Lazy Caturday Reads

Spooked, by Chiakiro

Spooked, by Chiakiro

Good Morning!!

Bill Clinton is still in a California hospital being treated for a urological infection that got into his bloodstream. The Guardian: Bill Clinton to remain in hospital as he recovers from urological infection.

The former US president Bill Clinton’s health is improving but he will remain in a California hospital for at least another night to receive antibiotics intravenously for a urological infection that spread to his bloodstream, his spokesperson said on Friday.

The 75-year-old Clinton, who served as president from 1993 to 2001, entered the University of California, Irvine, medical center on Tuesday evening after suffering from fatigue. He spoke with Joe Biden on Friday.

Clinton’s spokesperson Angel Ureña said that Clinton’s white blood count has decreased, indicating his health is improving.

“All health indicators are trending in the right direction, including his white blood count which was decreased significantly,” Ureña said on Twitter. “In order to receive further IV antibiotics, he will remain in the hospital overnight.”

Since his admission to the intensive care unit at the hospital, Clinton has received fluids along with antibiotics, his doctors said.

His wife, a former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, was at the hospital on Thursday and Friday, and the two read books and talked about politics, Ureña told Reuters.

It remained unclear when Clinton would be released.

Biden said Clinton would likely go home soon, though it was not clear whether he would be released on Saturday or later.

“He is getting out shortly. … Whether that’s tomorrow or the next day, I don’t know,” Biden told reporters in Connecticut. “He’s doing fine. He really is.”

aldemir-martins-gato-verde-acrilica-sobre-tela-14335

Aldemir Martins, Gato Verde (Green Cat)

NBC News has an explainer on the infection Clinton is fighting: What led to Bill Clinton’s hospitalization? Warning signs of the common infection.

The urologic infection that a source close to Bill Clinton says led to the former president’s hospitalization is common in older individuals and can be serious, experts say.

But when treated in a timely manner, the prognosis for such cases is excellent….

A source close to Clinton told NBC News that his initial diagnosis was a urologic infection that morphed into a broader infection.

While little else was immediately revealed about Clinton’s condition, including whether it originated in his urinary tract or elsewhere in the urinary system, experts who were not involved in his care said such spread of infection can be life-threatening without prompt medical attention.

“This is not uncommon. This is something we frequently treat in the emergency room, where somebody comes in with a urinary tract infection,” NBC News senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said Friday on the “TODAY” show. “Especially as they get older, their body is not able to contain that, so it moves from the urinary tract, from the bladder and the kidneys, into the bloodstream.”

At that point, Torres said, a patient is at risk of sepsis — a dangerous overdrive of the immune system in response to an infection — or septic shock, when organs start to fail.

Doctors must keep a close eye on these patients to make sure the strong antibiotics they are treating them with are lowering their white blood cell counts, which would indicate the infection is getting under control, said Dr. Ash Tewari, a urologist and prostate cancer specialist at Mount Sinai in New York.

Doctors will also work to identify any underlying conditions that may have led to the infection in the first place: a blockage, a kidney stone, even diabetes, Tewari said. Sometimes, procedures are necessary to prevent future recurrences.

More info at the NBC link.

Incatneato, by Jeff Haynie

Incatneato, by Jeff Haynie

This is a horrific story from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. That’s the backwoods part of the state Dakinikat has told us about. Raw Story: Three children attacked a Black woman. A sheriff’s deputy arrived — and beat her more.

The Jefferson Parish Shraeriff’s Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the Sept. 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold’s braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff’s Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police’s protection. But protection is not what she got.

The video begins with a sheriff’s deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold’s arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold’s back.

Arnold is only 4 feet eight inches tall and weighs about 100 pounds.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family’s trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff’s deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

There’s more at the link. ProPublica has an expose on Jefferson Parish’s history of brutal racism: “They Saw Me and Thought the Worst.” For years, Black residents of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, have voiced complaints about abuses and a lack of accountability within its Sheriff’s Office.

remedios varo

Painting by Remedios Varo

At the New York times, another tale of government racism and crumbling infrastructure from Michigan: More Lead-Tainted Water in Michigan Draws Attention to Nation’s Aging Pipes.

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — During the three years that officials have known about dangerous amounts of lead flowing from faucets in Benton Harbor, Mich., they have sent out notices, distributed filters and tried to improve water treatment. But the problems persisted, and some residents said they never heard about the risks of the toxic water coming from their taps.

Now, in scenes reminiscent of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., state officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink, cook or brush their teeth with tap water. Elected officials came to town Thursday promising help. And so many cars have turned out for bottled water giveaways that traffic has been snarled, a rarity in a place with 9,100 residents.

“It’s horrible to watch, to see my city like this,” Rosetta Valentine, 63, said as she directed traffic at a water distribution site where some people lined up nearly an hour before the event started.

Residents of Benton Harbor see parallels between their plight and the water crisis that unfolded less than three hours up the highway in Flint, also a majority-Black city, where a change in the water source in 2014 led to residents drinking contaminated water despite repeated assurances that it was safe. In Benton Harbor, where thousands of homes are connected to the water system by lead pipes, efforts to bring down problematic lead readings by using corrosion controls have so far failed, and officials have recently grown concerned that lead-removing filters given to residents since 2019 might not work.

The problems in Benton Harbor and Flint are extreme examples of a broader, national failure of water infrastructure that experts say requires massive and immediate investment to solve. Across the country, in cities like ChicagoPittsburgh and Clarksburg, W.Va., Americans are drinking dangerous quantities of brain-damaging lead as agencies struggle to modernize water treatment plants and launch efforts to replace the lead service lines that connect buildings to the water system. Health officials say there is no safe level of lead exposure.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Graceful Beauty, by Hans Ruettimann

Graceful Beauty, by Hans Ruettimann

Here’s some revenge porn for us Democrats by Molly Jong Fast at The Atlantic: Democrats Are Ready to Send Steve Bannon to Jail.

Congressional Democrats, who control both chambers and have a majority on the January 6 committee, can ask the House or Senate sergeant-at-arms to arrest Bannon. Yesterday afternoon, though, Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, announced that he will pursue a more moderate path: Next week, the committee will vote on whether to refer Bannon to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.

“We fully intend to enforce” the subpoenas, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is one of two Republicans on the special committee, assured me. “That doesn’t come with the snap of a finger, but we will get to the bottom of these questions and pursue all avenues.”

Democrats want to uphold norms of interparty civility while also preventing Trump and his buddies from completely undermining democracy. But time is running out. The January 6 committee is one of Congress’s last chances to narrate the Capitol riots and the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. The only way to fight fascism is with narrative, Masha Gessen, the writer and activist, once told me. The select-committee probe presents a real opportunity to do just that.

Enforcing the committee’s subpoenas isn’t a controversial idea, Representative Eric Swalwell of California told me. “We must enforce congressional subpoenas not just for holding insurrectionists accountable but to show everyone in America that we all follow the same rules,” he said. “If Bannon and company are above the law, why wouldn’t nonpublic figures toss their lawful subpoenas in the trash?”

Perhaps Bannon thinks that the committee won’t follow through, or that jail time might martyr him. He’s dodged consequences for alleged misconduct before. Last year, he faced prison for his role in the “We Build the Wall” scheme, which prosecutors said was fraudulent, but Trump granted him an 11th-hour pardon. At least he’s had some time to think about what he might have to pack.

Head over to The Atlantic to read the rest.

Toracat, by Chiakiro

Toracat, by Chiakiro

This is from Mary Ellen Cagnassola at Newsweek: Adam Schiff Says ‘People Like Steve Bannon’ Are Not ‘Above The Law’ Ahead of Contempt Vote.

The congressional committee tasked with investigating the January 6 Capitol Riots is closing in on top Trump ally and adviser Steve Bannon with an expected vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against the former White House aide for defying a subpoena.

Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who also sits on the January 6 committee, went as far as to say that he expects the Justice Department to prosecute.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who also sits on the January 6 panel, said he expects the Justice Department to prosecute the cases.

The chairman of the special committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said the panel will vote Tuesday to recommend charges against Bannon, an adviser to Donald Trump for years who was in touch with the president ahead of the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries….

If approved by the Democratic-majority committee, the recommendation of criminal charges would go to the full House. Approval there would send them to the Justice Department, which has final say on prosecution.

The showdown with Bannon is just one facet of a broad and escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing to the committee and its staff. Challenging Bannon’s defiance is a crucial step for the panel, whose members are vowing to restore the force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.

Psycho Cat, by Jeff Haynie

Psycho Cat, by Jeff Haynie

Why is the committee waiting until Tuesday to hold the vote on Bannon? Because it will be televised in prime time. This is from The Palmer Report: Get your popcorn ready: the Steve Bannon criminal contempt proceedings will be in prime time. (Mainstream journalists hold this guy in contempt, but he is almost always right.)

Why is the January 6th Committee waiting until Tuesday to hold Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt hearing? Because they’re doing it in prime time and airing it in public. They’re going to make an example out of him as loudly as possible. Get your popcorn ready.

Of course no matter how forcefully the hearing is conducted, and no matter how serious the resulting criminal contempt referral is, we’ll still have to put up with the defeatists. Whatever the committee does, most pundits will naturally insist that it should have done the opposite, because that’s the only way that a lot of pundits feel they can keep themselves relevant.

And of course the defeatists will falsely insist that the Department of Justice “won’t do anything” and that Bannon will “get away with it all.” But at this point that kind of background whining is just par for the course.

What the whiniest of pundits and activists don’t get is that these kinds of hearings are not for their benefit. Their minds are already made up. The January 6th Committee, its actions, its hearings, and its conclusions are for the benefit of average Americans in the middle who know that something went wrong that day but want to be convinced of what specifically happened in painstaking fashion.

We’ll find out next week. I can’t wait.

I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. Have a nice weekend everyone!! 


Lazy Caturday Reads

Britt-Ehringer_fridakatlobrow_oil+on+linen_48x38+(1)

Britt Ehringer, Frida Katlobrow

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, the news is pretty depressing today–Covid-19 is still raging and the media is still viciously attacking President Biden on Afghanistan while ignoring the roles of Trump, Pompeo, and Stephen Miller in setting up the current state of affairs. I have a mix of reads to share, beginning with the obituary of a brilliant author and anti-racist who worked to change Americans’ understanding of our history.

The New York Times: James W. Loewen, Who Challenged How History Is Taught, Dies at 79.

James W. Loewen, a sociologist and civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts, died on Thursday in Bethesda, Md. He was 79.

His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Ellen Adler, his publisher at the New Press, who said he died after an unspecified “long illness.”

“Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat the 11th grade,” Dr. Loewen wrote in “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” (1995), the best known of his dozen books attacking historical misconceptions.

Dr. Loewen was a relentless contrarian who challenged anyone who imagined academic life as a passage through genteel lectures on settled matters for drowsy students on leafy campuses. He charged through history like a warrior, dismantling fictions and exposing towns for excluding minorities; teachers and historians for dumbing lessons down; and defendants in 50 class-action lawsuits who, according to his expert testimony, victimized people in civil rights, voting rights and job discrimination cases.

A Northerner fascinated with Mississippi, he wrote his first book about the Chinese population there. He wrote another about how America’s historic sites distort our knowledge of the past. And it was a mistake to get him started on the origin of Thanksgiving: Plymouth was already a village with cleared fields when the Pilgrims found it deserted by plague victims. No turkey was served in 1621 — perhaps it was duck. And there was no pie. The settlers had no wheat flour for crust and no oven for baking. The holiday Americans celebrate has nothing to do with the Pilgrims. It was invented 242 years later by Abraham Lincoln to celebrate the North’s victory at Gettysburg.

“History is by far our worst-taught subject in high school,” Dr. Loewen told The Atlantic in 2018. “I think we’re stupider in thinking about the past than we are, say, in thinking about Shakespeare, or algebra, or other subjects. Historians tend to make everything so nuanced that the idea of truth almost disappears.”

Loewen’s work is more important than ever with the current rise of disinformation and conspiracy theories.

Rose Freymuth-Frazier

Painting by Rose Freymuth-Frazier

Trumpists are organizing a pro-January 6 rally in Washington D.C. on September 18, and this time the Metropolitan Police are taking the warnings seriously. The purpose of the rally is to free the “political prisoners” who are being prosecuted for attacking the U.S. Capitol building.

WUSA9.com: MPD fully activates department ahead of planned ‘Justice for J6’ protest on Sept. 18.

WASHINGTON — In a flash notice sent to all officers and members of the department Thursday, Metropolitan Police activated the entire force and postponed vacation days, in anticipation of a Sept. 18 protest organized by supporters of Jan. 6 defendants.

The rally, known as “Justice for J6,” is planned for the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the west front encompassing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool.

The full activation alert, sent as Thursday’s Capitol Hill bomb threat investigation continued, assigned specific notice to MPD civil disturbance units trained for First Amendment demonstrations. The department-wide notification has not been previously reported.

When asked for comment, MPD responded with this statement:

“In anticipation of First Amendment activities on Saturday, September 18, 2021, the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully prepared. As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the activities and planning accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners. MPD will have an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety.” 

Read more about the known goals for the event at the link, but here’s a brief summary from The Daily Beast:

The event, organized by former Donald Trump flack Matt Braynard, hopes to seek justice for those who stormed and defiled the Capitol on Jan. 6. Braynard announced the rally on former Trump adviser and current crackpot Steve Bannon’s podcast. “As we continue to raise the profile of these individuals, it makes it harder and harder for the left’s phony narrative about an insurrection to stick,” Braynard said, according to WUSA9. “What’s going to define [the rally] is where it’s going to take place: we’re going back to the Capitol.” He said the event has obtained permits. U.S. Capitol Police said it was aware of the event, but declined to comment.

Martin Wittfooth

Painting by Martin Wittfooth

Covid-19 is raging all over the country, but especially in the South. CNN reports: Governor sees ‘astronomical’ number of new Covid-19 cases.

Overall hospitalizations are continuing to increase across Alabama as the “pandemic of unvaccinated people continues,” state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said on Friday. Alabama hospitals have a negative capacity of ICU beds available, he said, and the state is seeing the highest number of Covid-19 cases among children than at any other time during the pandemic.

Louisiana has seen an “astronomical” number of Covid-19 cases during the latest surge, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, as infections are increasing particularly among younger populations.

“I can tell you that for the last couple of days, 28% of all the new cases that we’re reporting are in children zero to 17,” he said on Friday.

In Orlando, Florida, Mayor Buddy Dyer warned residents to conserve water. Orlando Sentinel:  Orlando urges reduced water usage as liquid oxygen used to purify water goes to COVID patients.

The city of Orlando and its water utility made an urgent appeal Friday afternoon for residents to cut back sharply on water usage for weeks because of a pandemic-triggered shortage of liquid oxygen used to purify water.

If commercial and residential customers are unable to reduce water usage quickly and sufficiently, Orlando Utilities Commission may issue a system-wide alert for boiling water needed for drinking and cooking. Without reductions in water usage, a boil-water alert would come within a week, utility officials said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked residents to immediately stop watering their lawns, washing their cars and using pressure washers. Landscape irrigation consumes about 40% of the water provided by OUC….

Medical authorities have reported that along with a spike in hospitalizations for COVID cases, hospitals are relying increasingly on treatment involving high flows of supplemental oxygen for patients.

That has spurred a nationwide shortage for liquid oxygen, which has been exacerbated by a lack of available tanker trucks and drivers.

Mark Ryden, Amanda

Amanda, by Mark Ryden

In Mississippi, many people have been using a livestock deworming medication to treat or prevent Covid-19 that has been promoted on Fox News. ABC News: Mississippi officials warn against using livestock ivermectin to prevent COVID-19 after rise in poison control calls.

Mississippi’s poison control center has seen an increase in calls of people taking ivermectin, including versions of the deworming drug intended for livestock, to treat or prevent COVID-19, according to state health officials.

The Mississippi Health Department took to social media Friday to issue a warning about the phenomenon, which has been reported throughout the pandemic.

“Do not use ivermectin products made for animals,” it said in a Facebook post.

The Mississippi Health Department also issued an alert Friday to health care providers in the state regarding the increase in poison control calls due to potential ivermectin toxicity.

“At least 70% of the recent calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers,” stated the alert, which did not specify the number of total calls.

Meanwhile, there’s a free vaccine readily available that has emergency approval from the FDA.

Also in Mississippi: Mississippi threatens fines, jail time for Covid patients who don’t isolate.

Mississippi’s top health official Friday threatened jail time for people diagnosed with Covid-19 who don’t isolate in their homes.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs issued an “isolation order” that states, “All persons residing in Mississippi must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19.”

Failure to do so could result in fines and jail time. Dobbs’ order mentions two possible levels of violation. One, a refusal to obey a health officer, comes with a $500 fine and, possibly, six months behind bars.

But the order says that where a life-threatening disease is involved in a refusal to obey, violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and possibly five years behind bars.

State epidemiologist Paul Byers said Mississippi has the highest number of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. “These numbers are staggering guys,” he said during a weekly Mississippi pandemic update.

Marc Dennis, Night Out

Marc Dennis, Night Out

Big media is still focused tearing down Joe Biden, so much so that they hardly paid any attention to bomb threat standoff in DC. 

John Stoer at Raw Story: How the media enables a political minority to steal the majority’s freedoms.

Peter Baker is a reporter for the Times. He said this yesterday: “The Biden team’s cold political calculation is that Americans won’t care what happens in Afghanistan as long as Americans are safe. To their point, today there are no front-page stories on Afghanistan in cities like Boston, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Fresno or Miami.”

This is in keeping what I’ve been saying in the Editorial Board. Most people most of the time have something better to do than pay attention to politics. This goes double for August, that time of the year when normal people are thinking about vacations or preparing for the reopening of school. The Washington press corps barely paid any attention at all to Afghanistan, because most people most of the time stopped paying attention to it a decade ago, after the US killed the man responsible for murdering nearly 3,000 Americans a decade prior.

But Baker’s use of “cold political calculation” carries with it at least one presumption. It’s that Joe Biden is doing something obviously morally wrong; that “informed people” (i.e., elites) know he’s doing something obviously morally wrong; and that the obvious moral wrong is rooted in the fact that US forces are leaving Afghanistan. Moreover, it’s that Biden is betting he won’t pay a price for that obvious moral wrong given that voters have short attention spans and short memories, especially in August. It’s a presumption that itself presumes everything is as good or bad as everything else and nothing really matters.

“Cold political calculation” does not accurately represent reality, however. The Associated Press released this week the results of a new poll showing that two-thirds of the population does not think “America’s longest war was worth fighting.” That’s 67 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans. The poll, moreover, shows a gigantic switcher-roo over the duration of the “forever war.” In 2001, most people were worried about foreign terrorists. Now, according to the AP’s poll, most people see “major national security threats as being internal. Roughly two-thirds say they are extremely or very concerned about the threat of extremist groups based inside the United States.”

SmallGameHunter Rose Freymuth Frazier

Small Game Hunter, by Rose Freymuth

My point here isn’t to pick on Peter Baker. My point is to note how the press corps often overlooks, or ignores, majority opinion, especially as it relates to the dynamics of power in Washington. When put in its proper context, you can see the president and his team were not making a “cold political calculation.” To the contrary, they were acting in accord with the will of the majority. Everything is not as good or bad as everything else. Some things are good. Some things are bad. Some things are so clearly and morally one or the other, there’s a bipartisan consensus. A president is wise to take such preferences into account. I wouldn’t call this “cold political calculation.” I’d call it good politics.

Read more at Raw Story.

Here’s a link to Peter Baker’s article at The New York Times: Biden Ran on Competence and Empathy. Afghanistan Is Testing That.

More Afghanistan reads:

Franz J. Marty at The Guardian: I was in Kabul when it fell to the Taliban. The speed of the collapse stunned me.

HuffPost: Biden, Allies Frustrated With Media’s Hawkish Coverage Of Afghanistan Withdrawal.

William Saletan at Slate: Pompeo Is Lying About Afghanistan.  He laid the groundwork for the Taliban takeover. Now he’s blaming Biden.

Yahoo News: A former Pence adviser said Trump had 4 years to help Afghan allies leave the country but Stephen Miller’s ‘racist hysteria’ blocked it from happening.

As always, this is an open thread. I hope you all have a great weekend! 


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.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Cat on a flowery Meadow, Bruno Liljefors

Cat on a Flowery Meadow, by Bruno Liljefors

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I wrote about the latest revelations from some of the many Trump books that have been hitting the shelves, as well as an upcoming one by Susan Glasser and her husband NYT reporter Peter Baker. Yesterday Glasser spoke to CNN’s Jack Tapper. From Raw Story: ‘Most terrified I’ve ever been’: Reporter describes learning ‘extremely alarming’ details of Trump’s final days.

Reporter Susan Glasser on Friday told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she felt personally unnerved while reporting out details of former President Donald Trump’s final days.

While discussing her most recent article in the New Yorker about Trump’s fights with General Mark Milley in the waning weeks of his administration, Glasser explained to Tapper that it was unprecedented for American military leaders to view the sitting commander-in-chief as a potential national security threat.

“You know, when I first learned about the level of alarm that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had through the election and all the way into January, I have to say it was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been as a reporter in several decades,” said Glasser, who has also reported from American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said she was relieved to see that Milley and other top military commanders had done their best to hold Trump in check, but still found it frightening just how far the twice-impeached former president was willing to go.

The question arises: why are we just now learning about these horrific events and those reported in other books? From The Washington Post: The media scramble at the heart of Trump Book Summer.

The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come last Wednesday, when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books.

Around 3 p.m. that day, New York magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of “I Alone Can Fix It,” one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release.

The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power — was so hot that it in turn triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, written by no less than five reporters. Which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget — which was kind of ironic considering the book that produced the scoop was written by two Post reporters and had already generated a prominent excerpt in the paper, with a second to come days later.

wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

Wyndham Lewis, A Woman with a Cat

The media-on-media scramble, a kind of Russian nesting doll of reportage, attested to both the profound import of the Milley anecdote and the cultural heat of the new syllabus of Trump books. On the same day, “I Alone,” written by The Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, was the best-selling book on Amazon, which includes preorders for not-yet-released books. The third and fourth bestsellers were also dishy Trump titles, “Landslide,” by the independent journalist Michael Wolff, and “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, respectively. A fourth book, “Nightmare Scenario,” about Trump’s handling of the pandemic by two other Post reporters, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, had climbed up the lists the week before….

This spurt doesn’t include another dozen or so Trump books that will be released over the next few months, including one co-authored by Washington Post veteran Bob Woodward, who has already written two Trump tomes, including last September’s predictably best-selling “Rage.”

So why is it OK for these reporters to keep shocking news to themselves so they can use it to sell their books later on? The answer is that newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times allow their reporters to go on leave while writing their books and their research is “walled off from from their daily beat responsibilities,” according to editor Sally Buzbee. 

“Basically, when staffers go on unpaid book leaves, which is the case here, there is an understanding that the reporting they are doing is for the book,” she said. “The Post typically publishes the book’s first excerpt, which gives our readers the first cut at the news. This is our long-standing practice and has served readers of The Post and the reporters well.”

Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

Painting by Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933)

New York Times editor Dean Baquet said he encourages his reporters to “keep in touch” with editors at the paper when they’re working on books, and to alert them when they come up with something worthy of daily publication.

“Sometimes we make the judgment that it is okay to hold [a big scoop], or at least to hold until we publish an excerpt,” he said. Book-writing and daily news reporting aren’t “church and state,” said Baquet, whose star White House reporter Maggie Haberman is at work on a Trump book, “and I do hope reporters break their big news in the Times.”

Rucker noted another constraint on real-time reporting of the news he and Leonnig uncovered: “Many of the officials we interviewed for ‘I Alone Can Fix It’ agreed to speak with us about these events only after Trump had left office and only for the purposes of this deeper history,” he said.

OK then. I have to admit I can’t resist reading these books, even though I’m troubled by reporters keeping these secrets. 

In other news, a Texas judge ruled that DACA is illegal. The Washington Post: U.S. judge blocks new applicants to program that protects undocumented ‘dreamers’ who arrived as children.

A federal judge in Texas has largely halted an Obama administration initiative that grants work permits and reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — calling the program “unlawful” even as he allowed the more than 600,000 young people already in it to keep their protected status.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sided with Texas and other states in his ruling that President Barack Obama overstepped his executive authority when he created the program.

Hanen’s ruling called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.”

He prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications, issued a permanent injunction vacating the memo that created DACA in 2012 — when President Biden was vice president — and remanded the issue to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reconsideration.

Oskar Kokoschka

Painting by Oskar Kokoschka

President Biden said the DOJ will appeal the decision. The White House: Statement by President Joe Biden on DACA and Legislation for Dreamers.

In 2012, the Obama-Biden Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work in our communities. Nine years later, Congress has not acted to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing. While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.

But only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve. I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.

Thanks to all the misinformation Trump and his fans have spread about the Covid-19 and vaccines that prevent infections, we now appear to be entering a fourth wave of the deadly virus. USA Today: The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK’s fate? It’s too soon to know, by Karen Weintraub.

A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Beaver Meadow, Paul Sample

Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“Since the majority of our population is now immune, it’s unlikely that we’re going to return to the massive nationwide waves we saw back in January,” Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a Wednesday webinar with media.

But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

“We’re going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that’s vaccinated and the world that’s unvaccinated,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky,  chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, have all been shown to be highly effective against variants of the virus, including Delta, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S.

It’s a long article, so click the link to learn more.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: Delta Is Driving a Wedge Through Missouri. For America as a whole, the pandemic might be fading. For some communities, this year will be worse than last.

The summer wasn’t meant to be like this. By April, Greene County, in southwestern Missouri, seemed to be past the worst of the pandemic. Intensive-care units that once overflowed had emptied. Vaccinations were rising. Health-care workers who had been fighting the coronavirus for months felt relieved—perhaps even hopeful. Then, in late May, cases started ticking up again. By July, the surge was so pronounced that “it took the wind out of everyone,” Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital Springfield, told me. “How did we end up back here again?”

Alice Neel

Painting by Alice Neel

The hospital is now busier than at any previous point during the pandemic. In just five weeks, it took in as many COVID-19 patients as it did over five months last year. Ten minutes away, another big hospital, Cox Medical Center South, has been inundated just as quickly. “We only get beds available when someone dies, which happens several times a day,” Terrence Coulter, the critical-care medical director at CoxHealth, told me.

Last week, Katie Towns, the acting director of the Springfield–Greene County Health Department, was concerned that the county’s daily cases were topping 250. On Wednesday, the daily count hit 405. This dramatic surge is the work of the super-contagious Delta variant, which now accounts for 95 percent of Greene County’s new cases, according to Towns. It is spreading easily because people have ditched their masks, crowded into indoor spaces, resumed travel, and resisted vaccinations. Just 40 percent of people in Greene County are fully vaccinated. In some nearby counties, less than 20 percent of people are.

Many experts have argued that, even with Delta, the United States is unlikely to revisit the horrors of last winter. Even now, the country’s hospitalizations are one-seventh as high as they were in mid-January. But national optimism glosses over local reality. For many communities, this year will be worse than last. Springfield’s health-care workers and public-health specialists are experiencing the same ordeals they thought they had left behind. “But it feels worse this time because we’ve seen it before,” Amelia Montgomery, a nurse at CoxHealth, told me. “Walking back into the COVID ICU was demoralizing.”

Those ICUs are also filling with younger patients, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, including many with no underlying health problems. In part, that’s because elderly people have been more likely to get vaccinated, leaving Delta with a younger pool of vulnerable hosts. While experts are still uncertain if Delta is deadlier than the original coronavirus, every physician and nurse in Missouri whom I spoke with told me that the 30- and 40-something COVID-19 patients they’re now seeing are much sicker than those they saw last year.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Surreal Caturday Reads: Insane Conspiracy Theories and Cats

Topiary Cat at home evening, created by Richard Saunders

Good Morning!!

Our so-called “president” is a malignant narcissist with rapidly advancing dementia and we’re in a losing battle with a pandemic that the “president” has decided not to deal with at all. Instead he has been trying gin up outrage among his cult followers by claiming a vast conspiracy against him led by former president Obama. He began his morning by rage-tweeting about another supposed conspiracy against him by multiple social media sites–based on claims by right wing nut Michelle Malkin.

I highly recommend exploring The Atlantic magazine’s “Shadowland” project, which explores current and past conspiracy theories and their impact on American and world history. I’ve posted a couple their articles recently. We are going to need to understand this kind of conspiracy thinking as we get closer to the 2020 presidential election. Some background: “Shadowland”: A New Project From The Atlantic on the Power and Danger of Conspiracy.

Conspiracy thinking has shaped the world for centuries, destroying great institutions, eradicating knowledge, endangering democracies, and ending lives. These theories threaten not just individual facts, but the idea that empirical truth exists at all. And now, with a president of the United States who advances conspiracy thinking about a pandemic that has led to 82,000 reported deaths in America, it becomes an existential threat.

In an effort to better understand how we got here, and how we might find a way out, The Atlantic today launches “Shadowland,” an exploration of how conspiracy theories have shaped America, and why they are more powerful, and dangerous, now than ever.

Leonora Carrington’s Self Portrait (1938)

Shadowland takes you down the rabbit hole through an interactive project portal, built with the mobile reader in mind; the product and visuals are central to the storytelling. It represents some of the most ambitious work of the year, even as The Atlantic continues to apply the full weight of its newsroom to cover the biggest stories of our age: the global pandemic, the Trump presidency, and the spread of illiberalism across the planet.

The project debuts with “The Prophecies of Q,” executive editor Adrienne LaFrance’s cover story on QAnon for The Atlantic’s June issue. With its legions of followers, fabrications about the coronavirus, and dark predictions about the “deep state,” QAnon’s power—and the rejection of reality it represents—only grows. LaFrance warns that QAnon “is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end … To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic link.

Susan Glasser on “Obamagate”: “Obamagate” Is Niche Programming for Trump Superfans.

Donald Trump will not shut up about Barack Obama—not now, not ever. On Thursday morning, amid the gravest economic crisis in a century and a deadly pandemic that will have killed more than a hundred thousand Americans by the end of this month, Trump yet again accused his predecessor of culpability in “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.” Obama, he said, should be hauled before the Senate to testify. “He knew EVERYTHING,” Trump added in his tweet, one of dozens of attacks in the past few days in which he has targeted “Obamagate.” What crime, exactly, was Trump accusing Obama of? What should he testify about? Trump never said, and it’s a safe bet that he never will.

Field of Dreams – Heidi Taillefer #Surreal #Cat

On Monday afternoon, at a press conference on the White House lawn, Trump made that clear, in a memorable exchange with Phil Rucker, of the Washington Post, that echoed the paranoid fulminations of Trump’s hero Joseph McCarthy at his worst. “What crime, exactly, are you accusing President Obama of committing?” Rucker asked. “Obamagate,” Trump replied. “It’s been going on for a long time,” he added, without offering specifics. “What is the crime, exactly, that you’re accusing him of?” Rucker asked again. “You know what the crime is,” Trump answered. “The crime is very obvious to everybody.” Days later, that is still where we are: Trump is accusing Obama of a grave crime but refusing even to say what Obama allegedly did, while repeating over and over that the former President is guilty of something, a technique of political agitprop that recalls not only McCarthy but every wannabe dictator for whom the rule of law has little or nothing to do with accusations of illegality.

Perhaps, to Trump and his defenders, “Obamagate” really is such a known commodity that defining it is superfluous, even if it is not at all obvious to those who don’t populate Trump’s alternate reality of conspiracy theories and outright lies, a world in which Obama figures as a regular and sinister presence. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the gap between partisan truths in Washington is so wide it’s practically a vortex. In many ways, the “Obamagate” exchange on Monday reminded me of the first day of the public impeachment hearings last fall in the House Intelligence Committee, in which Democrats spent hours outlining what they knew of the Trump Ukraine-shakedown scheme that had triggered the impeachment proceedings, while Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member, offered up an array of little-known intrigues that seemed entirely unrelated to the matter at hand, including an alleged plot to “obtain nude pictures of Trump,” which, he said, was part of a “three-year-long operation” by Democrats, “the corrupt media,” and “partisan bureaucrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election.” I remember thinking: Naked pictures? What was he even talking about? It appeared to have something to do with a 2017 phone call to Representative Adam Schiff from two Russian pranksters claiming to represent the Ukrainian government and offering nude pictures of Trump with a Russian celebrity. Or something. If you had been following along with Fox News and the darker corners of the right, you knew exactly what Nunes was talking about.

Read the rest at The New Yorker

Andre Ferez, Russian artist

The New York Times on Trump’s latest crazy obsessions: A Sitting President, Riling the Nation During a Crisis.

Even by President Trump’s standards, it was a rampage: He attacked a government whistle-blower who was telling Congress that the coronavirus pandemic had been mismanaged. He criticized the governor of Pennsylvania, who has resisted reopening businesses. He railed against former President Barack Obama, linking him to a conspiracy theory and demanding he answer questions before the Senate about the federal investigation of Michael T. Flynn.

And Mr. Trump lashed out at Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. In an interview with a sympathetic columnist, Mr. Trump smeared him as a doddering candidate who “doesn’t know he’s alive.” The caustic attack coincided with a barrage of digital ads from Mr. Trump’s campaign mocking Mr. Biden for verbal miscues and implying that he is in mental decline.

That was all on Thursday.

Far from a one-day onslaught, it was a climactic moment in a weeklong lurch by Mr. Tru​mp back to ​​the darkest tactics that defined his rise to political power​. Even those who have grown used to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office may have found themselves newly alarmed by the grim spectacle of a sitting president deliberately stoking the country’s divisions and pursuing personal vendettas in the midst of a crisis that has Americans fearing for their lives and livelihoods.

A bit more:

Since well before he became president, Mr. Trump’s appetite for conflict has defined him as a public figure. But in recent days he has practiced that approach with new intensity, signaling both the depths of his election-year distress and his determination to blast open a path to a second term, even at the cost of further riling a country in deep anguish.

Rene Magritte, Cat in a Hat

His electoral path has narrowed rapidly since the onset of the pandemic, as the growth-and-prosperity theme of his campaign disintegrated. In private, Mr. Trump has been plainly aggrieved at the loss of his central argument for re-election. “They wiped out my economy!” he has said to aides, according to people briefed on the remarks.

It is unclear whether he has been referring to China, where the virus originated, or health experts who have urged widespread lockdowns, but his frustration and determination to place blame elsewhere have been emphatic.

Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, said that Mr. Trump and his campaign were going on the offensive in nasty ways in an attempt to shift the attention of the public away from him and onto other targets, and ultimately onto Mr. Biden.

“If this election is about Trump, he probably loses,” Mr. Goldstein said. “Trump’s only hope is to make the election about Biden.”

Jack Shafer argues at Politico that we should ignore the idiot “president”: How Not to Listen to Donald Trump.

It turns out President Donald Trump’s status as the most accessible person to ever hold the office is more a curse than a blessing. Day after day, he fills the air with the ack-ack of disinformation and misdirection, needlessly alarming the public and sending reporters on wild goose chases to either confirm or disprove his allegations. On Thursday, in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump repeated his newest figment that Joe Biden and Barack Obama are guilty of some unnamed crimes for which they are deserving of “50-year sentences.”

Strong meat! The heinous crimes—to which he has applied the “Obamagate” moniker and calls “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR”—is a relatively new creation of the Trump Disinformation Laboratory. He only started talking about it on May 10 and has yet to specify exactly what Obamagate is aside from telling reporters in a press conference that it’s “obvious” and that he wants Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to investigate it.

By Daniel Merriam

Despite a lack of interest from his minions in Congress (Graham has said he has no plans to grill Obama), Trump’s foggy demagoguery has mobilized the entire press corps to determine what the hell Trump is talking about. Explainers from Reuters, the Washington Post, the Guardian, CNN, and elsewhere struggle to decipher Trump’s vague but strident accusations with little success. We can say this much with certainty. It appears linked to the counterintelligence operation against Gen. Michael Flynn in late 2016, and the requests from Obama administration officials that his identity be “unmasked” from intelligence reports so they could understand who, exactly, was talking to the Russian ambassador. Flynn lied to the FBI about speaking to the ambassador about sanctions and later pled guilty to lying to the FBI about those conversations. (Unmasking, by the way, is a routine, not nefarious thing, which the Trump administration has requested thousands of times.) But until Trump uses his words to make his charges about Obama more specific, we can only guess at what the actual crime might be.

Why must we fetch every bone that Trump hurls into the high, prickly brush? Well, he’s the president, and he wouldn’t make such an extreme charge if it weren’t true, would he? But he does, and he does all the time. This tidy list from Business Insider demonstrates his historic capacity for making baseless but grotesque claims of criminality and deception: implicating Ted Cruz’s father in the Kennedy assassination; claiming that Obama wasn’t born in the United States; surmising that Justice Antonin Scalia did not die of natural causes; accusing Joe Scarborough of complicity in the death of an intern; asserting massive voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election; saying windmills cause cancer; connecting the Clintons to Jeffrey Epstein’s death; and the Bidens-in-Ukraine baloney.

I’m not sure ignoring Trump’s insanity will work as long as he has rabid support from around 40 percent of the electorate (who knew there were so many idiots in the U.S.?). I tend to agree with The Atlantic’s point of view–we need to become more aware of the programming these Americans are receiving from Trump and his friends in the media and on-line forums.

What do you think? What other stories are you following today?