Finally Friday Reads: Republicans Breaking Bad Edition

The Steer (The Bull), Franz Marc, 1911

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There is so much abnormality to the behavior of the Republican Party these days that it’s difficult to characterize the news that comes to light about them.  We keep getting headlines that are shocking but not surprising.  They all are off in the deep end. Take this headline from The Guardian: “US justice department says Trump didn’t turn over all documents.  Investigators are skeptical Trump has been fully cooperative in efforts to recover documents, reports says, which will force difficult choice on next steps.”  BB has covered the story in detail, and every day there’s something new.

The US Department of Justice has told lawyers for Donald Trump it thinks he has not handed back all the documents he took from the White House, the New York Times reported.

The paper said Jay Bratt, the DoJ head of counterintelligence operations, communicated with lawyers for Trump “in recent weeks”.

The news, the Times said, is “the most concrete indication yet that investigators remain skeptical that Mr Trump has been fully cooperative in their efforts to recover documents … supposed to have [been] turned over to the National Archives at the end of his term”.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, said the news “looks like a major step toward an indictment of Trump by DoJ for obstruction of justice”.

Head of a Dog, Edvard Munch, 1930

The Herschel Walker stories just get juicier by the day.  This is accompanied by the characteristic hypocrisy of White Evangelicals who simply do not care about his obvious brain damage, moral deficiencies, and lack of intellect.  This is from The Washington Post: “GOP crisis in Herschel Walker race was nearly two years in the making. In Georgia, Republicans are stuck with a problematic Senate candidate they saw coming but decided they couldn’t stop”

In early 2021, as football star Herschel Walker considered running for Senate, he approached some of Georgia’s top Republican operatives about advising his campaign. The operatives were warned about political vulnerabilities in Walker’s past — including allegations of violence against women — that were openly discussed in the state’s political circles, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Walker’s reaction to being confronted with the allegations was also troubling, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. When the consultants would ask the candidate about incidents even in the public record, he would often get simultaneously defensive and aggressive, accusing the questioner of being a Democratic plant or ally of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader.

Those consultants passed on working with Walker, but he pressed ahead with his campaign. After all, Walker’s overwhelming name recognition in Georgia as a Heisman Trophy-winning football star and backing from former president Donald Trump instantly made him so formidable that state and national Republican leaders didn’t mount a serious challenge in the primary, despite concerns about Walker’s baggage.

Now, less than five weeks before the midterm elections, they’re stuck with him as those liabilities threaten to dominate the news and derail his campaign in a state widely viewed as a must-win for Republicans to retake the Senate.

This is a party that no longer has a platform. Their only agenda appears to be power at any cost to ensure anyone who is not a white male christianist is disenfranchised from their constitutional rights and standing.  The other is ensuring taxes are only paid by poor people.  They’re empowered by dark money and now a weird cult of brown-shirt militias ready and willing to commit violence to the cause of White Nationalism and patriarchy. The Oath Keepers Trial is just surreal.  I’m not sure the press quite knows how to report it.

I am looking forward to Rachel Maddow’s latest podcast, “Ultra” which outlines the last time we had to deal with NAZIs in our midst.

Sitting members of Congress aiding and abetting a plot to overthrow the government. Insurrectionists criminally charged with plotting to end American democracy for good. Justice Department prosecutors under crushing political pressure. Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra is the all-but-forgotten true story of good, old-fashioned American extremism getting supercharged by proximity to power. When extremist elected officials get caught plotting against America with the violent ultra right, this is the story of the lengths they will go to… to cover their tracks. Follow now and join Rachel Maddow for the first two episodes on October 10th.

You may read the interview with her at Rolling Stone.  “The MSNBC host’s eight-part series explores what the prosecution of American fascists in the WW II era can teach us about accountability for Jan. 6”.  So, I’m hoping that puts all this into perspective.  The article is from Maddow Blog.

As part of the proceedings, federal prosecutors revealed a recording in which Rhodes said just days after the Jan. 6 attack that his “only regret” about that day is that members of his pro-Trump paramilitary group didn’t bring rifles.

In other words, the assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to the Oath Keepers founder, wasn’t quite violent enough.

Part of what makes these developments striking is the seriousness of the details. Prosecutors have alleged that Rhodes and his confederates conspired to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power. To that end, they not only breached the Capitol, they also stashed a significant number of weapons, including grenades, just outside of D.C. in preparation for an escalated offensive.

Federal law enforcement has also alleged that it believes Oath Keepers members intended to launch a second armed attack intended to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.

But as Rachel noted on last night’s show, there’s also a historical dimension to this: Rhodes’ case is the largest sedition trial in the United States since World War II. Charges like these are incredibly uncommon — Americans rarely try to overthrow their own government — and hard to prove.

That said, as a New York Times report explained, “Because of the nature of the Oath Keepers’ defense — and because of the government’s wealth of evidence — the trial is less likely to focus on disputes over what the group did in the days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6 than it is to hinge on the question of why they did it.”

The White Cat, Pierre Bonnard, 1894

It is difficult for me to understand the thirst for violence, insurrection, and overall destruction of our American Democracy.  It just keeps popping up. There are some already arguing that we’re in a second civil war.   This is from the New York Times: “After Mar-a-Lago Search, Talk of ‘Civil War’ Is Flaring Online.”  How stupid are these people?

Soon after the F.B.I. searched Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida for classified documents, online researchers zeroed in on a worrying trend.

Posts on Twitter that mentioned “civil war” had soared nearly 3,000 percent in just a few hours as Mr. Trump’s supporters blasted the action as a provocation. Similar spikes followed, including on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parler, Gab and Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media platform. Mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcasts, as measured by Critical Mention, a media-tracking firm.

Posts mentioning “civil war” jumped again a few weeks later, after President Biden branded Mr. Trump and “MAGA Republicans” a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” in a speech on democracy in Philadelphia.

Now experts are bracing for renewed discussions of civil war, as the Nov. 8 midterm elections approach and political talk grows more urgent and heated.

More than a century and a half after the actual Civil War, the deadliest war in U.S. history, “civil war” references have become increasingly commonplace on the right. While in many cases the term is used only loosely — shorthand for the nation’s intensifying partisan divisions — observers note that the phrase, for some, is far more than a metaphor.

Polling, social media studies and a rise in threats suggest that a growing number of Americans are anticipating, or even welcoming, the possibility of sustained political violence, researchers studying extremism say. What was once the subject of serious discussion only on the political periphery has migrated closer to the mainstream.

But while that trend is clear, there is far less agreement among experts about what it means.

Some elements of the far right view it literally: a call for an organized battle for control of the government. Others envision something akin to a drawn-out insurgency, punctuated with eruptions of political violence, such as the attack on the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati field office in August. A third group describes the country as entering a “cold” civil war, manifested by intractable polarization and mistrust, rather than a “hot” war with conflict.

Given the idiots we see coming to politics as Trumpists, I think it’s a literal call to battle.  Let’s not forget the case against the Proud Boys.

These groups go after the military, veterans, and police officers.  This is from Empty Wheel.

While the Oath Keepers, like the Proud Boys, intentionally recruit law enforcement, the Proud Boys have been better at co-opting cops. Around five of the charged Proud Boys were former or still cops when charged. Tarrio had been a formal informant during a prior criminal prosecution. And several other members of the Proud Boys, including Joe Biggs, provided information to the FBI about what they claimed were Antifa.

Biggs described his own relationship with the FBI this way:

By late 2018, Biggs also started to get “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents located in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach inquiring about what Biggs meant by something politically or culturally provocative he had said on the air or on social media concerning a national issue, political parties, the Proud Boys, Antifa or other groups. Biggs regularly satisfied FBI personnel with his answers. He also stayed in touch with a number of FBI agents in and out of Florida. In late July 2020, an FBI Special Agent out of the Daytona Beach area telephoned Biggs and asked Biggs to meet with him and another FBI agent at a local restaurant. Biggs agreed. Biggs learned after he travelled to the restaurant that the purpose of the meeting was to determine if Biggs could share information about Antifa networks operating in Florida and elsewhere. They wanted to know what Biggs was “seeing on the ground.” Biggs did have information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks in other parts of the United States. He agreed to share the information. The three met for approximately two hours. After the meeting, Biggs stayed in touch with the agent who had called him originally to set up the meeting. He answered follow-up questions in a series of several phone calls over the next few weeks. They spoke often.

This is the same office where an FBI Agent, in August, refused to participate in the arrest of militia-associated men who planned to bring weapons to January 6. The agent then ran to Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, bitching, after his clearance was suspended because he didn’t like the way FBI was running domestic terrorism investigations.

The single FBI informant known to have been present on January 6 appears not to have told his handlers about a meeting he was at the night before where using violence was discussed. And so DOJ has given two members of the Kansas City Proud Boy cell who were with him — Ryan Ashlock and Louis Colon — unbelievably sweet plea deals, I suspect to sustain the rest of the cases against the Proud Boys.

Both Tarrio and Biggs have made specific requests for their own communications with law enforcement — in Tarrio’s case, he claims it is Brady material. That is, they plan to argue they couldn’t be guilty of plotting against the government because they’ve been so chummy with often right wing authoritarian cops in the past.

Notice one of the rogue FBI agents ran to two Republican congressmen.  We haven’t even begun to hear about the complicity of Republican elected officials in the January 6th insurrection, the fake electors scheme, and their relationships to militias and other kook cults.

The Tabby, Henri Rousseau
Original Title: Le Chat Tigre

Let’s dive into the Politico story.  These guys do scare me because think of how many angry white men basically decide to take out innocent women and children when they finally explode.  Elmer’s wife and kids have a right to be frightened.

Bertino, who previously testified to the Jan. 6 select committee, was involved in key conversations and chats with other members of the group, including national chair Enrique Tarrio and other leaders facing seditious conspiracy charges in the weeks before Jan. 6.

Tarrio is set to go on trial in December, along with Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola, who was the first member of the Jan. 6 mob to breach the Capitol when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a police riot shield.

Prosecutors say Tarrio and his allies developed a plan to besiege the Capitol, relying on — and in fact organizing and spurring on — members of the mob to help break through police lines and get inside the Capitol. It was part of an effort that prosecutors say was intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Kelly accepted Bertino’s plea after asking Bertino a series of standard questions to ensure, under oath, that Bertino entered it voluntarily and without being threatened or coerced.

The seditious conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys leaders are the gravest leveled by the Justice Department against any of the more than 850 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Bertino was briefly featured during video testimony aired by the Jan. 6 select committee during its first public hearing in June. He described a surge in Proud Boys membership after then-President Donald Trump urged the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate against Joe Biden.

“Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?” an investigator asked.

“Exponentially. I’d say tripled probably,” Bertino replied.

Several leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers, including founder Stewart Rhodes, are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy as well, just down the hall from where Bertino entered his plea. Prosecutors say they spent the weeks after Election Day fomenting an “armed rebellion” against the government and seizing on the opportunity created by the Jan. 6 mob to disrupt the transfer of power.

Head of a Dog, Edouard Manet,1876

These cases are very interesting.  As I said, I’m looking forward to listening to Maddow’s podcast.  I was a history major at university, and I’d never heard this story.  I hope we can get some insight into what happens as we move deeper into holding Trump and his droogies accountable.

Don’t forget!  Trump asked the Supreme Court to intervene in his documents case, which is sitting on Uncle Clarence Thomas’ desk.  What do you want to bet Ginnie’s fingerprints are all over it now?  Is it a Trump stall play?  A Hail Mary? All I know is the Supreme Court and Judge Loose Cannon have gone to the dogs now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: 9/11 Memories, Adoption Horror Stories, and Other News

morning news and tea

Good Morning!!

It’s been cool here in the Boston area for the past few weeks, and then suddenly yesterday on the anniversary of 9/11/2001, the temperature shot up to 97 degrees.Today it’s only supposed to get up to the high 80s. And then we’re back to fall over the weekend. Very strange. You just never know what to expect from the weather these days.

On that day 12 years ago, my parents had rented a house on the beach in Rhode Island for a week. We had been obsessed with ExploreSUP reviews of paddle boards and were trying them out in the water. My sister from Indiana and my brother and sister-in-law from Cambridge were there too. This was before my two nephews were born. It was a beautiful New England day, and I recall it was pretty warm–but not hot.

I was out sight-seeing with my parents and sister when we got the first hints that something was terribly wrong. My sister heard someone say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We rushed back to the beach house to horrible scenes of carnage on TV. We spent the rest of our vacation reading newspapers and watching TV for updates. A couple of days later, I had to drive back to Boston where school was starting and I had to teach at Boston University.

Driving up I-95 alone, I felt irrationally frightened, and I kept looking up in the sky for planes, even though I knew all air traffic had been grounded (except for the bin Laden relatives whom the Bush administration allowed to fly out of Boston–creepy!). The fact that the planes that hit the twin towers had flown out of Boston felt like a terrible violation. So even though nothing had happened to me and I was safe, I still had some post-traumatic stress. I guess we all did. For the first time, Americans learned what it feels like to be attacked in our own country. It was a loss of innocence.

Anyway, that’s my 9/11 memory–not very dramatic, but impossible to forget.

President Obama chose to mark the anniversary with a moment of silence on the White House lawn. From The New York Daily News:

Under a perfect blue sky, President Obama stood stock still on the neatly-manicured White House South Lawn and said not a thing.

moment of silence

In a capital where words are weapons, the silence was disarming.

The President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Jill Biden had quietly walked out of the glistening white residence to observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

They were flanked by a military honor guard and White House staff. If you looked toward the South Portico of the nation’s most famous home, a flag was at half-staff.

The two couples held hands as a bell tolled at 8:46 a.m., exactly the moment when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. The poignant simplicity was inescapable.

Afterwards, Obama attended a memorial service in front of the Pentagon, at the site where one of the planes had been flown into the building that symbolized America’s military might.

In the news…

I hope you’ll find time to read this important investigative article by Reuters reporter Megan Twohey about Americans who adopt children from foreign countries, then have regrets, and then give their children away to total strangers they meet on the internet. Many of these children end up being abused emotionally, physically and/or sexually. It’s one of the most shocking stories I’ve ever read. Here’s Part One and Part Two. I really can’t do this story justice with excerpts, but here’s the introduction:

KIEL, Wisconsin – Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled for more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they’d adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give her up, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet.

Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl….

A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived in a trailer.

No attorneys or child welfare officials came with them. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita’s guardians. The visit lasted just a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.

I can’t believe such a thing is possible in the U.S., but it turns out most states don’t really regulate what adoptive parents do with their children. Within a few weeks, Melissa Puchalla learned that Quita and her new parents were missing and that Nicole Eason had a troubling history as a mother:

 • Child welfare authorities had taken away both of Nicole Eason’s biological children years earlier. After a sheriff’s deputy helped remove the Easons’ second child, a newborn baby boy, the deputy wrote in his report that the “parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies.”

• The Easons each had been accused by children they were babysitting of sexual abuse, police reports show. They say they did nothing wrong, and neither was charged.

• The only official document attesting to their parenting skills – one purportedly drafted by a social worker who had inspected the Easons’ home – was fake, created by the Easons themselves.

On Quita’s first night with the Easons, her new guardians told her to join them in their bed, Quita says today. Nicole slept naked, she says.

In Part Two of the report, Twohey writes about another man whom Melissa Eason partnered with to get access to unwanted adoptive children.
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