Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Good news about effectiveness of COVID Vaccines - and why you should get one now

Jonathon V. Last has this good news featured in “JVL - The Bulwark thetriad@substack.com”.

David Leonhardt at the NY Times explains why the COVID vaccines seem to be better than advertised:

  • The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — the only two approved in the U.S. — are among the best vaccines ever created, with effectiveness rates of about 95 percent after two doses. That’s on par with the vaccines for chickenpox and measles. And a vaccine doesn’t even need to be so effective to reduce cases sharply and crush a pandemic.
  • If anything, the 95 percent number understates the effectiveness, because it counts anyone who came down with a mild case of Covid–19 as a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu — as the vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent — is actually a success. Of the 32,000 people who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, do you want to guess how many contracted a severe Covid case? One… .

Did you get that? 1/32000

After asking Richterman [an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania] and others what a better public message might sound like, I was left thinking about something like this:

We should immediately be more aggressive about mask-wearing and social distancing because of the new virus variants. We should vaccinate people as rapidly as possible — which will require approving other Covid vaccines when the data justifies it.

People who have received both of their vaccine shots, and have waited until they take effect, will be able to do things that unvaccinated people cannot — like having meals together and hugging their grandchildren. But until the pandemic is defeated, all Americans should wear masks in public, help unvaccinated people stay safe and contribute to a shared national project of saving every possible life.

Read the whole thing but the big takeaway is that as soon as you are eligible for the vaccine, you should get it.

Scriber made his appointment today.

Monday, January 18, 2021

On his way out, Trump continues to destroy the GOP

Leaving behind the detritus of a once proud political party is not something to celebrate. What is left is the governmentally unserious Trumpism. Think January 6th.

Here are a couple of items from the print edition of the Daily Star.

After lying for years, Trump will leave legacy of ‘magical thinking’ opines Calvin Woodward. Scriber takes exception. That insults magic.

More seriously, also at the Daily Star, Fareed Zakaria asks “Has Trump finally pushed the GOP to the breaking point?” It does look that way. Read on.

NPR reviews Rick Wilson’s book In ‘Everything Trump Touches Dies,’ Few Are Spared. Trump has touched the GOP so deeply that the Republican party’s fractures may not be fixable.

His book is the story of a Republican Party whose shift towards Trumpism has left him furious, which he conveys with a biting, over-the-top writing style — a book he hopes is one “of a number of poison darts in the neck of the monster.”

Here is where that goes. Trumpist factions tearing apart the GOP writes Thomas Friedman.

Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out reports politico.com. “The craziness from the state Republican Party … it’s pretty embarrassing,” said a former top Republican official.

Excerpts follow.

The Trump era did more damage to the Republican Party in Arizona than almost anywhere else. Over the past two years, Republicans lost both Senate seats. In November, the state flipped Democratic in a presidential race for the first time since 1996. The GOP state party chair is currently at war with the governor.

President Donald Trump’s fingerprints are on all of it, yet the state party will likely pass a resolution next week to officially “support & thank” the president. It’ll also vote on measures to censure three prominent Republicans who were deemed insufficiently beholden to Trump: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the wife of the late senator.

The adulation is an expression of GOP grassroots loyalty to Trump, but it’s also a portrait of a party that’s run aground in service to him. His defeat has triggered attempts to adopt an even harder pro-Trump line, raising questions about the party’s ability to compete in an increasingly diverse state that’s edging leftward.

“The craziness from the state Republican Party … it’s pretty embarrassing,” said Kirk Adams, a former Republican state House speaker and former chief of staff to Ducey. “We have been fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and stolen election rhetoric and, really, QAnon theories from the state Republican Party since before the election, but certainly after.”

He said, “What’s … consequential is the effect the state Republican Party is having on the Republican brand in the state of Arizona.”

The fallout has been swift. Several thousand Arizona Republicans have abandoned the party since the U.S. Capitol riot that Trump helped to incite, with the majority of the defectors re-registering without a designated party, according to state elections officials. Business leaders are publicly recoiling from the GOP after party officials thrust Arizona into the center of Trump’s failed effort to overturn the election results, further dividing an already fractured party.

“Let us be clear: we find the weeks of disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election from the head of the Arizona Republican Party and some elected officials to be reprehensible,” read a full-page ad in The Arizona Republic this week from Greater Phoenix Leadership, a group of CEOs. “The political party organization and these elected officials, which some of us have supported in the past, have again embarrassed Arizona on a national stage.”

Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor, said “we’ve always had different members in different places on the spectrum and we’ve always had what you would call a hard right contingent. But here in the last few years we’ve seen that contingent come to the point now where they’re running the party apparatus.”

In that climate, Arizona Republicans who fail to toe the pro-Trump line are finding knives in their backs. …

Given the party’s losses, more traditionalist Republicans are appalled the state GOP had nothing better to do.

“So, the state party is picking fights with the standard-bearers of the party for no good reason other than to show an outgoing president that Kelli Ward has his back,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican political strategist in Arizona. “The Republican Party does need to have a bit of a reckoning with itself. Will it be the party that follows a demagogue, or will it be the party that follows conservative principles? And so far, some in the leadership apparatus have chosen demagoguery over conservative principles.”

For more, see AZ Blue Meanie’s post at Blog for Arizona The Time Is Now For Any Sane And Patriotic Republicans Left In The Party To Take Back The AZ GOP.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The January 6th riot exposes the traitors amongst us

In this post I tell a story about the January 6th attack on America in three parts, each featuring a target article. In the first part, as a case study we look at the involvement of one Representative. Then, in the second part, our view expands to cover the actions of multiple members of Congress. Finally, we expand our focus even much more broadly by examining the role of the president and the failure of his political party to constrain his baser impulses.

A case study of treachery

[There are a lot of good members of Congress. A few great ones. A bunch of dumb ones. And then there are the traitors. What in God’s name are they doing there?][expel] asks Molly Jong-Fast, Daily Beast Editor-At-Large.

There are 535 members of Congress. Some of them are great. A few of them (Louie Gohmert) are dumb as a box of rocks. And then some of them are real true traitors who need to be expelled.

Fully 139 Republican congresspeople objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win. In an ideal world, all of these people would be expelled. But it’s not an ideal world, and some of these members were just good Germans worried about a mean tweet. Are they cowards? Certainly, but they are not the nexus of the problem. It makes more sense for Democrats to focus on the rot in the center—the ooey gooey maggot-ridden core of the Coup Caucus.

It was Tuesday Jan. 12 when gun enthusiast Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado walked through Congress’ newly installed metal detectors and refused to allow the Capitol Police to search her bag. She caused a mini-fracas. Multiple Republican House members started refusing to be searched or refused to go through the metal detector at all. “I was physically restrained!” complained Arkansas Republican Steve Womack. Hell hath no fury like a congressional Republican forced to walk through a metal detector.

Boebert, a first-termer who pulled off a big upset in her primary, is famous for saying that she would bring her Glock to Congress and for her gun-themed restaurants where she once served “tainted pork sliders [that] poisoned dozens of attendees at a local rodeo, who came down with symptoms ranging from nausea to bloody diarrhea.” On the morning of the Capitol riots she tweeted “Today is 1776,” and then later that day she tweeted, “The speaker has been removed from the chamber.”

Later, Democratic Senator Brian Schatz tweeted, “We were specifically instructed by those protecting us not to tell anyone, including our family, where exactly we were, for reasons that remain obvious.” We don’t know what Boebert’s role in the riots was, but at best it was cheerleader, at worst it was something more sinister. How can this person be allowed to stay in Congress when she is very obviously a threat to her colleagues?


A widespread plot engineered by members of congress

That’s right. Plural! Boebert was just one of the traitors responsible for the riot. Congressmen from Arizona were complicit.

Evidence shows Republican leaders directed occupation of Capitol, and provided details for attack reports Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff.

On Tuesday evening, Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill indicated that some Republican legislators had been directly involved in helping insurgents plan the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. As all the pieces begin to fall together, it’s becoming clearer that Republican officials—from state and local party leaders to members of Congress—were not just involved in encouraging the insurrection through spreading lies about election fraud, but assisted the coup plotters with information on how to best go about causing harm. That includes how best to capture members of Congress considered enemies of Donald Trump.

Evidence is building up that Reps. Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar were directly involved in planning events on Jan. 6. Others, like Rep. Lauren Boebert, appear to have not just encouraged insurrection actors in their assault but provided real-time updates on the location of terrorist targets. Now, following Sherrill’s accusations that some Republicans had helped the insurrectionists by leading them on “reconnaissance” of the Capitol in advance of the assault, there appears to be more evidence that not only were insurgents provided with information on how best to carry out their assault, they were doing exactly what Republicans asked of them.

One day before insurgents took the Capitol and went in search of congressional hostages, that is exactly what Republican organizations across the nation told them to do. As Media Matters shows, multiple Republican organizations were directly calling on those attending the Jan. 6 event to “Occupy the Capitol.” That message came from organizations in (at least) Texas, Oregon, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The flyer passed around urging this occupation makes multiple references to 1776, a reference that was repeated by Boebert on Jan. 6.

As insurgents stormed the Capitol and roamed the halls, Boebert kept them updated with where to find members of Congress and specifically provided location information on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

For example, at 12:18 Boebert tweeted “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.”

And someone clearly provided even more detailed information, as can be seen in this video of insurgents both inside and outside the building coordinating to gain access to additional areas of the building. When some of those inside are confused about what happens next, a person from outside speaks through an opened window to tell them she has been there before and give details of a route to get access to Congressional offices. (Actual timestamp is 0:34.)

“Hey guys, I’ve been in the other room … in the other room on the other side of this door, there is a glass, that can be broken. You can drop down into a room underneath it. There are also two doors in the other room, one in the rear, and one on the right as you go in it. So, we should probably coordinate together if you’re going to take this building.”

GOP organizations were explicitly calling on those attending the rally to capture the Capitol. Boebert was assisting them in locating potential hostages. And these people had clearly been provided the information they needed to move through the building and bypass potential roadblocks in order to reach the House and Senate chambers.

This was a widespread plot that demands an extensive ongoing investigation.

The greatest traitor[s] of all

Michelle Goldberg, in the NY Times’ The Inevitable, exposes the culpability of the Republicans who supported and permitted Trump’s engagement with the violent right wing.

Thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large Sherry.


The House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report quotes, at length, the speech that Donald Trump gave to his devotees on Jan. 6 before many of them stormed the Capitol, baying for execution.

“We’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them,” said President Trump. He urged his minions to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the place where Congress was meeting to certify the election he lost: “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

A week later, Representative Cheney, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, would vote to get rid of him, joining nine of her fellow Republicans in backing impeachment. “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in a statement, adding, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Trump now becomes the first president in American history to be impeached twice. Half of all presidential impeachments since the Republic began have been impeachments of Trump. This latest impeachment is different than the first, and not just because it was bipartisan. It culminates a week in which Trump has finally faced the broad social pariahdom he’s always deserved.

When a mob incited by the president ransacked the Capitol, killing one policeman and pummeling others, it also tore down a veil. Suddenly, all but the most fanatical partisans admitted that Trump was exactly who his fiercest critics have always said he was.

Banks promised to stop lending to him. Major social media companies banned him. One of the Trump Organization’s law firms dropped it as a client. The coach of the New England Patriots rejected the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the P.G.A. pulled its namesake tournament from a Trump golf course. Universities revoked honorary degrees. Some of the country’s biggest corporations, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pledged to withhold donations from congressional enablers of his voter fraud fantasy. Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would end contracts with the Trump Organization to run two ice rinks and other concessions worth millions annually.

Trumpists often whine about being ostracized — Melania Trump being snubbed by Vogue seems a particular sore point — but watching all these institutions reject the president now is a reminder of how many didn’t do so earlier.

At the beginning of the president’s reign, I expected this moment of widespread repudiation to come quickly. But Trump survived the special counsel investigation. He survived his first impeachment. When he seemed poised to retain his political influence even after losing a presidential election, I despaired of a reckoning ever coming at all. “When this is all over, nobody will admit to ever having supported it,” David Frum tweeted in 2019. Two weeks ago, that seemed like wishful thinking.

There’s a bleak sort of relief in the arrival, after everything, of comeuppance. The question is whether it’s too late, whether the low-grade insurgency that the president has inspired and encouraged will continue to terrorize the country that’s leaving him behind.

“This was an armed violent rebellion at the very seat of government, and the emergency is not over,” Representative Jamie Raskin, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, told me. “So we have to use every means at our disposal to reassert the supremacy of constitutional government over chaos and violence.”

The siege of the Capitol wasn’t a departure for Trump, it was an apotheosis. For years, he’s been telling us he wouldn’t accept an election loss. For years, he’s been urging his followers to violence, refusing to condemn their violence, and insinuating that even greater violence was on the way. As he told Breitbart in 2019, in one of his characteristic threats, “I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Jan. 6 wasn’t even the first time Trump cheered an armed siege of an American capitol; he did that last spring when gun-toting anti-lockdown activists stormed the Michigan statehouse. Later, after news emerged of a plot to kidnap and publicly execute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Trump said, “I mean, we’ll have to see if it’s a problem. Right? People are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t.”

It is shocking that Trump didn’t act when Congress could have faced a mass hostage-taking, or worse. It is not surprising.

Throughout his presidency, Republicans pretended not to hear what the president was saying. For the last few months, Republican election officials in Georgia have spoken with mounting desperation of being barraged with death threats as a result of Trump’s ceaseless lies about the election, but national Republicans did little to restrain him. There was no exodus away from the president and his brand when, during the debates, he refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power and told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

The far right took heart from the president’s winks and nods, retweets and outright displays of support. “Donald Trump, ever since his campaign, throughout his four years in office, has done nothing but pander to these people,” Daryl Johnson, a former senior intelligence analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, told me.

Now a private security consultant, Johnson was caught in a political tempest during the Obama administration, when, at D.H.S., he wrote a report warning of a “resurgence in right-wing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity,” including efforts to recruit veterans. Republicans were apoplectic, seeing the report as an effort to brand conservatives as potential terrorists. Johnson’s unit was disbanded and he left government.

Under Trump, political pressure on federal law enforcement to ignore the far right would only grow. After a white supremacist killed 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, Dave Gomez, a former F.B.I. supervisor overseeing terrorism cases, told The Washington Post that the agency was “hamstrung” in trying to investigate white nationalists. “There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base,” said Gomez.

The violent far right appears to have been emboldened by the experience of being treated as valued constituents. “The problem existed before him, but it’s really flourished even more under his administration,” Johnson said of Trump.

This is a departure from previous patterns, Johnson said: Right-wing extremist activity usually abates during Republican administrations, when conservatives feel less existentially threatened. But Trump kept the far right’s paranoia and sense of grievance at a constant boil, and gave them permission to act. The people at the Capitol who said they were there because the president wanted them to be weren’t necessarily delusional.

But there’s no reason to believe that the threat will recede when Trump is gone. Johnson believes it’s going to get worse, and he’s not alone. A recent federal intelligence bulletin warns, “Amplified perceptions of fraud surrounding the outcome of the General Election and the change in control of the Presidency and Senate,” along with fear of what the new administration has in store, will “very likely will lead to an increase in DVE violence.” DVE stands for “domestic violent extremists.”

Already, Washington looks like a war zone. Joe Biden’s inauguration next week will be closed to the public. Representative Peter Meijer, one of the 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment, said on MSNBC that he and some of his colleagues are buying body armor: “Our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”

The end of Trump’s presidency has shaken American stability as even 9/11 did not, and that’s before you factor in around 4,000 people a day dying of Covid–19.

Making Trump face consequences for trying to overturn the election will not, by itself, stop the disorder he’s instigated. But it may be a precondition for making the country governable. “The time to stop tyrants and despots is when you first see them breaking from the demands of law,” said Raskin. Trump, he said, “has been indulged and protected for so long by some of his colleagues that he brought us to the brink of hell in the Capitol of the United States.”

An animating irony of Trumpism — one common among authoritarians — is that it revels in lawlessness while glorifying law and order. “This is the central contradiction-slash-truth of authoritarian regimes,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an N.Y.U. historian and the author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.” She cited Mussolini’s definition of fascism as a “revolution of reaction.” Fascism had a radical impulse to overturn the existing order, “to liberate extremism, lawlessness, but it also claims to be a reaction to bring order to society.”

The same is true of Trump’s movement. Central to Trump’s mystique is that he breaks rules and gets away with it. To reassert the rule of law, said Ben-Ghiat, “showing the world that he cannot in fact get away with it” is crucial.

That is part of the work of the second impeachment. This impeachment may be as much a burden for Democrats as for Republicans; a Senate trial would surely postpone some of the urgent business of the Biden administration. It has gone forward because Democrats had no choice if they wanted to defend our increasingly fragile system of government.

The very fact that Raskin will lead the prosecution of Trump in the Senate is a sign of the solemnity with which Democrats are approaching it. As you’ve perhaps read by now, Raskin recently suffered the most gutting loss imaginable. Tormented by depression, his 25-year-old son, “a radiant light in this broken world,” as Raskin and his wife wrote in a eulogy, took his own life on Dec. 31, “the last hellish brutal day of that godawful miserable year of 2020.”

Raskin buried his son on Jan. 5, the day before he went to the Capitol to count the electoral vote. His youngest daughter didn’t want him to go; he felt he had to be there but invited her and his other daughter’s husband to come with him. When the mob breached the building, Raskin was on the House floor, and his daughter and son-in-law were in an office with his chief of staff. “The kids were hiding under a desk,” he said. “They had pushed as much furniture as they could up against the door, but people were banging at the door.”

That day, Raskin began working with his colleagues to draft both an article of impeachment and a resolution calling on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.

I asked him why, after all he’s endured, he wanted to lead the effort to bring Trump to trial. “I’ve devoted my life and career to the defense of our democracy and our people,” said Raskin, who was a constitutional law professor before he was a congressman. Then he said: “My son is in my heart, and in my chest I feel him every day. And Tommy was a great lover of human freedom and democracy and he would want me to be doing whatever I’m asked to do to defend democracy against chaos and fascism.”

It is not yet clear who Raskin will be up against. Prominent law firms have refused to represent Trump in his postelection legal fights, and Bloomberg News reports that lawyers who have defended the president in the past don’t want to do so anymore. For four years, as Trump has brought ever more havoc and hatred to this country, many have wondered what it would take to dent his impunity. The answer appears to be twofold: Committing sedition, and losing power.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Shed no tears for Trump's post-presidency misery

On the other hand, Donald the Denier is incapable of recognizing reality. But can he finally come to grips with his own failures?

In the Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin explains how Trump’s future looks rotten.

Thanks to our Editor-at-Large Sherry.


President Trump faces a horrid future. He is the first U.S. president in history to be impeached twice; he lost the popular vote twice; he lost both the House and Senate for his party; and more than 383,000 Americans have died from covid–19 on his watch. He has clearly sewn up the title of “worst president ever.” If found guilty by a soon-to-be Democratic-controlled Senate, he will be unable to run for office again and may lose his post-presidential benefits (e.g., salary, travel allowance). But that is far from his biggest worry.

Trump may be sued civilly or charged criminally for tax avoidance or other financial crimes that state prosecutors in New York are investigating. Depending on the charges, he could face significant fines or even imprisonment. (Trump has maintained that he has done nothing improper.)

Speaking of finances, Trump reportedly has more than $400 million in loans coming due. However, his banks are cutting ties. Deutsche Bank, which holds about $340 million of the debt, and Signature Bank do not want to do business with him. It is far from clear what lender is going to take him on as a client. He might need help from his overseas authoritarian friends.

Trump may also face a federal criminal investigation for seeking to change election results in Georgia during two phone calls with state election officials — one of which was recorded. In addition to potential federal crimes for election offenses, prosecutors will need to look at whether his vague threat of criminal liability in his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger qualified as extortion.

That was all before we got to his Jan. 6 activities. Federal investigators and the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., as well as senior Justice Department officials will need to determine whether there is a basis to charge Trump with incitement to riot or conspiracy to commit sedition. They will look not simply at Trump’s remarks that day, but also his tweet calling for “wild” protests in the capital, his rhetoric after the election and his conduct during the siege, when he failed to issue a clear, unequivocal directive for his people to stand down. (That the president managed to issue a statement on the day of his second impeachment proactively calling for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind” makes his hours-long silence on Jan. 6 look even worse.)

Beyond criminal liability, Trump could surely be sued by the relatives of those killed or injured in the siege, or to cover the costs incurred to repair damage. He cannot be sued for “official conduct,” but leading a riot to overturn an election will be difficult to slot into the category of “official duties,” to put it mildly. It was a continuation of his campaign intended to give him a second term, not to effectuate any policy or interest during his existing term.

Even on the slim chance that Trump is never charged with any crime and manages to escape all civil liability, he will be deeply in debt (his original debt plus any costs to defend himself in court). He will also be a social and business pariah, banned from social media and unwelcome in most democratic countries. It is not clear how many people are going to pay to belong to a seditionist’s Mar-a-Lago Club or stay at any of his properties.

One can surely understand why the prospect of losing was so terrifying for him — aside from the humiliation. Quite simply, he faces a miserable post-presidency.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

'A lot of damage'

Here are concluding paragraphs from the [January 13, 2021 edition] of Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson.

In the next week, Trump Republicans might be able to convince Americans that holding Republican insurrectionists responsible for their actions is Democratic overreaction. In that case, the Republicans can avoid taking a stand either for or against Trump while they turn this moment into a referendum on the Democrats just as they take power in the national government. They are running this play headlong, complaining bitterly, for example, about the new metal detectors installed at the entrance to the House chamber– even as National Guard personnel patrolled the Capitol to protect them– and complaining about “censorship” to television cameras after Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube removed QAnon accounts and Trump’s accounts.

It could also be that, as more information comes out, the story will get even worse, and it will be easier for senators to vote to convict, especially once Trump is out of office. Yesterday’s briefings by the FBI and acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin gave notice that the evolving story of what happened on January 6 will be shocking and could well involve figures in government. More than 30 House Democrats have called attention to an unusual number of Capitol tours held on January 5, at a time when coronavirus restrictions have largely ended tours. Those tours, combined with the fact that the insurrectionists appeared to have a detailed knowledge of the Capitol complex, have led to suspicions that some members of Congress might have offered aid to the rioters.

A sign that there is something big still hanging out there came tonight in the form of a taped video by Trump himself, emphasizing that he disavowed violence and defending the right to free speech protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It sounded like a charge and a defense. To release such a video means he must be worried indeed about his legal exposure.

Another sign is that virtually no one in the White House tried to defend Trump from today’s impeachment. There were no talking points, no briefings, no interviews, no calls to lawmakers. Even White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who defended the president at his first impeachment last year, wanted people to know he was not defending him this time.

Furious and isolated, Trump is lashing out at those he blamed for getting him into this mess. He has told aides that he wants personally to approve any expenses his lawyer Rudy Giuliani ran up as he traveled around the country to challenge election results, and he has told them not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees.

Trump had largely given up governing after the election anyway, but now our government seems to be operating haphazardly. Today, Israeli warplanes hit Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions in Syria. Israeli forces are often active in this area, but this was the hardest attack in years, hitting missiles recently brought to the area and killing around 40 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted Trump to pressure Iran before he left office, and this strike seems intended to demonstrate a U.S.-Israeli partnership against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, made this message obvious by being seen together Monday at CafĂ© Milano in Washington, D.C., a restaurant the Washington Post described as “Washington’s ultimate place to see and be seen.”

Also yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced new coronavirus vaccine schedule guidelines, as the U.S. reported 4,327 deaths from Covid–19. In the first 13 days of 2021, we have seen more than 3 million new infections. More than 23 million Americans have been infected so far.

Almost exactly a year ago, on January 23, 2020, Adam Schiff urged Senate Republicans to convict Trump for abusing his power and obstructing Congress, and to remove him from office. “Now,” he said, “you may be asking how much damage can he really do in the next several months until the election?

“A lot,” Schiff said. “A lot of damage.”

Militant America - hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.

Not to frighten you or anything ….

The morning news, e.g., Good Morning America, reports militants planning for a “week of siege” leading up to the inauguration.

In the Triad/Bulwark Jonathon V. Last looks ahead to the implications of the January 6th riot. Is it one prelude to more serious conflict?

A couple months ago I linked to a bracing Mike Giglio story about militias in America. He has another great one and I want to talk about it. Here’s his lede:

I spent the last year talking with people from militant groups on the American right and always driving toward the same question: And then what? You’re armed and trained and linked up with your outfit. And then what? You’re ready to stand up to the leftist mob or defend Donald Trump from the inevitable attempt to steal the election. And then what? You’ll fight if you have to. OK, and then what?

I keep pushing down this path because in the end, it leads to war and I want to have a discussion about what that means. Because I hope that behind all the prepping and posturing from that side — and the level 11 hysteria that pervades America generally — we all realize that we’re comfortable and fat and free, and that real war means your house will get wrecked and your kids or your neighbor or the cashier you trade hellos with at your fully stocked supermarket will die. My fear is not that some people somewhere will start a real conflict intentionally, having first grappled with the consequences of that and thought it all through, but that they’ll keep taking that next step toward one without ever understanding what they’re really asking for.

Okay. So far, so bad. But then things take a turn for the even worse:

Not long after Kelly Loeffler announced on the Senate floor that, thanks to the riot, she’d changed her mind about challenging the election result, I received a flurry of texts about it from a Georgia militia leader named Justin Thayer. He’d run “security” at a Loeffler rally over the summer as the Senate’s wealthiest member pandered to pro-gun hard-liners during her failed campaign, but told me defiantly that he’d no longer be backing her.

He was at the Capitol but hadn’t gone inside because of the lack of planning; he said it could easily have turned into “a kill box.”

“So what’s next?”

“Pray and prepare for the 20th.”

“Any plans or just watching the inauguration on TV?”

“We will be there.” …

In October, I was talking with a longtime member of the militant movement who says he’s a veteran of the elite special operations community. This is an older but still formidable man has always been genial with me. We were talking about the upcoming election and his conviction that there would be massive fraud when he changed his tone and veered off into a very dark place. “What ultimately happens is some people stand with Trump and some people stand against the country. Some people stand with the coup, some people stand against the coup, and nobody stands with the law or morality at that point, and that’s where the war begins,” he said. “When we actually get involved, we’re going to kill Democrats, liberals, and communists at a rate that will defy anything that’s occurred in history, and when that happens, we’re going to make sure that it’s done so thoroughly that we don’t ever have to have this argument again. … It’s going to be so ugly and ruthless. … We’re going to go to the homes of the tank operators [who would be called in to put down an insurrection] and kill their wives and their children and nail them to the walls.”

I told him I didn’t believe him. I still don’t believe him. But I’ve been thinking about what he said. And I’ve been calling him since the election with no answer.

Read the whole thing.

This is why the lie is what matters. These militias have been told—not just by Alex Jones, but by the president of the United States, and the Republican minority leader in the House, and hundreds of other “responsible” mainstream figures—that they are the good guys trying to preserve American democracy from an illegal coup.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Corporate political donors rethink - and revise - their political giving

‘An Epiphany Moment’ for Corporate Political Donors May Have Arrived. As companies put their donations to candidates on hold, they should reassess political giving entirely, making the halt permanent. Andrew Ross Sorkin reports at the NY Times.

As companies from Coca-Cola to Amazon to Citigroup appear to be tripping over one another to declare that they are “pausing” or “reassessing” donations to Republicans who sought to overturn the election — and, in some cases, suspending giving to both parties — they might want to look at a company that didn’t say anything.

That company is IBM.

It didn’t need to issue a mea culpa for a simple reason. It doesn’t donate to candidates on either side of the aisle — at all, ever.

IBM is one of only a handful of large companies in the United States that are not involved in direct political giving to candidates. It has no political action committee. Even when it gives money to trade groups, it restricts its money from being funneled to candidates.

It was a policy put in place more than a century ago by Thomas J. Watson, the founding father of the modern IBM.

"We should not use IBM time, money or materials for political purposes,” Mr. Watson’s son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., wrote in an internal memo in 1968, when he was chief executive, reflecting his father’s policy. The company “should not try to function as a political organization in any way,” he wrote.

As other companies pause their donations to candidates via corporate PACs, they should consider making their halt permanent.

The public views these news releases not necessarily as responsible political participation but as evidence — receipts — of a corrupt system. The donations directed by a corporate PAC undermine the credibility of the company and the politician taking it. The money is seen as a bribe for legislation, and the legislation is seen as a favor in return for money.

The companies speaking out in recent days — American Express, Facebook, Marriott and Morgan Stanley, to name a few more — may deserve credit for pulling back from political donations amid accusations that some funded sedition. A genuine example of leadership would be to go even further and declare that they will get out of the business of political donations completely.

More from the NY Times article …

And lots of details about corporate political expenditures in this post by Judd Legum at popular.info.

After riot, major corporations suspend donations to the Republican Attorneys General Association . Many corporations are reducing or terminating their PAC contributions. But lots more companies making such donations have yet to weigh in.