Tuesday Reads: GOP Surrenders to the Crazies

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Dakinikat posted this article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic on the growing radicalization of the GOP. Wehner cites reporting by Sarah Longwell of The Bulwark that shows more formerly “normal” Republicans fleeing Fox News and tuning in to conspiracy-oriented outlets like Newsmax and OneAmerica network.

A second finding, according to Longwell, is that for the first time, she’s hearing people say they pretty regularly tune in to Newsmax or One America News Network, two conspiracy-theory-minded MAGA television news outlets. She’s heard from some people in her focus groups that “Fox has gone too far left.” Overall, what she sees isn’t Trump supporters fleeing Fox in huge numbers so much as experiencing some cooling of their enthusiasm and a willingness to look to other sources of information. (Tucker Carlson, the most malicious and influential figure at Fox News, does have a certain rock-star status in MAGA world.)

It appears that Fox is responding by airing even more insane conspiracy theories. For example, last night Tucker Carlson took his anti-mask crusade to a new level. You have to see this to believe it.

The Daily Beast: Tucker Carlson Tells Fox Viewers to Call the Cops if They See Kids Wearing Masks Outdoors.

Raging against face masks on Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson told his viewers they should openly harass anyone they see wearing masks outside and go so far as to call the police or social services on the parents of any children with masks on.

Carlson, who was a proponent of mask-wearing to help stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as recently as last March, has since become a fierce critic of face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions, guidelines, and mitigation efforts

“Masks have always been incompatible with a free society,” he fumed. “We used to know that. Masks strip people of their identity as individuals, transform people from citizens into drones. They isolate us and alienate us to shut us off from one another, they prevent intimacy and human contact. If I can’t see your face, I can’t know you.”

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Stating that a large portion of liberals suffer from an “actual mental health condition” because a recent Pew survey shows they are critical of others who don’t mask up near them, Carlson called on his audience to instead openly mock mask-wearers in public.

“The rest of us should be snorting at them first. They’re the aggressors. It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” he said. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.’” [….]

Carlson then took it several steps further by urging his viewers to take far more drastic measures if they see children wearing masks.

“As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal,” the Fox News star huffed. “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact Child Protective Services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse, and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”

This is going to get people killed–either by the virus or by more violent interactions in between Trump crazies in businesses that require masks or just ordinary mask-wearing people going about their business.

Here are some are other MAGA conspiracy theories that have gone viral lately. 

Yahoo News: How a false claim about beef and Biden’s climate plan spread.

On Sunday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out a Fox News graphic about President Biden proposing a reduction in red meat consumption. “Not gonna happen in Texas!” proclaimed the Republican, who serves nearly 30 million constituents.

Abbott was retweeted by fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little, who said, “Idahoans also have beef with this agenda and for dinner!” The two governors followed in a line of conservative politicians, pundits and news outlets who spent days proudly stating their opposition to a provision of Biden’s climate plan that doesn’t exist.

The false narrative stems from coverage of Biden announcing his new climate goals last week in honor of Earth Day, including cutting U.S. carbon emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. The plan drew immediate Republican condemnation, but the beef-specific narrative stems from a Thursday article in the Daily Mail, a conservative British tabloid. The lengthy headline reads, “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs.”

The piece cites a University of Michigan study that analyzes what different changes in the U.S. diet could mean for greenhouse gas emissions. This was translated into the Fox News graphic shared by Abbott and others, which stated that the Biden proposal would cut 90 percent of red meat from Americans’ diet, allowing them a maximum of 4 pounds per year and one burger a month.

A primary issue in using the paper to condemn the Biden climate plan is that it was published in January 2020, when Biden was involved in a tight Democratic primary and a year away from being sworn in as president. His climate plan does not have any provisions regulating citizens’ ability to consume meat.

Gregory A. Keoleian and Martin Heller, two of the study’s authors, told Yahoo News that “to our knowledge, there is no connection between our study and Joe Biden’s Climate plan.”

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880, by John Singer Sargent

The Washington Post: No, officials are not handing out Harris’s picture book to migrant kids.

“After learning officials are handing out Kamala Harris’ book to migrants in facilities at the border, it’s worth asking… Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden’s border crisis?”

— Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, in a tweet, April 26, 2021\“The Biden administration’s weakness caused a surge of illegal immigration. Now they’re forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris’s book to give to those illegal immigrants?”\— Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in a tweet linking to a report in the New York Post, April 25, 2021

“Harris’s children’s book Superheroes Are Everywhere is included in welcome packs for migrant children arriving at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, a recently converted influx facility, along with basic hygiene supplies and clothing, photographs show.”

— Reporting on Fox News, April 24, 2021

“Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children’s book, ‘Superheroes are Everywhere,’ in their welcome kits.”

— Reporting in the New York Post, April 23, 2021

It’s like a bad game of telephone.

The New York Post reported that a children’s picture book written by Vice President Harris was being handed out in “welcome kits” to young migrants at a shelter in Long Beach, Calif.

Fox News, which is owned by the same family as the New York Post, then amplified the story with its own version of the article.\Cotton and McDaniel ran with these reports and posted critical tweets. But they should have dug deeper.

Long Beach city officials told The Washington Post that Harris’s book is not being handed out in welcome kits. A single copy of the book was donated during a citywide donation drive, officials said.


Thursday Reads: Right Wing Blowhards Edition

Good Morning!!

In case you missed it, Louisiana Sen. John N. Kennedy made a fool of himself again yesterday when he made the mistake of trying to put one over on Stacey Abrams. He asked her to explain what is so racist about the Georgia voter suppression law.

HuffPost: Stacey Abrams Goes Viral With 2-Minute Takedown of Georgia Voting Law.

Stacey Abrams continued her crusade against Georgia’s new voting law this week by supplying lawmakers with a laundry list of reasons why she finds the changes both restrictive and racist.

The Democratic voting rights activist has been an outspoken critic of the law, arguing it will have a disproportionate effect on voters of color. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, she came prepared to make her case. 

When Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Abrams to clarify which provisions of Georgia’s new voting law she opposed, she didn’t hold back. 

Another lesser blowhard, John Cornyn of Texas, also tried it.

At another point during the four-hour meeting, Abrams got into a tense exchange with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who suggested states controlled by Democrats with similar voting laws hadn’t been subjected to the same criticism as Georgia.

Cornyn pointed to New York and Connecticut, which require that voters provide an accepted excuse ― such as being away from home or having a disability ― to be able to vote by mail, whereas Georgia has no such provision. Noting that laws in many states “need to be improved,” Abrams stated that she believed it was how laws target certain communities that make them racist.“The intent always matters, sir, and that is the point of this conversation,” she said. “That is the point of the Jim Crow narrative. That Jim Crow did not simply look at the activities, it looked at the intent. It looked at the behaviors and it targeted behaviors that were disproportionately used by people of color.”

5d14d21b7fc33.imageBut getting back to fake good ol’ boy John N. Kennedy, I came across this great 2019 piece at NOLA.com: Who said it: Sen. John Kennedy or Foghorn Leghorn?  It’s includes a quiz where you have to guess which blowhard uttered a colorful descriptive phrase.

John Neely Kennedy is the junior U.S. senator from Louisiana who was a key member of Gov. Buddy Roemer’s staff before being elected to five terms as the state treasurer.

Foghorn J. Leghorn is an animated chicken who appeared as a featured character in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Kennedy graduated magna cum laude in political science, philosophy, and economics from Vanderbilt, where he was president of his senior class and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia and his Bachelor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University in England where he was a First Class Honors graduate.

Leghorn starred in 29 cartoons from 1946 to 1964 in what is considered the Golden Age of American Animation, usually tormenting a dog named Dawg while fending off attacks from a feisty young chicken hawk named Henery Hawk.

There is practically no way to get the two confused … unless you are just reading what they have said. Then, it gets a little tricky.

Some sample questions:

“He’s about as sharp as a bowling ball.”

“That’s as subtle as a hand grenade in a bowl of oatmeal.”

“She has a billygoat brain and a mocking bird mouth.”

I urge you to take the quiz and see how you do.

While we’re talking about blowhards making fools of themselves, have you seen any of the tweets about Tucker Carlson’s show lately? The guy seems to have gone off the deep end.

The New York Daily News: Tucker Carlson cackles at, then cuts off an NYC law enforcement expert who breaks with the host’s Derek Chauvin narrative.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson cackled at, then dismissed the opinions of a New York City law enforcement veteran who strayed from the far right-wing pundit’s narrative on Tuesday’s murder conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Carlson’s interview with Former New York City Deputy Sheriff Ed Gavin began with the host leading Gavin with the question “Who’s going to become a cop going forward, do you think?”\Gavin didn’t appear to see police officers as the victims in the killing of George Floyd, where video showed Chauvin kneeling on the victim’s neck for nearly 9½ minutes.

“Well, I think people will still become police officers,” Gavin said. “This really is a learning experience for everyone. Let’s face it, what we saw in that video was pure savagery.”

Carlson crunched his eyebrows as Gavin said that based on his experiences, the “emotionally disturbed” Floyd had been successfully contained — and more — during the “excessive” May 2020 traffic stop that cost him his life. Gavin also said he’d like to see more training for police.

“I’ve used force on literally over 500 people in my 21-year career in the New York City Department of Corrections, and in the New York City Sheriff’s Department,” Gavin said. “I’ve never had anybody go unconscious. That was truly an excessive, unjustified use of force.”

After a bit more of this, Carlson flipped out and claimed that American cities are locked down and boarded up because of nonviolent Black Lives Matter protests.

“Well, yeah, but the guy that did it looks like he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison so I’m kind of more worried about the rest of the country, which thanks to police inaction, in case you haven’t noticed, is, like, boarded up,” Carlson complained before letting loose a shrill, maniacal laugh.

“So that’s more my concern. But I appreciate it, Gavin, thank you,” Carlson quickly added.

The flummoxed officer tried to further illustrate his point, but Carlson ended the segment.

“Nope, done!” the host exclaimed before moving on to his next guest — an author who’d penned a book called “The War on Cops.”

c34555_90ef902587304ebd991b5a287d731071_mv2Greg Sargent wrote about Carlson’s weird fantasy about America being shut down by the protests: Opinion: The disturbing link between Tucker Carlson and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

It was hard not to notice that Tucker Carlson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had an oddly similar reaction to the conviction of Derek Chauvin. Both responded with extraordinarily unhinged hyperbole about the violence they imagine is gripping urban America right now — or pretend to imagine, anyway.

What shared instinct would cause them both to gravitate to precisely this same imaginary place?

Carlson’s reaction came amid a spectacular meltdown in response to a former law enforcement official who argued that Chauvin’s use of force was excessive. Carlson dismissed the point, saying: “I’m kind of more worried about the rest of the country, which, thanks to police inaction, in case you hadn’t noticed, is, like, boarded up.”

The implication was that, because of protests against police brutality, police are too closely scrutinized to sufficiently keep order, tipping the country into civil collapse.

Of course, you probably haven’t noticed that the “rest of the country” is “boarded up,” because, well, it isn’t.

Carlson hammered away at the wildly exaggerated idea that police under scrutiny were allowing the country to succumb to chaos throughout the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. His new innovation is that a jury holding a police officer accountable for the brutal murder of someone already in his captivity is what’s causing this.

Greene and Carlson agree that Armageddon is gripping U.S. cities and that protests against police brutality are causing it.

Yet Greene’s depiction, too, is false. As Philip Bump demonstrates, Tuesday in D.C. was generally normal despite people feeling tense over the coming verdict, and any police presence in D.C. is a holdover from the threat of right-wing violence after Jan. 6.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Alan Dershowitz is also upset about the treatment Derek Chauvin is getting. The Daily Beast: Dershowitz Wants Derek Chauvin Free on Bail: ‘He’s Not Going to Endanger Anybody.’

Appearing on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle on Wednesday night, Dershowitz—who is currently advising pro-Trump pillow magnate Mike Lindell as he faces a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems—first took issue with the White House saying that the “bar for convicting officers is far too high” and reform is still needed.

7_britt_0“We need to apply the same standard to police and ordinary citizens except we have to understand that ordinary citizens have no obligation to risk their lives to prevent an ongoing crime,” he said, adding: “So the rules have to defer and understand and recognize the risks that police take. When it comes to the elements of actual crimes, you can’t bury them. You can’t raise the bar for certain groups of people over other groups of people.”

Host Laura Ingraham then turned to Chauvin, expressing concern that it’s been reported that he’s currently in solitary confinement while also wondering aloud why he’s even in prison.

“Do you think that given what the judge said about an appeal that he probably shouldn’t have even been remanded back into custody?” Ingraham asked, referencing Judge Peter Cahill’s criticism of Rep. Maxine Waters’ protest remarks as potential grounds for appeal.

Acknowledging that “different states have different rules” when it comes to bail for convicted murderers, Dershowitz said that the judge provided “good appellate issues” to the defense.

“He should be released on bail,” Dershowitz declared. “There is no reason why he should be remanded. He’s not going to flee. He wants to have an appeal. He’s not going to endanger anybody. His face is well known.”

How many people who have been convicted of murder get out on bail pending appeals? Is that a regular practice?

People who actually had to deal with Chauvin in the past feel differently, according to this piece from Reuters, via Yahoo News: ‘No sympathy’ for Chauvin, say those who had run-ins before Floyd.

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – For some of those who encountered Derek Chauvin’s policing or witnessed his use of force as an officer there is no sympathy for the man convicted of killing George Floyd. 

Chauvin was the subject of at least 17 complaints during his career, according to police records, but only one led to discipline. Prosecutors sought permission to introduce eight prior use-of-force incidents, but the judge would only allow two. In the end the jury heard none. 

3_luckovich_5Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, has defended his client’s use of force as appropriate in potentially dangerous situations. 

 “I don’t have no sympathy for him. I think he got what he deserved,” Julian Hernandez, 38, a carpenter now working in Pennsylvania, told Reuters. 

Hernandez said he never heard anything from the Minneapolis police after submitting a complaint about Chauvin, who he said “choked him out” during an encounter in a Minneapolis night club in 2015. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment. 

According to Chauvin’s police report, Hernandez failed to follow orders and resisted arrest when Chauvin, who was working as an off-duty security guard, tried to escort him out of a night club. Chauvin’s report said this prompted him to apply “pressure toward his Lingual Artery” to subdue Hernandez. 

 Hernandez said Chauvin picked him out of the crowd for no reason and quickly escalated to violence. He said Chauvin should have been removed from the police force. 

Read more examples at the link.

Sorry this is such an unserious post. That’s just the mood I’m in today, I guess. As always, this is an open thread.


Monday Reads: Domestic Terrorism and White Nationalism

Elaine de Kooning, Portrait of Fairfield Porter, 1954

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I hope you have the same kind of sunny spring weather there that we have here in New Orleans!  I actually made a trip to Walmart yesterday!  I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been there and it use to be at least a 2  or 3 trip a month destination for me being the poor old semiretired prof that I am.

I could tell that every one has spring fever around here by the number of obvious hipster transplants parading all over the neutral ground yesterday.  I was rather hoping the herons would bomb them away but I just went to my room and took a nap hoping it would be over by the time I had to work on line. The demographics of my neighborhood these days disturbs me.  Where did all this young white people come from and why do they keep bringing this burbie breeder vibe to my hood?  

The Walmart in Chalmette is amazingly diverse because of the number of immigrant diasporas that have landed there.  It’s still rather rural even though it feels more like an exurb in many ways .  However, it’s more working to middle class that bougie rich.  There are Somalians and folks from South America.   There is still a Vietnamese presence although a good deal of that community lives in the east and on the Westbank. And, of course there are many Black Americans there that are descendants of the slaves of the now way gone Plantations as well as transplants from around the Caribbean.

So, it was great just watching the elderly, young families, and others pour into to do their weekly shopping like there was no pandemic.  However, there were still adjustments.  The benches by the front door are gone.  The Walmart greeters are busy sanitizing the carts and pointing you to the hand sanitizers before you grab a cart.  Then, you get a pretty good view of what a wide assortment of masks there are available these days.  If you forget to bring one, Walmart gives you a disposable one.

Elaine de Kooning: Harold Rosenberg, Art Critic (1956)

So, I went with a friend and she was stuck in the checkout line.  I got to stand for quite awhile where the benches used to be and watch the comings and goings.  It was a pretty smooth operation until 3 white guys loaded themselves out of a big red pick up truck with this poor black dog on what could barely be called a leash. The two with the dog had masks on. The one with the weird razor cut and hitler moustache didn’t. I was like okay, here it comes.

At that point, white male boundary pushing and  dominance achievement techniques began.  The dog was just an emotional support dog so of course he should be allowed in to wander the grocery aisles.  Said dog had no usual orange vest of either of a service or emotional support dog let alone the credential card. Guys started screaming at the poor woman saying no to the dog.  Then the guy without the mask just started moving pass her to the station with the masks and a few more women who all eventually called for security back up.  Fortunately, these women were not playing and were obviously experienced.  Dog got sent to some one’s girlfriend for a walk in the parking lot and the mask guy eventually complied.  I guess the beer run was more important than facing down all these middle aged women of various sizes, deportment, and race.

Meanwhile, every one else just tried to go about their day. All I could think was welcome to America where most of us are a community of folks just trying to live. Then, there are those guys come in and do their performance art of white male rage/fragility.

So, today’s artwork actually has something to say along these lines.  This is the work of “Elaine de Kooning, Portraiture, and the Politics of Sexuality.”  It comes from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  It’s part of the gender archive and the portraits are of highly sexualized men.

De Kooning’s portraits of men are fascinating because she reverses the standard male artist/female model dynamic and in many of her portraits she captures the sexual power of her subjects, challenging the male privilege of looking and female role of object to be looked at.  She was not, however, attempting to reverse the power dynamic by placing men in the western tradition of the passive reclining female pose, nor was she dismantling the anonymous male body by employing an Abstract Expressionist style.  Rather she records her clothed male friends and lovers in an upright position with their legs spread apart, acknowledging and relishing her active role in depicting this socially accepted pose that asserts male sexual power, a pose that would not have been deemed appropriate for a “feminine” woman in the 1950s to highlight. 

Robert de Niro by Elaine de Kooning (1973) (c)Elaine de Kooning Trust

There’s a lot of ‘those guys’ in the news today. So, here I go …
Adam Jentleson –Author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate”–wrote this at The Atlantic today: “How to Stop the Minority-Rule Doom Loop. The next two years might be the country’s last chance to protect the basic democratic principle of majority rule.”  I think we can safely say that the Republican Party is the epicenter of White Male Dominance.

The doom loop consists of four interlocking components. Candidates who represent white conservatives—Republicans, in our ideologically sorted era—begin every election cycle buoyed by a sluice of voter suppression and gerrymandering (what I call electoral welfare), which makes it easier for them to win. Then antidemocratic features of the American system that have always existed but never benefited one party over the other in any systematic way help those same candidates take control of institutions such as the White House and the Senate, despite winning fewer votes and representing fewer people than their opponents. Once in control of these institutions, these newly elected officials use them to entrench their power beyond the reach of voters. If they are eventually voted out of power, they retain a veto over the agenda of the majority, which they use to block change and feed the conservative case that the government is “broken.” This hastens their return to power—along the very path they greased with voter suppression.

The loop starts at the ballot box, where Republicans are making it harder than at any time in recent history for those who are unlikely to vote for them to vote at all. According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida and one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting laws, “We are witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights in this country since the Jim Crow era.” The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder unleashed a new wave of voter suppression targeted at reliably Democratic constituencies such as nonwhite voters and young people. The pace of suppression has only increased since the November election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks voter-suppression efforts across the country, 47 states have seen 361 bills aimed at restricting voting rights since the beginning of the year.

Republicans don’t just have an easier time winning elections; they have an easier time piecing together individual election wins to gain control of the institutions that govern American life. Here, too, the doom loop gives a big boost to candidates who represent predominantly white conservatives. Over the past half century, demographic shifts have rendered the antidemocratic features of American government newly vulnerable to exploitation, but especially by candidates who represent white conservatives.

Elaine de Kooning
Portrait of a Young Man

They’ve been on this path a very long time. At the very least, it started with the policies of Ronald Reagan with its racist signaling campaign opener of “welfare queens”.  Here’s a 2013 NPR article “The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original ‘Welfare Queen'”  exploring Reagan’s earliest attempts at dog whistling following the Nixon era “Southern Strategy” to pull Dixiecrats into to the Republican fold.  I watched it spread through the state parties in the midwest like wildfire mostly by the ground work of those weirdish white evangelical christian churches with no real affiliation, southern baptists churches, and some catholic parishes.  They started showing up with marching orders to take over the party structure and just basically kept at it until coming full circle in the Trumpist regime.

This all goes hand in hand with the gun fetishists and the groups of armed militias sprinkled around the country.  This is from today’s Washington Post: “The rise of domestic extremism in America Data shows a surge in homegrown attacks not seen in a quarter-century.

Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right, according to a Washington Post analysis of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The surge reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter-century, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths, the analysis shows.

The number of all domestic terrorism incidents in the data peaked in 2020.

“What is most concerning is that the number of domestic terror plots and attacks are at the highest they have been in decades,” said Seth Jones, director of the database project at CSIS, a nonpartisan Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in national security issues. “It’s so important for Americans to understand the gravity of the threat before it gets worse.”

More than a quarter of right-wing incidents and just under half of the deaths in those incidents were caused by people who showed support for white supremacy or claimed to belong to groups espousing that ideology, the analysis shows.

Victims of all incidents in recent years represent a broad cross-section of American society, including Blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, Asians and other people of color who have been attacked by right-wing extremists wielding vehicles, guns, knives and fists.

Let’s also not forget the victims of domestic violence for they also are part of this increase in violence and search for control over others.

An absolutely horrifying police shooting of a young black man in Minneapolis happened showing just how out of hand the use of power and suppression is in the nation’s police force also.  There was also an incident of pepper spraying a young black Army Lt. and his dog in Virginia.  Both were responses to simple traffic stops. Both officers have been fired but this only brings into more focus the unequal treatment of the largely white male police force around the country and its inability to police without responding differently to people of color.

Pele No. 1,
Elaine de Kooning, 1982

Another blow was dealt to the likes of the “Hillbilly Elegy” narrative as we see in this Washington Post article written by Eugene Scott on “Data about the Capitol rioters serves another blow to the White, working-class Trump-supporter narrative” for The Fix.

After a Donald Trump campaign event in Mobile, Ala., in 2015 attracted about 20,000 attendees, a narrative emerged that his popularity centered on White working-class voters in small towns in red states. Books such as “Hillbilly Elegy” rose to the top of bestseller lists as a way to help more Americans understand this group of voters that got behind the wealthy reality star from Manhattan. And cable news networks regularly featured panels of journalists asking these voters why they continued to back such a widely unpopular leader.

But new data supports something that some critics of the former president were confident of from the earliest days of Trump’s presidential campaign: The Ivy League graduate from New York City got to the White House with the support of more college-educated professionals than is often acknowledged.

Robert A. Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, worked with court records to analyze the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans arrested or charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington aimed at overturning the 2020 election.

“What we know 90 days later is that the insurrection was the result of a large, diffuse and new kind of protest movement congealing in the United States,” the political science professor wrote in The Washington Post. “Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties.”

While Trump often spoke about jobs and factories being shipped overseas to manufacture American products — it wasn’t solely economic anxiety that drew many of his supporters to the wealthy real estate developer who allegedly avoided paying taxes that could benefit low-income Americans. It was cultural anxiety — regardless of their economic status — that was a consistent factor in support for Trump. While concerns about changing views on faith, gender and sexuality were often expressed by many of the former president’s most die-hard supporters, fear about America becoming less White — and less “great” — was at the root of at least some of the loyalty to him.

I don’t want to spend too much time on these two but both Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz are in the news again basically still trying to play their white male privilege cards as entitled little trustfund babies.

From CNN: Embattled Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is denied a meeting with Trump. Ah, poor little boy denied daddy time!  I guess Trumperz thinks he’s damaged goods now and not an asset to the Family Crime Syndicate.

Elaine De Kooning-Portrait of Scott ,Chaskey,number-3, 1983

From Tom Porter at Insider: “Tucker Carlson is repeatedly using his platform to downplay white supremacy and violence, critics say

In comments on his show last week Carlson appeared to endorse the white nationalist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, prompting outraged responses including a call from the Anti-Defamation League for him to be fired.

Before this Carlson had for weeks argued that the Capitol riot had been overblown by liberals as part of a plot to persecute conservatives, and he has said there is “no evidence that white supremacists were responsible for what happened on January 6.”

The facts say otherwise, with law-enforcement agencies having charged close to 60 members of far-right organizations, including the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys, with involvement. Rioters were pictured in the Capitol bearing Confederate banners, wearing far-right insignia, and chanting far-right slogans.

At the heart of Carlson’s persona is a challenge to those he portrays as smug liberal elites, who he claims have sought to disenfranchise ordinary Americans for decades. It’s a stance that made him one of the defining conservative voices during the Trump years.

But when applied to downplaying the threat of white nationalist violence, it’s a view that has imperiled lucrative advertisement deals on his show.

And as BB wrote yesterday, this is all from the Heir of Swanson Foods.  That should be a boycott-worthy situation. We’re learning Georgia is sure getting it over voting rights as 100s of CEOs figure out what Voter Suppression Laws will do to their bottom line and the attitudes of their customers and workforce this week.

The Biden/Harris administration continues to churn out appointments and policies that seem quite normal while still facing total Republican opposition.  Some of the usual sources are asking the same damn questions that shouldn’t be asked during this first 100 days.  For example: “Can Biden Be Our F.D.R.? The president wants to change the trajectory of the country. He’s off to a good start b

Anyway, I have to work today and grade today and do stuff around the house and I still can’t adjust to fake time so I’m running late again.  Y’all take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Jean-Metzinger-French-1883-1956-The-cat-c.-1915

Jean Metzinger, French, 1883-1956

Good Morning!!

Before I get to today’s news, here’s a little comic relief. This was in yesterday’s Boston Globe, but I can’t get past their rigid paywall. But I found the story at The Pest Control Daily: Boston Public Backyard used to have child alligators — sure, alligators — and other people fed them rodents. The “public backyard” is the Boston Public Garden, adjacent to the Boston Common. I had heard about cows grazing on the Common, but not about alligators in the Public Garden.

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There are several newspaper articles from this period referring to the alligators who lived in a basin – or pond – near the entrance to Arlington Street amid a “magnificent” row of lilies. Reports vary, but for some time there were between three and four alligators on the site, strikingly complementing the many other exotic features of the public garden at the time.

A story in the September 19, 1901 issue of the Boston Post said three of the city’s alligators were given by “a Charlestown woman” who “became afraid of them and introduced them to the city of Boston.” The fourth alligator was given to the city by a man from Chelsea, though it’s just unclear why.

An article that appeared in an August 9, 1901 issue of the Boston Globe said the alligators – known as babies – belonged to William Doogue, the city’s superintendent for common and public reasons.

orordatpb5s61Doogue oversaw the public garden from 1878 to 1906, according to Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit advocating Boston Common, the public garden, and the nearby Commonwealth Avenue Mall and known for its exceptional green thumb….

The alligators have certainly rubbed some city dwellers the wrong way. But it wasn’t so much their presence that was annoying – people often huddled around the pool looking for them – it was how they were sometimes fed.

“Some objections to feeding live rats and mice to those in the public garden pond,” read the headline of the August Globe article.

The newspaper reported that in “warm weather” the alligators were put in the public garden and fed by park officials once a week….

“Live rats exposed to hungry alligators,” read a headline in the Boston Post on August 9, 1901. “The public garden exhibit attracts morbid interest from women and children.”

The article says, “The city doesn’t feed them in the summer … the city doesn’t have to” because “the alligators make their own living by entertaining the public”.

The story included an illustration of primitively dressed people gathered around a small pond-like structure and watched a man kneel to feed the alligators with the animals’ mouths wide open.

Apparently this was seen as a low-life activity. There is much more detail at the link about the feeding of the alligators. Apparently they were moved to the Franklin Park Zoo during the colder months, and their presence in the Boston Garden lasted for about 6 years.

White Supremacist News

Remember those neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us?” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was trending on Twitter all day yesterday after he parroted a white supremacist conspiracy theory that liberals are trying to replace white people with immigrants.

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Media Matters: Tucker Carlson, the face of Fox News, just gave his full endorsement to the white nationalist conspiracy theory that has motivated mass shootings.

For decades, white nationalists have invoked the specter of nonwhite immigration, multiculturalism, and declining birthrates to argue for the existence of a vast conspiracy aimed at eliminating white populations as a dominant demographic. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson is distributing the language, grievances, goals, and inherent call to action of the conspiracy theory to massive audiences.

On the April 8 broadcast of Fox News Primetime, Carlson offered perhaps his most explicit justification yet for the core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory: that a wave of “Third World” invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your environment, and that you, the audience, should do something about it.

The Fox News host claimed that “what’s true” is that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” and no one should “sit back and take that.”

More from Media Matters: White nationalists praise Tucker Carlson’s full embrace of their “replacement” conspiracy theory.

After the Anti-Defamation League called on Fox News to fire Carlson for his remarks, white supremacist and far-right personalities were quick to make their approval known.

White supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes explained what Carlson actually meant in his statements, lamenting that Carlson wasn’t more direct and theorizing that he probably had to dial it back in order to avoid consequences at Fox….

Other racist and extreme far-right media personalities and social media accounts also backed Carlson, celebrating him for broadcasting “what nationalists have been talking about for decades” and defending him against criticism.

Matt Gaetz Updates

The Washington Post: House opens ethics investigation into Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it would investigate claims that Rep. Matt Gaetz engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use and showed images of naked women on the House floor, opening a new front in the growing scandal enveloping the Florida Republican.

Jean-Metzinger-Still-life-with-cat-and-fish-1950.

Jean Metzinger, Still Life with Cat and Fish, 1950

Gaetz responded hours later with a defiant speech before a welcoming crowd at former president Donald Trump’s Miami-area hotel and golf club, dismissing the claims against him as an attempt by the political establishment to silence his political views.

“Let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight for the country I love, and for the nation that I know benefits from America First principles,” he said to cheers at an event sponsored by Women for America First, a group that sponsored the rally at the White House Ellipse before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere. The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild — and I mean wild — conspiracy theories.”

The news of the investigation came a day after Gaetz’s friend, Joel Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor among other offenses, signaled to a federal judge through his lawyer that he was negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors that could help them in an ongoing probe into whether Gaetz paid for sex or trafficked a woman across state lines for sex.

Click the link for more details.

Fred Grimm at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Scandal leaves Florida’s congressional provocateur with few friends.

His fellow congressional Republicans have risen as one to defend Matt Gaetz.

Oh, sorry. My bad. Make that two.

Jim Jordan of Ohio — Abbott to Gaetz’s Costello in their Capitol Hill clown act — came through for Matt. Sort of. After Gaetz denied allegations that he had been galivanting with escorts and even a 17-year-old girl, with allusions to orgies and illicit drug use, Jordan managed a four-word tweet: “I believe Matt Gaetz.” Which seemed an understated reaction from the likes of Jordan, whose usual outbursts have been unfettered by propriety, truth or the national interest.

You’d think the pugnacious Jim Jordan, of all people, would have come up with a more defiant defense of his fellow provocateur. But no.

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Which left Marjorie Taylor Greene from Planet QAnon as his defender-in-chief. “Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz,” tweeted the Georgia congresswoman, a propagator of astounding untruths, slanders and conspiracy theories. Not sure that character references from the woman who suggested California wildfires had been ignited by Jewish space lasers can rehabilitate Gaetz’s mucky reputation.

Support was also slow coming from Mar-a-Lago, although Gaetz had been Donald Trump’s most outlandish congressional defender through two impeachments and an insurrection. Yet, the ex-president kept quiet in the week after The New York Times reported that the FBI has widened an investigation of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — who faces a slew of federal charges — to include his former best buddy and fellow philanderer. The Times said the FBI is looking into allegations that Greenberg and Gaetz arranged sexual trysts with paid escorts, including a 17-year girl. (Which Gaetz denies.)

It wasn’t until reports surfaced that, during Trump’s final days in office, Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon for any federal charges that might come his way, that the ex-president finally said something. Not much, but something. His office issued a carefully worded, unTrumpian statement: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” adding, like an afterthought, “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

I just can’t get enough of Gaetzgate.

Coronavirus News

The Washington Post: Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show.

Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ reports on the coronavirus to more closely align with President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was attempting to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

Science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, touting two examples of where he said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

Pointing to one change — in which CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about the spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, or MMWRs, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past.

Two days later, Alexander appealed to White House adviser Scott Atlas to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans.

“Can you help me craft an op-ed,” Alexander wrote to Atlas on Sept. 11, alleging the CDC report was “timed for the election” and an attempt to keep schools closed even as Trump pushed to reopen them.

Thank goodness these horrible people are gone now. But Fox News is continuing the anti-vax brainwashing.

CNN: Nearly 40% of Marines have declined Covid-19 vaccine.

Nearly 40% of US Marines are declining Covid-19 vaccinations, according to data provided to CNN on Friday by the service, the first branch to disclose service-wide numbers on acceptance and declination.

1940-Le-chat-au-papillon

Le Chat au Papillon, Jean Metzinger, 1940

As of Thursday, approximately 75,500 Marines have received vaccines, including fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated service men and women. About 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive vaccines, for a declination rate of 38.9%.

CNN has reached out to the other services for acceptance and declination rates.

The corresponding acceptance rate for vaccinations among Marines — 61.1% — is not far off the military estimate of two-thirds, or about 66%.

Another 102,000 Marines have not yet been offered the vaccines. The total number of Marines includes active-duty, reserves and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Marines.

The declination rate at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one of the prominent Marine Corps bases, was far higher, at 57%, according to another set of data provided to CNN. Of 26,400 Marines who have been offered vaccinations, 15,100 have chosen not to receive them, a number that includes both II Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installation East — Camp Lejeune. Another 11,500 active-duty Marines are scheduled to be offered the vaccines.

I’ll end there. I tried to keep it somewhat light today. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: Matt Gaetz’s Wild and Crazy Scandal

Saad Yagan, 2017

Saad Yagan, 2017

Good Afternoon!!

What on Earth is going on with Matt Gaetz? The story just keeps growing stranger by the day. It all began with this New York Times story published on Tuesday: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Face Justice Dept. Inquiry Over Sex With an Underage Girl.

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.

Then Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox and made everything worse for himself.

Aaron Rupar at Vox: Matt Gaetz’s disastrous Tucker Carlson interview, explained.

Hours after the New York Times broke the news that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking, he was given a platform by Fox News host Tucker Carlson to tell his side of the story. But Gaetz ended up botching the softball interview so thoroughly that Carlson ended up telling his millions of viewers it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

Pablo Picasso, 1939

Pablo Picasso, 1939

At various points during the interview, Gaetz — who denies the allegations — volunteered the existence of criminal allegations against him that aren’t yet part of the public record, brought up sexual misconduct allegations against Carlson that most of his viewers probably weren’t aware of, and went out of his way to involve Carlson in stories about his personal life.

“I can say that actually you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that could face trouble,” Gaetz said. “So I do believe there are people at the Department of Justice that are trying to smear me. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime.”

It sounds like he’s admitting he paid for travel and hotel rooms for a person he was dating, doesn’t it?

…more importantly than the bizarreness of the interview is the fact that Gaetz didn’t do a very convincing job trying to refute the very serious criminal allegations underpinning the federal investigation. His defense basically amounts to claims that he’s the victim of a vast conspiracy….

During the interview with Carlson, Gaetz denied improper conduct, but he did so in a very limited and specific way, using language that raised more questions than it answered.

Butterflies and Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh

Butterflies and Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh

“The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false; people can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case,” Gaetz said — even though a 17-year-old is not a “woman,” the allegations go beyond mere “traveling,” and it’s unclear how “travel records” could disprove any of them.

Gaetz went on to allege that word of the investigation was leaked as part of an extortion plot, saying “what is happening is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official” who demanded $25 million in exchange for making the sex trafficking allegations go away.

But during an MSNBC interview a short time later, one of the Times reporters bylined on the Gaetz story, Katie Benner, debunked one of Gaetz’s central claims, saying unequivocally that the former official Gaetz accused by name of being part of an extortion plot isn’t even involved in the investigation.

I’m still very confused.

Washington Post fact checker Salvador Rizzo explains why travel records could not prove the allegations against Gaetz are false. Basically, these records aren’t available to the public.

Here’s the bottom line: House members’ personal travel and expenses are not subject to disclosure, so there would be no public records to check regarding Gaetz’s private life.“If this was just personal travel, and he wasn’t using campaign or official funds, there’s no disclosure,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Airline flight manifests and personal credit card or bank statements would chart who went where with whom at what times and at whose expense, but those sensitive records are not public. Only law enforcement investigators could look through them by getting subpoenas.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The Matt Gaetz allegation, explained.

“The Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz — a Florida Republican considered a close political ally of former president Donald Trump — over an alleged sexual relationship with an underage girl,” The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett explain. That relationship allegedly included paying for the girl to travel, potentially across state lines, adding the complexity of potential federal charges related to sex trafficking, according to the Times. Both the Post and Times stories are constrained for fairly obvious reasons, including the limits of available information and the need to accurately convey the potential risk Gaetz faces.

landscape with butterflies, 1956, Salvidor Dali

Landscape with Butterflies, 1956, by Salvador Dali

The investigation apparently spun out of another sex-trafficking probe in Florida. That one focused on a former county official named Joel Greenberg, who was charged in the summer with a number of federal offenses, including sex trafficking of a minor.

“According to an indictment in the case, Greenberg abused his access to a statewide database, using it to look up the personal information of people with whom he was in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships, including the minor, and to help produce fake identification documents to ‘facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,’ ” Zapotosky and Barrett report. “He was also accused of seeking to undermine a political opponent by surfacing fabricated evidence of racism and misconduct.”

It’s worth noting that questions about Gaetz’s relationships have emerged in the past. A Mother Jones article from 2019 documents concerns raised by a former member of Gaetz’s staff about a 21-year-old he was then dating and who was apparently posting photos of the two of them on Instagram alongside other photos showing not-conservative-politician-friendly activities.

There’s more explanation and confusion at the link. What is clear is that there are two different investigations that Gaetz is trying to combine in his defense. Other than that, I’m still confused.

Gaetz’s father chimed in at Politico yesterday: Matt Gaetz’s dad says he wore a wire for FBI probe into DOJ extortion claims.

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s father, Don, a former Florida Senate president, said he is working with the FBI, including wearing a wire on more than one occasion as part of an investigation into an alleged extortion plot that the pair said was organized by former federal prosecutor David McGee.

Herons and Lilies, 1862 by Frank W. Benson

Herons and Lilies, 1934, by Frank W. Benson

“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don Gaetz said in an interview late Tuesday, without specifying what information he was referring to.

McGee, who is now in private practice with a Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm, did not respond to a POLITICO request seeking comment, but told other media outlets there is no truth to the alleged extortion plot.

Don Gaetz said in the interview he wore a wire during a meeting earlier this month with McGee and said he was set to meet Wednesday with Stephen Alford, a local developer who he said is also part of the alleged extortion scheme. During that meeting, Don Gaetz said, he was again set to wear a wire and try to get Alford to talk about payments he allegedly was to make to McGee, but the meeting fell apart when news broke that his son was being investigated by the Justice Department. Alford did not respond to text messages seeking comment.

In separate interviews, Don and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) acknowledged a Justice Department probe involving the younger Gaetz, 38, into whether he had improper involvement with a 17-year-old girl. The Gaetzes say they are the target of an extortion plot seeking money to keep the DOJ investigation quiet.

Today The Washington Post reported that the scandal involves Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran and is believed to be dead. Here’s a summary at The Week: The Matt Gaetz case now involves a missing FBI agent last seen in Iran.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) father received a message that referred to a Justice Department investigation into his son and asked for help funding the search for Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran 14 years ago, he thought the request was suspicious and went to the FBI, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that in the waning months of the Trump administration, the DOJ launched an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him out of state. Gaetz, who denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes, released a statement saying his family had been targeted by extortionists, and his father wore a wire at the insistence of the FBI.

Boy with butterfly net Henri Mattisse, 1907

Boy with butterfly net, by Henri Mattisse, 1907

People familiar with the matter told the Post that Gaetz’s wealthy father, Don Gaetz, received a text message and document from two men who said if he gave them money to help with the search for Levinson, Matt Gaetz would be seen as a hero and his legal troubles would likely go away. Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while trying to get information on the country’s nuclear program, and was last seen alive in a 2010 hostage video. His family has said the U.S. government told them they believe Levinson is dead.

When Don Gaetz received these messages, the DOJ investigation into his son was not known publicly. It isn’t clear how the men learned about the investigation, and they do not appear to have any direct connection with the investigation. People with knowledge of the matter told the Post it will be hard to prove this was an extortion attempt because the men did not threaten to expose Gaetz’s DOJ investigation if the family did not give them money.

Matt Gaetz appeared on Fox News Tuesday night and accused a lawyer named David McGee of being involved in this effort. McGee has represented the Levinson family for years, and on Tuesday night he said Don Gaetz called him and they had a “pleasant conversation” about “the trouble his son was in.” McGee denied being involved in any extortion attempt, and his law firm on Wednesday called the allegation “false and defamatory.” Catherine Garcia

One more Gaetz story from ABC News: In investigation of Rep. Gaetz’s alleged sexual relationship with minor, feds looking beyond Florida, sources say.

Sources told ABC News the investigation has been going on for months and began during the Trump administration. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation’s progress several times, the sources said.

One source told ABC News that federal authorities have already interviewed multiple witnesses as part of their probe.

Morning Bird Dance, Edvard Munch

Morning Bird Dance, Edvard Munch

Gaetz has reportedly told confidants he is considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax, according to an Axios report earlier Tuesday.

Yet within the last several weeks Gaetz started reaching out to prominent attorneys, according to one source. The source said that one of the attorneys Gaetz asked to represent him was Washington attorney Bill Burck, who represented Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn during the Mueller probe. Burck turned down the case, according to a person familiar with the decision.

So this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. One interesting point is that apparently Gaetz is very unpopular with Republicans and they are rooting for him to go down in flames. A few more links to check out:

Jeff Stein at Spy Talk: Gaetz ‘Extortion’ Figure’s Levinson Obsession.

The Daily Beast: The Creepy, Disturbing Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz.

Ben Jacobs at New York Magazine: Matt Gaetz Gets a Scandal As Wild As Him.

Raw Story: Here are 7 new bombshell details from the complex and unraveling Matt Gaetz investigation story.

The Daily Beast: Republicans Have Been Waiting for a Matt Gaetz Scandal to Break.

The Hill: Fox has no interest in hiring Matt Gaetz.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this story, because it’s still so confusing to me. I guess we’ll be learning more soon. So what’s on your mind today? As always, this is an open thread.