Thursday Reads

Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam

Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam

Good Morning!!

Here’s what I see as the major topics in the news today: world events stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine; the ongoing Trumpist attack on U.S. democracy; and the new wave of Covid-19 cases.

Outgrowths of Ukraine War

Fascism and totalitarianism expert Timothy Snyder at The New York Times: We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist.

Fascism was never defeated as an idea.

As a cult of irrationality and violence, it could not be vanquished as an argument: So long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated. Now it’s back — and this time, the country fighting a fascist war of destruction is Russia. Should Russia win, fascists around the world will be comforted.

We err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust. Fascism was Italian in origin, popular in Romania — where fascists were Orthodox Christians who dreamed of cleansing violence — and had adherents throughout Europe (and America). In all its varieties, it was about the triumph of will over reason.

Because of that, it’s impossible to define satisfactorily. People disagree, often vehemently, over what constitutes fascism. But today’s Russia meets most of the criteria that scholars tend to apply. It has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin. It has a cult of the dead, organized around World War II. It has a myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness, to be restored by a war of healing violence — the murderous war on Ukraine.

You’ll need to read the whole essay to get the full impact of Snyder’s argument, but here’s a bit more:

We understand more about fascism than we did in the 1930s. We now know where it led. We should recognize fascism, because then we know what we are dealing with. But to recognize it is not to undo it. Fascism is not a debating position, but a cult of will that emanates fiction. It is about the mystique of a man who heals the world with violence, and it will be sustained by propaganda right to the end. It can be undone only by demonstrations of the leader’s weakness. The fascist leader has to be defeated, which means that those who oppose fascism have to do what is necessary to defeat him. Only then do the myths come crashing down.

Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte

Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte

As in the 1930s, democracy is in retreat around the world and fascists have moved to make war on their neighbors. If Russia wins in Ukraine, it won’t be just the destruction of a democracy by force, though that is bad enough. It will be a demoralization for democracies everywhere. Even before the war, Russia’s friends — Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson — were the enemies of democracy. Fascist battlefield victories would confirm that might makes right, that reason is for the losers, that democracies must fail.

Had Ukraine not resisted, this would have been a dark spring for democrats around the world. If Ukraine does not win, we can expect decades of darkness.

The Economist: The coming food catastrophe. War is tipping a fragile world towards mass hunger. Fixing that is everyone’s business.

By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will destroy the lives of people far from the battlefield—and on a scale even he may regret. The war is battering a global food system weakened by covid-19climate change and an energy shock. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened. Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.

The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the un secretary general, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten “the spectre of a global food shortage” that could last for years. The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.

Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.

landscape-with-rain-wassily-kandinsky

Landscape with rain, Wassily Kandinsky

Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.

Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.

The Trumpist Attack on U.S. Democracy

This is from The Washington Post news analysis by Leigh Ann Caldwell, Theodoric Meyer: Trump uses Pa. primary to continue effort to undermine electoral system.

Donald Trump‘s continued effort to discredit or manipulate the electoral process is playing out in two distinct but related ways in the wake of Tuesday’s primary contests in Pennsylvania.

First, he is casting doubt on the result of the Senate GOP primary by once again making baseless claims that mail-in ballots are causing problems and suggesting his preferred candidate, Mehmet Oz, should just declare victory.

“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said, providing no evidence, on his social media platform Truth Social, our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports.

Second, the nominee he backed for governor, Doug Mastriano, won the primary and if he wins the election in November, Mastriano would have considerable influence over how the state’s presidential election results are handled in 2024 when Trump may be on the ballot as our colleague’s Rosalind S. HeldermanIsaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey explain.

Mastriano has been one of the staunchest backers of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and the steps he wanted officials to take to deny Joe Biden victory.

Rain swept street, by Mike Barr

Rain swept street, by Mike Barr

“As governor, Mastriano would have the opportunity not just to speak, but to act,” Roz, Isaac and Josh write. A possibility that is “worrying experts already fearful of a democratic breakdown around the 2024 presidential contest.”

“Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.”

Read more at the WaPo link.

Reid Epstein at The New York Times: Midterm Stakes Grow Clearer: Election Deniers Will Be on Many Ballots.

Republican voters in this week’s primary races demonstrated a willingness to nominate candidates who parrot Donald J. Trump’s election lies and who appear intent on exerting extraordinary political control over voting systems. The results make clear that the November midterms may well affect the fate of free and fair elections in the country.

In Pennsylvania, Republican voters united behind a nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot, and who has since promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden’s victory in his state.

In North Carolina, voters chose a G.O.P. Senate nominee, Representative Ted Budd, who voted in Congress against certifying the 2020 results and who continues to refuse to say that Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.

And in Idaho, which Mr. Trump won overwhelmingly in 2020, 57 percent of voters backed two Republican candidates for secretary of state who pushed election falsehoods, though they lost a three-way race to a rival who accepts Mr. Biden as president.

The strong showings on Tuesday by election deniers, who have counterparts running competitively in primaries across the country over the coming months, were an early signal of the threat posed by the Trump-inspired movement.

This story about what’s happening in Idaho was published before yesterday’s primaries, but it’s still an important read. Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: Living With The Far-Right Insurgency In Idaho.

IDAHO — White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.

“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people, and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”

Foxx, 36, isn’t from Idaho. He only recently moved from California to Post Falls. But in the video, he showed off photos of himself posing with a string of prominent Republican politicians in the state as he explained who he’s supporting in the upcoming primaries, slated for May 17.

gregory thielker Rainy day in Washington DC

Gregory Thielker,, Rainy Day in Washington, DC

He was especially excited about a selfie he’d taken a week prior: It showed him and fellow white nationalist Dave Reilly, a recent Pennsylvania transplant also living in Post Falls, standing alongside Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. All three were smiling.

“We’re supporting her,” Foxx said, bragging of his movement’s “deep connections” to McGeachin, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed in the GOP primary race for governor. Foxx then explained how his particular brand of Christian white nationalism is poised to conquer Idaho, then the country.

“The solution is local politics: Amassing power in these pockets of the country until it’s time to unify,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months and I’m tapped in the way that I am. You can do it too.”

Fascists like Foxx are famous fabulists, experts at exaggerating their influence and success. But Foxx wasn’t just talking shit.

He is one of many far-right activists who have flocked to Idaho in recent years, where a large and growing radical MAGA faction in the state’s Republican Party has openly allied itself with extremists to a shocking extent, even for the Trump era. This faction is accruing more and more power in Boise, the state capital: Imagine a statehouse full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Steve Kings. At the local level, they have seized seats on school boards and county commissions at a fast clip.

Please read the rest. This could easily happening in other small states.

New Covid Wave

The Washington Post: Top Biden health officials sound warning on rising covid infections.

Top Biden administration officials warned Wednesday that one-third of Americans live in communities experiencing rising levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and urged them to resume taking personal protection measures, including wearing masks.

The increase in new infections — nearing 100,000 a day — comes as the nation heads into Memorial Day weekend with its large gatherings and travel. That case count is almost certainly an undercount, officials said, given the widespread use of at-home tests for which results are often not reported to health officials.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strongly encouraged those living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating they have large numbers of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other steps to protect themselves.

“As we’re currently seeing a steady rise of cases in parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent further infection and severe disease, including wearing a mask, getting tested, accessing treatments early if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted,”she said.

Wednesday’s warnings from Walensky and two other officials — Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser — came on the same day the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million covid-19 deaths, a toll that even the starkest predictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020 did not anticipate.

In the Rain, ,Franz Marc

In the Rain, Franz Marc

Also from The Washington Post: How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.

Experts say Americans can assume that infections in their communities are five to 10 times the official counts.

“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state or national level is a severe undercount,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, housed at theRockefeller Foundation. “Everyone knows someone getting covid now.”

Hospitalizations nationally have increased 57 percent since bottoming out six weeks ago. But the roughly 23,000 covid patients in hospitals over the last week still represent nearly the lowest hospitalization levels of the entire pandemic.The recentincrease is led by the Northeast, where hospitalization rates are almost twice as high as in any other region.

Reported cases of covid have also tripled in the Northeast in just over a month, driving much of the growth nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The country has averaged about 100,000 new cases each day over the past week —more than three times as high as at the lowest point in March.

The latest uptick in infections is testing a new CDC alert system adopted by many local and state governments that categorizes community levels of covid-19 as “low” even with the number of new cases rising to a level once considered high.

More than two-thirds of Americans live in low-risk areas under these metrics. But 43 percent of residents in the Northeastlive in areas considered high-risk, compared with 9percent in the Midwest and less than 1 percent each in the South and West.

I recommend clicking the link and reading the entire article.

morning-on-the-seine-in-the-rain-1898, Claude Monet

Morning on the Seine in the rain, Claude Monet

CNBC: U.S. faces unnecessary Covid deaths if Congress fails to pass funding bill, top health official warns.

Top U.S. health officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for Congress to pass funding for the nation’s fight against Covid-19, warning that failure to act now would result in an unnecessary loss of life in the fall and winter.

Their warning comes as new infections and hospitalizations are on the rise as the more transmissible omicron subvariants sweep the U.S.

The nation is reporting more than 94,000 new infections daily on average as of Monday, a 25% increase over the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, hospitalizations have increased 18% over the past week with about 3,000 people admitted with Covid every day on average, according to CDC data.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House Covid response coordinator, said the fact that many people are now taking at-home tests, results of which are not captured in the data, has to be taken into consideration.

“We know that the number of infections is actually substantially higher than that, hard to know exactly how many, but we know that a lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests,” Jha said during a White House update on the pandemic Wednesday. “We’re clearly undercounting cases. There’s a lot of infections across America.”

Those are today’s top stories as I see it. What do you think? What stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Easter Weekend Edition

53ae46d9428b919e891c8c0c0d65d246Good Morning!!

Easter, like other religious holidays, reflects symbolism from pagan feast days–part of the Church’s efforts to convert people from their ancient beliefs to Christianity. A few days ago, I read an interesting piece by anthropologist and folklore expert Tok Thompson, reprinted in Smithsonian Magazine: The Ancient Origins of the Easter Bunny. A scholar traces the folk figure’s history from the Neolithic era to today.

Easter is a celebration of spring and new life. Eggs and flowers are rather obvious symbols of female fertility, but in European traditions, the bunny, with its amazing reproductive potential, is not far behind.

In European traditions, the Easter bunny is known as the Easter hare. The symbolism of the hare has had many tantalizing ritual and religious roles down through the years.

Hares were given ritual burials alongside humans during the Neolithic age in Europe. Archaeologists have interpreted this as a religious ritual, with hares representing rebirth.

Over a thousand years later, during the Iron Age, ritual burials for hares were common, and in 51 B.C.E., Julius Caesar mentioned that in Britain, hares were not eaten due to their religious significance.

Caesar would likely have known that in the classical Greek tradition, hares were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Meanwhile, Aphrodite’s son Eros was often depicted carrying a hare as a symbol of unquenchable desire.

From the Greek world through the Renaissance, hares often appear as symbols of sexuality in literature and art. For example, the Virgin Mary is often shown with a white hare or rabbit, symbolizing that she overcame sexual temptation.

b0j5f-easter3But it is in the folk traditions of England and Germany that the figure of the hare is specifically connected to Easter. Accounts from the 1600s in Germany describe children hunting for Easter eggs hidden by the Easter hare, much as in the United States today.

Written accounts from England around the same time also mention the Easter hare, particularly in terms of traditional Easter hare hunts and the eating of hare meat at Easter. One tradition, known as the “Hare Pie Scramble,” was held at Hallaton, a village in Leicestershire, England. It involved eating a pie made with hare meat and people “scrambling” for a slice. In 1790, the local parson tried to stop the custom due to its pagan associations, but he was unsuccessful, and the custom continues in that village until this day.

As for the pagan origins of Easter and the Easter bunny,

In 1835, the folklorist Jacob Grimm, one of the famous team of the fairy tale Brothers Grimm, argued that the Easter hare was connected to a goddess he imagined would have been called “Ostara” in ancient German. He derived this name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who Bede, an early medieval monk considered to be the father of English history, mentioned in 731 C.E.

Here in the U.S., there has long been a tradition of an Easter egg roll at the White House. The event will take place this year on Monday, April 18 after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. CNN: Biden White House hatches plans for return of the Egg Roll.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are taking their first crack at the time-honored Easter tradition on Monday, which will mark the 142nd White House Easter Egg Roll following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme of the event, the first lady’s office says, is “EGGucation,” with the South Lawn being “transformed into a school community” for 30,000 visitors to enjoy, including military families from the USS Delaware.

c2d445c9da7f2aad39372d58cad7c473The American Egg Board is donating 90,000 eggs to the event as part of its longtime partnership with the White House, egg board president and CEO Emily Metz told CNN. That includes approximately 50,000 hard-boiled eggs that will be used for the egg roll races with wooden spoons, the egg hunt, and for dyeing and decorating. Those eggs were hard-boiled, dyed and transported from North Carolina to Washington on a refrigerated truck by Braswell Family Farms’ John Watson, where they will be stored over the weekend ahead of Monday’s festivities.

Forty thousand additional eggs have been donated to be used for food items for guests, Metz said….

The American Egg Board will also present its annual commemorative egg to the first lady, part of a 45-year tradition beginning with the Carter administration. Artist Russ Hagen, a member of the International Egg Art Guild, was selected to paint the 2021 and 2022 commemorative eggs, a months-long undertaking that included a design to match the “EGGucation” theme created by Mary O’Reilly and the inside of a real chicken egg being blown out through a special process, leaving the shell intact, before the decoration could begin.

This year, all 45 eggs that have been presented to first ladies over the years are being displayed together for the first time in a special “Colonnade of Eggs” in the East Wing of the White House for visitors to view on tours.

As I wrote above, the WH Easter egg roll has a long history. From The White House Historical Association: Origins of the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Since 1878, American presidents and their families have celebrated Easter Monday by hosting an ‘egg roll’ party. Held on the South Lawn, it is one of the oldest annual events in White House history. Some historians note that First Lady Dolley Madison originally suggested the idea of a public egg roll, while others tell stories of informal egg-rolling parties at the White House dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Beginning in the 1870s, Washingtonians from all social levels celebrated Easter Monday on the west grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Children rolled brilliantly dyed hard-boiled eggs down the terraced lawn.

However, by 1876, a concern for the landscape led Congress to pass legislation to restrict the public use of the Capitol grounds, effectively prohibiting any future egg rolling. The new edict went unchallenged in 1877, as rain cancelled all the day’s activities, but in 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes decided to open the South Lawn to egg rollers, as it had previously been reserved for the First Family’s private Easter activities. Thus, a new tradition was born. In 1974, the Nixons hosted egg roll races, an event which has become an Easter Monday favorite.

This morning, historian Michael Bechloss posted a photo of the 1926 egg roll.

I suppose I have to include some news in this post, although I’d rather just think about cats and bunnies and Spring flowers.

The only real good news I’m seeing is that the Boston Marathon will once again be held on Monday. CNN: Runners ‘pumped’ as Boston Marathon returns to April.

The Boston Marathon returns to its traditional April date for the first time in three years on Monday with the fastest field in the race’s history, boasting a star-studded slate of previous champions and Olympic medalists.

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir leads the women’s field hot off her Tokyo Olympic gold medal and New York City Marathon victory last year, while local hero Molly Seidel is looking to build off her bronze medal at that Olympics and triumph in her first Boston Marathon.

In the men’s division, Kenya’s Benson Kipruto is looking to repeat just six months after he won at last year’s delayed race, but will face tough competition from last year’s New York winner, compatriot Albert Korir, and 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia.

“It’s exciting. It’s always cool to feel like you’re coming to your hometown race. I’m really pumped to actually go at it on this course rather than just training on it,” Seidel, an American and a former Boston resident, told Reuters on Friday.

But will the Marathon be a superspreader event? Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly in the Northeast. We’ve had well over 2,000 new cases on each of the past few days here in Massachusetts. New York is seeing more than 5,000 per day. Those are undercounts, of course, because so many people are using home tests now, but wastewater testing reveals high levels of virus in Northeastern states.

dnknw-easter1The New York Times: The Omicron BA.2 subvariant has stalled pandemic progress in the U.S.

About 30,000 marathoners from 122 countries and all 50 U.S. states will hit the streets on Monday in and around Boston, where the city’s Public Health Commission reports that the Covid positivity rate has risen to 6.6 percent, passing its “threshold of concern” of 5 percent.

The agency urged residents to mask, to test before joining indoor gatherings, to gather outdoors if possible, and to get booster shots to protect themselves and others in the coming days as Easter, Passover, Ramadan and public school vacations converge. The city’s positivity rate has risen by 4 percentage points since early March, it noted.

This month the Omicron BA.2 subvariant has flattened the steep downward glide in official case counts that Boston and the rest of the country had been on after the BA.1 surge in the winter. The turn is not unexpected, but it comes as in-person gatherings have resumed, vaccinations have flatlined, officially reported tests are falling and politicians and many Americans want an end to most restrictions.

And while hospitalizations and deaths remain on the decline nationally, concerns are rising for unvaccinated and unboosted people, who remain more vulnerable to serious illness and death.

More Covid stories to check out:

Yahoo News: It’s not over: COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in US.

The Washington Post: New, highly transmissible forms of omicron may pose latest covid threat.

FiveThirtyEight: Do Americans Care About The Latest COVID-19 Wave In The Northeast?

s-l300I’m going to post more stories as links only because I just don’t want to think about bad news today. Here’s what’s happening:

The Washington Post: Ukrainian governor says Mariupol ‘has been wiped off the face of the earth.’

Radio Free Europe: Russian Soldier And Wife Discussing Rape Of Ukrainian Women Identified By RFE/RL.

The New York Times: How Russian Media Uses Fox News to Make Its Case.

Michael Kruse at Politico: The One Way History Shows Trump’s Personality Cult Will End.

Aaron Rupar: Ron DeSantis loves using very young kids as political props.

CNN: Rotting fruit, spoiled vegetables: How Texas just made the supply chain even worse.

The New York Times: As G.O.P. Candidates Face Accusations, Rivals Tread Carefully.

Raw Story: ‘Rot wasn’t just Donald Trump’: Neal Katyal says Jan 6. Committee has proof implicating GOP leaders.

That’s it for me today. I hope you all have a nice Easter weekend.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Happy New Year!

Good Afternoon!!

Happy-New-Year-2022Well, 2021 is in the rearview mirror and 2022 lies ahead. Will this year be better than the last two? We can only hope. Every year, we look back at the notable people who have left us, and there were many of those last year. To cap a terrible year, the last living member of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls–Betty White–died yesterday.

The New York Times: Betty White, a Television Golden Girl From the Start, Is Dead at 99.

Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, the nymphomaniacal Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the sweet but dim Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” — and who capped her long career with a comeback that included a triumphant appearance as the host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88 — died on Friday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99.

Her death, less than three weeks before her 100th birthday, was confirmed by Jeff Witjas, her longtime friend and agent.

Ms. White won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy — as well as a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy in 2015 and a Los Angeles regional Emmy in 1952 — in a television career that spanned seven decades and that the 2014 edition of “Guinness World Records” certified as the longest ever for a female entertainer.

But her breakthrough came relatively late in life, with her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1973 to 1977, for which she won two of her Emmys.

As Sue Ann, the host of a household-hints show on the television station where Ms. Moore’s character worked, the bedimpled Ms. White was annoyingly positive and upbeat, but also manipulative and bawdy — the sexpot next door, who would have you believe she slept with entire Army brigades during World War II.

Once, when someone asked her how she was feeling, Sue Ann replied cheerfully: “I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I feel wonderful.”

She won another Emmy in 1986 for an entirely different kind of character: the naïve, scatterbrained Rose on “The Golden Girls,” which revolved around the lives of four older women sharing a house in Miami. Whereas Sue Ann knew everything there was to know about getting a man into bed, Rose got to the same place innocently, and by being just a wee bit off center.

Ms. White was the last surviving member of the show’s four stars. Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur in 2009 and Rue McClanahan in 2010.

Read the rest at the NYT.

In 2021, we also lost Cloris Leachman (January 27, Gavin MacLeod (May 29), Ed Asner (August 29).

Read about more notable people who died in 2021 at The New York Times: Deaths in 2021: Headline Names Against the Backdrop of Pandemic.

In the news today, the pandemic rages on. CBS News: The world welcomes 2022 with muted celebrations as COVID-19 cases surge.

The world rang in 2022 with muted celebrations for another year, as the coronavirus pandemic — now fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant — continues to upset daily life across the globe. The new variant, which is now driving record case numbers in the U.S., forced many cities to tone down celebrations or cancel them altogether.

New York City’s Times Square still held an event, but it only allowed a small fraction of the typical crowd, and all attendees over the age of 5 who do not qualify for an exemption were required to be fully vaccinated and wear face masks. Cities such as Atlanta and San Francisco canceled typical celebrations.

drawing-cat-painting-for-new-year-616e36ae1072c8.54918594In New Zealand, one of the first cities to kick off the new year, a light display replaced the traditional fireworks show. Australia proceeded with its seven-minute fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House, but limited access to downtown Sydney, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans not to attend large gatherings on New Year’s Eve.

“What I would suggest people do not do, is to go to very large 50-to-60-person parties where people are blowing whistles and all that sort of thing, and celebrating, and you don’t know the vaccination status of the people in that environment,” Fauci said.

President Biden spoke to Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Thursday night. The Washington Post:

WILMINGTON, Del. — President Biden said Friday that he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call that there would be “a heavy price to pay” if Russia invades Ukraine again.

Biden said he “made it clear” that any further military action by the Kremlin would result in “severe sanctions” but did not go as far as to say that Washington would respond to Russia’s continued military presence near the border with Ukraine.

“I’m not going to negotiate here in public,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., where he is spending New Year’s Eve. “But we made it clear he cannot, I’ll emphasize, cannot invade Ukraine.”

Following his call on Thursday with Putin, Biden plans to speak by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday amid growing alarm over Russia’s military buildup near its border with Ukraine.

Biden will “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House official, previewing the call to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House. Biden is also expected to review preparations with Zelensky for the upcoming diplomatic talks.

Senior U.S. and Russian officials will meet in Geneva on Jan. 9 and 10, before a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on Jan. 12 and negotiations at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna on Jan. 13.

Biden told reporters Friday that ahead of those conferences, Putin “laid out some of his concerns about NATO and the United States and Europe, and we laid out ours. And we said we’d begin to negotiate some of those issues. But I made it clear that they only could work if, in fact, he de-escalated, not escalated, the situation there.”

Party Cat, by Cindy Thompson

Party Cat, by Cindy Thompson

Chief Justice John Roberts issued his laughable year-end report. The New York Times: Chief Justice Roberts Reflects on Conflicts, Harassment and Judicial Independence.

Amid a drop in public confidence in the Supreme Court and calls for increasing its membership, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. devoted his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary on Friday to a plea for judicial independence.

“The judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence and is crucial to preserving public trust in its work as a separate and coequal branch of government,” he wrote.

The report comes less than a month after a bipartisan commission appointed by President Biden finished its work studying changes to the federal judiciary. While that panel analyzed proposals like imposing 18-year term limits on justices and expanding, or “packing,” the court with additional justices, much of the chief justice’s report was focused on thwarting less contentious efforts by Congress to address financial conflicts and workplace misconduct in the judicial system. Both issues are the subject of proposed legislation that has drawn bipartisan support.

Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, a nonprofit group that has called for stricter ethics rules for the Supreme Court, said the chief justice faced an uphill battle.

“Chief Justice Roberts is taking a page from his old playbook: acknowledging institutional challenges in the judiciary but telling the public that only we judges can fix them,” Mr. Roth said. “Yet the problems of overlooked financial conflicts and sexual harassment are serious and endemic, and there’s no indication they’re going away. So Congress has every right to step in and, via legislation, hold the third branch to account, which I expect to happen in 2022.”

Chief Justice Roberts addressed at some length a recent series of articles in The Wall Street Journal that found that 131 federal judges had violated a federal law by hearing 685 lawsuits between 2010 and 2018 that involved companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.

“Let me be crystal clear: The judiciary takes this matter seriously,” the chief justice wrote. “We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule. But I do want to put these lapses in context.”

Hahahahaha! I’ll take him seriously when he address the many conflicts of interest on the Supreme Court, beginning with Clarence Thomas and his wife.

We are approaching the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. In the news today:

The latest Trump/Giuliani pal to release documents to the January 6 committee is Bernard Kerik. Politico: Bernard Kerik provides batch of documents to Jan. 6 select committee.

A key adviser to Donald Trump’s legal team in their post-election quest to unearth evidence of fraud has delivered a trove of documents to Jan. 6 investigators describing those efforts.

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police commissioner and ally of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also provided a “privilege log” describing materials he declined to provide to the committee.

Teatime Cats, A Celebration! by Isabelle Brent

Teatime Cats, A Celebration! by Isabelle Brent

Among the withheld documents is one titled “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” Kerik’s attorney Timothy Parlatore provided the privilege log to the panel, which said the file originated on Dec. 17, a day before Trump huddled in the Oval Office with advisers including former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, where they discussed the option of seizing election equipment in states whose results Trump was attempting to overturn.

Trump ultimately opted against that strategy, but his consideration of the option is one of the key questions the panel is probing as part of its broader investigation into attempts to overturn the election.

It’s unclear whether the letter is related to the same plan and if Trump knew of its existence. Kerik withheld it, describing it as privileged because of its classification as “attorney work product.”

Another document provided by Kerik to the panel included emails between Kerik and associates about paying for rooms at the Willard Hotel. Kerik had been subpoenaed by the panel on Nov. 8 as part of its investigation into the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel, where Trump allies met to strategize about preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory. The panel had originally sent a letter accompanying the subpoena that had incorrectly suggested Kerik was in the war room on Jan. 5, leading Kerik to demand an apology.

Read more at Politico.

More on Kerik from Raw Story: Trump’s Twitter and the Freedom Caucus were key to overturning the election: Bernie Kerik documents.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has obtained new documents showing how Donald Trump’s Twitter account and the far-right House Freedom Caucus could be used to help overturn the 2020 election.

“A key adviser to Donald Trump’s legal team in their post-election quest to unearth evidence of fraud has delivered a trove of documents to Jan. 6 investigators describing those efforts,” Politico reported Friday. “Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police commissioner and ally of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also provided a “privilege log” describing materials he declined to provide to the committee.”

Kerik — who was pardoned by Trump 11 months before the insurrection — is not an attorney but has claimed his work under Giuliani was covered by attorney-client privilege. Giuliani has had his law license suspended in New York and Washington, D.C.

“Another 22-page document, titled “STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN – GIULIANI PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL DEFENSE TEAM,” describes a 10-day blitz aimed at Republican House and Senate members to pressure them to vote against certifying the 2020 election results,” Politico reported. “The document says its primary channels to disseminate messaging on these efforts included ‘presidential tweets’ as well as talk radio, conservative bloggers, social media influencers, Trump campaign volunteers and other media allies. A list of ‘key team members’ supporting the effort included ‘Freedom Caucus Members’ — a reference to the group of hardline House conservatives, some of whom backed Trump’s effort to overturn the election.”

Cats Birthday Party, by Andrew Osta

Cats Birthday Party, by Andrew Osta

More January 6 news from Raw Story: ‘Unite the Right’ set the stage for Jan. 6 — and helped launch some of the biggest players in the Capitol riot.

Days after neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. murdered antiracist activist Heather Heyer in a horrific car-ramming attack in Charlottesville, Va., the Daily Caller, a website founded by Tucker Carlson, quietly removed articles by contributor Jason Kessler.

Kessler was the primary organizer of the Unite the Right rally, which saw neo-Nazis chant, “Jews will not replace us,” as they carried torches to the Rotunda at the University of Virginia on Aug. 11, 2017 and again the following day as they marched through Charlottesville.

More than four years later, the ideas that galvanized the Unite the Right rally are no longer considered too radioactive for mainstream conservative media. Carlson himself embraced the Great Replacement theory — responsible for fueling massacres in Pittsburgh; Christchurch, New Zealand; Poway, Calif.; and El Paso, Texas — on his Fox News show in April 2021. He accused Democrats of “trying to replace the current electorate” in the United States “with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.”

There are distinct differences in messaging between Unite the Right, in which white supremacists used Confederate symbols and neo-Nazi aesthetics to nakedly promote white nationalism, and the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which Trump supporters filtered similar aims through QAnon, paranoid anticommunism, and a perverted version of patriotism.

Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America — the nonprofit that won the civil lawsuit against the organizers of Unite the Right — is among those who see distinct similarities between the two events.

“The four years in between have shown us how much of this extremism has moved into the mainstream,” she said. “If you look at the tools and tactics, there are many, many parallels, from the use of social media to plan the violence to explicit discussion of the use of free speech instruments like flagpoles as weapons, to the immediate finger-pointing to ‘antifa, blaming them for the violence that far-right extremists were responsible for to even some of the ideology.

“While Charlottesville was explicitly white nationalist with holocaust imagery, and with KKK and Nazi paraphernalia like the tiki torches that are meant to evoke dark periods of our history, on January 6th when you think about ‘stopping the steal,’ it also speaks at its core to this same idea: There’s a plot to steal the country from largely white Christians,” Spitalnick continued. “That idea that Jews will not replace us is at the core of Unite the Right, but it’s also at the core of Jan. 6. We’ve seen how these ideas have been mainstreamed, from Tucker Carlson giving replacement theory a home on Fox News every night to Republican politicians talking about it.”

Read the rest at Raw Story.

45a6fca2f7bc9287daf855bc1bf66632Major General Paul Eaton issued a chilling warning in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly: Retired general warns the U.S. military could lead a coup after the 2024 election. (Eaton co-authored an op-ed at The Washington Post with two other retired generals that warned the military to prepare for another insurrection in 2024). Some exerpts:

How could a coup play out in 2024?

The real question is does everybody understand who the duly elected president is? If that is not a clear-cut understanding, that can infect the rank and file or at any level in the U.S. military.

And we saw it when 124 retired generals and admirals signed a letter contesting the 2020 election. We’re concerned about that. And we’re interested in seeing mitigating measures applied to make sure that our military is better prepared for a contested election, should that happen in 2024.

How worried is he on a scale of 1 to 10?

I see it as low probability, high impact. I hesitate to put a number on it, but it’s an eventuality that we need to prepare for. In the military, we do a lot of war-gaming to ferret out what might happen. You may have heard of the Transition Integrity Project that occurred about six months before the last election. We played four scenarios. And what we did not play is a U.S. military compromised — not to the degree that the United States is compromised today, as far as 39% of the Republican Party refusing to accept President Biden as president — but a compromise nonetheless. So, we advocate that that particular scenario needs to be addressed in a future war game held well in advance of 2024….

What should the military do?

I had a conversation with somebody about my age, and we were talking about civics lessons, liberal arts education and the development of the philosophical underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution. And I believe that bears a reteach to make sure that each and every 18-year-old American truly understands the Constitution of the United States, how we got there, how we developed it and what our forefathers wanted us to understand years down the road. That’s an important bit of education that I think that we need to readdress.

I believe that we need to war-game the possibility of a problem and what we are going to do. The fact that we were caught completely unprepared — militarily, and from a policing function — on Jan. 6 is incomprehensible to me. Civilian control of the military is sacrosanct in the U.S. and that is a position that we need to reinforce.

Sorry this post is so long and so late. I hope you all have a nice, relaxing weekend.


Monday Reads

Happy Monday!!

Over the weekend we lost two giants of biology and the study of biodiversity.

The New York Times: E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92.

Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. A cause of death was not given….

“Ed’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge,” Paula J. Ehrlich, chief executive and president of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation said in a statement. “A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet.”

When Dr. Wilson began his career in evolutionary biology in the 1950s, the study of animals and plants seemed to many scientists like a quaint, obsolete hobby. Molecular biologists were getting their first glimpses of DNA, proteins and other invisible foundations of life. Dr. Wilson made it his life’s work to put evolution on an equal footing.

“How could our seemingly old-fashioned subjects achieve new intellectual rigor and originality compared to molecular biology?” Dr. Wilson recalled in 2009. He answered his own question by pioneering new fields of research.

As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior — including our own.

As part of his campaign, Dr. Wilson wrote a string of books that influenced his fellow scientists while also gaining a broad public audience. “On Human Nature” won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1979; “The Ants,” which Dr. Wilson wrote with his longtime colleague Bert Hölldobler, won him his second Pulitzer in 1991.

Dr. Wilson also became a pioneer in the study of biological diversity, developing a mathematical approach to questions about why different places have different numbers of species. Later in his career, Dr. Wilson became one of the world’s leading voices for the protection of endangered wildlife.

National Geographic: Thomas Lovejoy, renowned biologist who coined ‘biological diversity,’ dies at 80.

Thomas Lovejoy, a well-known American conservation biologist who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980, died on December 25 at the age of 80. Lovejoy, who lived in northern Virginia, spent more than 50 years working in the Amazon rainforest, founding the nonprofit Amazon Biodiversity Center and bringing worldwide attention to the threats of tropical deforestation. In 1971, he received his first grant from the National Geographic Society, becoming an Explorer at Large in 2019.

“To know Tom was to know an extraordinary scientist, professor, advisor, and unyielding champion for our planet,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, the Society’s CEO, in a statement. “He was also a consummate connector, helping bring people and organizations together to preserve and protect some of our most fragile ecosystems and cornerstone species.”

In 1980, he also published the first estimate of global extinction rates, correctly projecting that by the early 21st century a huge number of species would be lost forever. Lovejoy, who held a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University, advised three administrations, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, and other organizations on how to protect species and advance the field of conservation biology. Since 2010, Lovejoy served as a professor in environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Tom was a giant in the world of ecology and conservation,” said Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. “But most importantly, he was a wonderful mentor and extremely generous with his students, colleagues, and friends.”

Despite his focus on some of the world’s toughest environmental challenges, Lovejoy remained an optimist. “We all have an interest in fixing this before it gets badly out of hand, and it’s getting close to that,” Lovejoy told National Geographic in 2015, speaking about climate change. “There are things we can do together. There are energy and innovation possibilities. There are biological solutions that would benefit everyone.

Politics News

Donald Trump Jr. recently slammed the teaching of Jesus. Relevant: Biblical Scholar Donald Trump Jr. Tells Young Conservatives That Following the Bible Has ‘Gotten Us Nothing.’

On Sunday [December 19], Turning Point USA hosted Donald Trump Jr. where he praised a crowd of young conservatives as “the frontline of freedom” but cautioned that following biblical teaching like “turn the other cheek” was holding them back and has “gotten us nothing.”

“If we band together, we can take on these institutions,” Trump told the crowd in Arizona. “That’s where we’ve gone wrong for a long time.”

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

“They cannot cancel us all,” he continued. “This will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we better be playing the same game.”

“We’ve turned the other cheek and I understand sort of the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing,” Trump said. “OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution.”

Trump is more correct than he probably knows here. Christianity is a poor device for gaining worldly influence. Nearly every page of the Gospels has stories of Jesus refusing earthly power and exhorting his followers to do the same. In fact, there are few things Jesus talked as much about as the upside down Kingdom of God where “the last shall be first” and “blessed are the meek.” Moreover, he cautioned against seeking earthly influence, going so far as to proclaim “woe to you who are rich.” The most cursory reading of Scripture would leave anyone with the sense that this is not a manual for getting stuff.

Peter Wehner wrote about Don Jr.’s “values” at The Atlantic: The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. is both intensely unappealing and uninteresting. He combines in his person corruption, ineptitude, and banality. He is perpetually aggrieved; obsessed with trolling the left; a crude, one-dimensional figure who has done a remarkably good job of keeping from public view any redeeming qualities he might have.

There’s a case to be made that he’s worth ignoring, except for this: Don Jr. has been his father’s chief emissary to MAGA world; he’s one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party; and he’s influential with Republicans in positions of power. He’s also attuned to what appeals to the base of the GOP. So, from time to time, it is worth paying attention to what he has to say.

Trump spoke at a Turning Point USA gathering on December 19. He displayed seething, nearly pathological resentments; playground insults (he led the crowd in “Let’s Go, Brandon” chants); tough guy/average Joe shtick; and a pulsating sense of aggrieved victimhood and persecution, all of it coming from the elitist, extravagantly rich son of a former president.

Hermann Max Pechstein

By Hermann Max Pechstein

Wehner notes Jr.’s reference to Jesus’s teachings of loving our enemies and “turning the other cheek” when they attack us.

Throughout his speech, Don Jr. painted a scenario in which Trump supporters—Americans living in red America—are under relentless attack from a wicked and brutal enemy. He portrayed it as an existential battle between good and evil. One side must prevail; the other must be crushed. This in turn justifies any necessary means to win. And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go….

The problem is that the Trumpian ethic hasn’t been confined to the Trump family. We saw that not just in the enthusiastic and at times impassioned response of the Turning Point USA crowd to Don Jr.’s speech but nearly every day in the words and actions of Republicans in positions of power. Donald Trump and his oldest son have become evangelists of a different kind.

While we’re on the subject of Trumpian so-called “christians,” MSNBC opinion columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes: White evangelicals dying of Covid after denouncing vaccines are wasting martyrdom.

This year we’ve seen a number of conservative personalities, including the late evangelical leaders Marcus Lamb and Jimmy DeYoung, who succumbed to Covid-19 after minimizing the risks of the disease or making disparaging remarks about the vaccines. What is such opposition if not an arrogant attempt to put God to the test, no less problematic, say, than stepping off a great height and counting on being caught by angels?

A personal decision not to take Covid-19 seriously is bad enough. Even worse, though, is a personnel decision to fire those who do. When evangelical Christian radio host Dave Ramsey fired video editor Brad Amos on July 31, Amos responded with a lawsuit against Ramsey Solutions that claims Ramsey thought taking steps to avoid infection showed a “weakness of spirit.” A spokesperson for the company told McClatchy News that Amos was “fired during a meeting to discuss his poor performance with his leaders, where he insulted his most senior leader. He was not terminated for his religious beliefs or how he wanted to handle COVID.”

Weeks later, the National Religious Broadcasters fired spokesperson Daniel Darling after he said in a USA Today op-ed and on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that getting vaccinated was his way of obeying the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The NRB has stated that on the matter of vaccines, it is “neutral.”

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

The demands for religious exemptions to Covid-19 vaccination mandates may have Americans convinced that to be religious in America means to be recklessly indifferent to Covid’s dangers. But a December poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that at least 60 percent of Jewish Americans, Hispanic Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, white Catholics, Latter-day Saints and “other Christians” believe “there are no valid religious reasons to refuse a vaccine.” The PRRI also finds that at least 50 percent of Black Protestants, other Protestants of color, white mainline Protestants and “other non-Christian religious Americans” share that view.

That leaves white evangelicals by themselves as the only religious group in the country in which fewer than half — in this case, 41 percent — agree that there are no valid religious reasons for such a refusal.

Read the rest at MSNBC.

More Reads

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump and the January 6 committee are now locked in a full-on confrontation.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Capitol panel to investigate Trump call to Willard hotel in hours before attack.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump Group Invented Voter Fraud Claims Months Before Election.

Evan Osnos at The New Yorker: Dan Bongino and the Big Business of Returning Trump to Power.

Ian Millhiser at Vox: Just how much is Trump’s judiciary sabotaging the Biden presidency?

Raw Story: Biden-slurring dad Jared Schmeck goes full MAGA on Steve Bannon’s podcast: ‘The election was 100% stolen’

ABC News: Fauci warns omicron cases ‘likely will go much higher’

CNN: Between Christmas and New Year’s, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow.

What’s on your mind today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Matticchio Pat pat

By Pat Matticchio

Good Afternoon!!

I’m beginning to accept that we are never going to return to “normal.” After 6 years of dealing with Trump and his domination of the Republican party, after 2 long years of Covid-19 and the loss of more than 800,000 lives, we now face the threat of losing our democracy as we deal with a new Covid variant that is already spreading rapidly and is likely to kill many more Americans. And I haven’t even touched on the dangers we face from climate change. 

On the threats to U.S. democracy:

The Washington Post: Opinion: 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection, by Paul D. Eaton, Antonio M. Taguba, and Steven M. Anderson

As we approach the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we — all of us former senior military officials — are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk.

In short: We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.

One of our military’s strengths is that it draws from our diverse population. It is a collection of individuals, all with different beliefs and backgrounds. But without constant maintenance, the potential for a military breakdown mirroring societal or political breakdown is very real.

Le Chat Van Gogh by Toni Goffe

Le Chat Van Gogh by Toni Goffe

The signs of potential turmoil in our armed forces are there. On Jan. 6, a disturbing number of veterans and active-duty members of the military took part in the attack on the Capitol. More than 1 in 10 of those charged in the attacks had a service record. A group of 124 retired military officials, under the name “Flag Officers 4 America,” released a letter echoing Donald Trump’s false attacks on the legitimacy of our elections.

Recently, and perhaps more worrying, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, refused an order from President Biden mandating that all National Guard members be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Mancino claimed that while the Oklahoma Guard is not federally mobilized, his commander in chief is the Republican governor of the state, not the president.

The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines — from the top of the chain to squad level — is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the “rightful” commander in chief cannot be dismissed.

Please go read the rest at the WaPo.

Molly Jong-Fast at The Atlantic: How Do You Get People to Care About Democracy? The preservation of Democracy shouldn’t be a partisan activity.

Every time the January 6 committee holds a hearing, it seems clearer and clearer that Donald Trump was trying to keep control over the government after losing reelection. The past week alone produced the “how to coup” PowerPoint, widely circulated in Trumpworld, and a slew of text messages, including this sorry we weren’t able to pull off a coup note from an unidentified lawmaker to Mark Meadows: “Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.” It’s pretty clear what Trump was up to: trying to reinstall himself as president and end American democracy as we know it.

Trump’s crew surely knew how bad the events of January 6 were even as they were unfolding. “The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home … he is destroying his legacy,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham wrote to Mark Meadows in a text message read by Republican Representative Liz Cheney during the opening statements of the Jan 6 committee meeting on Monday night. A range of journalists sent similar messages. Actual reporter Jake Sherman—who had been stuck in the Capitol during the riot, and who released his texts with Meadows “out of transparency”—wrote, “Do something for us. We are under siege in the [Capitol].” Another “journalist” exchanging texts with Meadows at the time: Fox propagandist Sean Hannity, who wrote, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”

We are not alone, Greeting card by Alison Friend

We are not alone, Greeting card by Alison Friend

It’s a long piece, but here’s the conclusion:

But how you safeguard democracy when only one party supports it is a riddle. How do Democrats permeate the Fox and Facebook anti-fact chamber, which paints Trump as the real victim of the insurrection he helped instigate?

I don’t know how you get Republicans to see past this election, to understand that losing democracy is about more than just a win for their guy. Some members of the mainstream media have been defensive, saying they aren’t covering the threat to democracy because lawmakers aren’t talking about it. But here’s the thing: It’s the media’s job to make people care, to highlight the stories that matter. We don’t look to elected officials to tell us what to write about. We journalists may be the bulwark that keeps America from resembling Hungary or Turkey in a few years. Keeping democracy shouldn’t be a partisan fight, but it is, and perhaps that’s the most damning thing of all.

Okay, then how do we get the most powerful newspaper–The New York Times–to care about democracy?

About that text to Meadows expressing sorrow that the coup failed? It appears to have come from Rick Perry’s phone. CNN: Exclusive: Jan 6 investigators believe Nov. 4 text pushing ‘strategy’ to undermine election came from Rick Perry.

Members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol believe that former Texas Governor and Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry was the author of a text message sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows the day after the 2020 election pushing an “AGRESSIVE (sic) STRATEGY” for three state legislatures to ignore the will of their voters and deliver their states’ electors to Donald Trump, three sources familiar with the House Committee investigation tell CNN.

Kitty Librarian, by Liselotte-eriksson on DeviantArt

Kitty Librarian, by Liselotte-eriksson on DeviantArt

A spokesman for Perry told CNN that the former Energy Secretary denies being the author of the text. Multiple people who know Rick Perry confirmed to CNN that the phone number the committee has associated with that text message is Perry’s number.

The cell phone number the text was sent from, obtained from a source knowledgeable about the investigation, appears in databases as being registered to a James Richard Perry of Texas, the former governor’s full name.

The number is also associated in a second database as registered to a Department of Energy email address associated with Perry when he was secretary. When told of these facts, the spokesman had no explanation.

Kyle Cheney at Politico: ‘Stop the Steal’ founder told Jan. 6 committee about contacts with GOP lawmakers.

Ali Alexander, who founded the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement and attended the rally that preceded the Capitol attack, told congressional investigators that he recalls “a few phone conversations” with Rep. Paul Gosar and a text exchange with Rep. Mo Brooks about his efforts in the run-up to Jan. 6, his lawyers confirmed in a late Friday court filing.

Alexander also told the Jan. 6 House select committee that he spoke to Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in person “and never by phone, to the best of his recollection,” his lawyers say.

The description of the testimony comes in a lawsuit Alexander filed to block the committee from obtaining his phone records from Verizon. Alexander says in the suit that the records include contacts with people protected by privileges: religious advisers, people he counsels spiritually and his lawyers. He also indicated that he already shared more than 1,500 text messages with investigators, in addition to sitting for an eight-hour deposition. The Brooks text, he indicated, is among the texts he turned over.

Cat in a box, by Ruskin Sphere

Cat in a box, by Ruskin Sphere

Alexander’s testimony underscores the degree to which the select committee continues to probe the roles of their Republican colleagues in efforts to promote former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud — and their potential support for fringe figures who helped gather people in Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was required to certify the 2020 election results.

The panel hasn’t formally requested testimony from any of the GOP lawmakers yet but has continued to ask witnesses about Gosar, Biggs, Brooks and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who helped push a strategy to use the Department of Justice to promote the fraud claims.

Per Alexander’s attorneys Jonathon Moseley and Paul Kamenar, members of Congress may have been on an organizing call with him in early January. Several were invited but he did not take attendance, the lawyers said.

When will these Congressional seditionists be brought to justice?

More January 6 investigation news

Mother Jones: A Di.sturbing Gun Case Further Reveals the Peril of January 6.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: ‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says

The New York Times: Jan. 6 Committee May Add New Expertise for Investigation.

On the threat from the omicron variant of Covid

USA Today: Omicron is spreading ‘every place at once,’ experts say. What it could mean for holiday plans.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The omicron variant of the coronavirus is moving faster than surveillance systems can track it and has so unnerved some medical experts that they’re starting to put the brakes on preparations for their holiday gatherings.

“Personally, I’m reevaluating plans for the holidays,” Bronwyn MacInnis, director of pathogen genomic surveillance at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “It’s the responsible thing to do and what feels right given the risk.”

She and a handful of other Massachusetts-based researchers on the call said they’ve been stunned by the pace by which omicron has been crowding out other variants and taking over the pandemic.

Tetsuo Takahara

By Tetsuo Takahara

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 3% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are omicron. But MacInnis said she believes that number was probably an underestimate on Dec. 11 – just three days ago – when the CDC first announced it, and now it’s likely much higher.

“At the rate that it seems to be spreading, there isn’t a surveillance system on the planet truly that could keep up with it,” MacInnis said.

In some parts of the country, there are hints omicron already accounts for about 15% of cases, said Jeremy Luban, a virus expert at the UMass Chan Medical School .

Omicron has been moving “faster even than the most pessimistic among us thought that it was going to move,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, an infectious disease expert at Massachusetts General Hospital. “There’s a high likelihood that it will come to your holiday gathering.”

NPR: Omicron may be less severe in South Africa. That may not be the case for the U.S.

It’s been about a month since scientists first detected the highly mutated coronavirus variant dubbed “omicron.”

Since then, scientists have come to learn that omicron spreads faster than the delta variant and is the quickest-spreading variant the world has yet faced. It also has a huge ability to bypass immune protection and cause breakthrough infections.

The big open-ended question right now centers on omicron’s severity: Does omicron cause milder disease, compared to previous variants? Does it thereby lower the risk of severe disease and hospitalization?

There’s no doubt everyone wants this to be the case. And some recent data out of South Africa sure makes it look like that might be the case. Researchers there have found that South Africans infected with omicron are, on average, less likely to end up in the hospital, and they also appear to recover more quickly from illness, compared to the other variants.

However, as many scientists have been pointing out, that evidence from South Africa could be misleading. The omicron variant may end up acting differently in the U.S.

Read the explanations at the link.

The Washington Post: Highly vaccinated countries thought they were over the worst. Denmark says the pandemic’s toughest month is just beginning.

COPENHAGEN — In a country that tracks the spread of coronavirus variants as closely as any in the world, the signals have never been more concerning. Omicron positives are doubling nearly every two days. The country is setting one daily case record after another. The lab analyzing positive tests recently added an overnight shift just to keep up.

Tea Cats, by Francesca Buchko

Tea Cats, by Francesca Buchko

And scientists say the surge is just beginning.

As omicron drives a new phase of the pandemic, many are looking to Denmark — and particularly the government institute devoted to testing, surveillance and modeling — for warnings about what to expect.

The emerging answer — even in this highly vaccinated, wealthy northern European country — is dire. For all the defenses built over the last year, the virus is about to sprint out of control, and scientists here expect a similar pattern in much of the world.

“The next month will be the hardest period of the pandemic,” said Tyra Grove Krause, the chief epidemiologist at Denmark’s State Serum Institute, a campus of brick buildings along a canal.

Ever since the omicron variant emerged in November, the best hope has been that it might cause less severe sickness than the delta version it is competing with, which in turn might make this wave more manageable and help the transition of covid-19 into an endemic disease. But Denmark’s projections show the wave so fully inundating the country that even a lessened strain will deliver an unprecedented blow.