Monday Reads: Dystopian Paradise

This was the favorite of all the little girls around me. The Krewe of Wonder Woman ensures they all get lassos, tiaras, and wristbands, just like this comic book and movie favorite.

Good Morning!

I spent Saturday night with my neighbors watching the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus for my first Carnivale parade since the one that spread Covid-19 to the city at its onset. It’s entirely based on whatever fantasy, SF movie, or book tickles your fancy. It kicks off with the Dancing Leias and the psychedelic statue of Chewbacca!  The actor that played the Star Wars character– Peter Mayhew–was the king of the Parade the last time I saw this parade coming down my street.  It’s huge and quite diverse now!  I guess everyone wants to be in an alternative reality these days!

Once I looked at this morning’s news, I realized the Congressional Republicans are dragging us into a dystopian nightmare of political beefs and conspiracy theories. It’s hard to know where to start but let’s try this as the first read of the week.

I saw a tweet last week from Matt Schlap that the CPAC shitshow would feature Steven Bannon. I keep wondering if either of them will stay out of jail long enough to be there. Today there was this analysis from Bryan Metzger at Insider. “Republicans are mostly ignoring a $9.4 million sexual assault lawsuit against the Trump-aligned head of CPAC.” This begs the question, whose grooming who?

In just over one month, the Conservative Political Action Coalition is set to hold a large gathering of influential Republicans at its annual conference near Washington, DC.

Dozens of GOP members of Congress are likely to attend, if previous years offer any indication, and the conference’s chief organizer — American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp — has already begun to roll out scheduled speakers.

That’s despite Schlapp being the subject of a $9.4 million lawsuit: a man who worked as a mid-level staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has accused Schlapp of sexually assaulting him after a night of drinking in October, as first reported by The Daily Beast.

“I will never forget the look on Matt’s face as he did what he did,” the staffer told Insider in a recent interview, describing Schlapp’s “smug look of satisfaction” as he allegedly groped and fondled the man’s genital area at length. “That’s something that will be burned into my mind for the rest of my days.”

As with other media outlets, Insider is maintaining the anonymity of the accuser, who’s worked in Republican politics for over 10 years, in order to protect his livelihood.

The staffer’s complaint filing, a copy of which was obtained by Insider, also includes defamation and conspiracy charges that implicate Schlapp’s wife and fellow CPAC employee, Mercedes Schlapp. And it threatens to cast a shadow over what is typically a marquee event in conservative politics.

Sexual assault is a pastime of the super-religious. We’re still waiting to hear about the many complaints filed against Southern Baptists around the country, including these two from the Duck Dicks part of Louisiana. 

A nearly 300-page report detailing years of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention from ministers was released in May.

The report, a result of a seven-month investigation by Guidepost Solutions, detailed a credible allegation of sexual assault against former SBC President Johnny Hunt one month after his term ended in 2010 and how high-ranking staff maintained a list with the names of ministers accused of sexual misconduct but did nothing about it.

SBC published a list of accused abusive ministers on May 26. The listed included Jason Cooper, former pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Rayville and Victor Mitchell, former pastor of Old Mount Olive Baptist Church in Oak Ridge. Both were convicted in August 2009 of indecent behavior with a juvenile and oral sexual battery.

Michael Wood, lead pastor of the First West Church, referred to the report as “heartbreaking” and “infuriating” in a prepared statement.

First West Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. The church has campuses in West Monroe, Fairbanks and Calhoun, and was not named in the report.

“Seeing former senior leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention place the protection of an institution over the protection of children and the care for survivors is maddening,” Wood said in the statement. “Our hope and expectation is with heartfelt repentance, new senior leadership, and the strong resolve of the people of the SBC who are willing to do what’s right regardless of the cost, the SBC will adopt the provided recommendations for necessary change.”

The Krewe of Dystopian Paradise had a thing for insects.

The Catholic church is still dealing with the fallout of its scandal, uncovered decades ago. Wherever there is an uneven balance of power, there is sexual battery.

Then, there are the scandals we’re still dealing with from the past few years of Trump.  The state of Georgia may be the first to bring him to reckoning. Some in the Republican party are hoping that it happens. This is from The Atlantic. This analysis is from McKay Coppins.  It’s about how badly many Republicans want to be rid of him. “Republicans’ 2024 Magical Thinking. Lots of Republicans want Donald Trump to disappear from politics. Their main strategy is hope.”  The weird thing is, why is it that all they appear to be concerned with is the “three abysmal election cycles” and not the insurrection, the major grifting, the international embarrassment, and the Russian connections?

Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials—even the ones with MAGA hats in their closets and Mar-a-Lago selfies in their Twitter avatar—will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem. He’s presided over three abysmal election cycles since he took office, he is more unstable than ever, and yet he returned to the campaign trail this past weekend, declaring that he is “angry” and determined to win the  GOP presidential nomination again in 2024. Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It’s time to move on from Trump.

But ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals. Maybe he’ll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he’ll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He’s old, after all—how many years can he have left?

This magical thinking pervaded my recent conversations with more than a dozen current and former elected GOP officials and party strategists. Faced with the prospect of another election cycle dominated by Trump and uncertain that he can actually be beaten in the primaries, many Republicans are quietly rooting for something to happen that will make him go away. And they would strongly prefer not to make it happen themselves.

“There is a desire for deus ex machina,” said one GOP consultant, who, like others I interviewed, requested anonymity to characterize private conversations taking place inside the party. “It’s like 2016 all over again, only more fatalistic.”

The scenarios Republicans find themselves fantasizing about range from the far-fetched to the morbid. In his recent book Thank You for Your Servitude, my colleague Mark Leibovich quoted a former Republican representative who bluntly summarized his party’s plan for dealing with Trump: “We’re just waiting for him to die.” As it turns out, this is not an uncommon sentiment. In my conversations with Republicans, I heard repeatedly that the least disruptive path to getting rid of Trump, grim as it sounds, might be to wait for his expiration.

Who wouldn’t want to be a Space Viking?

Aren’t we all just waiting for him to die?   The AP has an update on the possible upcoming indictments coming from Georgia.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been put on notice by a prosecutor, but the warning didn’t come from anyone at the Justice Department.

It was from a Georgia prosecutor who indicated she was likely to seek criminal charges soon in a two-year election subversion probe. In trying to block the release of a special grand jury’s report, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in court last week that decisions in the case were “imminent” and that the report’s publication could jeopardize the rights of “future defendants.”

Though Willis, a Democrat, didn’t mention Trump by name, her comments marked the first time a prosecutor in any of several current investigations tied to the Republican former president has hinted that charges could be forthcoming. The remarks ratcheted anticipation that an investigation focused, in part, on Trump’s call with Georgia’s secretary of state could conclude before ongoing federal probes.

“I expect to see indictments in Fulton County before I see any federal indictments,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.

Maybe being a Space Cowboy would be better?

I want to see a photo of Trump in an orange jumpsuit that isn’t photoshopped and wishful.  The Feds are taking a long time to time dissect the Insurrection.  Here’s an interesting OpEd read from the New York Times. Donald Trump Isn’t the Only One to Blame for the Capitol Riot. I’d Know.”  This is written by served as senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee and worked on drafting its final report.”

As an investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 Committee’s “Red” Team, which investigated the people who planned and attended the riot, as well as the domestic extremist groups responsible for much of the violence, I tracked more than 900 individuals charged by the Department of Justice with everything from parading in the Capitol to seditious conspiracy. We interviewed roughly 30 of those defendants about their motives. What my team and I learned, and what we did not have the capacity to detail with specificity in the report, is how distrust of the political establishment led many of the rioters to believe that only revolution could save America.

It wasn’t just that they wanted to contest a supposedly stolen election as Mr. Trump called them to do, they wanted to punish the judges, members of Congress, and law enforcement agencies — the so-called political elites — who had discredited Mr. Trump’s claims. One rioter wondered why he should trust anything the F.B.I., D.O.J., or any other federal entity said about the results. The federal government had worked against everyday Americans for years, the rioters told us, favoring entrenched elites with its policies. For many defendants — both those awash in conspiracy theories, as well as some of the more reasonable Trump supporters at the Capitol that day — a stolen election was simply the logical conclusion of years of federal malfeasance.

With the legitimacy of democracy so degraded, revolution appeared logical. As Russell James Peterson, a rioter who pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing” in the Capitol, said on Dec. 4, 2020, “the only way to restore balance and peace is through war. Too much trust has been lost in our great nation.” Guy Reffitt, who earned seven years in prison for leading the charge up the Capitol steps while carrying a firearm, made a similar case later that month: “The government has spent decades committing treason.” The following week, he drove 20 hours to “do what needs to be done” because there were “bad people,” “disgusting people,” in the Capitol. Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, like their leader Stewart Rhodes, had long believed that a corrupt group of left-wing elites were preparing to upend American freedoms and that only militias like themselves could save the Constitution. Their loss of faith in the federal government had led them to the delusion that their seditious behavior to keep Mr. Trump in power was patriotic.

Strikingly, these comments came not only from domestic violent extremists; some came from people who appeared to be ordinary Americans. Dona Sue Bissey, a grandmother and hair salon owner from Indiana, said shortly after the attack that she was “very glad” to have been a part of the insurrection; Anthony Robert Williams, a painter from Michigan, called Jan. 6 the “proudest day of my life.”


Frankly, I cross the street to avoid anyone remotely appearing to be a MAGA sort. They scare the shit out of me.

And, of course, we’re still following the Great Classified Documents heist!  This is from The Daily Beast.  “How the Trump Document Scandal Became a Congressional Pissing Match. “Lawmakers wanted a briefing assessing the damage of former President Donald Trump mishandling classified documents. Then politics happened.”

When classified documents were found at former President Donald Trump’s mansion in September, the chairmen of Congress’s Intelligence Committees wanted a “damage assessment” about how Trump hoarding those documents may have hindered national security. The assessment never happened. And according to two sources familiar with internal conversations, party politics is to blame.

For a variety of reasons, congressional leaders delayed what one source called a “hot potato” just long enough to turn it into a messy, partisan debacle. And in recent weeks, when improperly stored classified documents were found at the homes of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, what was supposed to be a secret and sober exercise in oversight quickly became a fountain of false equivalencies, according to former intelligence officials.

“Let’s do it individually, because there’s a difference,” said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden. “Trump was lying for more than a year… but he didn’t go and talk to the archives. Biden immediately [did], and so did the vice president.”

Hayden, who led the NSA and CIA for a decade, stressed that top legislators should have been quickly looped into any potential fallout from Trump’s decision to hoard some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets.

“It’s important to know the truth. Sooner or later, they’ve got to do that,” he told The Daily Beast.

David Dayen has this to say at American Prospect. “Presidential Document Scandals Should Take Down America’s Secrecy Industry. We classify way too many documents. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the takeaway from recent events.”

Somewhere in Plains, Georgia, an aide or 98-year-old Jimmy Carter himself is rifling through old boxes, searching for any document from the late 1970s marked “classified.” I’m not sure what threats there are to the Republic from high-level information about Rhodesia or the Warsaw Pact slowly decomposing in a filing cabinet, but the National Archives is on the case, directing former presidents and vice presidents to scour their properties for any official secrets. (Carter has found classified documents “on at least one occasion” and returned them quietly to the Archives, according to the Associated Press.)

America has a problem with classified information. But this problem isn’t the one you’ve been hearing about for the past few weeks, with the revelations of President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence turning up documents improperly stored in their homes and offices. It’s also different from the problem of Donald Trump hoarding classified information at Mar-a-Lago—though the circumstances of Trump asserting the right to take the documents and obstructing the efforts of the Archives to take them back make what he did qualitatively different, and far worse.

No, the problem with classified information is that there’s so much of it, so much useless, meritless, groundless classified information. Tens of millions of pieces of paper are so labeled, millions of people can see them, and yet the vast majority of such material would not remotely endanger the nation if it entered the wrong hands. In fact, much of it is just plain embarrassing to the government, or worse, a cover-up of illegal acts.

Wakanda forever!

I’ll end with this from the Washington Post.  A serious discussion of Critical Race theory is basically on the front page.  Good for the country!  ” Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.”

For the mother of Tyre Nichols, the fact that five Memphis police officers charged with beating her son are also Black has compounded her sorrow as she tries to cope with his violent death at age 29.

“It makes it even harder to swallow,” RowVaughn Wells said in an interview last week, “because they are Black and they know what we have to go through.”

The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has prompted a complex grappling among Black activists and advocates for police reform about the pervasiveness of institutional racism in policing. Nichols died three days after he was pulled out of his car Jan. 7, kicked, punched and struck with a baton on a quiet neighborhood street by Black officers, whose aggressive assault was captured on body-camera videos released Friday.

The widely viewed videos of the Nichols beating provided fodder for right-wing media ecosystems that routinely blame Black America’s maladies on Black America, and spawned nuanced conversations among Black activists about how systemic racism can manifest in the actions of non-White people.

The Memphis Police Department, which has nearly 2,000 officers, is 58 percent Black, the result of a decades-long effort to field a police force that resembles the city’s 64 percent Black population. Unlike in several recent high-profile police brutality cases, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who is Black, and other officials acted swiftly in firing, arresting and charging the Memphis officers in advance of the release of video footage.

Though some studies have shown that police officers of color use force less frequently against Black civilians than their White counterparts, analysts say the improvement is marginal.

“Diversifying law enforcement is certainly not going to solve this problem,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, president of Mapping Police Violence.

He pointed to many factors in the policing system that lead to a disproportionate response against people of color: directives to work in neighborhoods where more people of color live and a system that relies on the discretion of the officer to enforce things like traffic stops, opening the door for internal biases to play a role.

Watching that video was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. In some ways, watching a parade of my neighbors dressed up, playing make-believe, enjoying the entire experience with their kids, and seeing smiles everywhere seemed more real than the dystopian headlines of today’s Monday Reads.  Don’t even get me started on the Republican-imposed Debt Crisis.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?