It’s been a long time since I posted Fat Cat Art by Svetlana Petrova & Zarathustra the Cat / FatCatArt.com. Dakinikat posted a comment on Thursday about St. Gertrude, the patron saint of cats, whose feast day is the same as St. Patrick’s day. I was looking for paintings of her when I came across this one at the Fat Cat Art site. The other images in this post are also by Petrova and her late beloved ginger cat Zarathustra.
The Ukraine war rages on, as Putin continues to commit ghastly war crimes by attacking civilians. Reading about what’s happening, let alone watching the images on TV is horrifying. It’s a terribly helpless feeling, and there’s a temptation to want the U.S. to get more actively involved, but that is simply impossible.
Last night on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell gave a powerful explanation of what the U.S. trying to enforce a no fly zone over Ukraine would mean. You can watch it on The Last Word website. It lasts about 7 minutes. Basically, O’Donnell said that the very idea is a fantasy and that a no fly zone has never been enforced against a nuclear power. It would mean U.S. and Russian pilots being shot down and killed and would also involve U.S. planes flying over Russian territory. I recommend watching it if you didn’t see it last night.
For the latest news on Ukraine, I recommend The Guardian’s summary of the latest updates: Russia-Ukraine war: what we know on day 24 of the invasion.
- Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says the time has come for peace talks, warning that it will otherwise take generations for Russia to recover from losses suffered during the war. He released a video address saying Ukraine wanted meaningful and honest negotiations with Moscow on peace and security without delay, Reuters reported. “The time has come for a meeting – it is time to talk.” Zelenskiy said Russian forces were deliberately blocking humanitarian supplies to cities under attack.
- Ukraine’s position is unchanged in talks with Russia, Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said. Earlier today, a member of Russia’s negotiating team said Moscow and Kyiv were most aligned on Ukraine’s neutrality and giving up on joining Nato. Podolyak accused Russian statements of attempting “to provoke tension in the media”.
- Russia says it has used a hypersonic weapon for the first time, to destroy an underground military depot in western Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles are fast weapons that can evade detection by missile defence systems. The defence ministry said it had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
- Ukraine’s interior minster told Associated Press it would take years to find and defuse all of the unexploded ordnance from the country. Denys Monastyrsky said: “A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine and a large part haven’t exploded. They remain under the rubble and pose a real threat. It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”
- Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, praised Fox News for its coverage of the war in Ukraine during an in-studio interview with the Russian state-controlled RT network. “We know the manners and the tricks that are being used by the western countries to manipulate media … If you take the United States, only Fox News is trying to present some alternative point of view,” he said.
Click the link for more updates.
In other news, Republicans are of course trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and it is sickening.
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: How low will the GOP go in taking on Ketanji Brown Jackson? Josh Hawley lets us know.
“I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Hawley tweeted. “I’m concerned that this [is] a record that endangers our children.” [….]
In the cherry-picked, context-free Hawley-verse, Jackson has been lying in wait to foist this child-endangerment scheme on the country since her law school days. Count one is her writing as a student editor on the Harvard Law Review, about sex-offender registries, DNA databanks and civil-commitment laws that states were busy enacting.
In her article, Jackson grappled with the tension between constitutional limits on permissible punishment and the community’s need for self-protection. Given conservatives’ focus on analyzing the text of a law rather than divining lawmakers’ intent, you might have thought that Hawley would cheer Jackson’s argument that in assessing the constitutionality of sex offender laws, “courts have relied too heavily on the legislatures’ intent.” But no.
Instead, Hawley wrenches a few lines out of context. “As far back as her time in law school, Judge Jackson has questioned making convicts register as sex offenders — saying it leads to ‘stigmatization and ostracism.’ ”
Hello, Senator? That is in a section headlined “The Critics” that outlines the views of the statute’s opponents. Hawley might just have easily quoted from the previous section — “commitment legislation literally immobilizes dangerous sexual deviants and, thus, presumably promotes both immediate and long-term public safety.”
And that’s just from Jackson’s law school days. Hawley also attacks Jackson for supporting a review of minimum sentencing guidelines for child porn along with every other member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Finally he criticizes her work as a judge:
The final count against Jackson involves how she, in Hawley’s assessment, “put her troubling views into action. In every single child porn case for which we can find records, Judge Jackson deviated from the federal sentencing guidelines in favor of child porn offenders.”
Sounds terrible, right? Except because the guidelines are so outdated and therefore unfair, that’s what judges do in almost every case — 70 percent, according to the latest statistics.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, judges imposed below-guidelines sentences in nearly 80 percoent of child pornography cases in the District of Columbia, where Jackson was a trial court judge before being elevated to the appeals court. In Missouri, Hawley’s home state, judges imposed sentences below the guidelines in more than 77 percent of cases.
For more background on Jackson’s record on these issues, you can read this article by Tierney Sneed at CNN: GOP senators push misleading portrayal of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record on child porn cases.
After Hawley posted a Twitter thread enumerating his false accusations, right wing “news” outlet OAN took the smears even further. Media Matters: Baseless OAN attack on Ketanji Brown Jackson echoes QAnon conspiracy theory.
Following Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) Twitter rant yesterday against Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a segment on OAN took his unfounded and misleading attacks against her record in a more deranged direction. The host and her guest falsely accused Jackson of being “kind” to pedophiles, echoing the long-running QAnon conspiracy theory accusing liberal elites of engaging in pedophilia.
During the March 17 segment on OAN’s Tipping Point, host Kara McKinney outlined the conspiratorial accusations against Jackson before RedState editor Brandon Morse immediately dove into QAnon-like commentary about what he described as “the pedophilia problem that is currently happening in the left”
Here’s what Morse had to say:
Morse claimed that the “corporate media” is ignoring this issue because of self-interest:
They have been doing their absolute best to try to eliminate any substantial talk about the pedophilia problem that is currently in the left and especially the radical left. They have been trying to make this almost a normal thing for some time. And if they come down hard on it, then it’ll reinforce the idea to society that pedophilia is a bad thing. And it is a very bad thing. It should be come down on hard. But they’re not.
And I’m afraid that the reason that they’re not doing this is because there’s probably more pedophiles, or at least people who are friendly to pedophiles out there, than we might think in positions of power, especially on the left. You know, you had a ton of people suddenly go into hiding or shut up, you know, once Jeffrey Epstein was back in the spotlight for this. And it’s scary to think that you have a lot of these leftists, these Democrats, politicians, activists, media figures who have been caught, or who have been trying to ease the pain of any of these pedophiles who are to be — who should be suffering for their crimes. You see this a lot, lately.
And it’s scary to think that this new judge that’s come up here is one of these people who is going to be very kind to them.
It sounds like the upcoming hearings on Jackson’s nomination are going to be an embarrassing clown show.
From the AP, some horrifying news from South Carolina: Firing-squad executions get the greenlight in South Carolina.
South Carolina has given the greenlight to firing-squad executions, a method codified into state law last year after a decade-long pause in carrying out death sentences because of the state’s inability to procure lethal injection drugs.
The state Corrections Department said Friday that renovations have been completed on the death chamber in Columbia and that the agency had notified Attorney General Alan Wilson that it was able to carry out a firing-squad execution.
Lawmakers set about tweaking state law to get around the lethal injection drug situation. Legislation that went into effect in May made the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution while giving inmates the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection, if those methods are available.
During South Carolina’s lengthy debate, Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian — a prosecutor-turned-criminal-defense lawyer — introduced the firing squad option. He argued that it presented “the least painful” execution method available.
“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”
According to officials, the death chamber now also includes a metal chair, with restraints, in the corner of the room in which inmates will sit if they choose execution by firing squad. That chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening, 15 feet away, through which the three shooters will fire their weapons.
State officials also have created protocols for carrying out the executions. The three shooters, all volunteers who are employees of the Corrections Department, will have rifles loaded with live ammunition, with their weapons trained on the inmate’s heart.
A hood will be placed over the head of the inmate, who will be given the opportunity to make a last statement.
Finally, the House isn’t keen on the Senate’s permanent daylight saving time bill, according to Dan Diamond of The Washington Post: Senate plan for permanent daylight saving time faces doubts in the House.
The House is set to hit the snooze button on the Senate’s plan to permanently change the nation’s clocks.
“It could be weeks — or it could be months” before House Democratic leaders decide whether to tee up a vote on eliminating the biannual clock changes that have governed daily life in most states for decades, said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D.-N.J.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees time change policies. While the Sunshine Protection Act, which unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday, would nationally shift clocks an hour later to maximize daylight, some doctors have argued that adopting permanent standard time would be a healthier option and better align with humans’ natural rhythms.
Pallone, who held a hearing last week on daylight saving time, said he shares the Senate’s goal to end the “spring forward” and “fall back” clock changes linked to more strokes, heart attacks and car accidents. But he wants to collect more information, asking for a long-delayed federal analysis on how time changes might affect productivity, traffic and energy costs, among other issues.
“There isn’t a consensus, in my opinion in the House, or even generally at this point, about whether we should have standard versus daylight saving as the permanent time,” Pallone said. “Immediately after the Senate passed the bill, I had members come up to me on the floor and say, ‘Oh, don’t do that. I want the standard time,’ ” he added, declining to identify the lawmakers.
The White House also has not communicated its position on permanent daylight saving time, congressional aides said. While President Biden, as a freshman senator, voted for that in December 1973 — the last time that Congress attempted to institute the policy nationwide — he also witnessed the near-immediate collapse of support amid widespread reports that darker winter mornings were contributing to more car accidents and worsened moods. Members of Congress introduced nearly 100 pieces of legislation to change or do away with the law before it was finally repealed in October 1974.
A few more stories to check out:
The Washington Post: It’s 70 degrees warmer than normal in eastern Antarctica. Scientists are flabbergasted.
Greg Bluestein at Politico: How Brian Kemp Resisted Trump’s Pressure to Overturn the Georgia Election Results.
That’s it for me today. What are you thinking and reading about? Take care Sky Dancers!
I’m really struggling to write a post this morning. I’ve been having a powerful sense of deja vu as the Afghanistan withdrawal and the media reaction to it have played out. I had a similar helpless, despairing feeling when I realized George W. Bush was going to push us into a war in Iraq that would very likely mire us in another Vietnam-type conflict and the mainstream media was going to help him.
I didn’t think we should have gone into Afghanistan, and now Bush wanted to start a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, based on obvious lies and exaggerations. Naturally, big media was thrilled and pushed hard for the war–particularly at The New York Times. Now I’m watching helplessly as the NYT and other outlets gleefully tear down Joe Biden and in the process possibly help Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022.
I don’t know if anyone here has been watching Lawrence O’Donnell this week on MSNBC, but I agree with his take on what’s happening in Afghanistan. On Tuesday night he talked about how people who weren’t even born yet when we withdrew from Vietnam are claiming that the Afghanistan situation is even worse. That’s insane. As O’Donnell said, “Everything about Vietnam was much worse than what has happened in Afghanistan.” It’s not even close.
“Here’s the link to O’Donnell’s commentary. I hope you’ll watch it if you didn’t see it already. He also argues that the Pentagon and military have no idea how to conduct a withdrawal after losing a war, and it would likely be chaotic no matter what we did to prepare. Also see this interview with marine captain Timothy Kudo, who served in Afghanistan.
Kudo wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that was published on Monday: I Was a Marine in Afghanistan. We Sacrificed Lives for a Lie. You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:
I see a report that the American Embassy will destroy its American flags to deny the Taliban a propaganda victory. I think of the star-spangled banner that flew over my old patrol base, called Habib, Arabic for “beloved.” Five men died under that flag, for what?
The hawks still circle and screech. The voices from the past 20 years who prodded us forward into battle return to the evening news to sell us on staying. “It’s not too late,” the former generals, secretaries and ambassadors say. “More troops can hold the line. Victory is just around the corner.”
But the speed of the Taliban’s advance makes clear that this outcome was always inevitable. The enemy had no reason to negotiate and no reputation for restraint. The only question before President Biden was how many American troops should die before it happened. But if leaving now was the right decision for America, it is a catastrophe for the Afghan people whom we have betrayed.
The Afghans are forced back into living under religious tyranny, an existence made all the more painful by their brief experience with freedom. Now they see the light from the far end of a dark tunnel. The school doors will close for girls, and the boys will return to their religious studies. For them, the arc of the moral universe will bend backward and break.
It’s my old unit, First Battalion, Eighth Marines, that is sent in to secure the airport in Kabul. I am jealous. I would give anything to return right now, to give what last full measure remains.
Yes, what is happening is unbearably tragic, but is it Joe Biden’s fault as the media “analysts” keep telling us? How can Biden, after 6 months in office, suddenly be responsible for 20 years of failures? It just makes no sense.
Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The Media Is Helping Hawks Win the War Over Biden’s Withdrawal. This piece is critical of Biden’s Afghanistan policy, but even more critical of those who fought to extend the war for two decades and now want it to continue.
Biden’s failure of moral courage and contingency planning is this moment’s lesser scandal. The bigger one is the war that he is ending, which recent events have certified as an unmitigated disaster. Yet you might not know this from the many ostensibly objective news reports that have cast Biden’s troop withdrawal as the source of our nation’s “humiliation.”
The first 20 years of America’s occupation of Afghanistan cost, by one estimate, 241,000 lives (including 2,448 U.S. troops and 71,000 civilians) and more than $2 trillion. The Taliban’s swift triumph has made it clear just how little all those deaths and dollars bought. Anyone paying attention already knew that the U.S. had engineered a kleptocracy in Kabul. But Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the country with $169 million in tow, even as his government was on the cusp of reaching a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban, made our client state’s depravity newly conspicuous.
Critical observers understood that the Afghan army was a paper tiger whose true ranks were far thinner than advertised and whose loyalty to the government was rooted less in patriotism than a mercenary’s interest in gainful employment. But the fact that America had invested $80 billion into training an army that was so incapable of independent action that it could not feed itself in the absence of U.S. air support — and so disenchanted with its own government that it would forfeit its capital with little fight — was not readily apparent until now.
Those who fought to extend America’s war in Afghanistan have every incentive to divert our attention from these revelations. They would like the public to miss the forest for the trees — by mistaking Biden’s tactical errors for strategic ones. The primary lesson of the past week could be that the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a catastrophe and that those who misled the public about the Afghan army’s strength deserve little input on future policy, no matter how many stars they have on their uniforms or diplomas they have on their walls. Alternatively, if news coverage focuses exhaustively on the shortcomings of Biden’s withdrawal, while largely ignoring what our client state’s abrupt collapse tells us about our two-decade-long occupation, then the lesson of Kabul’s fall could be quite favorable for Beltway hawks: Presidents shouldn’t end wars in defiance of the military brass unless they wish to become unpopular.
Unfortunately, we are currently hurtling toward that latter outcome. In recent days, much of the mainstream media has comported itself as the Pentagon’s Pravda. Reporters have indignantly asked the White House how it could say that America doesn’t have a vital national security interest in maintaining a military presence near Tajikistan. NBC’s Richard Engel has devoted his Twitter feed to scolding Biden for suggesting that America’s nation-building project in Afghanistan was always hopeless, and that the Kabul government was “basically a failed state.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto lamented on Twitter Wednesday, “Too many times, I’ve witnessed the US military attempt to dutifully carry out difficult & dangerous missions left to them by the miscalculations of civilian leaders.” This sentiment is disconcerting in the abstract, since it seems to suggest that civilian control of the military may be unwise. But it’s even stranger in context. As we learned just two years ago, American military leaders in Kabul systematically lied to the public about how well the war against the Taliban was going, so as to insulate their preferred foreign policy from democratic contestation.
For more context and the critique of Biden, read the whole thing at New York Magazine.
This piece is by Jed Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby at Popular Information: Where are the anti-war voices?
Yesterday’s newsletter detailed how the media is largely overlooking voices that supported Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Instead media reports are almost exclusively highlighting criticism of the withdrawal — often from people complicit in two decades of failed policy in Afghanistan.
We have reason to believe that this is not an accident. On Wednesday, Popular Information spoke to a veteran communications professional who has been trying to place prominent voices supportive of the withdrawal on television and in print. The source said that it has been next to impossible:
“I’ve been in political media for over two decades, and I have never experienced something like this before. Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can’t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back…
I’ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light.
I turn on TV and watch CNN and, frankly, a lot of MSNBC shows, and they’re presenting it as if there’s not a voice out there willing to defend the president and his decision to withdraw. But I offered those very shows those voices, and the shows purposely decided to shut them out.
In so many ways this feels like Iraq and 2003 all over again. The media has coalesced around a narrative, and any threat to that narrative needs to be shut out.”
Who is on TV? As Media Matters has documented, there are plenty of former Bush administration officials criticizing the withdrawal.
Is it really about execution?
Much of the criticism of Biden’s decision to withdraw has focused on the administration’s “execution.” The critics claim the withdrawal was poorly planned, chaotic, and unnecessarily put Americans — and their Afghan allies — in danger.
Some of these claims may be true. It’s hard to know, for example, how many people have been left behind since evacuations are ongoing. But, with a few exceptions, the criticisms of Biden’s execution are being made by people who opposed withdrawal altogether.
Click the link to read the rest.
I’m honestly depressed and disheartened by what is happening in the Afghanistan coverage. That’s about all I can say about it for now. Here are some other stories to check out today:
Steve Inskeep at NPR: A Mission To Give Afghans Democracy Became A Bid To Repair America’s Own.
What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.
Yesterday afternoon, Trump held a “listening session” for victims of school shootings. (He was invited to the CNN town hall, but chose not to attend.) The Washington Post: This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything.
President Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump’s at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.
Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful little reminder.
Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured [an] image of Trump’s notes [see photo above].
Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”
Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads.
I was surprised that the people at Trump’s White House meeting were permitted to speak honestly about their experiences. But when Trump himself spoke, it was clear he wasn’t really listening to their pain. You know who wouldn’t have needed those notes? Hillary Clinton.
After teenagers cried about losing friends and being terrorized by a person with an AR-15, after angry, heartbroken parents spoke of losing their children to senseless gun violence, Trump’s brilliant solution was to give teachers with handguns and expect them to kill suicidal shooters with semi-automatic weapons.
Trump must have seen some of the media reaction to this insane suggestion, because this morning he was on twitter claiming he never said it–but then he said it again.
And would these armed teachers be paid extra for this dangerous duty? Would the government pay for training them? Wouldn’t all this time spent training take away from their actual job of classroom teaching, which requires plenty of preparation and time spend grading papers? Trump isn’t concerned about all that: “far more assets at much less cost.” Trump sees teachers as slave labor!
Trump must have heard from his supporters at the NRA, because he later tweeted this:
Trump learned absolutely nothing from his “listening session.” Last night Lawrence O’Donnell explain why Trump’s idea is utterly insane. Check it out if you didn’t see it.
More from @Lawrence:
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The economics of arming America’s schools. Bump begins with Trump’s proposal:
“A lot of people are talking about it — it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss,” Trump said. “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”
Data from the Department of Education indicates that there are an estimated 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private-schoolteachers in the United States. In total, there are about 3.6 million teachers.
One-fifth of that total is 718,000 — a bit fewer than the number of people in the Army and the Navy combined as of last December. We’d essentially be adding 50 percent to the size of the military by mandating that three-quarters of a million people be trained and prepared to take up arms to defend civilians.
The first cost that needs to be considered is training. What sort of training would be required isn’t clear. Do we want to simply teach the teachers how to target an individual and fire a weapon? Or do we want something more expansive?
Let’s say we want the bare minimum, just enough to pass the safety requirement for gun ownership. In Maryland, there’s a company that will charge you $100 for that training. The cost, then, would be about $71.8 million for all of our teachers.
I’ll let you read the rest at the link. I think the proposal is idiotic. Would Trump expect teachers to pay for this training? It’s a good thing teachers have unions.
As an antidote to all this insanity, here’s a Tweet from Barack Obama:
In other news, Bernie Sanders is on the defensive after indictments from Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russians supported Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.
The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.
In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.
Some Twitter reactions:
According to CNN, HR McMaster could be on the way out: McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump.
With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.
A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.
Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.
While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.
Read more at the CNN link.
I’ll end with a bit of positive news from the Dallas Morning News: Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting.
AUSTIN — Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary.
The total number of voters from the 15 counties with the most people registered is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day.
Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase….
Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.
“In general, there seems to be more energy, largely stemming from people’s reactions to President Trump and a lot of Democrat-leaning groups trying to get people out and organized,” said Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s maybe more Democrats than Republicans, but people who oppose him and don’t like the results of the election and can’t believe he won, [saying] ‘We obviously can’t vote against him this time but we can try to get more Democrats elected to respond to him.'”
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
Finally some journalists are beginning to understand that Bernie Sanders is serious about trying to destroy the Democratic Party in hope that his “political revolution” will emerge from the chaos he and his supporters create. The Party should be focusing on how to beat Donald Trump, but Bernie is enjoying being the center of attention so much that he just can’t stop himself.
When he started running for president, I’m convinced that Sanders didn’t think he had a chance, but once the donations started flowing in and he saw the cheering crowd and read the article lionizing him, he began to believe he would win the nomination and actually be able to run the country his way.
Now that he has lost, Sanders seems determined to take everyone else down with him and hand the presidency to a seriously insane person with no experience in politics or government and no interest in learning about either.
Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: Bernie and Jane Sanders: The Democratic Party’s Thelma and Louise.
Now we are forced to ask whether Bernie Sanders has decided he wants to destroy the Democratic Party. I’m sure he would say he wants to save it. The way we saved villages in Vietnam. You know the quote.
I don’t allege that he decided to run as a Democrat for this reason. He did so, I’m told by those who’d know, because he did not want to be the 21st-century Ralph Nader and because he knew that running against Hillary Clinton would give him a much bigger stage on which to inveigh against the parasites.
That was then. But now, after the Nevada fracas and his gobsmacking statement in the wake of it, it’s remorselessly clear that he wants to obliterate the Democratic Party. Revolutions take on lives of their own. Robespierre never thought back in 1790 or ’91 that the guillotine would be needed. But as the dialecticians like to say, historical circumstances change. By 1793, those little sheep who’d been misled by sellouts like Danton were part of the…corrupt establishment.
Tomasky explains what he thinks is motivating Bernie and Jane Sanders and Jeff Weaver’s vicious attack on the Democratic Party.
Most things that happen in campaigns tell us something about people as politicians. This statement told us something about Sanders—and, I suspect, about his wife, Jane, and Jeff Weaver, his campaign manager—as human beings. Everything is subordinated to ideology. Basic human impulses are buried. There is only politics, only ideology, only the movement. I’m really glad we’re not in Romania in 1965. I know where I’d be.
I know this because I’ve known lots of people like this. Leftists like Sanders regard the Democratic Party as a far bigger problem in the world than the Republican Party. The thinking goes like this: The Republicans, sure, everybody knows they’re evil. That’s obvious. But the Democrats, they’re evil too. They adopt a few attractive positions, say nice things on certain issues as long as saying those nice things doesn’t really threaten the established economic order, so they’re even worse, finally, because they fool people into thinking they’re on their side. I heard this a hundred times from the old guys who used to hector me at the Socialist Scholars Conference in Manhattan 25 years ago when I used to speak there.
That’s what Bernie is. If he’d stayed in Brooklyn, he’d have been a Social Scholars Conference hectorer. He had the wisdom to move to a podunk state, and the luck to do so just as it was becoming the place where all the aging hippies were moving, and so he became a mayor and then a House member and, finally and exaltedly, a senator.
So many liberal bloggers and journalists have been saying nice things about Bernie throughout the primaries. Yesterday, Josh Marshall finally woke up to reality: It Comes From the Very Top.
Over the last several weeks I’ve had a series of conversations with multiple highly knowledgable, highly placed people. Perhaps it’s coming from Weaver too. The two guys have been together for decades. But the ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante, everything we saw in that statement released today by the campaign seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.
This should have been obvious to me. The tone and tenor of a campaign always come from the top. It wasn’t obvious to me until now.
This might be because he’s temperamentally like that. There’s some evidence for that. It may also be that, like many other presidential contenders, once you get close it is simply impossible to let go. I don’t know which it is. That would only be my speculation. But this is coming from Bernie Sanders. It’s not Weaver. It’s not driven by people around him. It’s right from him. And what I understand from knowledgable sources is that in the last few weeks anyone who was trying to rein it in has basically stopped trying and just decided to let Bernie be Bernie.
Some journalists, like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell have basically been surrogates for the Sanders campaign. I’m not sure where Hayes and Maddow stand on burning down the Democratic Party, but Lawrence O’Donnell made it clear last night that he’s on board with Bernie’s plan.
Too bad Marshall didn’t start asking questions sooner.
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum is still holding onto the fantasy that Sanders is basically a good guy who has gotten caught up in power-seeking: The Sad Decline and Fall of Bernie Sanders.
The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders. Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he’s also obviously very, very bitter. I wonder if all this was worth it for him? By all objective measures he did way better than anyone expected and had far more influence than anyone thought he would, and he should feel good about that. Instead, he seems more angry and resentful with every passing day….
I don’t even blame anyone in particular. Maybe Hillary’s team played too rough. Maybe Bernie’s team is too thin-skinned. I just don’t know. But it’s sort of painful to see a good person like Bernie turned into such a sullen and resentful man. And doubly painful to see him take his followers down that path too.
Usually these things fade with a bit of time. Politics is politics, after all. But for Bernie, it’s always been more than politics. I wonder if he’s ever going to get over this?
“Hillary’s team played too rough?” Give me a break. They have held back on many of the attacks they could have used.
Some journalists, like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell, have basically acted as surrogates for the Sanders campaign. I’m not sure where Hayes and Maddow stand after Bernie’s latest disgraceful behavior, but Lawrence O’Donnell made clear last night that he is still in the Sanders camp.
On last night’s show, O’Donnell hyped the latest Fox News poll that had Trump leading Clinton by a couple of points; of course he failed to point out that poll sample included a larger proportion of Republicans than is contained in the population as a whole.
O’Donnell noted that Bernie Sanders still leads Trump in the Fox poll. He claimed that Hillary Clinton has never been able to raise her standing in polls–she always goes down. He actually went on to advocate that Democratic superdelegates should overturn the will of the voters and make Sanders the nominee!
Here’s Greg Sargent, who has been Bernie-friendly for most of the campaign: Will Bernie Sanders burn it all down?
In an interview with me today, top Sanders adviser Tad Devine — while stressing that Sanders would support the eventual nominee — demurred on the broader question of whether he would, in the end, do everything necessary to persuade his supporters of the legitimacy of the process.
At the same time, in a separate interview, a top supporter of Sanders — Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon — bluntly told me that if Sanders finishes behind in pledged delegates and the popular vote, he should not continue to try to win over super-delegates, and should concede rather than take the battle to the convention.
I asked Devine: If Clinton wins the nomination after all the votes have been cast, will Sanders issue an unequivocal declaration that the outcome was legitimate?
“We’re still involved in this process, so it’s hard for me to declare what’s going to happen at the end,” Devine said. “As we look forward, there are a lot of issues of deep concern.”
Devine cited the DNC’s appointment of former Rep. Barney Frank as the chairman of the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee and the appointment of Connecticut governor Dan Malloy as the co-chair of the Platform Committee, arguing that both had been “partisan” in their “attacks” on Sanders.
So the answer is no. The Sanders campaign will continue to whip up the Bernie bros and encourage protests and perhaps even violence at the Democratic convention in July. Democratic leaders need to act now to head these people off at the pass.
The Hill reports that Democrats held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Sanders threat: How Senate Democrats are trying to deal with Sanders.
Democrats in the room decided the best course would be to let Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) handle the delicate task of talking to Sanders about the increasingly negative tone of supporters of his presidential bid, according to sources familiar with what happened at the meeting.
“I’m leaving it up to Reid. That’s what the caucus did yesterday. We said he would be the lead on it,” said one Democratic senator. “There was some suggestion that we would all make calls. And everybody said the best idea is to let the leader handle it.”
A senior Democratic aide said that thinking reflects an acknowledgement among the senators that Reid is the one member of the caucus who “has an actual relationship with him.”
Sanders is a political independent who caucuses with Democrats. That’s made him a bit of an outsider with his colleagues, something highlighted by the Vermont senator’s rebuke this week of a Democratic Party he says should open its doors to political independents.
The presidential candidate is not chummy with his colleagues.
Fellow senators have been known to roll their eyes at his idealistic — some say unrealistic — jeremiads in private meetings. Sanders is known for speaking out at the sessions.
Reid, however, has always been a helpful ally. He gave Sanders the full benefits of membership in the Democratic caucus after his election to the Senate in 2006, rewarding him with the committee assignments he wanted even though he was not a registered Democrat.
Well, Harry Reid tried and failed to reason with Bernie. To paraphrase the famous quote from Jaws, I think the Democrats are gonna need a bigger plan.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:
President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:
“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.
President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.
Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.
After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin.
A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”
A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.
Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:
Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.
I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.
Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…
You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.
I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.
In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.
The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.
The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….
Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.
Read more at the NYT link.
And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.
Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.
Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.
(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.
Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.
“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”
Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.
In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.
An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.
CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.
Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.
The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.
The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.
Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:
The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.
Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.
To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.
Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.
Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:
@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”
I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.
Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!