” and says “Man is presumed to be an evolutionary being shaped by matter, energy, and chance… God commands His people not to teach their children the way of the heathen.”
  • Wisconsin Lutheran High School, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, says in its biology syllabus that it teaches, “evolutionists are ‘stuck’ because they have no god, therefore they must believe in evolution” and “young earth evidence a disaster to evolutionists.”

This year, we may see even more creationist school vouchers. Both Tennessee and Texas are considering passing voucher programs. Indiana and Georgia may expand their programs.

CreationismJobsWe’ve seen some horrible examples what now passes as “science” in Louisiana thanks to the LSEA or the Lousiana Science Education Act pushed and signed by Bobby Jindal and some of the whackier senators in the Louisiana Legislature in 2008.  You can learn more about the law itself in the youtube. We’re not the only state that’s having problems now with taxpayer funded religious screeds.

The Texas Freedom Network has documented examples in Texas.  Texas passed a law that lets schools teach bible courses under the guise of discussing the importance of religion in history and literature.  They don’t even have vouchers draining funds to their evangelical madrassas yet.  It’s in the works. Right now, all this is going on in regular public schools. The stories from TFNEF are not very pretty and includes a lot of students basically getting lessons in anti-Semitism.  Here’s some examples of what they’ve found being taught in Texas. 

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released a report, authored by a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, that examines what students are learning in the 57 school districts and three charter schools that teach Bible courses. Examples from Texas public schools:

  • Instructional material in two school districts teach that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah’s sons, a long-discredited claim that has been a foundational component of some forms of racism.
  • Religious bias is common, with most courses taught from a Protestant — often a conservative Protestant — perspective. One course, for example, assumes Christians will at some point be “raptured.” Materials include a Venn diagram showing the pros and cons of theories that posit the rapture before the returning Jesus’ 1,000-year reign and those that place it afterward. In many courses, the perspectives of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews are often left out.
  • Anti-Jewish bias — intentional or not — is not uncommon. Some courses even portray Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion that has been replaced by Christianity.
  • Many courses suggest or openly claim that the Bible is literally true. “The Bible is the written word of God,” students are told in one PowerPoint presentation. Some courses go so far as to suggest that the Bible can be used to verify events in history. One district, for example, teaches students that the Bible’s historical claims are largely beyond question by listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.
  • Course materials in numerous classes are designed to evangelize rather than provide an objective study of the Bible’s influence. A book in one district makes its purpose clear in the preface: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’”
  • A number of courses teach students that the Bible proves Earth is just 6,000 years old.
  • Students are taught that the United States is a Christian nation founded on the Christian biblical principles taught in their classrooms.
  • Academic rigor is so poor that many courses rely mostly on memorization of Bible verses and factoids from Bible stories rather than teaching students how to analyze what they are studying. One district relies heavily on Bible cartoons from Hanna-Barbera for its high school class. Students in another district spend two days watching what lesson plans describe a “the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,” which presents “a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.”

How could such courses have gone so wrong? The 2007 law included numerous guidelines designed to help public schools create academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate courses. But the Legislature failed to appropriate funding to develop in-service training for teachers of Bible courses, and most school districts simply ignored the requirement that teachers get such training. Moreover, the State Board of Education — under the control of religious conservatives at the time — refused to adopt serious curriculum standards to help guide school districts as they planned their courses.

Jindal’s voucher experiment was recently found unconstitutional but not for the reasons that you think.  It was basically a technicality of funding and educational funding guidelines prescribed in the state’s constitution that got the law thrown out.  Address this issue and the vouchers could stick and stay.  Here’s some of the more recent news concerning what’s draining tax payer funds and passing as ‘education’ in Louisiana.

Jindal defended vouchers without once using the oft-toxic term, instead calling them scholarships, or putting them under the broader umbrella of school choice. “It is my sincere hope that what we are now putting in motion in Louisiana can be done across the country,” Jindal said. “I believe we’ve got an economic and a moral imperative to provide school choice and a quality education to every child, every student in America.”

Jindal made the case for making vouchers bipartisan. “I do not accept the notion that equal opportunity in public education should be a partisan issue,” Jindal said. Vouchers have been a third-rail policy among liberals, causing the Obama administration to do rhetorical summersaults. They’re controversial among liberals because they funnel tax dollars to private institutions — often, parochial schools that teach religion. In Louisiana, the private schools accepting voucher money have been found to teach about both creationism and the existence of the mythical Loch Ness monster.

Additionally, the schools that receive vouchers are not subjected to basic standards required of public schools AND many don’t even meet basic federal standards for basic services to special needs students.

Jindal said private schools in and near New Orleans that accepted vouchers saw more growth in student proficiency rates recently than schools statewide. (Proficiency rates are rarely reliable, since they measure two different groups of students.) Jindal also asserted that the vouchers serve all students. “It’s the money of a grandmother who wants to make sure her special education grandbaby gets the education she needs,” he said.

But according to public records, several private schools that opened their doors to voucher students with special needs had no services for such students. For example, the St. Angela Merici school’s application indicated it had no services for students with autism, mental disabilities or learning disabilities.

As for Jindal’s claims about high performing “charter” schools. I can offer you just a few links that show charter schools really aren’t performing as Jindal claims.   Again, the biggest problem is that these schools do not effectively address children with disabilities.  Schools that don’t address children with the highest needs can hardly be called anything but dysfunctional and discriminatory.  There are currently many lawsuits and stories concerning children with special needs and various charter schools.  These schools are cherry-picking students.

Families have attempted to place their disabled children in schools, but they have either been told that the school doesn’t have special-needs services or been told, gently, that their child would be better served at another school. These problems occur often enough that a due-process complaint has been filed against the Louisiana Department of Education on behalf of 4,500 students in the city with disabilities.

These issues have conveniently been left out of a number of Pollyanna-ish media reports touting the messianic nature of charter schools, and how Hurricane Katrina was a “blessing” to New Orleans’ children. A recent article at The Grio, “New Orleans Charter Schools Redefine Education Reform,” reads: “The standardized test results for fourth, eighth and tenth grade public school students have gone up since the storm hit in 2005. This may have something to do with the increasing presence of charter schools, though it is not clear.”

But test scores in those grades were already rising before the storm hit. Between 2003 and 2005, fourth-grade math results grew by 9 percent. Between 2007 and 2009, those results grew by 9.5 percent. In eighth-grade math, the growth in the percentage of kids scoring above basic levels between 2003 and 2005 was greater than the gains between 2007 and 2009. There has been a slight improvement in eighth-grade English and in math at the high school graduate level, but in both categories, the improvement in test scores builds on progress that was already occurring before the mass chartering of New Orleans.

We’ve also had problems with charter schools deliberately cheating on tests.

There’s a natural conflict there, experts say, in that most school districts are less than eager to announce they’ve found corruption in their midst.

At charter schools, the conflict might be more acute, some say, because charter boards play a role in investigations. Board members can be recruited by a school’s administrators, which might make it even more difficult for them to take a hard look at allegations.

“If you are committed to finding out the truth, you need individuals who are not connected in any way to the individuals involved,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

In Louisiana’s current setup, there is “a conflict of interest all the way up the line,” and not just as it relates to charter schools, said Gregory Cizek, a professor of educational measurement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “No one has a really strong interest in investigating in a really searching manner,” he said.

That’s why some states have started putting such investigations under the jurisdiction of the state attorney general’s office or another independent entity, he said.

Asking the school’s own board of directors or district to handle a probe, Cizek said, is like having the IRS tell a taxpayer: “We have a problem with your tax return. Would you look it over?”

Studies of Arizona charter schools have found instances of tax payer “fleecing”.

In her examination of Arizona’s 50 largest nonprofit charter schools and all of Arizona’s nonprofit charter schools with assets exceeding $10 million, Ryman found “at least 17 contracts or arrangements, totaling more than $70 million over five years and involving about 40 school sites, in which money from the non-profit charter school went to for-profit or non-profit companies run by board members, executives or their relatives.” That says to me that in Arizona, at least, charter-school corruption isn’t the exception. It’s the rule. And that’s just in the nonprofit charter schools. Documentation for the for-profit schools is not publicly available. What are the odds that charter-school proprietors operating in the dark are less inclined to enrich themselves at public expense?

The self-dealing is entirely legal. All you have to do is get yourself an exemption from state laws requiring that goods and services be bid competitively. Clearly these exemptions aren’t difficult to acquire, because 90 percent of Arizona’s charter holders—not 90 percent of the charter schools surveyed by the Arizona Republic, but 90 percent of all the state’s charter schools—have acquired permanent exemptions from state competitive bidding requirements. No exemption has ever been withdrawn by the state. If you are a charter-school officer and you stand to benefit personally from some financial transaction with the school, you may not vote on whether to make the purchase. But that’s about the only rule.

The result? “The schools’ purchases from their own officials,” Ryman writes, “range from curriculum and business consulting to land leases and transportation services. A handful of non-profit schools outsource most of their operations to a board member’s for-profit company.”

Clearly, our state and many others have set up systems rife with self-dealing, cherry-picking and curricula that should stand in clear violation of the first amendment.  My bottom line here?  If any of these school reform initiatives come your way in your state, fight them like hell. They are just simply ways to bust teacher unions, deliver tax dollars to corporate cronies, and fund radical evangelical madrassas and religious indoctrination in the guise of science, literature, and history.  Of course, this means if you have a Republican governor, be prepared to vote and fight.