Lazy Caturday Reads

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle

Happy Caturday!!

My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:

The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.

With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.

A coalition of groups such as Planned ParenthoodUltraVioletMoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….

The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.

Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.

Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.

f98f3f2f0a7f126cf8c3e9070096f64e“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….

Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….

Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”

The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.

“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.

The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4fe6739970b-600wiWhat is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.

Read the rest at the link.

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.

Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.

Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.

This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.

Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.

Read more at the WaPo.

Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wiThe leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.

“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.

“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”

Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.

I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.

In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4f00414970b-600wiThe surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….

“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”

The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.

Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.

The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.

The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.

The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.

Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.

“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”

88cba75816c3e74906a3af2d2eb71db4I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.

Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.

The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….

The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  — Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.

  — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”

What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.

That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Easter Weekend Edition

53ae46d9428b919e891c8c0c0d65d246Good Morning!!

Easter, like other religious holidays, reflects symbolism from pagan feast days–part of the Church’s efforts to convert people from their ancient beliefs to Christianity. A few days ago, I read an interesting piece by anthropologist and folklore expert Tok Thompson, reprinted in Smithsonian Magazine: The Ancient Origins of the Easter Bunny. A scholar traces the folk figure’s history from the Neolithic era to today.

Easter is a celebration of spring and new life. Eggs and flowers are rather obvious symbols of female fertility, but in European traditions, the bunny, with its amazing reproductive potential, is not far behind.

In European traditions, the Easter bunny is known as the Easter hare. The symbolism of the hare has had many tantalizing ritual and religious roles down through the years.

Hares were given ritual burials alongside humans during the Neolithic age in Europe. Archaeologists have interpreted this as a religious ritual, with hares representing rebirth.

Over a thousand years later, during the Iron Age, ritual burials for hares were common, and in 51 B.C.E., Julius Caesar mentioned that in Britain, hares were not eaten due to their religious significance.

Caesar would likely have known that in the classical Greek tradition, hares were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Meanwhile, Aphrodite’s son Eros was often depicted carrying a hare as a symbol of unquenchable desire.

From the Greek world through the Renaissance, hares often appear as symbols of sexuality in literature and art. For example, the Virgin Mary is often shown with a white hare or rabbit, symbolizing that she overcame sexual temptation.

b0j5f-easter3But it is in the folk traditions of England and Germany that the figure of the hare is specifically connected to Easter. Accounts from the 1600s in Germany describe children hunting for Easter eggs hidden by the Easter hare, much as in the United States today.

Written accounts from England around the same time also mention the Easter hare, particularly in terms of traditional Easter hare hunts and the eating of hare meat at Easter. One tradition, known as the “Hare Pie Scramble,” was held at Hallaton, a village in Leicestershire, England. It involved eating a pie made with hare meat and people “scrambling” for a slice. In 1790, the local parson tried to stop the custom due to its pagan associations, but he was unsuccessful, and the custom continues in that village until this day.

As for the pagan origins of Easter and the Easter bunny,

In 1835, the folklorist Jacob Grimm, one of the famous team of the fairy tale Brothers Grimm, argued that the Easter hare was connected to a goddess he imagined would have been called “Ostara” in ancient German. He derived this name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who Bede, an early medieval monk considered to be the father of English history, mentioned in 731 C.E.

Here in the U.S., there has long been a tradition of an Easter egg roll at the White House. The event will take place this year on Monday, April 18 after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. CNN: Biden White House hatches plans for return of the Egg Roll.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are taking their first crack at the time-honored Easter tradition on Monday, which will mark the 142nd White House Easter Egg Roll following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme of the event, the first lady’s office says, is “EGGucation,” with the South Lawn being “transformed into a school community” for 30,000 visitors to enjoy, including military families from the USS Delaware.

c2d445c9da7f2aad39372d58cad7c473The American Egg Board is donating 90,000 eggs to the event as part of its longtime partnership with the White House, egg board president and CEO Emily Metz told CNN. That includes approximately 50,000 hard-boiled eggs that will be used for the egg roll races with wooden spoons, the egg hunt, and for dyeing and decorating. Those eggs were hard-boiled, dyed and transported from North Carolina to Washington on a refrigerated truck by Braswell Family Farms’ John Watson, where they will be stored over the weekend ahead of Monday’s festivities.

Forty thousand additional eggs have been donated to be used for food items for guests, Metz said….

The American Egg Board will also present its annual commemorative egg to the first lady, part of a 45-year tradition beginning with the Carter administration. Artist Russ Hagen, a member of the International Egg Art Guild, was selected to paint the 2021 and 2022 commemorative eggs, a months-long undertaking that included a design to match the “EGGucation” theme created by Mary O’Reilly and the inside of a real chicken egg being blown out through a special process, leaving the shell intact, before the decoration could begin.

This year, all 45 eggs that have been presented to first ladies over the years are being displayed together for the first time in a special “Colonnade of Eggs” in the East Wing of the White House for visitors to view on tours.

As I wrote above, the WH Easter egg roll has a long history. From The White House Historical Association: Origins of the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Since 1878, American presidents and their families have celebrated Easter Monday by hosting an ‘egg roll’ party. Held on the South Lawn, it is one of the oldest annual events in White House history. Some historians note that First Lady Dolley Madison originally suggested the idea of a public egg roll, while others tell stories of informal egg-rolling parties at the White House dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Beginning in the 1870s, Washingtonians from all social levels celebrated Easter Monday on the west grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Children rolled brilliantly dyed hard-boiled eggs down the terraced lawn.

However, by 1876, a concern for the landscape led Congress to pass legislation to restrict the public use of the Capitol grounds, effectively prohibiting any future egg rolling. The new edict went unchallenged in 1877, as rain cancelled all the day’s activities, but in 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes decided to open the South Lawn to egg rollers, as it had previously been reserved for the First Family’s private Easter activities. Thus, a new tradition was born. In 1974, the Nixons hosted egg roll races, an event which has become an Easter Monday favorite.

This morning, historian Michael Bechloss posted a photo of the 1926 egg roll.

I suppose I have to include some news in this post, although I’d rather just think about cats and bunnies and Spring flowers.

The only real good news I’m seeing is that the Boston Marathon will once again be held on Monday. CNN: Runners ‘pumped’ as Boston Marathon returns to April.

The Boston Marathon returns to its traditional April date for the first time in three years on Monday with the fastest field in the race’s history, boasting a star-studded slate of previous champions and Olympic medalists.

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir leads the women’s field hot off her Tokyo Olympic gold medal and New York City Marathon victory last year, while local hero Molly Seidel is looking to build off her bronze medal at that Olympics and triumph in her first Boston Marathon.

In the men’s division, Kenya’s Benson Kipruto is looking to repeat just six months after he won at last year’s delayed race, but will face tough competition from last year’s New York winner, compatriot Albert Korir, and 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia.

“It’s exciting. It’s always cool to feel like you’re coming to your hometown race. I’m really pumped to actually go at it on this course rather than just training on it,” Seidel, an American and a former Boston resident, told Reuters on Friday.

But will the Marathon be a superspreader event? Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly in the Northeast. We’ve had well over 2,000 new cases on each of the past few days here in Massachusetts. New York is seeing more than 5,000 per day. Those are undercounts, of course, because so many people are using home tests now, but wastewater testing reveals high levels of virus in Northeastern states.

dnknw-easter1The New York Times: The Omicron BA.2 subvariant has stalled pandemic progress in the U.S.

About 30,000 marathoners from 122 countries and all 50 U.S. states will hit the streets on Monday in and around Boston, where the city’s Public Health Commission reports that the Covid positivity rate has risen to 6.6 percent, passing its “threshold of concern” of 5 percent.

The agency urged residents to mask, to test before joining indoor gatherings, to gather outdoors if possible, and to get booster shots to protect themselves and others in the coming days as Easter, Passover, Ramadan and public school vacations converge. The city’s positivity rate has risen by 4 percentage points since early March, it noted.

This month the Omicron BA.2 subvariant has flattened the steep downward glide in official case counts that Boston and the rest of the country had been on after the BA.1 surge in the winter. The turn is not unexpected, but it comes as in-person gatherings have resumed, vaccinations have flatlined, officially reported tests are falling and politicians and many Americans want an end to most restrictions.

And while hospitalizations and deaths remain on the decline nationally, concerns are rising for unvaccinated and unboosted people, who remain more vulnerable to serious illness and death.

More Covid stories to check out:

Yahoo News: It’s not over: COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in US.

The Washington Post: New, highly transmissible forms of omicron may pose latest covid threat.

FiveThirtyEight: Do Americans Care About The Latest COVID-19 Wave In The Northeast?

s-l300I’m going to post more stories as links only because I just don’t want to think about bad news today. Here’s what’s happening:

The Washington Post: Ukrainian governor says Mariupol ‘has been wiped off the face of the earth.’

Radio Free Europe: Russian Soldier And Wife Discussing Rape Of Ukrainian Women Identified By RFE/RL.

The New York Times: How Russian Media Uses Fox News to Make Its Case.

Michael Kruse at Politico: The One Way History Shows Trump’s Personality Cult Will End.

Aaron Rupar: Ron DeSantis loves using very young kids as political props.

CNN: Rotting fruit, spoiled vegetables: How Texas just made the supply chain even worse.

The New York Times: As G.O.P. Candidates Face Accusations, Rivals Tread Carefully.

Raw Story: ‘Rot wasn’t just Donald Trump’: Neal Katyal says Jan 6. Committee has proof implicating GOP leaders.

That’s it for me today. I hope you all have a nice Easter weekend.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Yesterday we learned of the tragic death of journalist Eric Boelert in a bicycle accident. He was only 57. This is such a terrible loss.

The Washington Post: Liberal media critic Eric Boehlert dies in bicycle collision.

Eric Boehlert, a liberal critic who offered blistering takedowns and analysis of mainstream and conservative media, died Monday in a bicycle collision in his New Jersey hometown. He was 57.

“Through his journalism, social media, books, and appearances on CNN and MSNBC, Eric was a fierce defender of democracy, social justice and truth in media,” Boehlert’s family said in a statement released Wednesday. “He was fearless and brilliant in his investigation of hypocrisies and double standards in the media, and his contribution was priceless.”

Boehlert’s wife, Tracy Breslin, told the Bergen Record her husband was the cyclist that N.J. Transit said was struck by a train on Monday night. The couple have two adult children.

News of Boehlert’s death provoked an outpouring of grief online from friends and fans of his media criticism, which started appearing in liberal publications such as Media Matters for America, Daily Kos and Salon in the mid 2000s, before he later became prominent on social media and cable news….

Boehlert covered the music industry for Rolling Stone and Billboard early in his career, before he turned his attention to media criticism. He contributed to the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for more than a decade starting in the mid-2000s and also worked as a senior writer for Salon and a media critic at Daily Kos. He took aim at both right-wing media and mainstream outlets for what he saw as their failings, and in early 2020 he started his own liberal newsletter called Press Run because, as he wrote, “we can’t fix America if we don’t fix the press.”

“When a radical White House player is eagerly chipping away at our freedoms and the Constitution, we need the press to stand up to the unprecedented challenge at hand — a press corps that doesn’t wallow in ‘Both Sides’ journalism as a way to escape the wrath from Republicans,” he wrote in February 2020.

There’s much more at the WaPo link.

It’s not clear yet how Boelert could have been hit by a train, but someone from NJ posted this on Twitter:

News from DC

This is a strange story and I suspect it will get even stranger. AP News: US: 2 posed as agents, gave gifts to Secret Service officers.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged two men they say were posing as federal agents, giving free apartments and other gifts to U.S. Secret Service agents, including one who worked on the first lady’s security detail.

The two men — Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36 — were taken into custody as more than a dozen FBI agents charged into a luxury apartment building in Southeast Washington on Wednesday evening.

Prosecutors allege Taherzadeh and Ali had falsely claimed to work for the Department of Homeland Security and work on a special task force investigating gang and violence connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. They allege the two posed as law enforcement officers to integrate with actual federal agents.

Taherzadeh is accused of providing Secret Service officers and agents with rent-free apartments — including a penthouse worth over $40,000 a year — along with iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, flat screen television, a generator, gun case and other policing tools, according to court documents.

He also offered to let them use a black GMC SUV that he identified as an “official government vehicle,” prosecutors say. In one instance, Taherzadeh offered to purchase a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent who is assigned to protect the first lady.

Prosecutors said four Secret Service employees were placed on leave earlier this week as part of the investigation.

The First Lady?! Is anyone making sure the Biden’s are really being protected? I hope so.

More from The Washington Post: 2 men accused of posing as federal officers to get near Secret Service.

The charges against Ali and Taherzadeh were made public as FBI personnel were seen in the Navy Yard area Wednesday night and were photographed on social media going into an apartment building. In a statement, the FBI said personnel were conducting “court authorized law enforcement activity” in the 900 block of First Street SE.

The investigation into the pair began March 14 when a U.S. Postal Service inspector went to a D.C. apartment complex to respond to a complaint of an assault on a letter carrier at the building, where many people who work for the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Defense and Navy live. Residents told the inspector that Ali and Taherzadeh identified themselves to residents as Department of Homeland Security investigations special agents who may have witnessed the assault, the affidavit said.

They claimed they were “special police” officers involved in undercover gang-related investigations and probes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the affidavit states. Other residents told the inspector the men used several apartments in the building, claiming the Department of Homeland Security paid the rent, and used an SUV equipped with emergency lights they identified as “their official DHS vehicle.”

The inspector learned the men were in contact with several members of the Secret Service and had provided gifts to them or their families and use of the SUV, the affidavit states. The document did not explain how the inspector learned about the gifts.

The affidavit included photos of the men in police tactical gear with “POLICE” emblazoned on their clothing. And in one instance, Taherzadeh sent a stock photo from the Internet to one witness and claimed to be in Homeland Security Investigations training, investigators alleged.

And who were these guys working for? Was it a foreign country? I guess we’ll be learning more in the days to come.

The Washington Post: House votes to hold ex-Trump aides Navarro, Scavino in contempt of Congress.

The House voted Wednesday to hold two former aides to President Donald Trump in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The 220-to-203 vote results in criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to charge former trade and manufacturing director Peter Navarro and former White House communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. with misdemeanors that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

During Wednesday’s floor debate, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, said Navarro and Scavino “must be held accountable for their defiance of the law.”

“Even if you do it on your own time, trying to overturn an election is still trying to overturn an election,” Thompson said, adding: “This kind of cynical behavior as we investigate a violent insurrection is just despicable. It can’t stand. Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro must be held accountable for their abuses of the public trust.”

Republicans countered by accusing Democrats of targeting their political opponents — despite the bipartisan nature of the Jan. 6 select committee.

A bit of comic relief:

The Daily Beast: Congresswoman Who Downplayed the Capitol Riot Is Very Concerned About a Slap Joke.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) downplayed the violence at the Capitol, voted against awarding congressional medals to Capitol Police officers injured in the insurrection, and ranted that the agency is like the “gazpacho” (presumably a reference to Nazi Germany’s Gestapo). But now she wants to them to devote resources to investigating comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s joke that Will Smith should slap her. “[T]his threat of violence against me by @jimmykimmel has been filed with the @CapitolPolice,” she tweeted Wednesday. Greene has, among other things, harassed a school shooting survivor, posted a mock-up pic of her holding a machine gun near lawmakers’ heads, and liked a Facebook post about executing Democrats.

Ukraine News and Commentary

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence service, has acquired gruesome new insights into the atrocities committed by Russian military forces in the town of Bucha near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. DER SPIEGEL has learned that the BND intercepted Russian military radio traffic in which the murder of civilians in Bucha was discussed. Some of the intercepted radio traffic can apparently be directly linked to dead bodies that have been photographed in Bucha.

Following the withdrawal of the Russian military from the town over the weekend, a mass grave was discovered as well as the bodies of several dozen dead civilians left lying on the streets. The hands of some of the victims had been tied, while other bodies showed signs of torture. Numerous women and children are also reportedly among the victims.

The Russian government has vehemently denied that Russian forces are responsible for these war crimes. Several – completely unsubstantiated – claims have been made that the alleged war crimes have been staged by Ukraine. Those claims, however, are contradicted by the statements of numerous witnesses interviewed by reporters from DER SPIEGEL and other news outlets in the town of Bucha.

The intercepted comments now appear to completely refute Russia’s denials. DER SPIEGEL has learned that the BND briefed parliamentarians on Wednesday about its findings. Some of the intercepted traffic apparently matches the locations of bodies found along the main road through town. In one of them, a soldier apparently told another that they had just shot a person on a bicycle. That corresponds to the photo of the dead body lying next to a bicycle that has been shared around the world. In another intercepted conversation, a man apparently said: First you interrogate soldiers, then you shoot them.

Read more at the link.

The Washington Post: In Bucha, the scope of Russian barbarity is coming into focus.

BUCHA, Ukraine — The name of this city is already synonymous with the month-long carnage that Russian soldiers perpetrated here.

But the scale of the killings and the depravity with which they were committed is only just becoming apparent as police, local officials and regular citizens start the grim task of clearing Bucha of the hundreds of corpses decomposing on streets and in parks, apartment buildings and other locations.

As a team from the district prosecutor’s office moved slowly through Bucha on Wednesday, investigators uncovered evidence of torture before death, beheading and dismemberment, and the intentional burning of corpses.

Some of the cruelest violence took place at a glass factory on the edge of town.

On the gravel near a loading dock lay the body of Dmytro Chaplyhin, 21, whose abdomen was bruised black and blue, his hands marked with what looked like cigarette burns. He ultimately was killed by a gunshot to the chest, concluded team leader Ruslan Kravchenko. His body then was turned into a weapon, tied to a tripwire connected to a mine.

If you can stand to read more, click the link above.

Timothy Snyder at The Washington Post: By denying a Ukrainian culture, Putin flattens his own.

In his 1926 poem “Debt to Ukraine,” Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote: “It’s hard to crush people into one. Don’t raise yourself so high.” After all, the poet continued: “Do we know the Ukrainian night? No, we do not know the Ukrainian night.” But Vladimir Putin wants to crush people into one. He says God told him that Ukrainian souls are Russian. History revealed to him that Ukraine strives to be one with Russia; the very language he speaks entitles him to invade any country where Russian is spoken. An official Russian news service removed any ambiguity a few days ago, publishing a text advocating the complete elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such. And so Ukraine must be crushed, and anyone who thinks or speaks of Ukraine must be eliminated.

By way of these deep misunderstandings, Putin has placed the Ukrainian nation at the center of world history, for everyone to see. A Ukrainian actor, Volodymyr Zelensky, is now one of the most recognizable people on Earth. Putin’s invasion made visible not only that courageous, democratically elected president but also functional institutions, an impressive civil society, and journalists, activists and musicians who appear on our television screens and in our newspapers.

Matters are murkier in Putin’s Russia. A war based upon a big lie is also hard on its culture of origin. Everyone is looking at the Russian nation — or perhaps, rather, for it. What does it do to a society to invade a neighbor, which it claims to love, on the basis of bottomless self-deception? Americans have not yet recovered from the lies they told about Iraq two decades ago, and the Russian deception campaign runs far deeper. How are Russian parents altered when they deny to their children in Ukraine that any war is taking place? What sort of nation makes war and then forbids the use of the very word?

This is Putin’s war, but it is far too simple to say that it is only his war. It is made in the name of Russia, and the killing and maiming and abducting and deporting of Ukrainians are being done by tens of thousands of Russian citizens. As north-central Ukraine is liberated by its own citizens, hundreds of corpses of Ukrainian civilians are found in Bucha and other towns, in positions that suggest atrocities including rape, torture and execution. “This is how the Russian state will now be perceived,” Zelensky said. “Your culture and human appearance perished together with the Ukrainian men and women to whom you came.” Massacres seem to be a normal Russian occupation practice. Even as Russians are committing war crimes that violate Ukraine’s right to exist, Russians are told (and often seem to believe) that they are refighting the Second World War and resisting Nazis. That is a very big lie, and big lies do lasting damage.

I’ll end there. I’m grateful to live in a country that isn’t at war right now. Have a peaceful Thursday, Sky Dancers.

J


Tuesday Reads: Putin’s War and His GOP Fans

Good Afternoon!!

Aliza Nisenbaum

By Aliza Nisenbaum

It’s really difficult reading the news these days, between Putin’s genocidal attack in Ukraine and the Republicans’ attempts to end democracy here at home.

Last night I took a break from the cable news shows and watched the University of Kansas beat North Carolina in the NCAA basketball championship game. It turned out to be really exciting. K.U. was down 16 points at the end of the first half, but came back to win 72-69. It was a battle to the finish and fun to watch, so I’m glad I took a break from politics and war news.

I spent my early childhood years in Lawrence, Kansas, where my Dad was working on his Ph.D. I still have happy memories of those years and of the K.U. campus. When we moved away, I was heartbroken. In those days Wilt Chamberlain played for the Jayhawks before he decided to go pro after his junior year. Anyway, our family always rooted for K.U. in basketball for sentimental reasons.

Now on to today’s Ukraine war news.

This morning, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the UN about Russian atrocities and Russia’s ludicrous claims that the torture and murders of Ukrainian citizens were committed by Ukrainians themselves: Yahoo News: Zelensky: Russia ‘will try to hide the traces of their crimes.’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Russian military of plotting to cover up the mass killing of his country’s civilians in a bid to “distort the facts.”

Speaking in an emotional address to the nation in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Zelensky warned that Kremlin-led forces were attempting to hide the atrocities that were committed in the areas still occupied by Moscow. His speech comes days after hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were reportedly found dead in Kyiv suburbs like Bucha in the aftermath of the recent withdrawal of Russian troops in the region.

In his 10-minute speech, Zelensky accused Russia of using the same propaganda tactics it used when a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was shot down in 2014 over eastern Ukraine. An independent Dutch investigation found that Russian-backed rebels downed the plane with a surface-to-air missile, killing 298 people. Russia blamed the Ukrainian government for the tragedy.

Berthe Morisot, Girl Playing a Mandolin

Berthe Morisot, Girl Playing a Mandolin

“They used the same tactics when the occupiers shot down a Malaysian Boeing over Donbas,” Zelensky said. “They blamed Ukraine. They even came up with various conspiracy theories. They even went so far as to claim that the corpses were ‘thrown’ on board the plane before it crashed.”

Zelensky made his comments undoubtedly aware that the Russian government is already promoting implausible theories to explain the images and video of bodies littering the streets of Bucha. The Russian Defense Ministry suggested that some of the dead civilians were actually actors pretending to be dead, claiming that the video shows the bodies still moving. Independent media fact checkers and satellite images contradict Russia’s claims; the many journalists documenting the aftermath of the killings also undermine Russia’s case.

This is reminiscent of the conspiracy nuts here in the U.S. who claimed that victims of the Boston bombing were “crisis actors,” and the entire event was staged by the government. They made similar claims about the horrific murders of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Did they get their ideas from Russian propaganda?

You can read Zelensky’s response to the Russian lies at his official website: There is ample evidence that it is Russian troops who destroy peaceful cities, torture and kill civilians – address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Yesterday The New York Times published an analysis of satellite images that disprove Russia’s ugly lies: Satellite images show bodies lay in Bucha for weeks, despite Russian claims.

When images emerged over the weekend of the bodies of dead civilians lying on the streets of Bucha — some with their hands bound, some with gunshot wounds to the head — Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied responsibility. In a Telegram post on Sunday, the ministry suggested that the bodies had been recently placed on the streets after “all Russian units withdrew completely from Bucha” around March 30.

Russia claimed that the images were “another hoax” and called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on what it called “provocations of Ukrainian radicals” in Bucha.

Girlfriends-1916-1917, Gustav Klimt

Girlfriends, 1916-1917, Gustav Klimt

But a review of videos and satellite imagery by The Times shows that many of the civilians were killed more than three weeks ago, when Russia’s military was in control of the town.

One video filmed by a local council member on April 1 shows multiple bodies scattered along Yablonska Street in Bucha. Satellite images provided to The Timtes by Maxar Technologies show that at least 11 of those had been on the street since March 11, when Russia, by its own account, occupied the town.

To confirm when the bodies appeared, and when the civilians were likely killed, the Visual Investigations team at The Times conducted a before-and-after analysis of satellite imagery. The images show dark objects of similar size to a human body appearing on Yablonska Street between March 9 and March 11. The objects appear in the precise positions in which the bodies were found after Ukrainian forces reclaimed Bucha, as the footage from April 1 shows. Further analysis shows that the objects remained in those position for over three weeks.

Read more at the NYT link.

Bloomberg on the latest sanctions on Russia: Russia’s Effort to Avoid Default Undermined by New U.S. Sanction.

Russia’s efforts to avoid a sovereign default took another blow after the U.S. Treasury halted dollar debt payments from the country’s accounts at U.S. banks.

The decision further complicates Russia’s attempts to keep meeting debt obligations amid the sanctions imposed after it invaded Ukraine. As the government tries to sidestep its first external default in about a century, those restrictions have hampered and delayed the process of transferring money to bond holders.

Friedrich von Amerling, The Young Eastern Woman

Friedrich von Amerling, The Young Eastern Woman

Other governments are also planning tougher sanctions after allegations that Russian troops massacred civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns. The European Union is proposing to ban coal imports from Russia, which would be a major step-up for a region that’s so far shied away from targeting energy flows crucial to the bloc’s economy.

The U.S. announcement is intended to force Russia into either draining its domestic dollar reserves or spending new revenue to make bond payments, or else go into default, according to a spokesperson for the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who discussed details on condition of anonymity.

“Clearly this latest announcement by the U.S. Treasury is designed to put additional pressure on the Russians,” said Gary Kirk, a portfolio manager at TwentyFour Asset Management. “The alternative payment methods are significantly more punitive and more challenging for Russia and hence it does increase the chances of a technical default.”

More Ukraine war stories:

The Washington Post: Ukrainian villagers describe cruel and brutal Russian occupation.

Cathy Young at The Bulwark: The Bucha Atrocities and the Kremlin Apologists.

BBC: Ukraine war: Biden calls for Putin to face war crimes trial after Bucha killings.

CNBC: U.S. warns Russia will intensify its military operations in Ukraine after weeks of stalled ground fighting.

Walter Russell Mead at The Wall Street Journal: Biden’s Ugly Options in Ukraine.

Republican authoritarians and Russia sympathizers

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: This Republican about-face is so much worse than ‘cancel culture.’

The GOP no longer argues that free markets, rather than government, should choose “winners and losers.”

In today’s Republican Party, the primary economic role of the state is not to get out of the way. It is, instead, to reward friends and crush political enemies.

Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham expressed the new ethos in a recent monologue threatening companies that advocated for LGBTQ rights, ballot access, racial justice and sundry other political stances that are anathema in today’s GOP.

“When Republicans, they get back into power, Apple and Disney need to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table,” Ingraham warned. “Your copyright, trademark protection. Your special status within certain states. And even your corporate structure itself. The antitrust division at Justice needs to begin the process of considering which American companies need to be broken up once and for all for competition’s sake, and ultimately for the good of the consumers who pay the bills.”

This might have been an unusually eloquent articulation of Republicans’ punitive new approach to economic policy, but it is hardly unique to Ingraham.

A Romance by Santiago Rusinol

A Romance by Santiago Rusinol

A bit more:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is furious that Disney has publicly criticized his new law prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity (nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” law); beyond using his bully pulpit to rail against Disney’s supposed indecency, he has threatened to cancel Disney’s half-century-old special status under Florida law that enables the company to effectively govern itself on the grounds of its theme parks. Similarly, last year, DeSantis signed a (likely unconstitutional) law to punish tech companies for privately determined content-moderation decisions, and another law that fines private companies that attempt to set vaccination requirements in their workplaces.

In other states, such as Georgia, GOP politicians have punished private companies for taking supposedly “woke” stands on issues such as gun violence. Republicans in Congress have likewise tried to use antitrust enforcement and other government levers to punish companies whose public stances on voting rights or internal policies on content moderation they dislike.

This approach to governance was expertly modeled by Donald Trump, who as president frequently used the power of the state to reward friends and punish perceived political enemies.

He did this through tax law, tariff policy and other proposed subsidies that chose winners and losers according to their political allegiances. He selectively enforced energy policies, such as allowing offshore drilling, to dole out favors to friends.

Another interesting read by Aaron Rupar about how DeSantis is following Trump’s example. In the article, Rupar interviews authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat. An authoritarianism scholar on DeSantis as “the ultimate agent for the normalization of extremism.”

DeSantis rode the Trump cult of personality to the Florida governor’s mansion in 2018, but he’s since forged his own brand of right-wing demagoguery. Last Friday, he was on Fox & Friends, which has celebrated him for the stands he’s taken against public health regulations to combat Covid, against the LGBT community, and against liberalism in general….

Henry Meynell Rheam, 1859-1920

By Henry Meynell Rheam, 1859-1920

More importantly, DeSantis’s Fox & Friends appearance gave him a platform to rail against Disney, Florida’s largest employer, for publicly speaking out against “Don’t Say Gay” legislation he signed into law that allows parents to sue teachers who bring up gender or sexual orientation in K-3 classrooms.

“This wokeness will destroy our country,” DeSantis declared.

Florida has a large LGBT population and Disney is a major economic driver for the state, so from one standpoint DeSantis picking a fight with Mickey Mouse doesn’t seem to make much sense. But he has his reasons. To better understand them, I reached out to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on authoritarianism and professor of history and Italian studies at NYU.

Ben-Ghiat has written about how DeSantis is following in Trump’s authoritarian footsteps for both CNN and MSNBC. Last month, she wrote on her blog (“Lucid”) about how he’s turning Florida “into his own mini-autocracy.”

“DeSantis is a particularly dangerous individual,” she wrote. “He may be up for re-election as governor in Florida, but he has designs on the White House as soon as two years from now. It’s not hard to see what he is doing in Florida as a rehearsal for illiberalism on a national scale.”

Read the interview at the link.

William Saletan at The Bulwark: Who’s Soft on Russia? Meet the Republican Anti-Ukraine Caucus!

After years of defending a pro-Putin American president and dismissing Russia’s interference in American elections, Republicans have returned to their old shtick: accusing Democrats of being soft on Russia. Their hypocrisy is galling, but the bigger problem is that their depiction of the two parties is backward. In polls, Republicans are more dovish on Russia and Ukraine than Democrats are. And in Congress, the purveyors of isolationism, appeasement, and Russian propaganda are on the right, not the left.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the House of Representatives has voted on three measures specific to the war. The first vote, taken on March 2, was on a resolution that endorsed sanctions against Russia, reaffirmed Ukrainian sovereignty over territory seized by Russia, advocated military aid to Ukraine, and pledged to support the Ukrainian resistance. All six members of the progressive “Squad”—Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib—voted for the resolution. So did Rep. Barbara Lee, the Democrats’ foremost opponent of military spending. Not one Democrat voted against the resolution. But three Republicans did: Reps. Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, and Matt Rosendale.

La Musique, Henri Matisse

La Musique, Henri Matisse

On March 9, the House passed a bill to suspend oil and gas imports from Russia. Five of the seven Democratic leftists voted for the suspension. The two who voted against it—Bush and Omar—were joined by 15 Republicans who also voted no. In addition to Gosar and Massie, this time the list included Reps. Andy Biggs, Dan Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Scott DesJarlais, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Grothman, Clay Higgins, Bill Posey, Chip Roy, and Tom Tiffany.On March 17, the House passed a bill to end favorable trade relations with Russia and its accomplice in the war, Belarus. Eight Republicans voted against the bill. Every Democrat, including the seven leftists, voted for it.

Several Republicans have gone further. Cawthorn and Gosar are pushing legislation that would prohibit the U.S. military from deploying “by reason of the situation in Ukraine” any more troops than are stationed at the Mexican border. No sensible military planner would want more troops guarding a friendly border than deterring an imminent threat to our most important alliance, but that’s what this bill would do: It would block deployments to NATO countries in Eastern Europe. It’s a gift to Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, 10 Republicans have signed on to a bill that would bar any delivery of military aid to Ukraine until “a border wall system along the United States-Mexico border is completed.” The cosponsors include Reps. Bob Good, Jody Hice, Mary Miller, Ralph Norman, and Randy Weber. (Don’t bother trying to square this demand with Trump’s insistence that he has basically built the wall, except for a couple of tiny spots.)

That’s all I have for you today. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to use the comments to discuss any topics that interest you.


Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Daknikat has a cell phone emergency, so I’m filling in and starting really late–just beginning to look at the news. There’s quite a bit happening.

The Washington Post’s Michael Kranish has a big story about Ted Cruz and January 6: Inside Ted Cruz’s last-ditch battle to keep Trump in power. It turns out that Cruz and John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote a memo explaining how Pence could supposedly refuse to certify the election, have known each other for 27 years. Not only that, Trump asked Cruz if he would argue the case to overturn the election if they could get the Supreme Court to hear it. From the article:

An examination by The Washington Post of Cruz’s actions between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, shows just how deeply he was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power. As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles.

ted-cruz-january-6Now, Cruz’s efforts are of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in particular whether Cruz was in contact with Trump lawyerJohn Eastman, a conservative attorney who has been his friend for decades and who wrote key legal memos aimed at denying Biden’s victory.

As Eastman outlined a scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence could denycertifying Biden’s election, Cruz crafted a complementary plan in the Senate. He proposedobjecting to the results in six swing states and delayingaccepting the electoral college results on Jan. 6 in favor of a 10-day “audit” — thus potentiallyenabling GOP state legislatures to overturn the result. Ten other senators backed hisproposal, which Cruz continued to advocate on the day rioters attacked the Capitol.

The committee’s interest in Cruz is notable as investigators zero in on how closely Trump’s allies coordinated with members of Congress in the attempt to block or delay certifying Biden’s victory. If Cruz’s plan worked, it could have created enough chaos for Trump to remain in power.

“It was a very dangerous proposal, and, you know, could very easily have put us into territory where we got to the inauguration and there was not a president,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a Jan. 6 committee member, said earlier this year on the podcast “Honestly.” “And I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing. I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”

Eastman and Cruz both worked for Michael Luttig, who was then on the U.S. Appeals Court. Here’s what Luttig has to say about Cruz’s actions:

Luttig told The Post that he believes that Cruz — who once said that Luttig was “like a father to me” — played a paramount role in the events leading to Jan. 6.

“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig said in a statement to The Post. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”

The story also says that Eastman took the Fifth when the Committee asked him about communications with Cruz.

Also from The Washington Post: Jan. 6 committee to seek interview with Ginni Thomas.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will seek an interview with Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according a source familiar with the investigation.

Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, has drawn scrutiny for her text messages to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in which she repeatedly pressed Meadows to work aggressively to overturn the election and keep President Donald Trump in power in a series of urgent exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas, a conservative activist, and Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

The committee’s plans to ask Thomas for an interview were first reported by CNN. A source familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal committee plans confirmed the report.

Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark: Is Ginni Thomas’s Story Believable?

Virginia Thomas wants people to believe that her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had no idea about her activities challenging the results of the 2020 election.

“Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work,” she told a friendly outlet earlier this month. Therefore, no one need worry about his ability to be an impartial judge on the highest court in the land. Everything is hunky-dory….

0x0Her story, as well as her election theories, don’t survive even the most basic common-sense tests.

Justice Thomas cannot plausibly plead ignorance of his wife’s Jan. 6th-related activities. Her texts were the subject of a blockbuster Washington Post-CBS story, carried by numerous other outlets such as CNN and the New York Times. Multiple outlets asked the Thomases for comment multiple times. A CNN reporter staked out the couple in their parking garage. Maybe the Thomases talked about it, maybe they didn’t—it’s impossible for outsiders to know what happens inside a marriage—but the notion that Clarence Thomas is unaware of what Ginni was up to? Not plausible.

Second, beyond the text messages revealed last week, many of Ginni’s political activities relating to Jan. 6th were already a matter of public record. Her promotion of election conspiracies was well known; she posted them on her Facebook page. On the morning of Jan. 6th, just hours before the attack on the Capitol, she lavished praise on the Trump rallygoers who wanted to overturn the election. In the weeks after the riot, Ginni apologized to a listserv of her husband’s former clerks because her election-related activities and her “lifetime passions” caused a rift in the close-knit group of Thomas alumni.* Although this was a minor controversy, her husband could reasonably be expected to know about it, since it directly involved his wife and former clerks—and the Washington Post reported on it.

To believe that Justice Thomas is unaware of Mrs. Thomas’s Jan. 6th-related activities, one would also have to believe that Ginni’s co-signed public letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanding that he remove Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the GOP conference for serving as members of the Jan. 6th Committee never crossed Justice Thomas’s radar.

More at the link.

Here’s another breaking story from Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Judge: ‘More likely than not’ that Trump ‘corruptly attempted’ to block Congress from counting votes on January 6.

A federal judge said Monday that former President Donald Trump and right-wing attorney John Eastman may have been planning a crime as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election.

“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Judge David Carter wrote Monday.

Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at the January 6 Trump rally on the Ellipse in Washington

Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to Rudy Giuliani on January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Carter, a federal judge in California, ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails from around January 6, 2021, that he has tried to keep secret from the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack.

Carter’s reasoning is a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal.

“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election … Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed.”

Judge Carter had even more to say:

In his order, Carter made an unusually bold statement wishing for accountability so that history does not repeat itself.

“If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.

“More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails. This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” he wrote.

“At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of ‘legal theories’ gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs,” Carter added. “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

I hope Merrick Garland is paying attention.

Another big story from The Wall Street Journal: Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian Peace Negotiators Suffer Suspected Poisoning.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said.

Roman AbramovichFollowing the meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Abramovich, who has shuttled between Moscow, Lviv and other negotiating venues, as well as at least two senior members of the Ukrainian team developed symptoms that included red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands, the people said.

They blamed the suspected attack on hard-liners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Mr. Abramovich said it wasn’t clear who had targeted the group.

Mr. Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, have since improved and their lives aren’t in danger, the people said. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has met with Mr. Abramovich, wasn’t affected, they said. Mr. Zelensky’s spokesman said he had no information about any suspected poisoning.

\Western experts who looked into the incident said it was hard to determine whether the symptoms were caused by a chemical or biological agent or by some sort of electromagnetic-radiation attack, the people familiar with the matter said.

Read more at the WSJ. There was no paywall when I opened the link.

I’m going to end there so I can get this posted. What do you think about all this? What other stories are you following?