Tuesday Reads: The News Is Surreal

ridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Bridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Good Morning!!

Today the House January 6 Committee will vote to find Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and Trump has of course filed a lawsuit to prevent them getting documents related to his attempted coup. The Washington Post reports:

A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies in contempt as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit.

Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House aide Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe while also suing the panel to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers on the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, in a joint statement late Monday.

They added: “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.” [….]

The legal challenge came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday, and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee — even as Trump’s lawyer has argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by the privilege of the former president’s office.

On the Bannon contempt vote:

Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.

Koga-Harue-Umi-The-Sea, 1929

Koga Harue Umi, The Sea, 1929

“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.

The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.

Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.

Trump has also found time to weigh in on Colin Powell’s death. The Hill: Trump criticizes media for treating Powell ‘beautifully’ in death.

Former President Trump lambasted the media on Tuesday for what he said was too-favorable coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell after his death on Monday.

“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump called Powell “a classic RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only.”

“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” Trump added.

Classy.

Trump also attacked Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. The Hill: Trump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn’t support him for president in 2024.

Former President Trump blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday after the senator said in an interview he would not vote for the real estate mogul if he ran for president again in 2024.

Cassidy during an interview that aired Sunday on “Axios on HBO” said that he did not believe Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee again.

“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Cassidy told Axios’s Mike Allen….

In a statement on Monday, Trump called Cassidy a “RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and reiterated a notion he had hoisted on other Republicans that Cassidy had “begged” for his endorsement in 2020 “and used it all over the place to win re-election.”

Eugenio-Granell-El-vuelo-nocturno-del-pajaro-Pi-The-Pi-Birds-Night-Flight

Eugenio Granell The Pi Birds Night Flight

“Now, Wacky Bill Cassidy can’t walk down the street in Louisiana, a State I won by almost 20 points,” the Trump statement read. “He could not even be elected dog catcher today, the great people curse him.”

Trump did defeat President Biden by nearly 20 points in 2020 in Louisiana, winning about 58.5 percent of the vote. Cassidy did even better, winning 59.3 percent of the vote.

“Wacky Bill is a totally ineffective Senator, but Louisiana does have a great Senator in John Kennedy,” Trump said, referring to the state’s other GOP senator, whom he endorsed over the summer soon after Kennedy indicated he would run for reelection.

Cassidy was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though Trump was ultimately acquitted after leaving office later that month.

It’s still very difficult for me to believe that this moron was actually president.

According to historians Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin at The Bulwark, Bannon is setting the stage for another insurrection: Steve Bannon Out in the Open. The erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.

…Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.

On September 22, the day before the committee issued its subpoena, Bannon more or less confirmed his involvement with January 6th. He has continued to push the idea that the Biden administration is illegitimate—“We told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up and this thing will implode”—and said that he wanted to help “kill this [Biden] administration in the crib.”

Bannon is neither hiding nor defensively trying to justify his past actions. Rather, he is continuing to push the Big Lie and all of its permutations, tying together a web of far-right ideas and allies. Like most good propagandists, he knows that the veil between fact and belief is very thin in a highly partisan political environment. What pushes an overt lie into semi-gospel is sometimes merely it’s repetition. Bannon’s podcast, “War Room,” continues to promote conspiracy theories about the 2020 election—the day after his subpoena running a segment titled “50k Illegal Ballots in One County Alone.” His guests have included Trumpist members of Congress, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene; conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Lindell; anti-vaxers; and other subpoenaed Trump administration figures. Topics run the gamut from the border to the debt ceiling to “how schools are indoctrinating kids” to “the battle of Lepanto” (sure to appeal to far-right Crusade-cosplaying insurrectionists and mass murderers alike). Perhaps most provokingly given his subpoena defiance, an episode on October 13 was entitled “The Continued Search for the Truth of January 6th.”

f Bannon were only a podcaster, were only pushing his ideas on one of the many far-right channels that have popped up in the last half-decade, that would be bad enough. But Bannon is incredibly active in person as well—a natural organizer and demagogue. It’s worth taking a look at just three of the events at which he has recently spoken.

Read all the details at the link.

Skunder-Boghossian-Night-Flight-of-Dread-and-Delight

Skunder Boghossian, Night Flight of Dread and Delight

At the Washington Post, authoritarianism expert Brian Klaas wrote about the history of election audits: Opinion: Republican ‘election audits’ have been used before — by dictators.

Donald Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election, and his supporters in the Republican Party are continuing with kangaroo “audits” in swing states that Trump lost. For Americans, this is a bizarre sideshow. But for those who have had the misfortune of living in an authoritarian country, the GOP’s “audit” charade follows an all-too-familiar script.

Five years ago, Gambia’s dictator unexpectedly lost an election. Yahya Jammeh, who had pledged to rule that little sliver of West Africa for “1 billion years,” had to face facts. His people had rejected him. His opponent had won. But then he had an idea. Perhaps he could stay in power if he performed a careful “audit” of the election results.

Jammeh alleged widespread fraud without evidence to support it. He submitted a formal petition, saying that the electoral commission had “failed to properly collate the results.” He refused to leave power. Similar tactics have recently been tried elsewhere, from Guyana to Zambia.

Dictators around the world know how it’s done. Never accept defeat. Fight the results, no matter what the evidence says. After all, the electoral commissioner in these countries is often a pliant crony from the same party who might cave to the pressure. (I once interviewed a senior election official in Madagascar who opened an envelope hand-delivered to her home address. Instead of a note, it contained three bullets).

If despots lose power despite their bluster and threats, they are always sure to continue alleging fraud to delegitimize their successor in the eyes of their supporters. It’s a final poisoned parting gift, one last opportunity to damage and divide the country.

Trump’s Republican Party seems to have been taking notes.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

TRIGGER WARNING I’m going to end with a surreal story about violence against women. You’ve probably heard about this horrific case, but its even worse than first reported. AP via Yahoo News: Train riders held up phones as woman was raped, police say.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening, authorities said.

More than two dozen train stops passed as the man harassed, groped and eventually raped the woman, the police chief for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said at a news conference Monday.

Police do not believe a single witness on the train dialed 911. They are investigating whether some bystanders filmed the assault.

Both the man and woman got on the train at the same stop Wednesday night in North Philadelphia. Officers pulled the man off of the woman at the last stop. They responded within about three minutes of a 911 call from a transportation authority employee, authorities said.

“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said at the news conference.

Arrest records show Fiston Ngoy, 35, was charged with rape and related offenses.

The affidavit of arrest for Ngoy detailed times of the assault, including that during those 40 minutes the woman appears to repeatedly push Ngoy away.

Nestel would not give an approximate number of witnesses and it was unclear from the affidavit how many passengers were present for those 40 minutes. Authorities have not released the surveillance video.

“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” he said.

Police said that anyone who recorded the attack on video could possibly be charged. More details on what happened at the link.

It feels as if this country has gone crazy. As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Arsen Kurbanov

Painting by Arsen Kurbanov

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.

The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.

The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.

Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.

The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij - Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij, by Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.

“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.

“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.

President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.

The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.

White-Cat-with-Crescent-Moon-Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

White Cat with Crescent Moon, Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”

A bit more:

The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.

After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.

The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.

leonard tsuguharu foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.

…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)

In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.

“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.

All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.

If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.

Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Raw Story: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”

On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”

He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]

As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:

“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”

Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.

Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Raw Story: Mike Lindell is now hoping Supreme Court allows a do-over election: ‘Maybe that’s a thing.’

On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.

“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”

Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.

He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.

Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


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

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

He reiterated the theme at a news conference on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit more:

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

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

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

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

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

The whole article is well worth reading.

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


Tuesday Reads: Misogyny and the Capitol Insurrection

Good Afternoon!!

All of us here are aware that men who commit violent acts such as mass shootings, attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics tend to have histories of domestic violence. Now we’re learning violence against women is common in men who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Recently NBC News investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane called attention to this connection.

I went looking for articles on this phenomenon. Here’s what I found.

This piece was published on January 13, 2021 at The Conversation: Misogyny in the Capitol: Among the insurrectionists, a lot of angry men who don’t like women, by Mona Lena Crook

Among the various forms of violence on display during the U.S. Capitol insurrection, one has been largely overlooked: misogyny, or hatred toward women. Yet behaviors and symbols of white male power were striking and persistent features of the riots.

Members of the overwhelmingly male crowds defending a president well-known for his sexist attacksembraced male supremacist ideologieswore military gear and bared their chests in shows of masculine bravado. They even destroyed display cabinets holding historical books on women in politics.

Actions targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi give the clearest illustration. Members of the mob broke into her office and vandalized it. Items like mail, signs and even her lectern proved to be particularly popular trophies – symbolizing an attack on Democrats and the House Speaker, but also against one of the most powerful women in American politics….

Attacks on Pelosi, while partisan in nature, also contained many elements of misogyny.

Pelosi was in physical danger as pro-Trump rioters roamed the Capitol building hunting down elected officials. News cameras filmed a man carrying zip-tie handcuffs entering and then exiting the speaker’s office, where members of her staff remained barricaded in a room for more than two hours.

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Richard Barnett in Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Capitol insurrection.

Acts of vandalism and theft were accompanied by speech disparaging and belittling Pelosi as a woman. In the hallway outside her suite of offices, angry rioters tore the leadership nameplate off the wall as crowds chanted, “Get her out!”

In a video, a woman claimed she helped break down the door to Pelosi’s office. Once inside, “somebody stole her gavel and I took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera.” She proudly announced “and that was for Fox News” – a station notorious not just for its far-right politics, but also for its on- and off-camera sexism.

photo of Richard “Bigo” Barnett, sitting with his feet up on a desk in Pelosi’s office, solicited perhaps the strongest reaction. One feminist writer asked, “Have you ever seen a clearer photo of arrogant male entitlement? The legs apart, the foot on the desk, the smile … this guy isn’t just happy he’s broken into the Capitol building. He feels like he’s putting a woman in her place by violating and defiling her space.”

Consistent with this interpretation, Barnett later told a reporter: “I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk, and scratched my balls.” The message read: “Nancy, Bigo was here you bitch.”

Krook is the author of Violence Against Women in Politics

Miranda Christou discusses misogyny among women who participated in the Capital attack in her article at Rantt Media, published January 28, 2021: Gender And Misogyny At The Capitol Insurrection.

As Cynthia Miller-Idriss explained, “the individuals who participated in the violence came from a wide range of groups across the far-right spectrum—white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, patriot militias, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and violent MAGA extremists, your neighbors and maybe even your family members.”

The fact that these were mostly white people was no surprise. But the presence of women in the crowd puzzled many, mainly because of assumptions about women’s “instincts” and predispositions. While it is true that women are rarely at the frontlines of violent extremism and they constitute a minority of far-right leaders and far-right voters, this so-called “gender gap” is misleading.

Women’s tangible and often intense investment in organizations that feed on racism and sexism belies their small numerical representation. I argue that women’s role in extremist movements needs to be understood in light of the misogyny that fueled the insurrectionists’ violent behavior, both literally and symbolically.

The-Women-of-the-InsurrectionChristou examines the history of white women being used to normalize hate movements.

White women’s role in white supremacy has a long history and it continues to morph into movements and causes that render a familial face to bigotry and hatred. This is why QAnon moms (or QAmoms) is now a mainstream phenomenon. The QAnon conspiracy infiltrated moms’ Facebook groups by tugging on their motherly sentiments and by providing them with likes in the age of mother influencers.

What took off as an obscure conspiracy theory supported by marginal basement dwellers moved into the kitchen and the living room because it artfully whitewashed Nazi ideology into a movement that purported to save trafficked children. No need to invoke the 14 words because QAnon hijacked #savethechildren in order to bestow an air of legitimacy and urgency to an otherwise ludicrous scheme.

Many white women have always been normalizing hate and they will continue to nurture children into hatred, bake cookies for white supremacists and declare innocence when their complicity is exposed. As Mona Eltahawy noted: “the audacity of white womanhood obscures and obfuscates the violence that white women are allowed to get away with.”

Of course women are only tools for the men who participate in hate movements, as Christou goes on to discuss. Head over to Rantt media to read the rest of this interesting piece. Also check out this article at Ms. Magazine, published in February: The Women of the Insurrection.

Two articles at HuffPost report on individual insurrectionists with histories of violence against women.

At Least 9 Far-Right Insurrectionists Have A History Of Violence Against Women.

She was alarmed, but no more so than she had been by all the other messages: “I have better things to do than speak to a whore”; “Nobody loves you”; “Narcissistic whore.” Her ex-husband, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., had been sending them like clockwork for three years. A court had ordered the couple to communicate through a specialized portal while their contentious divorce was finalized. Larry often used it for threats.

“The stuff that he writes to me is brutal. You grow thick skin and try to filter it, but it’s hard,” said Katya, who shares a 6-year-old son with Larry. Katya said her ex-husband views women as “disposable” and has abused her throughout their four years of marriage and additional three years of separation.

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Larry Rendall Brock

Larry, a 53-year-old Air Force veteran, is one of the hundreds of insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 and is now facing federal charges. He sported a combat helmet, a bulletproof vest and carried zip-tie handcuffs. His threats to Katya also went beyond those messages ― HuffPost uncovered numerous 911 calls from their home for domestic disputes, including one in 2016 in which Larry was described as making a “terroristic threat of family/household,” according to a police summary of the call.

Larry’s history of abusive behavior is part of an alarmingly common trend among the rioters who have been arrested so far for their roles in the insurrection. After reviewing police reports and court filings, a HuffPost investigation found that at least nine insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol have a history of violence against women ― ranging from domestic abuse accusations to prison time for sexual battery and criminal confinement.

Experts have linked extremism to violent misogyny in recent years, especially in the wake of mass shootings in which the perpetrators had a history of violence against women. These violent behaviors exist on a spectrum ― and, of course, not all abusive men turn into killers ― but violence against women often begets more violence, sometimes deadly. Three people died as a direct result of the violence at the Capitol, and more than 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the riot. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers have died by suicide in the aftermath.

“We still, in this day and age, treat violence against women as a personal or family issue, as opposed to a troubling indicator of someone who could become more violent,” said Bridget Todd, communications director at feminist organization UltraViolet.

Read more examples and more about Brock at the HuffPost link. Here is a follow-up article, published June 11, 2021: Revealed: Even More Insurrectionists Have Histories Of Violence Against Women.

One of the newly listed men, who was charged with attacking a police officer Jan. 6, has been responsible for “many hospital visits for many victims,” according to a charging memo uncovered by HuffPost. Another man being charged in connection with the Capitol riot has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence, but never prosecuted, and is pending trial on felony child abuse charges, HuffPost found.

And a third, who allegedly yelled at Capitol police that they were “protecting pedophiles,” was convicted of statutory rape in 2010, CNN reported last week.

The link between extremism and violent misogyny has become very evident in recent years as more mass shooters have been found to have a history of violent behavior toward women. Though most abusive men do not go on to perpetrate larger acts of violence, the ties between violence against women and extremism are too clear to ignore, experts said

ryan-stephen-samsel-us-department-of-justice

Ryan Samsel

One of the men mentioned in the above article, Ryan Samsel, has gotten quite bit of media attention. From the HuffPost article:

Ryan Samsel, 38, is charged with assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer and giving her a concussion while storming the barricades. According to prosecutors, Samsel “has an extensive criminal history of assaultive and violent behavior” toward women and has been convicted of assaulting women at least three times.

“The facts underlying these other convictions are extremely disturbing,” prosecutors wrote of Samsel in the Pennsylvania man’s detention memo. “They show a pattern of Samsel choking and beating women to the point of loss of consciousness, of many hospital visits for many victims, of chipped and missing teeth, and of Samsel even breaking into one victim’s home multiple times to assault her.”

Samsel’s criminal history includes a 2006 assault in which he attempted to run a woman he knew off the road with his car, punched her windshield and told her he would kill her if he didn’t get back the $60 she owed him, prosecutors stated. In 2009, Samsel was convicted of simple assault and reckless endangerment after he “held a victim against her will for five hours, choking her to the point of unconsciousness, pushing her, beating her, and chipping her teeth,” the detention memo says.

Samsel was again convicted of simple assault, among other charges, in 2011 for choking and beating his pregnant girlfriend. In 2015, he was convicted of simple assault for a third time, involving a different female victim who told police that Samsel had choked her to the point of losing consciousness.

Another woman came forward in 2019 and alleged that Samsel broke into her home, assaulted her and choked her until she lost consciousness multiple times. “The victim also alleged that Samsel raped her multiple times, and that she had often been scared he would kill her,” the detention memo says. The woman told police she got a restraining order against Samsel, but he violated it multiple times. 

The Feds are using Samel’s history of violence against women to try to keep him in jail while he awaits trial.

From a February 4 story at The New York Times: The Misogynistic ‘Dating Coach’ Who Was Charged in the Capitol Riot.

For $150, Brad Holiday’s customers could purchase and download a package of dating tips and tricks he called his “Attraction Accelerator.” The batch of files featured advice from Mr. Holiday, a self-styled Manhattan dating coach, about things like the best facial serums and pickup lines, and his thoughts on the viciousness of the opposite sex.

But tucked between videos denigrating women and reviews of height-boosting shoes were other guides: how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock.

On Jan. 20, F.B.I. agents arrested the man, whose real name is Samuel Fisher, outside his apartment on the Upper East Side in connection with his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Stashed in his Chevrolet Tahoe, parked on East 88th Street, investigators found a shotgun, machetes and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, according to court records.

Screen_Shot_2021-01-20_at_6.07.58_PM.original

Samuel Fisher AKA Brad Holiday

Like many of the roughly 175 people arrested after the riot, Mr. Fisher left a trail of social media posts about his exploits. “People died,” but it was great, Mr. Fisher wrote online after the attack, according to court records. “Seeing cops literally run … was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.” [….]

The composition of the mob that stormed the Capitol last month has come into sharper focus as arrests linked to the incident mount. In New York, the people charged include an accountant, a sanitation worker and a retired firefighter.

Among them were a handful of men like Mr. Fisher, whose large online footprint suggests a fierce devotion to a hypermasculine ethos of chauvinism, grievance and misogyny. His scores of videos, treatises and posts, spread across web pages and social media profiles, reflect a worldview that festers on the far-right fringe.

Read more at the NYT link.

Again, I know that the link between misogyny and other types of hatred is nothing new to Sky Dancers, but I think it’s important that NBC News’ Scott MacFarlane is talking about it. I’d like to see more of this from mainstream media types, though I’m not holding my breath while I wait to see it. Of course the hate–the misogyny, the racism, the anti-Semitism, the embrace of violence among the MAGA faithful all goes back to Trump.

Here’s an interesting piece from The Washington Post Magazine by David Montgomery, published January 14, 2021: 24 Warning Signs of an Insurrection That Should Have Been Obvious. And 11 shameful rationalizations that prevented so many Americans from seeing how bad things were getting

Donald Trump’s rhetoric had consequences from the beginning of his presidential candidacy. In June 2015, he descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to the cheers of fans, tourists and, reportedly, paid actors. His announcement speech was a potpourri of Trumpian braggadocio and vanity, with a dash of American optimism, all steeped in resentment — resentment against unnamed political elites, corrupt system-riggers, freeloaders, losers, Democrats and foreigners. He warned of the “rapists” invading from Mexico.

Just two months later, two brothers in Boston pounced on a Latino man sleeping outside a subway stop, viciously beating him. According to the arresting police officers, the brothers explained their attack as inspired by Trump’s demand that “illegals” be kicked out of the country. 

That frenzied campaign summer, Trump’s rollicking rallies became safe spaces for his most enthusiastic and embittered supporters to vent unprintable racist, misogynistic and sometimes violent language against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the news media. In coming months, some ralliers were moved to administer the occasional sucker punch to anti-Trump protesters.

It was all egged on by Trump, who smirked at his throngs’ antics. He never quite directed their attacks, but he never quite discouraged them either. Instead — not just at rallies, but continuing through the four years of his presidency — he set an example. He modeled maximal invective against enemies and harnessed it to an intemperate conviction that vast forces were conspiring against him — including, in the end, his own vice president.

Montgomery collected quotes from Trump and his enablers that led up to the violent insurrection on January 6.

I hope you’ll check out some of these articles that I’ve collected and let me know your reactions. 


Thursday Reads

Rare Sunrise Eclipse Entrances Northeast States

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – JUNE 10: A partial solar eclipse is seen as the sun rises behind the Capitol Building on June 10, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

I don’t know why I keep reading articles about the lab-leak theory. It’s not that I necessarily believe it’s true. I certainly don’t believe that a virus was created or modified in the Wuhan lab and then released into the population. I do think it’s possible that a researcher picked up a virus in the field and somehow carelessly infected someone on the outside. I still think the most likely scenario is the cross species (animal-to-human) route, because that clearly happens. I guess I’m just interested in why the argument has arisen in the media and won’t go away. 

Anyway, there’s an interesting article on the subject at The Atlantic this morning: Don’t Fall for These Lab-Leak Traps.  Recent coverage of the pandemic’s origins has ensnared readers in semantic quibbles, side points, and distractions, by Daniel Engber. I won’t try to summarize the piece because it’s so long, but here’s a bit of what Engber writes about what he calls “the mad scientist trap.”

The lab-leak theory isn’t singular; rather, it’s a catchall for a continuum of possible scenarios, ranging from the mundane to the diabolical. At one end, a researcher from the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have gone out to sample bat guano, become infected with a novel pathogen while in the field, and then seeded it back home in a crowded city. Or maybe researchers brought a specimen of a wild-bat virus back into the lab without becoming infected, only to set it free via someone’s clothes or through a leaky sewage pipe.

The microbiologists Michael Imperiale and David Relman, both former members of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, told me several weeks ago that lab-leak scenarios of this rather more innocent variety—involving the collection and accidental release of a naturally occuring pathogen—were the most probable of all the non-natural possibilities. Yet the most prominent opinionating on this topic has clustered at the other end of the continuum, at first around the dark-side theory of a bioweapon gone awry, and then around the idea that a harmless virus had been deliberately transformed into SARS-CoV-2 (and released by accident) after a reckless series of tabletop experiments.

The eclipse viewed from Brooklyn Thursday morning. Justin Lane EPA, via Shutterstock

The eclipse viewed from Brooklyn Thursday morning. Justin Lane EPA, via Shutterstock

That’s another pitfall in this debate: a tendency to focus only on the most disturbing and improbable versions of the lab-leak hypothesis, and to downplay the rest. The mad-scientist trap sprays a mist across the facts by presuming scientific motivations; it posits that researchers could have caused the pandemic only if they’d been trying to create infectious pathogens.

Efforts to enhance a virus in a lab, usually described as “gain of function” studies, have engendered hyperbolic speculation….

The problem is, depending on how one chooses to define gain-of-function research, it could well include most virological research, some forms of vaccine development, and a healthy portion of biology writ large. Anytime a scientist tries to probe or tweak the function of a gene, she could be working in this vein. In that sense, yes, the National Institutes of Health is a “huge gain-of-function bureaucracy.” So what?

Engler concludes:

One might assume that the single-minded fear of gain-of-function research is peculiar to conservatives—sitting, as it does, at the shadowy convergence of Big Government and Critical Frankenstein Studies. But the urge to blame scientific hubris for scientific problems, as opposed to farcical incompetence, seems to have long-standing, bipartisan support.

This trap was last sprung seven years ago. In March 2014, a CDC lab accidently shipped the highly virulent H5N1 bird flu to a poultry lab at the Department of Agriculture. Then in June, another CDC lab sent off samples of the bacteria that cause anthrax without properly inactivating them—and 75 government employees were potentially exposed. A few weeks after that, scientists at NIH stumbled across six vials of smallpox in a forgotten cardboard box. Regulators had every reason to believe that accidental laboratory leaks of naturally occurring pathogens were more common (and more likely) than genetic-engineering studies gone awry. But when confronted with all this evidence that scientists were slipping on banana peels, the government looked at other risks instead: It announced a pause on gain-of-function research.

Rare Sunrise Eclipse Entrances Northeast States

The sun rises next to the Statue of Liberty during an annular eclipse on June 10, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

We’re in the process of defaulting to the same idea—that better biosafety might be achieved, and the next pandemic headed off, if we prevent or slow the development of genetically engineered bananas. That might only help ensure that no one thinks too hard about the odds of slapstick-fueled catastrophe. We may yet find, with more investigation, that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and other places like it around the world, is positively strewn with banana peels. If that’s the case, our first and most important goal should be to clean them up. In the meantime, don’t be fooled by false antonyms. The opposite of nature isn’t hubris, and if SARS-CoV-2 turns out not to have a “natural” origin, that doesn’t have to mean someone made it in a lab.

Sorry for the long excerpt, but I do think it’s a useful article. Read more at the link if you’re interested.

The New York Times has an article on this morning’s eclipse: Highlights From the ‘Ring of Fire’ Solar Eclipse at Sunrise.

Just after sunrise over the eastern half of North America, the sun was almost completely blotted out by the moon for a few dawn hours in an annular solar eclipse.

During such an eclipse, the black silhouette of the moon — too far from Earth to completely cover the sun — will be surrounded by a thin ring of our home star’s surface, or photosphere. Many know this as a “ring of fire,” but few will get to experience the full effect.

The eclipse started after sunrise north of Lake Superior and began crossing remote regions of Canada, on its way into Greenland and the Arctic Ocean before going over the North Pole. Its course then heads south before ending in parts of the Russian Far East.

Still, some lucky souls got to experience this cosmic geometry, and a few were even intrepid and well organized enough to book airplane flights into the zone of maximum darkness. Many more of us got to experience a partial solar eclipse if we woke up early to clear enough skies….

It was dark and windy as the visitors spread out across the 86th floor observation deck 1,050 feet above midtown, adjusting camera lenses and perfecting positions as they waited for the sun to appear.

When the sky began to lighten and clouds turned shades of fuchsia pink, attendees of the event, who had paid $114.81 each to be there, could be overheard begging the skyline to clear up so there would be a better view….

Finally, the sun rose and the eclipse was visible — if a little hazily — through the cloud cover.

“You could hear the entire audience react at the first viewing of the sun,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, president of the Empire State Building Observatory. “Everybody was gasping and it was absolutely magical.”

Read more at the link.

US-SOLAR-ECLIPSE-WEATHER

Annular (partial solar) eclipse is seen as the sun rises over Scituate Light in Scituate, MA, June 10, 2021. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) via Getty Images)

From Stephen Collinson at CNN on Biden’s first foreign trip: Why Biden’s foreign trip is so unique and so important.

No US President has ever left the nation’s shores with democratic values under attack as broadly and systemically at home as they are abroad. This extraordinary reality will complicate his mission to purge the trauma of the Donald Trump era and convince both foes and friends that the US is reclaiming its global leadership role for good.

Biden meets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday before the G7 summit, makes a hop to NATO in Brussels, then has a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva that will evoke the most tense days of the Cold War.

“We’re going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges,” Biden told US troops at an air base in eastern England on WednesdaFor Biden, democracy is not just some abstract concept from civics class that Americans experience only when they enter the voting booth every few years.

It is a system, a way of life and a set of rules and norms that made the United States the strongest and richest country in history. The free, prosperous nations the US rebuilt and protected after World War II faced down communist tyranny in the form of the Soviet Union and underwrote 70 years of peace. This web of open, like-minded countries is also the key to America’s global power. If democracy ebbs abroad, so does US influence.

The rise of a new superpower, China, determined to overhaul US riches and power is becoming a grave threat to democracy, and offers potential autocrats an alternative power template of one-party rule.

Russia — the adversary that Biden will confront at the end of his Europe trip — meddled in the last two US elections to help Trump, who often seemed to advance its foreign interests over America’s.

But the most extraordinary feature of Biden’s trip is that he’s not an American President going out to confront tyranny abroad — that’s happened before. He’s huddling with US allies at a moment when the greatest threat to democracy comes from within the United States.

The world looked on, horrified, at the insurrection against the US Capitol orchestrated by Trump in January. Since then, the ex-President has poisoned millions of Americans against democracy with his false electoral-fraud claims. Republican state lawmakers are quickly passing bills that make it harder for all but their own supporters to vote and make it easier to steal elections. The principle that voters have the right to pick their own leaders is under threat.

Thursday’s eclipse over the Toronto skyline.Credit Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Thursday’s eclipse over the Toronto skyline. Credit Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

I don’t see how U.S. democracy can be saved unless Trump and his enablers are investigated and prosecuted. It’s also vitally important to investigate the insurrection that Trump incited on January 6, 2021. There are endless avenues of corruption to deal with from Trump’s four years in office, but here’s the latest to hit the news (actually is old news…). 

Adam Klasfeld at Law and Crime: ‘Point of No Return’: Don McGahn Told Congress How Close Trump Came to ‘Inflection Point,’ Another ‘Saturday Night Massacre.’

In a fit of pique over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, former President Donald Trump almost reached an “inflection point” and “point of no return” that would have set in motion a Richard Nixon-style “Saturday Night Massacre,” ex-White House Counsel Don McGahn recently told Congress behind closed doors.

The just-released transcript of McGahn’s closed door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee contains a series of new answers and elaborations on details that were publicized in the Mueller Report.

Releasing the June 4th transcript on Wednesday, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said: “Mr. McGahn provided the Committee with substantial new information—including firsthand accounts of President Trump’s increasingly out of control behavior, and insight into concerns that the former President’s conduct could expose both Trump and McGahn to criminal liability.”

“Mr. McGahn also confirmed that President Trump lied when he denied the accuracy of the Mueller report, and admitted that he was the source for a Washington Post report that confirmed Trump’s direction to McGahn to remove the Special Counsel,” Nadler wrote in a statement.

In the transcript, McGahn explains his reluctance to convey a message from Trump pressuring then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to not allow the special counsel to serve because of alleged conflicts—a request that McGahn considered an “inflection point.”

“‘Inflection point,’ with that I meant a point of no return,” McGahn testified. “If the Acting Attorney General received what he thought was a direction from the counsel to the President to remove a special counsel, he would either have to remove the special counsel or resign. We are still talking about the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ decades and decades later.”

Have a great Thursday Sky Dancers!!