Monday Reads: Democracy in FlamesPosted: March 21, 2022 Filed under: just because | Tags: Gulags, Jan. 6 2021, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Mariupol, Russian Invasion of Ukraine, SCOTUS hearings, Trump Treason 25 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
We continue to see attacks on democracy internally and externally as the West fights right-wing extremists magnetized to or ruled by despots. These Right Wingers are taking on the post-World War 2 order abroad. We also continue to see Neo-confederates, NAZI-sympathizers, and theocrats taking on our post-Civil War advances in the United States. Most of this seems deeply tribal and extremely racist, sexist, and nationalistic.
Today, we’re focused on the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson now underway. Senator Amy Klobucher is actually bringing tears to my eyes in her opening statement. Too bad it’s followed by the frivolous ball of flesh known as Ted Cruz. Cruz is lecturing everyone on that old Republican lie about the Supreme Court becoming a legislative body instead of a deliberative one. I have no idea how these folks continue to try to hunt with dogs that won’t.
Even the National Review has called out the outrageous lies he’s been spouting about Judge Jackson calling it a “disingenuous attack”. This was penned by former Federal Prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy.
There is a wide variety of federal offenses that are gathered under the label “sex offenses.” In his critique of Jackson last week, Hawley tweeted that he had “noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children” (emphasis added). That is a misleadingly broad claim, and Hawley is too smart not to know that.
After invoking the image of Jackson as indulgent of “sex offenders” who “prey on children,” Hawley narrows his portrayal a bit: “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker” (emphasis added). This leaves the impression that he is probably homing in on pornography rather than rape, abduction, and the like — although, as he must know, even that is not clear because a good deal of such sexual abuse goes into the production of porn. In any event, after all the throat-clearing, it emerges that Hawley is not talking about offenders who themselves abuse children, or even those who produce pornography. He is referring to porn consumers.
Hawley cites Jackson’s record as a judge and “policymaker.” The latter refers to her service on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises Congress on sentencing issues and promulgates the federal sentencing guidelines — advisory standards that heavily influence but do not control sentencing. (Congress ultimately controls sentencing by setting statutory maximum and minimum penalties, and judges consult the guidelines in each case but are not required to follow them.) What has the senator especially exercised is Jackson’s support for eliminating the existing mandatory-minimum sentences for first-time offenders who receive or distribute child pornography.
Judge Jackson’s views on this matter are not only mainstream; they are correct in my view. Undoubtedly, Jackson — a progressive who worked as a criminal-defense lawyer — is more sympathetic to criminals than I am. If I were a judge, I’m sure I’d impose at least marginally more severe sentences than she has. (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the low end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.) But other than the fact that Congress wanted to look as though it was being tough on porn, there’s no good reason for the mandatory minimum in question — and it’s unjust in many instances.
The actual Q&A session will be after lunch. I’m really hoping Senator Foghorn Leghorn doesn’t further embarrass Louisiana but I’m not holding my breath. As the hearings opened, Senator Dick Durban hailed Judge Jackson’s magnificent qualifications and experience. This is from NPR: “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Live updates.” Grassley used his time to outline the Republican gripe fest that will be later today.
Grassley used his opening statement on Monday to stress that “we won’t turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls” and pointed out that Democrats on the panel interrupted and delayed his opening statement when he chaired the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee, in 2018. He said Republicans will “ask tough questions” about Jackson’s record and said he wanted to hear about her views on the role of a judge.
Some Republicans have already raised concerns about Jackson’s experience as a public defender and indicated they would ask questions about whether her record makes her “soft on crime.” Grassley touched on this line of questioning and suggested these topics are fair game given Democrats’ questions of Trump nominees.
The entire thing about her being soft on crime is basically ragtime and jazz hands given that the nation’s police chiefs support her nomination. But today’s Republicans are more about theatrics than doing their jobs.
Meanwhile, The Rolling Stone has another scoop on how involved high-level Trump officials were with getting the insurrectionists to the Capitol on January 6. This is by Hunter Walker. “Exclusive: Witness Claims Trump’s Chief of Staff Was on Phone Call Planning Jan. 6 March on Capitol. Trump’s team agreed it would encourage supporters to march, but try to “make it look like they went down there on their own,” Scott Johnston tells Rolling Stone” Let the Frog Marches begin!
Trump and his allies have tried to minimize his role in calling his supporters to the Capitol and argue he was simply participating in a lawful, peaceful demonstration.
Scott Johnston — who worked on the team that helped plan the Ellipse rally — says that’s just not so. He claims that leading figures in the Trump administration and campaign deliberately planned to have crowds converge on the Capitol, where the 2020 election was being certified — and “make it look like they went down there on their own.”
Johnston, who says he described the phone call to House select committee investigators, detailed his allegations in a series of conversations with Rolling Stone. Johnston says he overheard Mark Meadows, then-former President Trump’s chief of staff, and Katrina Pierson, Trump’s national campaign spokeswoman, talking with Kylie Kremer, the executive director of Women for America First, about plans for a march to the Capitol. Johnston said the conversation was clearly audible to him since it took place on speakerphone as he drove Kremer between the group’s rallies in the final three days of 2020.
Russia continues to pound Ukraine with artillery and missiles. The governor of the Sumy region said there has been an ammonia leak at a chemicals plant on Monday as a result of a Russian airstrike. Russian demands the surrender of Mariupol. The city council of the besieged city reports that the elderly are crying out for food and water from their bombed apartment buildings.
President Biden will travel to Poland after he meets with European leaders on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. (via the AP) He will discuss humanitarian efforts and express support to the People and government of Poland.
President Joe Biden has added a stop in Poland to his trip this week to Europe for urgent talks with NATO and European allies, as Russian forces concentrate their fire upon cities and trapped civilians in a nearly month-old invasion of Ukraine.
Biden will first travel to Brussels and then to Poland to meet with leaders there, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday night.
Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It is hosting thousands of American troops and is taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine — more than 2 million — than any other nation in the midst of the largest European refugee crisis in decades.
Biden will head to Warsaw for a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda scheduled for Saturday. Biden will discuss how the U.S., along with its allies and partners, is responding to “the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” Psaki said.
This is from the link to the Telegraph above.
Vladimir Putin has been accused of “abducting and deporting” thousands of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol and transporting them deep inside Russia.
Ukrainian authorities alleged Russian forces had rounded up several thousand residents from the shattered port before sending them to remote cities hundreds of miles from the border.
On Sunday night, Moscow gave Ukraine a deadline to surrender Mariupol as gun battles raged in the city centre. In a statement, the Russian defence ministry said Ukrainian and foreign armed units must drop their weapons “without exception” and leave between 7am and 9am (UK time) on Monday.
But on Sunday night Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereschuk said there was no question of surrendering Mariupol, the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda reported.
Russian state media broadcast clips of hundreds of Ukrainians whom it said had been rescued from Mariupol and evacuated eastward to safety in Russian cities.
But Ukrainian officials said they had instead been forced to travel and had been told they had to live and work in their new homes for at least two years.
This was a rumor for a few days but has now been confirmed.
So, there are the three big stories of the day. I’m going to continue to watch Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing but I’m not sure how long I can take the Republican screeds.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Thursday ReadsPosted: February 25, 2021 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Capitol insurrection, Deb Haaland, Jan. 6 2021, Joe Manchin, Neera Tanden, Riley June Williams, Sen. John Kennedy, Thomas Webster, Vincent van Gogh 21 Comments
I’m illustrating this post with paintings from Vincent van Gogh’s Paris years, because of this story from BBC yesterday: Van Gogh Paris painting goes on public display for first time.
A Street Scene In Montmartre has been owned by a French family for most of the time since it was painted in 1887.
Sotheby’s estimates it could fetch up to eight million euros (£6.9m) when it is sold at auction next month.
Van Gogh expert Martin Bailey told BBC News that this is “the first time we are able to see it properly”.
Small reproductions have been made in the past, often in black-and-white. “What is exciting is that it is a Van Gogh painting which has been hidden away ever since it came off the artist’s easel,” Mr Bailey said.
“It has always been in private collections, so only the owners and their friends knew it.
“It is an interesting picture because it is a transitional work between Van Gogh’s Dutch years, when he painted in dark, earthy colours, and the exuberant works that he did in Provence. It was in Paris that he discovered the Impressionists, and this led him to explore colour.”
It is one of a series of works Van Gogh created while lodging with his brother Theo in 1886 and 1887 a short distance from the street depicted in the painting….
Montmartre was still semi-rural when the scene was painted. A windmill features prominently behind some perambulating locals. The famous Sacré-Cœur church that now dominates the area was under construction at the time.
I’m getting really angry about the treatment of Neera Tanden and Deb Haaland–both women of color–in the Senate. This attack on her by fake good ‘ol boy Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana is really disgusting. Andrew Solender at Forbes: GOP Senator Questions Neera Tanden’s Loyalty To Biden, America – Says Her ‘Allegiance’ Is To Hillary Clinton.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) denounced two of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet-level nominees in fiery terms Wednesday, questioning Office of Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden’s loyalty to America.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Kennedy expressed pessimism about Tanden’s imperiled nomination, stating, “I’m not saying she’s a smoked turkey, but the smoker is heating up.”
Kennedy pointed to Tanden’s past tweets attacking lawmakers as the main area of concern, but simultaneously launched into his own attacks, claiming there is bipartisan concern that Tanden’s “allegiance is not to America and it’s not to President Biden, it’s to Secretary Clinton.
Kennedy also echoed Republican attacks on Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Biden’s nominee for Interior secretary, as a radical leftist, but said he needs to “do a little more research” and is still undecided, according to pool reports.
Kennedy said he is “not impressed” with what he has seen from Haaland thus far, labeling her a “neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whackjob” who is “living in La La Land,” citing her support for an oil and gas moratorium.
What an asshole. And remember, Kennedy is one of the eight Republicans who in 1918 spent the Fourth of July in Russia sucking up to Putin.
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Opinion: What terrible things did Neera Tanden tweet? The truth.
At The Daily Beast, David Rothkopf asks: Joe Biden Wants to Repair America. Will Joe Manchin Let Him?
Like 82 million others, I voted last year to entrust America to a moderate Democrat named Joe.
Little did I expect that the Joe who’d end up with the last word on a host of vital national issues would be Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Manchin’s ascendancy came thanks to the Democratic victories in the two Georgia runoff races in January. That gave the party 50 votes in the Senate and control, thanks to the decisive tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, so long as the caucus maintains unity. What they could not count on, it turned out, was Manchin.
On issues from cabinet nominations to the filibuster to the minimum wage, Manchin has seized the power that breaking from the Democratic majority gives him. He does this in the name of being a so-called centrist, a moderate. But the reality is that he is proving to be a MINO, a moderate in name only, embracing views that are more like those of the increasingly radical Republican Senate caucus than they are like those of his Democratic colleagues….
One of the earliest signs that Manchin was perfectly happy to play the spoiler disrupting the aspirations of his own party leadership came even before the Democrats took control of the Senate. While negotiations were taking place between Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell over the new power-sharing arrangements in the 50-50 Senate, McConnell sought to put a stake through the heart of any idea the Democrats might have of seeking to abolish the filibuster, one of McConnell’s favorite tools of obstruction in the Senate, vital to enabling his minority to continue to block key legislation that could not make it to the filibuster threshold of 60 votes.
Manchin publicly announced his opposition to removing the filibuster. His rationale was that of all filibuster advocates, that it was an important institutional legacy in the Senate and helped drive bipartisanship by forcing the majority to seek some minority support for their legislation. Neither of these assertions are true, however. The filibuster was rarely used in the first 200 years of U.S. history and once it began to be used more frequently, from the 1990s onward, it was almost always used to block the passage of legislation rather to leverage opposing sides into dialogue.
Biden needs to start playing hardball with Manchin. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
The Capitol insurrection in the news:
Frank Figluzzi at MSNBC: The Senate asked all the wrong questions about the pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
The Senate held its first hearings into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Tuesday. And I have to be honest: I was not impressed.
The cadre of former Capitol security chiefs testifying might as well have played a continuous recorded loop of them reciting in unison, “the intelligence wasn’t there,” in response to senators’ equally redundant questions about the Capitol security failure and why adequate resources weren’t deployed.
But neither the senators nor their witnesses addressed the toughest questions: Why didn’t you see what so many civilians did? What biases fed into the many incorrect assumptions made? And what keeps us collectively — as Americans, as law enforcement, and more specifically, as white people — from perceiving our own as a potential threat? The answers are complex — but the right questions need to be asked first.
The more that former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, and former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger repeated their “intelligence was lacking” mantra, the less intelligent they sounded. Irving stated, “We did discuss whether the intelligence warranted having troops at the Capitol, and our collective judgment at that time was no, the intelligence did not warrant that.” Sund testified that “the level of probability of acts of civil disobedience/arrests on Jan. 6 ranged from ‘remote’ to ‘improbable'” and that “none of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred.”
Perhaps the dozens of intelligence professionals on Sund’s staff should include the cost of newspaper subscriptions and laptops in their next budget request. The truth is that there was significant online chatter and numerous media reports that protestors were targeting the electoral vote count. So then, what is it that keeps law enforcement professionals from seeing what’s right in front of them?
As these hearings continue, we will likely hear from the FBI and other law enforcement leaders. Importantly, we can expect to hear about the legal constraints on what that agency can and cannot do about monitoring social media, penetrating protests groups and investigating domestic extremism. These limits rightfully help preserve our civil liberties, free speech and freedom of association. And it’s true that law enforcement can’t possibly see and assess the universe of social media even if such monitoring were allowed. But plenty of social media posts prior to the insurrection spoke of violence, vandalism and targeting the Capitol — those things have little to do with exercising civil liberties.
After the insurrection, two ProPublica journalists interviewed 19 current and former U.S. Capitol Police officers about the assault on the Capitol. They also obtained confidential intelligence bulletins and previously unreported planning documents. Significantly, their reporting provides something other than the convenient “intelligence failure” rationale as to why planning was so poor when it came to protecting our iconic symbol of democracy.
Read the rest at MSNBC.
NPR: Architect Of The Capitol Outlines $30 Million In Damages From Pro-Trump Riot.
The cost of repairing damages from the attack on the U.S. Capitol and related security expenses have already topped $30 million and will keep rising, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The events of Jan. 6, he said, were “difficult for the American people and extremely hard for all of us on campus to witness.”
Blanton said that congressional appropriations committees have already approved a transfer request of $30 million to pay for expenses and extend a temporary perimeter fencing contract through March 31.
But more money will be needed, he added: “History teaches us that project costs for replacements and repairs beyond in-kind improvements across campus will be considerable and beyond the scope of the current budgetary environment.”
The price tag will go even higher, Blanton told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, if the fence and other security measures are needed beyond March.
Republicans aren’t upset about the Capitol attack though. What they care about is Neera Tanden’s “mean tweets.”
Profiles of two of the insurgents:
The Daily Beast: An NYPD Cop’s Road From Terror ‘Victim’ to Capitol Rioter.
The retired NYPD cop now charged with assaulting a D.C. cop in the Capitol riot that has been called domestic terrorism was previously assigned to guard the ruins of the World Trade Center as recovery teams extracted the remains of innocents killed by Islamic terrorism.
And 54-year-old Thomas Webster once presented himself as a victim of terrorism in a civil suit filed in the same federal jurisdiction where he was accused this week of attacking a District of Columbia police officer “like a junkyard dog.”
Webster can be seen on video wielding a metal flagpole and seeking to tear off the cop’s gas mask with such ferocity that he became known online as “the eye gouger.”
Webster’s transformation from supposed terror victim to accused terrorizer caused him to be denounced by a law enforcement supervisor who directed and participated in the actual removal of remains from Ground Zero while the now retired cop stood guard at the periphery. The supervisor does not remember Webster from those months in downtown Manhattan but had seen the Jan. 6 video from the Capitol.
“I look at it as a further desecration of all first responders,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “It’s taken 20 years, but he managed in my view to be as guilty as any terrorist or terrorist wannabe. You are attacking the very principles of our existence: democracy, the Constitution, the Capitol.”
Bellingcat: Woman Accused of Stealing Nancy Pelosi’s Laptop Appears in Video Making Nazi Salute.
On January 6, 2021, Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old home care worker from Pennsylvania, was one of roughly 800 rioters who breached the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. While many engaged in property damage and violence that day, Williams’ case stands out given her ex-partner has alleged to the FBI that she stole a laptop from Nancy Pelosi’s office.
This former boyfriend also alleges that her goal was to sell the laptop to a Russian intelligence agency, a claim January court documents say “remains under investigation,” but which has been denied by Williams’ lawyer who accuses the former partner of seeking revenge.
While Williams has not been charged with stealing the laptop itself, something she also denies, she faces multiple charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds as well aiding/abetting others to “embezzle, steal, purloin.”
Footage from January 6 released by ITV News shows Williams urging rioters upstairs towards Congressional offices. In one video from inside Pelosi’s office, a voice that the FBI states it believes to be Williams’ says “dude, put on gloves” before a gloved hand takes a laptop from a table. The affidavit links to a thread of captured Discord posts from a user named Riley bragging, “STOLE SHITT FROM NANCY POLESI [sic]”.
In an interview with ITV on January 16, Williams’ mother described her daughter as getting caught up in the moment. She noted that Riley had been radicalized on far-right message boards but described her daughter’s main political goal as, “…wanting America to get the correct information”.
However, Bellingcat has since received information that suggests that Williams was more than just a Trump supporter caught up in the maelstrom. She is somebody who posted racist and Anti-Semitic content as well as filmed a video that appears openly pro-Nazi and promotes accelerationism (speeding up the collapse of society) as a pathway towards establishing a genocidal white supremacist state….
Several days after Williams was charged in mid-January, an antifascist activist reached out to Bellingcat with a video they believed showed her pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Bellingcat has since shared the footage and findings of its investigation with NBC News.
The 36-second video opens with a young woman dancing in a dress while wearing a hat, glasses and a mask decorated with a skull. These skullmasks were adopted as a symbol by Atomwaffen and similar accelerationist Nazi terrorist groups back in 2017.
But so what? Have you heard about Neera Tanden’s tweets?
That’s all I have for you today. I know there’s lots of other news–what stories have caught your interest?