Frantic Friday Reads: Political Chaos Edition

warrior snail
Pontifical of Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I just replaced my TV in the season of political infighting and maudlin Crassmas shows. At least I don’t have to fight any Black Friday Crowds in actual stores. I’m not sure I’d survive that.  Even Medieval Warrior Snails have more guts to face an oncoming crowd than me.  My nice Amazon delivery guy is coming with it sometime next week within a 6-day window, even with Prime.  I bumped into the busy season but was waiting for my check from Hollywood South for enduring a few weekends of having my block shut down for that AMC series shoot. I bet a Warrior Snail could deliver it faster.

You know that Senator John Kennedy is known for saying some pretty outrageous things.  He appears to be gearing up to run for governor despite his runaway reelection in the midterms.  He always makes these weird references to pop culture, which always goes awry. I don’t think he cares he’s the butt of many memes. Try this one reported by Politico.

It’s not every day that a senator quotes a famous mob movie to describe the state of his political party after a week of infighting.

“You’ve gotta have a war every five or 10 years to get rid of the bad blood,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said, paraphrasing a line from “The Godfather” to paint a picture of Senate Republicans. “And then you start over.”

Tension built within the Senate GOP for nearly two years, from former President Donald Trump’s post-insurrection impeachment through a host of bipartisan Biden-era deals that many Republicans opposed. And after the party’s midterm election losses, those cracks turned into a chasm.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) mounted a challenge to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that embodied the conservative griping about the Kentuckian’s leadership style. As GOP senators spent roughly 10 hours in private meetings this week that at times grew highly contentious, the conference cleaved over a same-sex marriage bill that most of them opposed.

When McConnell defeated Scott, 37-10 (a tally that some Republican senators still won’t talk about) the intraparty whispers and rumors of opposition to the tight-gripped leader finally got quantified on paper. The GOP now hopes that its factions — or warring families, as Mario Puzo would put it — are at peace.

That McConnell faced his first contested leadership race in nearly 16 years atop the conference marked a turning point in the GOP. He’s held the post longer than anyone else in his party, and soon enough will break the Senate’s overall record. Despite that rarefied air, it’s clear that he was pushing for every single vote he could lock in

A snail-cat, depicted in the Maastricht Hours – an illuminated devotional manuscript produced in the Netherlands during the early 1300s

I’m not sure he realizes that calling the Republican party something akin to Mafiosi is strangely true and probably not a label they want. It does appear that both the Senate and House contingents have a lot of group infighting.  They’re doing some strange things for a party that’s always seen its role as the top ass kisser for American Business. This is also from Politico under the headline: “GOP plans to punish ‘woke’ Wall Street. GOP lawmakers are singling out major asset managers as likely targets because of climate investing practices they see as hostile to oil, gas and coal.”  I will use Digby’s take on it since it came with popcorn.

This should be super fun to watch:

Wall Street loves Republican tax cuts and deregulation. It’s going to hate the GOP’s plans for 2023.

Republican lawmakers, who will be in the House majority come January, are pressing party leaders to send a message to big financial firms: Stop appeasing the left with “woke” business practices, keep financing fossil fuels and cut ties with China. Republicans will have committee gavels and subpoena powers to back that up.

GOP lawmakers are singling out major asset managers and their Washington trade groups as targets because of climate investing practices they see as hostile to oil, gas and coal. Some Republicans want to continue hauling in big bank CEOs to publicly testify — a tradition established by liberal Democrats. GOP senators are already demanding that law firms preserve documents related to how they advise clients on environmental and social initiatives, signaling a potential investigation. Wall Street firms and Washington lobbyists are preparing for subpoenas.

Caught in the middle are Republican committee leaders who are facing pressure from their rank-and-file to adopt a populist tact toward big business.

“My members are intent on sending a message that you can’t kowtow to a far-left agenda and still have Republicans fighting the good fight on behalf of free markets and a marketplace that would benefit these companies,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is poised to chair the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview. “This is a complicated factor for sure.”

Uhm yeah. It’s a complicated factor for sure. Free markets as long as you do what we tell you may not be a big winner with the Big Money Boyz.

Knight v Snail II: Battle in the Margins (from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 193v

Well, DeSantis certainly showed Disney (not!), so this can only signal that some of the troops are already taking on the DeSantis mantel.  However, it still reminds me of the Smithsonian’s age-old question, “Why Were Medieval Knights Always Fighting Snails?” 

I will mention that Josh Hawley has taken to ranting on the Washington Post OpEd page today about Republicans being out of touch with Working Americans.  I’m not going to bother with that, but here’s another headline with a twist. “Ron DeSantis has reached a perilous point: Inevitability. Can you recall another politician who seemed like an Inevitable Candidate for their party and time? Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Gary Hart, Thomas Dewey, Robert A. Taft …”

“If the Florida governor ever intends to wrest control of the GOP from Trump, now is his moment,” read the headline on an Atlantic article by David Frum last week.

If he runs “he will be a formidable candidate,” Jeb Bush told Neil Cavuto in October.

Jeb Bush was also an Inevitable. Hillary Clinton was an Inevitable (twice!). Neither’s inevitability yielded the presidency. That’s the tricky thing about being an Inevitable.

“What voters will be looking for a year from now, or two years, is very unpredictable,” says Alex Conant, who was communications director for the presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio (once an Inevitable) and Tim Pawlenty (never an Inevitable). “So that candidate who looks perfect for the current moment might not be what they want later. Jeb and Trump are the perfect examples.”

Knight v Snail III: Extreme Jousting (from Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, France (Picardy), c. 1315-1325, Yates Thompson MS 19, f. 65r)

And yet, the Insurrection is not disappearing from the news even as low-energy Donald announced his 3rd bid for the Presidency. This is from Kyle Cheney at Politico, “‘Do not become numb’: Prosecutors close seditious conspiracy case against Oath Keepers. After a grinding eight-week trial, prosecutors pleaded with jurors to consider the weight of leader Stewart Rhodes’ words in the lead-up to Jan. 6.”

“These defendants repeatedly called for the violent overthrow of the United States government and they followed those words with action,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said in her closing statements. “Please do not become numb to these statements. Think about what is actually being called for in these statements.”

To prosecutors, the case is clear: Rhodes was the “architect” of a plan to overthrow the government by force unless Trump took direct action to seize a second term he didn’t win. As Jan. 6 approached, Rhodes grew increasingly frustrated at Trump’s inaction and assembled a team — including co-defendants Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson of Florida, Jessica Watkins of Ohio and Thomas Caldwell of Virginia. They coordinated to amass an arsenal of heavy weapons at a Comfort Inn in nearby Arlington, Va., and developed land and water routes to ferry them to Oath Keepers if violence erupted.

Two dozen Oath Keepers entered the Capitol after other rioters breached it and migrated toward the House and Senate chambers before they were repelled by police. Later, they met Rhodes outside the Capitol. Prosecutors say the group celebrated their actions and prepared to continue their efforts to oppose the government even after authorities regained control of the Capitol.

After closing arguments Friday, jurors will begin deliberating on the most significant charge — seditious conspiracy — as well as a slew of other charges lodged against the Oath Keeper leaders, including obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of property at the Capitol.

The January 6th Committee is also working on finishing up before Republicans take a very weak hold on the House.  NBC News reports that “Jan. 6 committee interviews former Trump Secret Service agent Bobby Engel. Engel, the lead Secret Service agent for Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, could provide information former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony.”  Representative Zoe Lofgren was on Nicole Wallace yesterday but didn’t provide any conclusions reached if any.

The House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday interviewed Bobby Engel, who was the lead Secret Service agent for then-President Donald Trump when the insurrection took place, three sources familiar with the session said.

Engel could provide key testimony related to information shared by Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a top aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She delivered bombshell testimony before the committee at a public hearing this summer.

Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump tried to grab the steering wheel in an armored SUV and lunged toward his security detail when he learned he would not be taken to the Capitol after his rally on Jan. 6.

Hutchinson said Tony Ornato, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, told her about the incident. She also said Engel had not disputed Ornato’s account. Ornato and Engel both testified before the committee before Hutchinson.

Detail from The Gorleston Psalter

Now, to the goods news on the other side of the aisle.  From the Washington Post, “Rep. Lauren Boebert race too close to call, with margin inside recount threshold. ”  This will likely require very buttery popcorn too.  And from CNN, “Democrat Katie Porter will win reelection in California, CNN projects .  Whew, that’s a relief.

And as one historically significant and powerful Leader of the House retires, another one will become the Minority Leader, in line for the big position.  This is reported by NBC News, “Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announces bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader. If elected, Jeffries, 52, would become the first Black leader of a congressional caucus. Reps. Katherine Clark, 59, and Pete Aguilar, 43, are seeking to join Jeffries in Democrats’ top three.”

 New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, said Friday that he will run to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the party’s leader after Republicans took back control of the chamber in last week’s midterm elections.

His announcement in a letter to colleagues came a day after Pelosi said in a powerful floor speech that she is stepping down after a two-decade reign as the top leader of House Democrats.

If Jeffries is successful, it would represent a historic passing of the torch: Pelosi made history as the first female speaker of the House, while Jeffries, the current Democratic Caucus chairman, would become the first Black leader of a congressional caucus and highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill. If Democrats were to retake control of the House — a real possibility with Republicans having such a narrow majority — Jeffries would be in line to be the first Black speaker in the nation’s history.

The ascension of the 52-year-old Jeffries to minority leader would also represent generational change. Pelosi and her top two deputies — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. — are all in their 80s and are receiving from within the party for “new blood” in leadership; Hoyer will not seek another leadership post while Clyburn plans to stay on and work with the next generation.

Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., are seeking to round out the new leadership team, announcing Friday that they will run for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in leadership. Clark, 59, announced a bid for Democratic Whip, while Aguilar, 43, is running for Democratic Caucus Chair.

It does make me wonder who the Republicans will demonize once Leader Pelosi steps down. However, I’m enjoying those praising her, a lot. This is from Time Magazine and a likely precursor to her becoming Time’s Person of the Year. Won’t that just send the head Mafiosa into an orange rage burble that no one will care about? “Nancy Pelosi Reflects On the Not-Quite-End of An Era.” 

For two decades, it has been in every congressional Democrat’s interest to stay in Pelosi’s good graces. Since winning her first leadership position in 2001, she has ruled the House Democratic caucus with an iron fist and a velvet glove, keeping her fractious party in near-lockstep during historically tumultuous times. From the Iraq War to the financial crisis, through health-care reform and government shutdowns, through two presidential impeachments, a pandemic and an insurrection attempt, she has been a constant force and consummate operator. No national politician of her era can match her combination of legislative prowess, vote-counting savvy, negotiating skill, and fundraising ability.

On Thursday, it was finally time to move on—sort of. Shortly after noon, she gave a brief speech on the House floor, announcing that she would not seek re-election as leader of the House Democrats. It was time, she said, “for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.” Yet she couldn’t bring herself to step away completely: she owed it to her constituents in San Francisco, she said, to stay on as a rank-and-file member of Congress and finish her two-year term. Like the man who fakes his own death and then sneaks into the funeral, she would stick around to see how her people tried to get along without her.

Just after her speech, the 82-year-old House Speaker sat at a white-clothed table in a small, ornate room off the House floor known as the Board of Education, a hidden chamber where former Democratic Speaker Sam Rayburn used to hole up and relax. Then-vice president Harry Truman was playing cards with Rayburn here in 1945 when he learned that FDR had died and he would become President. One wall Rayburn had painted with a Texas seal; on two others, Pelosi recently added her own touches: a painting of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a tribute to women’s suffrage.

I was fortunate to meet and hear Speaker Pelosi speak at Tulane University a few years ago. I was invited by my then Congressman Cedric Richmond.  She spoke to a group of young women on how to become the political leaders of the future.  She was funny, gracious, and serious about getting everyone’s voice to the District.  It’s great to go out on the top even though she will be sorely missed.

So, I’ve posted this youtube as one explanation of the Knights vs. Snail Battles. Maybe JJ will chime in with some theories of her own.   Here’s a gory explanation from the Old Testment.

For Digital MedievalistLisa Spangenberg floated another idea. She says that “the armored snail fighting the armored knight is a reminder of the inevitability of death,” a sentiment captured in Psalm 58 of the bible: “Like a snail that melteth away into slime, they shall be taken away; like a dead-born child, they shall not see the sun.”

I kind of like this modern take on it.

“The snail may leave a trail of slime behind him, but a little slime will do a man no harm, while if you dance with dragons, you must expect to burn.”

― George R.R. Martin, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

I view it as a Revenge Tale painted by Nerds.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Two Wannabe Tyrants and A Struggling One

Happy Caturday!!

079258366aa3aa1cb71e700f59e9028dHillary Clinton dared to speak the truth about Trump in an interview yesterday. Mary Papenfuss wrote about it at HuffPo: Hillary Clinton Compares Trump To Hitler In Disturbing Interview.

In a stinging interview Friday one-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, and his political rallies to Nazi gatherings.

She zeroed in on Trump’s rally last week in Youngstown, Ohio, where members of the crowd raised a stiff-armed, one-finger QAnon salute to the former president in a gesture chillingly reminiscent of the “heil Hitler” salute.

The QAnon gesture stands for WWG1WGA, or: “Where We Go One We Go All.”

“I remember as a young student, you know, trying to figure out how people get basically brought in by Hitler. How did that happen?” Clinton asked during an onstage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

“I’d watch newsreels and I’d see this guy standing up there ranting and raving, and people shouting and raising their arms. I thought, ‘What’s happened to these people?’” she added.

“You saw the rally in Ohio the other night,” Clinton noted. “Trump is there ranting and raving for more than an hour, and you have these rows of young men with their arms raised. What is going on?”

She added: “I think it is fair to say we’re in a struggle between democracy and autocracy.”

Trump had another rally in North Carolina yesterday. He did plenty of ranting and railing, but his security people stopped audience members who raised their arms in the “heil Hitler”-like gesture. Either Trump or his advisers must have been paying attention to the negative public reaction.

From Eric Garcia, reporter at The Independent, who attended the rally: QAnon, the Big Lie and misogyny: Inside Trump’s Wilmington rally. Trump was supposedly there to support Republican candidates; but, as usual, the rally was all about him and his many grievances.

Former president Donald Trump held a rally in Wilmington on Friday, his first since New York attorney general Letitia James announced her civil lawsuit against him, his three eldest children, his business associates, and the Trump organisation this week….

Indeed, before Mr Trump took the stage, the two monitors on the sides of the stage played a segment from Fox News’ host Jesse Watters comparing Mr Trump’s storage of documents with that of the previous four former presidents.

But the former president also used the rally to air his grievances against Ms James’s lawsuit against him, his family and his business organization, which she called “The Art of the Steal” at a Wednesday press conference.

GettyImages-987491478“There’s no better example of the chilling obsession with targeting political opponents than the baseless, abusive and depraved lawsuit against me, my family, my company, by the racist attorney general of New York state,” he said, giving her the moniker “Letitia ‘Peekaboo’ James.” [….]

Mr Trump’s dislike of female public figures who challenge him – be they Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Meryl Streep or Rosie O’Donnell – is well-known. But throughout his speech, he repeatedly ridiculed Ms James, a Black woman, in incredibly personal terms, saying that she is more focused on attacking him than focusing on violent crime.

“This raging maniac campaign for office ranting and raving about her goal – her only goal is, we got to get Donald Trump,” he said about Ms James. “In fact, I was watching it and I said ‘boy, that woman is angry, I don’t think she likes me too much.’”

Garcia on the QAnon salute:

During his rally in Ohio last week, Mr Trump and rally goers confused many when he played dramatic music while attendees pointed one finger in the air. Mr Trump repeated the practice this time, albeit it looked like fewer people raised their fingers in the air during the rally.

A few people who attended the rally had QAnon memorabilia, with some attendees wearing QAnon hats and one truck having an image of Mr Trump with John F Kennedy Jr and former president John F Kennedy, prominent figures in the QAnon conspiracy theories.

Gay Gaines said she approved of the use.

“I loved it, it was very emotional, very touching, very inspirational, very uplifting, and hopeful,” she said. “Good way to end it.”

ShortStack_265125897_1_Carol_Ramsey_MLeditTrump has been “retruthing” QAnon messages regularly on his imitation Twitter website, but yesterday he really outdid himself. Insider: Donald Trump shares Truth Social photo proclaiming him as second only to Jesus.

Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social account on Friday, declaring him as “second” only to Jesus.

The post by Truth Social user @austinnegrete said: “Jesus is the Greatest. President @realDonaldTrump is the second greatest.”

It accompanied an image of a painting of Jesus by artist Dan Wilson.

Trump “ReTruthed,” or reposted, the Jesus comparison to his 4.1 million Truth Social followers.

Of course this is ridiculous, as is the QAnon craziness; but we know from past experience that Trump’s ranting and his sway over his audiences is dangers. Mark Follman writes at Mother Jones: Trump Continues to Escalate His Dangerous Incitement.

As the ex-president faces advancing federal and state investigations ranging from Mar-a-Lago to New York to Georgia, he has escalated an insidious form of political incitement, behavior that seems to signal a growing desperation over his legal predicaments. As I first reported beginning two years ago, Trump has long honed a rhetorical method that security experts call “stochastic terrorism”: By continually demonizing his “enemies,” he stirs random violence from extremist supporters as a means to exert and try to maintain political power.

Investigation of the January 6 insurrection showed the consequences of this technique on a mass scale—and further revealed Trump’s explicit willingness to resort to it after attempts to overturn the 2020 election via Congress and the courts had failed. According to sworn testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide in the White House, Trump knowingly urged armed supporters to descend on the Capitol that day and had wanted to lead them there. Ever since, Trump has successfully spread the use of incitement among GOP leaders, as I documented recently.

Repetition across various media is key to the technique and increases the likelihood of violence, according to recently published research from threat assessment experts. Trump has delivered on that in recent weeks: He has continued to target various agencies and individuals using his Truth Social platform, speeches at political rallies, and interviews on Fox News and other more fringe media outlets.

ShortStack_265618904_1_Marguerite_Young_MLeditAnd he has used particularly grim rhetoric. At a Sept. 3 rally in Pennsylvania, Trump calledthe FBI and Justice Department “vicious monsters” and President Biden an “enemy of the state.” During an interview on a right-wing radio show on Sept. 15, he predicted there would be “big problems” in the country if he were to be charged by the Justice Department. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he told host Hugh Hewitt. On Truth Social, Trump promoted a QAnon meme featuring him as a heroic icon of the lunatic conspiracy-theory movement regarded by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat. Soon thereafter, Trump gave an apocalyptic speech at an Ohio rally where he used music evoking a QAnon theme song, prompting fascistic salutes from the crowd.

Trump hammered home similar messages again on Wednesday in a lengthy sit-down at Mar-a-Lago with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Asked by Hannity to comment on a new lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over alleged financial fraud by Trump, the ex-president laid into the state’s top lawyer and her staff: “They were demeaning me constantly, these people,” he said. “There’s something wrong with them. I really believe they hate our country.”

His effort specifically to provoke feelings of contempt among his supporters is no accident and furthers the risk for violence.

Read the rest at the link.

On MSNBC this morning, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had a few choice words for his former boss. Raw Story: Cornered Trump ‘doesn’t care if he burns the country down’: former adviser.

Speaking with host Ali Velshi, Cohen said the former president has big legal troubles coming at him from different directions and painting him into a corner.

He then predicted the former president won’t go down quietly.

“What stands out to you, what’s the thing you’re most thinking about right now?” host Velshi asked.

“There are so many investigations and you wouldn’t believe — if this was a television show you would turn around and say, ‘it’s too stupid! I can’t watch this, it’s stupid, it can never happen,'” Cohen exclaimed. “But it is happening in real-time in our lives.”

“Our democracy is in peril because of one man; one man who goes ahead and weaponizes the United States Department of Justice against his critics, against the country against anybody who was not one of his supporters, he is willing to go after.”

“He doesn’t care if he burns the country down in doing it,” Cohen

0b834e1e3ab544c08f19500a8ffeccb6Enough about Trump. Let’s turn to the Trump wannabe in Florida who is also a danger to democracy could end up running for president in 2024–Ron DeSantis. Could he be facing a serious backlash from Florida voters?

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Ugly new details about Ron DeSantis’s stunt point to a deeper scam.

Who paid for the migrants to be transported from Texas to Florida?

That question emerges from new revelations about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s vile stunt, in which he transported two planeloads of migrants from Texas to Florida and on to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The Florida Republican refuses to release the state contract that funded the flights. That suggests DeSantis is seeking to bury critical facts even as reporters fill in details about the flights — and their questionable legality.

This potentially points to a deeper scam. DeSantis — whose presidential ambitions emit a stench akin to Limburger rotting in an old sock — is gushing with own-the-libs bluster, vowing to keep shoving migrants in the faces of elite liberals everywhere. But the ones truly getting “owned” by this farce are right-wing voters and Florida taxpayers. The more information that comes out, the clearer this will become.

In a useful piece NBC News’s Marc Caputo reports that the outfit contracted to ship migrants — Vertol Systems Company Inc. — has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Florida GOP candidates. One funded Matt Gaetz, a right-wing media troll who moonlights as a congressman.

That company has been paid $1.6 million so far, per NBC, and the contract totals $12 million, supposedly to cover future shipments of migrants to other states. NBC also reports:

“But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to be flown from “this state” of Florida — not any other state — and Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized aliens” because they’re allowed to be in this country.”

So a big question is whether state funding of the transport of migrants from Texas to Florida violated that budgetary language. On this basis, a Democratic state senator filed a lawsuit Thursday to block further funding for the flights.

Read more at the WaPo.

bc848f30f3057dd0b612f28a08cce1c2Could DeSantis be facing serious backlash over his treatment of asylum-seekers? Check this out:

The Hill: DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing mounting scrutiny in his home state over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants to the elite resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

While the move was lauded by conservatives as a powerful protest of the Biden administration’s approach to border security, it has sparked a wave of criticism from Democrats and members of Florida’s vast Hispanic community, a politically influential force in the Sunshine State.

“With this move, this stunt, obviously he made his base very happy,” said Adelys Ferro, the executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus. “But there are many people more toward the middle and people who are independents that are very disgusted and that reject all of this.”

“We are Venezuelan Americans and we vote, and we’re going to vote in November,” she added. “And we’re never going to vote for somebody who does this.

DeSantis has been busy attacking teachers and mistreating immigrants, but will he be ready to deal with an approaching hurricane? CBS News: Tropical Storm Ian strengthens over Caribbean and could approach Florida as major hurricane.

Tropical Storm Ian strengthened as it moved over the Caribbean Saturday and could approach Florida early next week as a major hurricane, according to forecasters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday that Tropical Storm Ian was 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, moving west at 15 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

“Early next week, Ian is forecast to move near or over western Cuba as a strengthening hurricane and then approach the Florida peninsula at or near major hurricane strength, with the potential for significant impacts from storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties which could be in the storm’s path. The order also places the Florida National Guard on standby. DeSantis also put in a request for a federal “pre-landfall emergency declaration.”

Finally, what’ happening with Trump’s idol and mentor Vladimir Putin?

The Washington Post: As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.

4306128e4d89a0be73cdb541c5e153fdBut such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion, and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. Retaking it would be a major accomplishment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Focused on victory at all costs, Mr. Putin has become a more public face of the war as the Russian military appears increasingly in turmoil, forcing him to announce a call-up this week that could sweep 300,000 Russian civilians into military service. This month, Moscow has demonstrated it has too few troops to continue its offensive, suffers from shortages of high-tech precision weaponry and has been unable to gain dominance of Ukraine’s skies.

Read more at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Putin’s Draft Draws Resistance in Russia’s Far-Flung Regions.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise draft to reinforce his invasion of Ukraine ran into growing resistance across Russia on Friday as villagers, activists and even some elected officials asked why the conscription drive appeared to be hitting minority groups and rural areas harder than the big cities.

Some of the greatest anguish played out hundreds or thousands of miles away from the front line, in the Caucasus Mountains and the northeastern region of Yakutia, a sparsely populated expanse that straddles the Arctic Circle. Community leaders described remote villages where much of the working-age male population received conscription notices in recent days, leaving families that subsist off the land without men around to work ahead of the long winter.

“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen — we have so few of them anyway,” Vyacheslav Shadrin, the chairman of the council of elders for a small Indigenous group known as the Yukaghirs, said in a phone interview. “But they are the ones being drafted most of all.”

Mr. Putin announced the call-up on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” necessary to counter Ukraine and its Western backers, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he had long delayed making, even as supporters of the war clamored for a draft in order to allow Russia to intensify its assault.

Russia will mobilize about 300,000 civilians, defense officials said, focusing on men with military experience and special skills, though some Russian media that now operate outside the country reported that the number could be much higher.

But by Friday, even some of the hawkish commentators who had been urging a draft were criticizing the sweeping and uneven way it appeared to be rolling out.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind? What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.

Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a  special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.

 

DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts

The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.

“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.

“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.

In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.

DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida. 

More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.

The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.

The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.

“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.

About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.

This story is still developing.

Multiple Trump Investigations

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

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Letitia James

The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.

Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.

A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.

Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.

Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”

 — Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.

 — “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.

In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.

“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.

Judge Loose Cannon

U.S. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.

The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.

JudgeCannon0910

Judge Aileen Cannon

The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.

“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”

As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.

Justice Elena Kagan Speaks

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.

“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.

Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….

Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”

Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.

“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.

Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).

To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.

Read more at the NYT.

Links to revelations from the book:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?

 


Sunday Reads: Another day…another racist.

Good morning…cartoons via Cagle:

My dad drew this little thing:

I thought it was so funny.

I hope you have a good day, take it easy and this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

landscape Boulders-with-Meconopsis-On Tuesday in Germany—at a meeting of the “Ukraine Defense Consultative Group” (a gathering of the countries from around the world that have pledged to support Ukraine’s war effort)—Secretary Austin said it was the U.S. belief that Ukraine can win the war with Russia. Austin’s spokesperson, John Kirby, stated: “We don’t want a Russia that’s capable of exerting that kind of malign influence in Europe or anywhere in the world.”

Boulders with Meconopsos and Rhododendrons, Amanda Richardson

For years now, it’s been difficult for me to shake the feeling that I’m living in a dystopian novel. We lived through 4 years under an insane “president” who tried to destroy the post-WWII alliances that have prevented another world war. He also ignored and exacerbated a global pandemic that has now killed close to a million Americans.

I had hoped that when Trump was defeated, he would go away and leave us alone; but instead he is still spreading his poisonous lies– and the Republican Party is still kowtowing to him. Even worse, powerful Republicans like Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis are building on Trump’s legacy by enabling fascist policies in their states.

Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, the pandemic is not over, we’re not dealing effectively with climate change, and we are once more living under a threat of nuclear destruction.

Recommended Reads

The Washington Post: U.S. no longer in ‘full-blown’ pandemic phase, Fauci says.

The United States is finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase” that has led to nearly 1 million deaths from covid-19 and more than two years of suffering and hardship, Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday.

“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” Fauci told The Washington Post.

Fauci’s comments came a day after he told PBS’s “NewsHour” that he believed the country is “out of the pandemic phase,” and he expanded on, and clarified, that view Wednesday, making clear that the pandemic is not over and the United States could still see new waves of infections as the virus continues to mutate and spin off highly transmissible variants. But Fauci and other infectious-disease experts are hoping that the population has built up enough immunity from previous infections and vaccinations to avoid another devastating surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” Fauci said.

Huh? We’re out of the “pandemic phase,” but the pandemic is not over? 

Camille Monet and child in the artist's garden in Argenteuil, 1875 Claude Monet

Camille Monet and child in the artist’s garden in Argenteuil, 1875 Claude Monet

His comments follow a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that roughly 3 in 5 people in the United States have already been infected by the coronavirus. About 1 in 4 people had a first-time infection during the winter wave caused by the omicron variant.

These startling numbers suggest the country has a much higher level of collective immunity than it did before omicron. What is far less clear is how long that immunity will persist, and to what extent it could be evaded by new coronavirus variants.

The omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is the latest version to seize the attention of public health experts. It is rapidly gaining traction, and CDC estimated Tuesday that it accounted for about 30 percent of new infections. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said preliminary estimates suggest it is about 25 percent more transmissible than the omicron subvariant BA.2, itself more transmissible than the original omicron strain.

There’s also the problem that we are not testing as much these days; and many people are self-testing at home, so the results are not being reported. Meanwhile, Fauci is concerned enough that he is not going to attend the next possible DC super spreader event:

Fauci, meanwhile, has decided against going to the swank White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday, which Biden reportedly plans to attend. Fauci this month attended the Gridiron dinner, at which scores of people became infected. On Wednesday, he declined to discuss his reasoning for skipping what’s often referred to as the “nerd prom,” saying simply, “It’s just my personal choice.

The WH correspondents organization has made a disturbing decision about their event. The Washington Post: A fight over coronavirus safety at journalists’ gala event.

More than 2,000 journalists, celebrities and politicians, including President Biden, are set to descend on the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend in what is shaping up to be a major test of whether large gatherings can be safely held at this stage of the pandemic.

Organizers say they are committed to holding an event that significantly reduces the risk of coronavirus infections, pointing to vaccine and testing requirements that were strengthened after a dinner hosted by Washington’s Gridiron Club this month was linked to at least 85 infections that sickened Cabinet members, reporters and other guests.

the-way-home-peder-monsted, Danish painter

The Way Home, Peder Monsted, Danish painter

Yet some White House officials and experts worry that those measures are insufficient and that this weekend’s events may become another high-profile superspreader event, said three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. Behind the scenes, one prominent coronavirus expert is scrapping with party organizers hesitant to install devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light because of concerns the devices might interfere with the program.

Don Milton, a University of Maryland environmental scientist who has advised the White House and others on airborne transmission, said his offer to have a company install the devicesat no charge was rebuffed by both the correspondents’ association and the Washington Hilton, which is hosting the event. “I enlisted a team of scientists and germicidal UV lighting companies to provide, as a demonstration project at no cost, a temporary installation to help protect the White House correspondents’ dinner,” Milton said. “Unfortunately, it has not worked out.”

In an interview, Steve Portnoy, a CBS News reporter who serves as the WHCA’s president,said the association had put safety protocols in place and Milton’s offer came too late.

“We’re interested in learning more about this technology,” Portnoy said. “We just aren’t in a position, with less than a week to go, to more fully understand the benefits or potential risks of what appears to be an experimental technology.”

What about the “potential risks” of the president getting Covid?

The New York Times: Climate Change Will Accelerate Viral Spillovers, Study Finds.

Over the next 50 years, climate change will drive thousands of viruses to jump from one species of mammal to another, according to a study published in Nature on Thursday. The shuffling of viruses among animals may increase the risk that one will jump into humans and cause a new pandemic, the researchers said.

Scientists have long warned that a warming planet may increase the burden of diseases. Malaria, for example, is expected to spread as the mosquitoes that carry it expand their range into warming regions. But climate change might also usher in entirely new diseases, by allowing pathogens to move into new host species.

“We know that species are moving, and when they do, they’re going to have these chances to share viruses,” said Colin Carlson, a biologist at Georgetown University and a co-author of the new study.

To understand what that sharing will look like, Dr. Carlson and his colleagues built a computer model of potential spillovers in a warming world. The researchers started by projecting how thousands of mammals might shift their ranges as the climate changes between now and 2070.

As temperatures increase, many species are expected to spread away from the blazing Equator to find more comfortable habitats. Others may move up the sides of hills and mountains to find cooler altitudes. When different species come into contact for the first time, the viruses may be able to infect new hosts.

Wind from the sea, Andrew Wyeth, 1947

Wind from the sea, Andrew Wyeth, 1947

To understand the odds of a successful new infection, the researchers began by building a database of viruses and their mammalian hosts. Some viruses have been found in more than one species of mammal, which means that they must have jumped the species barrier at some point in the past.

Using a computational technique called machine learning, the researchers developed a model that could predict whether two host species share a virus.

The more that two species overlap geographically, the researchers found, the more likely they were to share a virus. That’s because the hosts were more likely to encounter each other, giving their viruses more opportunities to move between them.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Zach Beauchamp at Vox: Ron DeSantis is Viktor Orbán’s true American disciple.

In June of last year, Hungary’s far-right government passed a law cracking down on LGBTQ rights, including a provision prohibiting instruction on LGBTQ topics in sex education classes.

About nine months later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill banning “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” up through third grade. According to some knowledgeable observers on the right, these two bills were closely connected.

“About the Don’t Say Gay law, it was in fact modeled in part on what Hungary did last summer,” Rod Dreher, a senior editor at the American Conservative magazine, said during a panel interview in Budapest. “I was told this by a conservative reporter who … said he talked to the press secretary of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and she said, ‘Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary.’” [….]

It’s easy to see the connections between the bills — in both provisions and justifications. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described his country’s anti-LGBTQ law as an effort to prevent gay people from preying on children; Pushaw described Florida’s law as an “anti-grooming bill” on Twitter, adding that “if you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer” — meaning a person preparing children to become targets of sexual abuse, a slur targeting LGBTQ people and their supporters that’s becoming increasingly common on the right.

There’s more:

Oak Grove, 1887, Ivan Shishkin

Oak Grove, 1887, Ivan Shishkin

This is not a one-off example. DeSantis, who has built a profile as a pugilistic culture warrior with eyes on the presidency, has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos — one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies.

Most recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption; using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves. On issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power….

DeSantis’s agenda in Florida is evidence that the Republican shift in this direction is continuing, maybe even accelerating. He has shown little interest in moderation or consensus-building instead centering his governing philosophy on using policy to own the libs. While Trump may have been an ideological catalyst for the GOP’s authoritarian lurch, DeSantis is showing how it could actually be implemented in practice. The consequences for democracy in Florida, and America in general, could be dire.

There’s much more at the Vox link.

Financial Times: The return of the 20th century’s nuclear shadow.

Vladimir Putin’s willingness to threaten nuclear weapons is in one respect a good sign: it means Russia is probably losing in Ukraine. It is also a potentially catastrophic one. If Putin’s aim is to scare the west, he is failing. Nato keeps stepping up its supplies to Ukraine. The question is what he would do if he thought Russian defeat was inescapable. Putin keeps implying he knows exactly what steps he would take. Is he bluffing? It is plausible even he does not know the answer.

Either way, the genie is out of the bottle. Putin has broken a post-Cuba taboo on threatening to go nuclear. That, in itself, puts us in new territory. Without most people being aware of it, the world is entering its most dangerous period since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The majority under the age of 50 have grown up thinking the nuclear spectre is a relic of the last century. In the past few weeks, the prospect of a nuclear exchange has become the most live threat to this century’s peace.

In terms of public awareness, the debate about Putin’s language is a good example of “those who don’t know talk, and those who know don’t talk”. It is easy to think of Putin as a poker addict trying to bluster his way out of a bad bet. Eventually he must fold. US civilian and military officials suffer from no such complacency. Many have taken part in war game exercises where the use of low-yielding tactical nuclear weapons as often as not escalates to strategic nuclear exchange — doomsday, in plain English.

windmills-in-the-ukrainian-steppe-at-sunset-1862, Ivan Aivazovsky

Windmills in the Ukrainian Steppe at Sunset, 1862, Ivan Aivazovsky

If there were a 5 per cent chance of Putin detonating a battlefield nuclear weapon, the world would be at more risk than at any point in most people’s lifetimes. In the past few days, Moscow’s signalling has arguably raised the chances to one in 10. Putin described last week’s test of the Sarmat hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile as giving the west “food for thought”, which would not sound out of place from Blofeld, the 20th-century Bond villain. On Wednesday, Putin said: “We have all the instruments for this [responding to an existential threat to Russia] — ones nobody else can boast of. And we will use them, if we have to.”

The natural response is that Joe Biden and his European counterparts have made it plain Nato will not fight in Ukraine. The west, in other words, poses no “existential threat” to Russia — its threshold for use of nuclear weapons. But that is only how the west sees it. Putin’s threats, and those of his officials, have been made in the context of claiming Russia is already at war with Nato. Russians are being told every day that they are in a fight for national survival against western-backed Nazis. This level of rhetoric exceeds anything from the cold war.

One more from David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Putin Must Be Stopped Once and for All.

Defending Ukraine is not enough. Defeating Russia on the battlefield is not enough. We must ensure—using every means at our disposal—that Vladimir Putin may never again commit the kinds of atrocities that have marked his two decades in power.

Fortunately, this week, it was made absolutely clear that the Biden administration recognizes that necessity and has made it a strategic centerpiece of their foreign and national security policy efforts.

On Monday, after visiting Ukraine with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

Although one senior U.S. official admitted to me (somewhat uneasily) that “Austin said the quiet part out loud,” it soon became clear that the U.S. was publicly willing to own the new goal of turning Russia’s unprovoked, brutal escalation of its ongoing eight-year war in Ukraine into a lasting and meaningful defeat for the Kremlin.

On Tuesday in Germany—at a meeting of the “Ukraine Defense Consultative Group” (a gathering of the countries from around the world that have pledged to support Ukraine’s war effort)—Secretary Austin said it was the U.S. belief that Ukraine can win the war with Russia. Austin’s spokesperson, John Kirby, stated: “We don’t want a Russia that’s capable of exerting that kind of malign influence in Europe or anywhere in the world.”

That’s all I have for you today. I hope the paintings help just a little bit.