Thursday, December 30, 2021

If you thought that 2021 sucked, try 2022

Jonathan V. Last, writing in The Bulwark, explains how Next Year Will Be Worse.

Because.

The five things you need to understand about 2022.

(1) Nearly 1 million COVID deaths by mid-April.
(2) The fate of Roe impacts the midterms less than we think.
(3) Republicans pick up > 50 seats in the House and take the Senate.
(4) Kevin McCarthy becomes speaker of the House.
(5) Good things happen, I guess.

JVL expands on #5.

I’m sure many nice things will happen in 2022. That’s the thing about regime collapses: Even while the government is falling, people still get married and have kids and go out to bars and watch TV.

I keep coming back to this essay by Indi Samarajiva:

I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner… .

As someone who’s already experienced societal breakdown, here’s the truth: America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse… .

As Colombo kids we used to go out, worry about money, fall in love — life went on. We’d pop the trunk for a bomb check. Turn off our lights for the air raids. I’m not saying that we were untouched. My friend’s dad was killed, suddenly, by a landmine. RIP Uncle Nihal. I know people who were beaten, arrested, and went into exile. But that’s not what my photostream looks like. It was mostly food and parties and normal stuff for a dumb twenty-something… .

If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like “this is it,” I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” …

Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all.

So yes, lots of good, normal things will happen in 2022. But none of that will change the basic trajectory this country is on.

We have a major political party which is now explicitly anti-democratic. In 2024, this party will have the support of at least 44 percent of voters. This level of support might be enough to win a legitimate victory via the Electoral College. But if not, this party is openly preparing a series of novel legal maneuvers to seize the executive branch through alternative means.

This is the backdrop of 2022: A period of procession on the way to a showdown which will either uphold or overturn America’s democratic order.

Happy New Year.

I know that this isn’t a nice message. But it’s the truth. And truth is what we [at the Lincoln Project and Bulwark] do here.

collapse:I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There. Living in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war, I saw how life goes on, surrounded by death.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Liz Cheney on 'path to saving America's constitutional democracy'

Liz Cheney is going for the jugular. It may be the only way out.

So writes Kerry Eleveld of the Daily Kos Staff.

BEGIN QUOTE

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack, is acting with the urgency of a woman whose days may be numbered. As she stares down the political headwinds of Donald Trump’s fury, Cheney’s political future is undoubtedly in jeopardy.

But the lion’s share of her efforts aren’t consumed with trying to save her seat in the House of Representatives. Instead, Cheney is directing every ounce of her firepower at revealing Trump’s crimes against the republic in order to neutralize him as a national political force. She may or may not succeed, but she clearly believes it’s the only path to saving America’s constitutional democracy. As for retaining her seat, that’s secondary. Cheney knows a win in 2022 would be nothing more than a short-term blip if Trump is left unchecked to savage the country’s future.

What some political observers seem to have missed is that Cheney’s audience isn’t so much the American people, it’s the Department of Justice. Sure, she’s a staunch conservative and daughter of a former vice president taking aim at the de facto head of her own party, which should conceivably be front page news in outlets across the country. But no matter how much smoking-gun evidence Cheney and the Jan. 6 committee uncover, the Fox News crowd and YouTube rabbitholers are dead to the factual world. Their views will never change, and roughly two-thirds of them are still convinced Trump was the rightful winner in 2020, despite his year-long drought of producing a single shred of evidence to back his claim. Frankly, Cheney doesn’t have the luxury of time to waste on a bunch of brain dead zombies.

Instead, Cheney made her goals perfectly clear this week, signaling that the committee would produce the evidence necessary to find Trump, and perhaps several of his co-conspirators, criminally liable for violating felony statute 18 U.S. Code § 1512. To that end, Cheney used every public platform available to her this week to lay the groundwork for her case.

At Monday’s hearing on whether to hold former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt, Cheney said Meadows’ testimony was critical to answering this question: “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?”

As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, Cheney’s language mirrors that of the statute, which states, “Whoever corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

Throughout the week, Cheney also pounded on Trump’s three hours of inaction while his shock troops stormed the Capitol in search of his political opponents and disloyal Republicans—chief among them Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his own vice president, Mike Pence.

“For 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act,” Cheney said during another hearing on Tuesday. “Let’s let that sink in, Madam Speaker. He refused to act when action by our president was required, it was essential, and it was compelled by his oath to our Constitution.”

Cheney very memorably read aloud multiple texts sent to Meadows by Fox News personalities, Trump’s own family members, and Republican members of Congress—all urgently pleading with the White House insider to convince Trump to call off the dogs. In other words, those closest to Trump knew exactly who had incited the deadly attack on the U.S. seat of government and who had the singular power to put an end to the siege.

“All urged the president take action because they understood that the President of the United States had a responsibility to call off the mob,” Cheney explained. “Hours passed, despite this, without any action by the president. All of these texts are non-privileged, they are texts that Mr. Meadows has turned over. And they are evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty for 187 minutes."

Cheney’s choice to feature the texts from Trump’s Fox News allies followed by the anonymous texts from GOP members was a masterful manipulation of the press. The discrepancy between the Fox hosts desperate pleas to Meadows and their on-air coverage of Jan. 6 was irresistible for reporters, as was the intrigue surrounding which GOP members communicated with Meadows that day.

But again, justice is Cheney’s real goal, not scoring political points.

Liz Cheney’s politics are abhorrent to any self-respecting Democrat and liberal. But she is dead right about one thing: Trump committed a crime against the United States, and he must be held to account by the nation’s justice system. This isn’t political, it’s criminal, and nothing short of American democracy is on the line.

What Cheney clearly knows is that she is in a race against time to complete her mission—amassing enough damning evidence by next year’s midterms to leave the Justice Department no choice but to ultimately investigate and prosecute a former commander-in-chief of the United States of America.

If special counsel Robert Mueller was the Boy Scout who disappointed, Cheney just might be the killer who delivers.

END QUOTE

Friday, December 24, 2021

Be careful about what we ask for - especially when it comes to the military and insurrection

Heather Cox Richardson provides an update to the Jan 6 investigations in the December 23, 2021 edition of Letters from an American.

BEGIN QUOTE

Tonight the Washington Post reported that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is weighing possible criminal referral for former president Trump, focusing on the 187 minutes between Trump’s urging his supporters to march on the Capitol and the video he finally released telling them to stop.

During that period, Trump was inundated with text messages and phone calls begging him to call off his supporters. Famously, when then–House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urged Trump to stop the violence, then-president Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told Washington Post reporters Tom Hamburger, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Matt Zapotosky that the committee is interested in why the president delayed more than three hours before intervening. He reiterated that the committee wants to know if Trump was derelict in his duty and whether he criminally obstructed Congress from counting the certified ballots: interfering with an official proceeding is a crime.

The House can make a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, but that referral has no legal effect and is generally intended to inform the Justice Department of something it doesn’t know. The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a statement after the House’s referral of Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for criminal contempt of Congress: “As with all criminal referrals, we will evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.”

Thompson said the committee is especially interested in the multiple videos Trump recorded before he finally got one his team felt it could release. The earlier ones were unacceptable because he would not say what was needed to calm the rioting, and the committee wants to hear what is in them.

It seems to me there is also something very odd about that video, in that it appears to have been shot outside the White House at a time when the Capitol was under attack and the next three people in the line of succession to the presidency were all inside the besieged building. The fact that Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were all in the same building was unusual by itself, and that they were under attack together was unprecedented. Even aside from normal procedures, with the line of succession in such danger, why wasn’t the president himself in a secure location, rather than outside the White House recording multiple takes of a video?

It seems so odd to me, I feel like I must be missing something obvious.

The multiple videos are among the materials the January 6th committee has subpoenaed from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Trump has sued to block NARA from complying with the subpoena, saying it violates executive privilege, although it’s the actual president, not a former president, who can invoke executive privilege and President Joe Biden has refused to in this case. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan denied Trump’s request for a preliminary injunction, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld that decision on December 9.

This morning, Trump appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, continuing to assert that he has the right to invoke executive privilege over the materials in order to protect the office of the president. Later in the day, Thompson asked the court to move quickly on Trump’s request, suggesting it should decide by January 14.

Trump’s video of 4:17 p.m. on January 6 is under consideration for another reason, too.

One of the big questions about January 6 is why it took the National Guard more than three hours to get to the Capitol after the Capitol Police had called for help. On Tuesday, Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix of Just Security published a deeply researched article suggesting that the Pentagon was concerned that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which gives the president the power to use the military, including National Guard troops, to stop civil disorder or insurrection. Goodman and Hendrix suggest that military leaders worried Trump would use troops deployed to the Capitol in order to hold onto power, and they note that the Pentagon did not let the National Guard deploy until after Trump released the video telling supporters to go home.

While observers have attributed the Pentagon’s reluctance to let the guard help either to bureaucratic inefficiency or to a deliberate effort to help Trump, the idea that Pentagon leaders were concerned about Trump trying to use the military to keep him in office lines up with other things we know about that period.

Military leaders spoke out against the actions of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley on June 1, 2020, when they walked next to Trump to St. John’s Episcopal Church after soldiers had cleared protesters from Lafayette Square. Both Esper and Milley apologized publicly, with Milley saying: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

The concern that Trump had plans for using the military to keep himself in power only grew after we learned that on June 1, Trump’s aides had drafted an order to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy thousands of troops in Washington, D.C. Then–attorney general William Barr, Esper, and Milley objected and talked him out of it, and from then on, military leaders were vocal about their loyalty to the Constitution rather than to any particular leader.

Immediately after losing the election, Trump fired Esper (by tweet), and Barr resigned on December 23, 2020, so they were no longer there to object should he try again to invoke the Insurrection Act. He and his supporters, including Alex Jones of InfoWars and one-time national security advisor Michael Flynn—both of whom have been subpoenaed by the January 6th committee—repeatedly suggested he could declare martial law to hold a new election or to stop Biden from taking office.

On January 3, all ten living defense secretaries were concerned enough that they published a joint op-ed in the Washington Post, reminding Americans that “[e]fforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

On January 5, Trump asked acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to have 10,000 National Guard troops ready for the January 6 rally, and Meadows wrote in an email that the National Guard would “protect pro Trump people.”

Goodman and Hendrix make a strong case that Trump and his loyalists were at least considering using the excuse of chaos at the Capitol—as we know, they expected counter-protesters to show up, and appear to have expected violence—to invoke the Insurrection Act and prevent the counting of the certified ballots by force.

END QUOTE

Biden earns praise from Trump

It finally happened: Trump praises something Biden said. Joe Biden gave his predecessor partial credit for vaccine development. Donald Trump was “very appreciative” — and “surprised”.

BEGIN QUOTE

President Joe Biden spoke at some length at the White House this week, delivering remarks about the Covid–19 crisis, the omicron variant, and the ongoing efforts to end the pandemic. There was one part of his speech, however, that proved to be more significant than was obvious at the time.

“Let me be clear: Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” the president said. “And thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a rollout that made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms.”

None of this seemed especially novel. The safe, effective, and free vaccines were developed during a Republican administration, and distributed to Americans during a Democratic administration. It’s likely that Biden made the comment as a reminder to those who refuse to get vaccinated that there’s no real political reason to put themselves at risk.

But for Donald Trump, Biden’s rhetoric was apparently an important development. As The Hill reported, the Republican told Fox News this week how much he welcomed the acknowledgement from the incumbent president.

“I’m very appreciative of that — I was surprised to hear it,” Trump told Fox News. “I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy.” … “I think he did something very good,” Trump said. “You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot.”

In the same on-air appearance, Trump added, “When we came up with these incredible vaccines … we did a tremendous job, and we should never disparage them. We should be really happy about it because we’ve all saved millions and millions of lives all over the world.”

There’s ample evidence of a political gap when it comes to Americans and vaccinations: Democrats are more likely than Republicans to protect themselves from the deadly virus. That’s what makes Trump’s rhetoric potentially important in a public health context: The more he says positive things about Covid–19 vaccines, the more likely it is that conservative holdouts will eventually do the right thing.

In fact, I suspect that Biden would give the Trump administration partial credit for helping develop the vaccines every day if it meant his predecessor would appear in conservative media and say constructive things about the single most powerful tool we have in ending the crisis.

Congratulations, Mr. President. You’ve finally said something your predecessor liked.

END QUOTE

The difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is

… a dog.

Or two.

David Rothkopf writing at the Daily Beast observes that We Have a President Who Loves Dogs—and Not a Minute Too Soon. Almost every president has had a pet, and the ones who have not suggest that someone who can’t care for an animal has no business leading the nation.

BEGIN QUOTE

A major controversy hit Joe Biden this week, as the White House dog was “rehomed” and a bouncy, young replacement, Commander, moved into the First Doghouse.

Farewell, Major. If it is any consolation to you, two House impeachment committees voted to rehome the last human elected to live in the White House, a man who did a lot more damage than simply nipping at visitors. He was far from being a very good boy and you are one, so we wish you well in your new life.

That said, we have to admit that Commander is cute. I mean real, real cute in that way that bounding, loose-jointed, rabbit-eared, endlessly optimistic, furniture-chewing, ball-chasing German shepherd puppies so often are. And we are pleased to be reminded yet again that our current president, the most powerful man in the world, is at his very core, a dog person.

The last occupant of the White House famously did not like dogs. And he was a dick. Those two facts are not unrelated. It does not mean that if you do not like dogs you will end up being the most corrupt president in American history or a racist, sex-abusing coup-plotter. It’s just more likely.

Living with a dog requires something crucial that Donald Trump did not have: empathy. You see, dogs can’t talk. They communicate all the time. But not with words. So, to care for them, to enjoy them, to get to know them, you have to be attentive to the clues they give you, their moods, their expressions, the way they lick their chops when they want a treat. And people who take the time to connect with animals are much more likely to be able to do the same with humans, to feel compassion, tenderness, and appreciation for other lives.

Biden is one of those people. In fact, the qualities that make him want to, need to, share his home with his dogs are precisely the same as those that led many to choose him over Trump.

They are the kind of qualities that we value in friends and colleagues. They are the kind that we celebrate at this time of year. They are the kind that seem especially important in the Washington of today, when the Joe Manchins of this world kick the needy and hungry children of America to the curb to serve their greed-driven, discredited, hypocritical, immoral agendas. (It turns out a lump of Santa’s coal has nothing on the lump of Big Coal Manchin just put in our stockings.)

Of course, having a dog is not a guarantee that a president will be a person of character. Nixon had Checkers, after all—also a Yorkie, a poodle and an Irish setter. In fact, almost all presidents have had dogs. Washington is considered not only the father of our country but also of a breed of dogs he helped create, the American foxhound. Jefferson, as you might expect, chose to focus on a French breed, the Briard. Franklin Roosevelt had a famous pup named Fala who received his own fan mail and also eight others… including a German shepherd named Major.

Not having a dog or any kind of furry friend, however, is a warning sign. Other than Trump, only two previous presidents had no pets while in office. One was Andrew Johnson, who Trump aspired to emulate and who, like Trump, was impeached and disgraced and refused to attend his successor’s inauguration. The other was James K. Polk, best known for starting the Mexican-American War (something Trump always hoped he might do.)

In the interest of animal equity, I should note that other presidential pets have included cats (Lincoln, Hayes, McKinley, Wilson, Coolidge, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), horses (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Tyler, Taylor, Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, Arthur, Kennedy), ponies (Taylor, Fillmore, Grant, Kennedy) and donkeys (Washington, Coolidge). They’ve included many kinds of birds including parrots (Washington, Madison, Jackson, McKinley), mockingbirds (Jefferson, Cleveland), canaries (John Tyler, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Kennedy), an eagle (Buchanan), a turkey (Lincoln), fighting roosters (Jackson, McKinley), songbirds (Wilson, Coolidge), a goose (Coolidge), ducks (Kennedy), parakeets (Eisenhower, Kennedy), lovebirds (Johnson), and a yellowbird (Coolidge).

Presidential menageries have also included: grizzly bear cubs (Jefferson), silkworms (John Quincy Adams), alligators (John Quincy Adams, B. Harrison), tiger cubs (Martin Van Buren), cows (William Henry Harrison, William Howard Taft, Bush 43), goats (William Henry Harrison, Lincoln, Benjamin Harrison), rabbits (Lincoln, Arthur, Kennedy), opossums (B. Harrison, Hoover), a ram (Wilson), sheep (Wilson), a squirrel (Harding), a raccoon (Coolidge), a bobcat (Coolidge), lions (Coolidge), a pygmy hippo (Coolidge), a wallaby (Coolidge), a duiker (Coolidge), a black bear (Coolidge), and hamsters (Kennedy, Johnson).

And then there’s Teddy Roosevelt, who had guinea pigs, ponies, a hen, a lizard, a macaw, a garter snake, a black bear, a rat, a badger, a pig, a rabbit, cats, a laughing hyena, an owl and a one-legged rooster—in addition to his many dogs.

I’m not saying that having an alligator or grizzly bears around the house will necessarily improve a president’s non-verbal communications skills, but it couldn’t hurt. And when it comes to dogs, the reality is they are not just our pets, they are, as my wife, Carla, likes to point out, our teachers. They teach us to look for clues about how others feel. They remind us to prioritize our responsibility to others. In fact, day-in and day-out they offer us countless lessons.

For example, Carla, who is the gifted dog whisperer who introduced me to life with a dog, and who often lectures and teaches in universities (not about dogs) often will ask students looking for clues about how to live life, “What’s your ball? What is the thing you naturally run after, that means everything to you? That is what you should focus on in life.”

Our dog, Grizzly, an 85-pound rescue from Texas, has been teaching me since the moment he first arrived in our life, three years ago. For sure I’m a better me when I am around that tender beast even if I do not fully appreciate that fact when walking him on a bitterly cold winter morning. But even then, I can learn from him. For example, this morning I watched him and thought to myself, if only I thought as carefully about the choices I make in life as he does deciding where to poop.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that there was no room in his heart for any other creature, regardless of species. Hence his attacks as president on nature herself, his putting children in cages, tossing paper towels to hurricane victims, and on and on. I wonder in retrospect if the White House was petless not so much because that president did not care to have a dog but because no self-respecting dog would care to have anything to do with him.

So, it is a grace note to this holiday season, that among the dark stories of our moment, we have one that reminds of yet another crucial difference between this fundamentally good man who is our president and the one who was in office just one short year ago, spending a dogless Christmas plotting an attack on our democracy.

END QUOTE

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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Why the public does not give President Biden credit for a strong economy

In her December 22, 2021 edition of Letters from an American , Heather Cox Richardson considers the discsrepancy between the outstanding performance of Biden’s economy and his disapproval by the American public.

To that public, as a friend of mine would say, “What is wrong with you?”

The answer is in the constant misinformation by the Trumpies and Trumpets conveyed through the media. Read on.

BEGIN QUOTE

Year-end accounts of the U.S. economy are very strong indeed. According to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal—which are certainly not giddy media outlets—U.S. economic output has jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (which is made up of the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%.

The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”

In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; today it has dropped to 4.2%. This means the Biden administration has created 4.1 million jobs, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined. Wages in America are growing at about 4% a year, compared with less than 1% a year in the eurozone, as worker shortages and strikes at places like Deere & Co. (which makes John Deere products) and Kellogg’s are pushing wages up and as states increase minimum wages.

The American Rescue Plan, passed by Democrats in March without a single Republican vote, cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. More than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured have gotten healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million. When Biden took office, about 46% of schools were open; currently the rate is 99%. In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it.

Support for consumers has bolstered U.S. companies, which are showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies have reduced their debt, which has translated to a strong stock market.

The American economy is the strongest it’s been in decades, with the U.S. leading the world in economic growth…so why on earth do 54% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy (according to a CNN/SSRS poll released yesterday)?

That disapproval comes partly from inflation, which in November was at 6.8%, the highest in 39 years, but inflation is high around the world as we adjust to post-pandemic reopening. Gas prices, which created an outcry a few weeks ago, have come down significantly. Patrick De Haan, an oil and refined products analyst at GasBuddy, an app to find cheap gas prices, tweeted today that average gas prices have fallen under $3 a gallon in 12 states and that in 36 U.S. cities, prices have fallen by more than $0.25 a gallon in the past 30 days. Falling prices reflect skyrocketing gasoline inventories.

Respondents also said they were upset by disruptions in the supply chain. But in fact, the much-hyped fear that supply chain crunches would keep packages from being delivered on time for the holidays has proved to be misguided: 99% of packages are arriving on time. This is a significant improvement over 2020, and even over 2019. It reflects that companies have built more warehouse space and expanded delivery hours, that people have shopped early this year, and that buyers are venturing back into stores rather than relying on online shopping.

What it does not reflect is a weakened retail market. Major ports in the U.S. will process almost one-fifth more containers in terms of volume than they did in 2019. Container traffic at European ports has stayed flat or declined. Consumer goods are flying off the shelves at a rate about 45% higher than they did in 2018: it looks like Americans will spend about 11.5% more in this holiday season than they did in 2020. Indeed, according to Tom Fairless in the Wall Street Journal, American consumer demand was the key factor in the global supply chain bottlenecks in the first place.

And yet 63% of the poll’s respondents to the CNN/SSRS poll said that the nation’s economy is in poor shape. And here’s why: 57% of them say that the economic news they’ve heard lately has been mostly bad. Only 19% say they are hearing mostly good news about the economy.

How people think about the country depends on the stories they hear about it.

Those maintaining the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election know that principle very well.

Yesterday, former national security advisor Michael Flynn filed a request for a restraining order against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a temporary injunction against a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Today, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven of Tampa denied Flynn’s request, noting that his lawyers had not followed correct procedure. On Twitter today, legal analyst Teri Kanefield pointed out that, like so many others launched by Trump loyalists, Flynn’s lawsuit was not an actual legal argument but part of the false narrative that Trump and his loyalists are being persecuted by Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stole the election.

That was the strategy behind the sixty or more lawsuits over the election—Trump won only a single minor one—and behind the continuing demands of Trump loyalists to relitigate the 2020 election. They have produced no evidence of the rampant fraud they allege, but the constant demand that election officials defend the results sows increasing distrust of our democratic system.

Douglas Frank, an associate of Trump loyalist and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, has pressed claims across the country and told the staff of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, that he was launching lawsuits across the country and that LaRose’s office had better cooperate.

“I’m warning you that I’ve been going around the country. We’re starting lawsuits everywhere,” Frank said, according to a recording reported on by the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, Emma Brown, and Josh Dawsey. “And I want you guys to be allies, not opponents. I want to be on your team, and I’m warning you.” Frank has called for “firing squads” for anyone found guilty of “treason,” by turning “a blind eye to the massive election fraud that took place in 2020.”

And yet, we continue to learn about the reality of the effort to overturn the election. Today the January 6 committee asked Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) to provide information about his conversations with Trump on January 6—a topic that has made Jordan noticeably uncomfortable whenever it comes up—as well as any other discussions the two men had about overturning the election results, and whether Trump talked about offering pardons to those involved in the insurrection. In October, Jordan said he would be happy to talk to the committee.

Also today, Proud Boy Matthew Greene pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to obstruct law enforcement on January 6 and has agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. His guilty plea and testimony that he helped to program handheld radios for the Proud Boys on January 5 establishes that there was a shared plan and preparation to attack the Capitol.

There are signs that some Republicans might want to get out from under whatever might be coming. Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) today said he regrets voting against counting the electoral votes of two states that voted for Biden, although he continued to say there were problems with the election. “In retrospect I should have voted to certify,” Rice told Olivia Beavers of Politico. “Because President Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol.”

And in a new interview, quite casually, when talking about his border wall rather than about the election itself, Trump himself undercut the Big Lie altogether: “We built almost five hundred miles of wall,” he said, “and had we won the election it would…be completed by now.”

END QUOTE

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Joe Manchin's Christmas Ghosts

From Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post - Opinion: Joe Manchin is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

BEGIN QUOTE

The bill was not dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Certain legislators had loudly and repeatedly hesitated, but it was still being discussed and negotiated on the floor of Congress, with some even referring to it as their “signature legislative achievement.”

It was smaller, certainly, than it had been, but it was still most alive when Sen. Joe Manchin III came home to his boat, put on his nightcap and settled down to sleep in order that he might be well-rested when it came time to speak to Fox News.

At the office that day, Manchin had dealt with several importunate visitors, well-wishers who were hopeful for the future, if only the Build Back Better bill went through. “We’ve got to pass this bill if we want to have a chance of protecting the planet!” they urged.

Manchin huffed at them. “Are there no coal mines?” he asked, slamming the door.

Bob Cratchit came by to explain that he was really counting on the child tax credit to supply food for his family, especially Tiny Tim, and he asked for some paid sick leave as a Christmas gift.

Manchin sneered. “Are there no workhouses?”

Things looked dire for the bill. That was why it was no surprise when, that night beginning at the stroke of 1, three spirits appeared to try to change Manchin’s mind.

The first took him to the past, where he could see himself saying he would not vote for a larger bill because he was worried about inflation. This required very complicated budgeting that sunset elements of the bill in confusing ways — but the outcome was something he had said he could support!

“This isn’t very far past,” said Manchin. “Bah.”

“No, I agree! Just reminding you of what you yourself said earlier today!” the ghost said. “Let’s quickly stop by this moment when you said, ‘I’ve always been for child tax credits,’ too!”

The clock struck 2, and that spirit departed and was replaced by another. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” the spirit said. “I thought we might see how families are spending their credits.”

The spirit whisked him from house to house, where family after family was relieved to be able to buy school supplies, clothes and food, and was nervous to see the benefit on the verge of expiring. Child poverty had been cut by 30 percent.

“Humbug,” Manchin said.

“I also have a survey,” the spirit said, sounding a little less hopeful, “conducted by the Census Bureau showing people overwhelmingly purchasing necessities, not drugs or alcohol or anything like that.”

Manchin shrugged. “Self-reported,” he murmured.

“Uh,” said the spirit. “Well, next I was planning to show you legions of people who were sick and grateful to have paid leave —”

“I want to see the ones who are using their paid leave to go on hunting trips,” Manchin said, “which is certainly a real phenomenon and not an oddly specific thing to assume that people widely do with paid leave.”

“Senator,” the ghost said, “I’m not saying that has never happened, but certainly all the people I am finding just want to use their sick leave to be sick.”

Then the clock struck 3.

“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Future?” Manchin asked the spirit cloaked in smog.

The spirit did not say anything. It merely pointed. Manchin looked: The mercury was rising in his thermometer, and areas of the country faced increased severe weather. The coastlines were flooding.

Manchin took a long, contented inhale. “It looks like in this future we have not broken ourselves of our dependency on fossil fuels!” he said, but not in the way you would expect someone to say that sentence.

The spirit pointed frantically at the floodwaters devastating the lives of West Virginians. Manchin pretended not to see. The spirit pointed at a stone on which “Joe Manchin, Senator, West Virginia, 2010 ― 2024,” was engraved in thick letters.

“Ooh!” Manchin said. “I got to be senator a long time.” He smiled broadly, then started to wheeze. The air was quite poor. Then the clock struck again, and all was shrouded in darkness.

The next morning he awoke and threw open the curtains. He had never had such a good night’s sleep. “Boy!” Manchin cried to a passing youth. “What day is it?”

“Uh,” the boy said, “Dec. 19, why?”

Manchin threw some coal at him in thanks, then instantly regretted bestowing an object of such value on someone who so clearly would misuse it.

Bob Cratchit came by again. “Good morning, Mr. Manchin,” he said. “Have you given any thought to the bill?”

“I have!” Manchin cried. “And my thought is: No!” And with that, he stabbed the bill right through the heart. “Now, back to work for you! I am going on recess through the end of the year. God bless me, but not others!”

END QUOTE

Monday, December 20, 2021

Our military readiness in 2024 and beyond - and what another coup attempt might do to it

In the Washington Post’s Opinion: 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection

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As we approach the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we — all of us former senior military officials — are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk.

In short: We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.

One of our military’s strengths is that it draws from our diverse population. It is a collection of individuals, all with different beliefs and backgrounds. But without constant maintenance, the potential for a military breakdown mirroring societal or political breakdown is very real.

The signs of potential turmoil in our armed forces are there. On Jan. 6, a disturbing number of veterans and active-duty members of the military took part in the attack on the Capitol. More than 1 in 10 of those charged in the attacks had a service record. A group of 124 retired military officials, under the name “Flag Officers 4 America,” released a letter echoing Donald Trump’s false attacks on the legitimacy of our elections.

Recently, and perhaps more worrying, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, refused an order from President Biden mandating that all National Guard members be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Mancino claimed that while the Oklahoma Guard is not federally mobilized, his commander in chief is the Republican governor of the state, not the president.

The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines — from the top of the chain to squad level — is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the “rightful” commander in chief cannot be dismissed.

Imagine competing commanders in chief — a newly reelected Biden giving orders, versus Trump (or another Trumpian figure) issuing orders as the head of a shadow government. Worse, imagine politicians at the state and federal levels illegally installing a losing candidate as president.

All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution. But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war. In this context, with our military hobbled and divided, U.S. security would be crippled. Any one of our enemies could take advantage by launching an all-out assault on our assets or our allies.

The lack of military preparedness for the aftermath of the 2020 election was striking and worrying. Trump’s acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, testified that he deliberately withheld military protection of the Capitol before Jan. 6. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly scrambled to ensure the nation’s nuclear defense chains were secure from illegal orders. It is evident the whole of our military was caught off-guard.

With the country still as divided as ever, we must take steps to prepare for the worst.

First, everything must be done to prevent another insurrection. Not a single leader who inspired it has been held to account. Our elected officials and those who enforce the law — including the Justice Department, the House select committee and the whole of Congress — must show more urgency.

But the military cannot wait for elected officials to act. The Pentagon should immediately order a civics review for all members — uniformed and civilian — on the Constitution and electoral integrity. There must also be a review of the laws of war and how to identify and deal with illegal orders. And it must reinforce “unity of command” to make perfectly clear to every member of the Defense Department whom they answer to. No service member should say they didn’t understand whom to take orders from during a worst-case scenario.

In addition, all military branches must undertake more intensive intelligence work at all installations. The goal should be to identify, isolate and remove potential mutineers; guard against efforts by propagandists who use misinformation to subvert the chain of command; and understand how that and other misinformation spreads across the ranks after it is introduced by propagandists.

Finally, the Defense Department should war-game the next potential post-election insurrection or coup attempt to identify weak spots. It must then conduct a top-down debrief of its findings and begin putting in place safeguards to prevent breakdowns not just in the military, but also in any agency that works hand in hand with the military. The military and lawmakers have been gifted hindsight to prevent another insurrection from happening in 2024 — but they will succeed only if they take decisive action now.

END QUOTE

The authors are: Paul D. Eaton is a retired U.S. Army major general and a senior adviser to VoteVets. Antonio M. Taguba is a retired Army major general, with 34 years of active duty service. Steven M. Anderson is a retired brigadier general who served in the U.S. Army for 31 years.

It CAN happen here - America inches closer to civil war

Political Scientist: ‘We Are Closer To Civil War Than Any Of Us Would Like To Believe’ reports the AZ BlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Following are excerpts. Go read the whole thing and sources cited … and worry!

Dana Milbank writes ‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says:

If you know people still in denial about the crisis of American democracy, kindly remove their heads from the sand long enough to receive this message: A startling new finding by one of the nation’s top authorities on foreign civil wars says we are on the cusp of our own.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States, but Walter, a longtime friend who has spent her career studying conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere, applied the predictive techniques herself to this country.

Her bottom line: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”

Trumpism is the new American fascism as I have warned about for years.

These American traitors dishonor the sacrifice and service of millions of Americans who served in World War II to rid the world of fascism. We must commit ourselves to their memory to never allow it to happen here.

[Walters’] bottom line: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”

… a new survey by the academic consortium Bright Line Watch found that 17 percent of those who identify strongly as Republicans support the use of violence to restore Trump to power, and 39 percent favor doing everything possible to prevent Democrats from governing effectively.

The question now is whether we can pull back from the abyss Trump’s Republicans have led us to. There is no more important issue; democracy is the foundation of everything else in America. Democrats, in a nod to this reality, are talking about abandoning President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in favor of pro-democracy voting rights legislation. Republicans will fight it tooth and nail.

The enemies of democracy must not be allowed to prevail. We are on the doorstep of the “open insurgency” stage of civil conflict, and Walter writes that once countries cross that threshold, the CIA predicts, “sustained violence as increasingly active extremists launch attacks that involve terrorism and guerrilla warfare, including assassinations and ambushes.”

It is no exaggeration to say the survival of our country is at stake.

The fascist barbarians are at the gate. What will you do to defend American democracy and the Constitution?

Thursday, December 16, 2021

McConnell didn't text Meadows on Jan. 6. But he's damn sure excited about finding out who did.

Kerry Eleveld (Kos Staff) reports on the friction between two GOP factions, specifically McConnell and Meadows.

BEGIN QUOTE

Capitol Hill reporters have been atwitter ever since Monday evening, when Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, read aloud a series of Mayday texts sent to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows by Fox News hosts and Don Jr. as Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol.

But their excitement reached fever pitch on Tuesday when Cheney gave a follow-up performance, this time reading off Jan. 6 texts to Meadows from unnamed GOP lawmakers.

“It is really bad up here on the Hill,” one GOP lawmaker texted Meadows.

“Fix this now,” urged another.

The select committee investigating Jan. 6 plans to release those Republicans’ names at some mystery date in the near future, but one reporter immediately queried Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday on whether he was one of the unnamed lawmakers appealing to Trump to intervene.

“I was not,” McConnell offered, “but I do think we’re all watching, as you are, what is unfolding on the House side, and it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.”

McConnell, with his ritual glum affect, revealed no investment in the outcome of that information. But inside, he was likely doing a happy dance as he teased the big reveal of “all the participants who were involved.” Participants, eh?

This is undoubtedly where McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy part ways. To some extent, the McConnell wing of the GOP, which is at loggerheads with the Trump wing, wants—and maybe even needs—the Jan. 6 panel to succeed. The bigger the chunk the panel can take out of the crazy Trumpers currently running roughshod over the House GOP caucus, the better for McConnell. Who knows—McConnell might not even mind if some Trump-aligned GOP senators took a hit. Seriously, who except Ted Cruz isn’t rooting for Ted Cruz to get tangled up in legal trouble?

Unfortunately, it appears none of those texts came from GOP senators, according to Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the investigative committee still couldn’t unearth some interesting information about Trump’s Senate allies. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina seemed pretty eager to unburden himself of the fact that he spoke with Ivanka Trump on Jan. 6, urging her to tell her father to call off the dogs.

But the bottom line here is that McConnell—who has no use for Trump—likely didn’t have any contact with him or his cadre around their Jan. 6 coup effort. So personally, McConnell likely has little to lose as the sweeping probe reveals who was in on Trump’s coup attempt and who wasn’t.

McConnell, for some unfathomable reason, missed his opportunity to put a final nail in Trump’s political coffin during Trump’s second impeachment earlier this year. The Jan. 6 panel might just offer McConnell another opportunity to take a bite out of the Trump wing, which is currently overrunning McConnell and his allies.

So keep your on eye on McConnell to potentially turn the knife a little here or there as the Jan. 6 probe continues to bear anti-Trump fruit.

END QUOTE

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Cheney is a Profile in Courage

Scriber thinks Liz Cheney is the epitome of courage. So do other internet denizens.

Tom Rath @polguru
The Kennedy School annually presents the “Profiles In Courage” award to political folks who lived up to the promise of our democracy. I respectfully submit that they consider Rep Cheney for this year’s honor.

Here, from Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark, are some reasons for such a nomination.

The Marvelous Mrs. Cheney

If you can’t admire this woman, I’m not sure you understand the concept of courage. ICYMI, another bravura performance on the floor of the House last night:

@Acyn
Cheney: All of my colleagues, all of them knew that what happened on January 6th was an assault on the constitution. They knew it at the time yet now they are defending the indefensible… How we address January 6th is moral test of our generation

@HeathMayo
She isn’t messing around. This isn’t a game for her. She traded her good standing in the GOP to prosecute this event for the posterity and integrity of our country. God bless Liz Cheney. History’s long arc will be kind to her legacy.

A criminal case?

Allahpundit notes that Cheney may be hinting that they are “building a case that Trump committed a federal crime on January 6.”

Trump may or may not have expected that the rally he held on the morning of January 6 would lead to a riot. The committee’s digging into that. What Cheney’s suggesting here, though, is something more akin to being an accessory after the fact. Even if Trump didn’t intend to incite a riot, did he sit on his hands in the Oval Office while it played out in the expectation that the violence might prevent Congress from ratifying Biden’s victory?

Jose Pagliery notes that Cheney’s words there are carefully chosen. 18 U.S. Code § 1505 – Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees:

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

House Select Committee - Meadows documents are eye-popping

Heather Cox Richardson reviews the “eye-popping” documents provided to the Jan 6 House Select Committee. (published Dec 14) Following are some excerpts from the Dec 13 edition of Letters from an American

Tonight (Dec 13), the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held a televised hearing to vote on whether to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena. Their answer was yes, unanimously, by a vote of 9–0. More, even than that, though, was that in order to justify their votes they dropped some details about what happened on January 6.

What they revealed was eye-popping.

All members of the committee spoke tonight, underscoring the importance of the moment.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) grabbed the headlines, though, as she read text messages Meadows received on January 6. They included texts from lawmakers to Meadows begging Trump to call off the rioters, making it crystal clear that those closest to him understood that those attacking the Capitol would respond to his orders. Dozens of texts urged the president to act to stop the protesters: “Someone is going to get killed.” “POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down.”

Cheney said: “These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.”

And yet, Trump remained unmoved for 187 minutes while our Capitol was under attack and lawmakers hid from the mob. As Cheney said: “Hours passed without necessary action by the president. These non privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes.”

Cheney took the fight directly to Trump with her accusation of “dereliction of duty.” The Capitol was under attack, and the one person who everyone believed could stop the attack, the commander-in-chief, refused to. A number of lawmakers tossed the term “dereliction of duty” around immediately after the insurrection, but it has faded from conversation as Republicans have lined up again behind the former president. It is, though, an offense under the U.S. military code, and therefore is something that people understand is serious.

Cheney was more specific in another accusation of criminal behavior. After establishing that many lawmakers and media personalities begged then-president Trump to call off the rioters, she asked: “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?”

What Cheney did tonight was courageous. She put herself on the line in the struggle to hold Trump and his loyalists accountable. As other lawmakers claim to be afraid to stand up to Trump out of fear for their safety, she has made herself a key target of the Trump loyalists in order to defend our democracy.

But that was not all that happened in the hearing …

You can find out more in the Dec 13 edition of Letters from an American

Monday, December 13, 2021

Jan 6 - the gang that couldn't shoot straight

Lordy, they put the coup in writing. Exclaims Charlie Sykes in The Bulwark.

Yes, they really did that.

There is an old saying about crime fighting to the effect that it’s not that the cops are so good, it’s that the perps are so bad. The rest of Charlie’s summary follows.

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the PowerPoint presentation that, among other things, recommended that Trump “declare a national emergency to delay the certification of the election results,” based in part on “a claim that China and Venezuela had obtained control over the voting infrastructure in a majority of states.”

Former White House COS Mark Meadows turned the 36-page document over to the January 6 committee, which is now examining the amazing piece of work. There are conflicting claims about its significance, but we do know three things about it:

This plan to overthrow the election and perhaps declare martial law was widely circulated and discussed at the highest levels of the White House staff. The author, claims that he spoke with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times”. The coup plan was shared with members of Congress and the right-wing media on the eve of the Insurrection… none of whom blew the whistle on it. Ex-CBS staffer and newly minted Fox News crackpot Lara Logan basically tweeted the whole thing out on January 5.

“The role played after the election by Waldron is another example of how the president aligned himself with a cast of fringe personalities as he worked to sabotage the U.S. democratic process.” —Wapo

So, yes, it is a BFD. This thread from Robert Costa is also worth your time:

We now know that in the critical Jan. 4–5 period, where the pressure on Pence is Level 10/10, you have not only the principals leaning on the VP, but numerous docs circulating to make the case. -Eastman memos -PowerPoints -And Jenna Ellis memos (see below)

Memos from Trump campaign lawyer outline her theories for how Pence could reject Electoral College votes.

In the weeks leading up to January 6, one of Donald Trump’s campaign lawyers wrote memos outlining how she believed then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject electoral college votes and overturn the 2020 election, including one theory that he could ignore a federal law. cnn.com

But despite all of these docs and PowerPts, the most revealing thing of this period isn’t a document. It’s what he says to Pence on Jan. 5. At the end of the day, Trump isn’t looking to these docs to make his case. He looks to the gathering mob in the streets. (Ch. 43, “Peril”)

“If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?” Trump asked. “I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority,” Pence said. “But wouldn’t it almost be cool to have that power?” Trump asked. “No,” Pence said.

ICYMI:

On Thursday, we spoke with the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman about his cover story in the new Atlantic: “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun; January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.”

The consequences of a Pandimwit

Trump’s Cult is Dying from COVID in Much Greater Numbers, but FOX News Won’t Tell Them. That from News Corpse writing in the Daily Kos. Consult the original for citations.

The recent surge in COVID infections is being distributed in an alarmingly discriminating fashion. Data shows that it is predominantly spreading in the parts of the country that voted for Donald Trump. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has noticed how Trump and his right-wing propaganda machine have downplayed the risks and discouraged responsible behavior such as getting vaccinated and wearing masks. Even worse, they have actually been celebrating the suffering and loss of life.

A new study by NPR confirms that “Counties that went heavily for Donald Trump have seen much lower vaccination rates and much higher death rates from COVID.” However, this isn’t the first time that the pandemic has been observed stalking Trump’s cult disciples. As far back as July there were reports of this grisly statistic that pointed to the reality that we are in the midst of a “Pandemic of Fox News.”

What makes this all the more disturbing is that, despite its unambiguous culpability, Fox News has failed to alert its audience to the deadly path that the network has put them on. Fox News has not reported the facts revealed in the NPR study. To the contrary, Fox continues to disinform their dimwitted viewers. And the fruits of that disinformation are evident in studies that show that those who trust Fox News and its ilk are most likely to believe the most certifiably false COVID myths.

Many of those myths are actually invented by Fox News. For instance, Tucker Carlson recently warned his viewers that vaccines don’t work and “they” aren’t telling you. And Trump (who now claims to have developed the vaccine) is deliberately doctoring COVID death data to cast undeserved blame Biden.

These studies that reveal the truth about the course that COVID is taking are essential to understanding the scope of the problem and arriving at solutions. However, the people that need most to see this data are not going to see it because the only news media they patronize (Fox News, Newsmax, OAN, etc.) are not reporting it. So the press that they rely on is working purposefully to keep them ignorant and at risk of deadly consequences. That’s a bizarre business model.

If the Trump cultists won’t heed the warnings from reputable scientists, academics and journalists, perhaps they will listen to their spiritual guides. The 16th Century Christian theologian Martin Luther wrote about a pandemic in his era and how people should behave under such dire circumstances. It’s a lesson that American evangelicals need to take to heart. Luther chastised the “resisters” in his day saying (with added emphasis) that…

“They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They distain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.”

Luther went on to warn that those who “make no use of intelligence or medicine…become a suicide in God’s eyes.” Then he leveled the most serious charge against the “rash and reckless” trying to “prove how independent they are,” saying that…

“It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over.”

’Nuff said! Too bad that Trump and the true believes at Fox News will never say it, even though it is a sermon straight from their own divine doctrine.

The scary truth according to Brian Williams

StellaRay at the Daily Kos shares thoughts about Williams.

The “darkness of the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods,” Williams lamented. “It’s now at the local bar, and the bowling alley, at the school board and the grocery store. And it must be acknowledged and answered for.”

“Grown men and women who sw ore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob and become something they are not while hoping we somehow forget who they were,” he continued.

“They’ve decided to burn it all down ― with us inside,” added Williams. “That should scare you to no end as much as it scares an aging volunteer fireman.”

I have written other diaries about Williams, whose show I greatly enjoyed and I will miss. I know there are those who will not ever forgive him his trespasses, but I see him as a man who redeemed himself, and did so in a way that benefited many, including me. I found his show the perfect end to an evening of big news. There was a smart calmness about it. He asked good questions and no one can ever accuse him of not listening to the answers.

I think it is interesting that he also said on his sign off that he is not a “liberal or a conservative, but rather an institutionalist.” I get this, assuming the institutions are of our choosing and sturdy if not perfect—which clearly Williams is no longer sure of, nor am I.

I thought his words were well chosen and scary as hell. For as much as there are certainly others saying the same thing, there was something about Williams terse brevity, his choice to make these his last words on his show, that really rattled me. Not that I need to be more rattled than I am these days by what’s going on.

But I was struck by the idea that when we talk about “messaging” I think this is what it’s about. We need more people WITH A PLATFORM to step up and say, “hey folks, we’re on the ledge of loosing our imperfect republic, our highly flawed but great democratic experiment. Open your eyes. We are hanging on by our freaking fingertips.

There will be those who say this is hyperbolic—but I now think those are the same sort who didn’t see Hitler coming, even after the Brown shirts had arrived. And make no mistake about it, the Brown shirts have arrived in the United States of America. They just go by a different names these days. All sorts of names, but most disturbing of all is this name: the Republican Party. There is no “both sides do it” in this ultimate game, despite my opinion on the many imperfections of the Democratic Party.

I think there is no doubt this is who Williams was talking about. Yes, we are on the edge of destroying ourselves the way every great nation/culture from the beginning of time does: from the inside out. And maybe, while one side is worse than the other here—as in not both siderism— it is also true that the other side fails us when they don’t find the strength to fight, tooth and freaking nail.

What we desperately need is more people with big voice to step up and do what Williams did—scare us out of our complacency. Because even in the midst of a culture grinding epidemic, so many in this country don’t get it—going about their ways as if nothing can touch us, not even a killer pandemic, because we’re just that special, and maybe just that spoiled.

Whatever you think of Brian Williams—and I expect to hear from his detractors here too, as I have every time I’ve written about him—he spoke the dark truth boldly.

Scriber test - please ignore

This is a test - please ignore.

Latest news from Jan 6 select committee

Here is another block buster in the December 12, 2021 edition of Letters from an American from Heather Cox Richardson.

BEGIN QUOTE

Tonight the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol released a report urging Congress to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he has refused to honor a congressional subpoena.

It’s quite a document.

First of all, it pieces together a wide range of material from a number of different sources to lay out very clearly Meadows’s actions in the White House leading up to January 6. Anyone out there who is concerned that they have not heard much from the January 6 Committee will take heart from this comprehensive document, concerning, as it does, only one witness. The committee must have an astonishing amount of material and a number of talented personnel to produce such a report.

More specifically, though, the report places Meadows at key junctures in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection and on January 6 itself. It places him with Trump on January 6.

But what jumps off the page in the report is the discussion of the National Guard’s response to the riot. The report says that “Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘nonstop’ throughout the day of January 6. And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot.”

The committee also wrote that “Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”

Why it took more than three hours for the D.C. National Guard to deploy on January 6 remains a central question about what happened that day. Then–U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund began calling for help at 1:49 p.m., but the National Guard, whose chain of command had been reordered on January 5 to require Miller to approve mobilizing the guard, didn’t deploy until 5:08 p.m.

Army officials have said they moved as quickly as possible; National Guard officials have said they were held back by army leaders who complained about the “optics” of deploying the National Guard to the Capitol. As the title of Amanda Carpenter’s December 10 article in The Bulwark notes: “Someone is lying about why it took so long for the National Guard to deploy on January 6.”

The news that Meadows was on the phone “nonstop” to Miller’s chief of staff on January 6, and that he told someone that “the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” adds more information to that muddled timeline, although still not enough to figure out what was actually going on.

Did the Trump team expect a counter-protest that day that would enable Trump to declare a state of emergency, as it appears all the living defense secretaries feared when they wrote an open letter on January 3 insisting that the military must stay out of the transition? “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants—are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” the ten living former defense secretaries wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on January 3. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

If counter-protesters had shown up, muddying the story of what was happening, the day might have played out very differently.

The report from the January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows apparently used an encrypted phone and that he communicated frequently with members of Congress about challenging the election.

The report demolishes Meadows’s argument that he cannot testify because of executive privilege. It notes that President Joe Biden has not asserted executive privilege over the matters about which Meadows would testify, and neither has former president Donald Trump. It appears Meadows is basing his refusal to testify on a letter from “former-President Trump’s counsel, Justin Clark, to Mr. Meadows’s then-counsel, Mr. Gast, expressing former-President Trump’s apparent belief that ‘Mr. Meadows is immune from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to his official responsibilities.’’’ The letter told Meadows not to testify or produce documents.

Such a letter does not officially assert privilege, even if Trump had the authority to do so, which it seems likely he does not (since it is the current president who asserts privilege to protect the office, and Biden has declined to do so).

The January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows is refusing to talk about material that he, himself, produced for the committee, and which he has discussed in his new book, thereby waiving any claims to privilege.

Lawyer Teri Kanefield today put together the timeline for Meadows’s production of documents and then abrupt refusal to testify. She notes that Meadows cooperated with the January 6 Committee over materials from his official work accounts. But then he discovered that the committee had subpoenaed the records from his private cell phone from Verizon, records that he had not transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by law. He stopped cooperating and sued to have the subpoena to Verizon blocked.

Considering how bad the materials Meadows gave to the committee are—both a PowerPoint outlining how to overturn the election and emails about the National Guard protecting pro-Trump protesters, as well as texts with members of Congress about undermining the election results—one can only wonder what’s in the material he is trying so desperately to protect.

The committee will vote tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. whether to hold Meadows in contempt based on the report; the matter will go to the House on Tuesday.

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has also refused to comply with a subpoena, this one from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for documents concerning the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. Navarro, who warned the White House in January 2020 that the coronavirus could become “a full-blown pandemic,” said Trump had given him “a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena.” Navarro’s letter called the chair of the coronavirus committee, Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), “Representative Rayburn.” (The committee works out of the Rayburn House Office Building.)

Trump confirmed his opposition to the subpoena, saying, “The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration’s unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response…. The Witch Hunts must end!"

Finally, Fox News Channel reporter Chris Wallace announced tonight that he was leaving FNC to join CNN+, a streaming service launching in 2022. An actual journalist on the channel whose terms of service explicitly announce it is “for your personal enjoyment and entertainment,” rather than news, Wallace lent legitimacy to the channel’s opinion personalities, who have increasingly slid toward right-wing propaganda.

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

Update on the Jan 6 insurrection - who did what for whom

In her December 11, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson reports the most recent developments concerning the January 6 insurrection.

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The picture of what was happening at the White House in the days before the January 6 insurrection is becoming clearer. (While we also have a decent idea of what was happening at the Department of Justice, what was happening at the Pentagon remains unclear.)

Shortly after Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows announced on Tuesday that he would no longer cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter noting that Meadows had already shared material—thus indicating he did not consider it privileged—that he is now saying he won’t discuss. Thompson identified some of that material.

He said Meadows had provided the committee with an “email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled ‘Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN’ that was to be provided ‘on the hill’; and, among others, a January 5, 2021 email about having the National Guard on standby.”

Journalists immediately began looking for that PowerPoint. Slides began to surface, and then a whole slide deck appeared on the internet. The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell verified it on Friday. The fact that members of the president’s inner circle actually prepared a presentation for an audience about how to overturn an election crystallized just how close the nation came to a successful coup on January 6.

The PowerPoint presented three ways for then–Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Biden’s election and hand the presidency back to Trump. Pence could simply seat the slates of electors Trump supporters had organized to replace the official slates certified by the states. Pence could insist on rejecting all electronic ballots. Or Pence could delay the counting of the ballots long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote. Since there were more Republican-dominated states than Democratic-dominated states, Trump would be reelected.

Then, also on Friday, news dropped that Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis had produced two memos—one previously unknown—outlining far-fetched legal arguments to justify Pence throwing the election to Trump. One, dated December 31, said he could simply refuse to open the envelopes containing the electoral votes of states whose results Trump contested.

A second, dated January 5, made a more complicated argument claiming for Pence more authority to determine the outcome of the election than the vice president has exercised since the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

Today, Robert Costa, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the book Peril with veteran journalist Bob Woodward about the fraught weeks surrounding the January 6 insurrection, laid out the timeline for early January in the White House.

In December, right-wing lawyer John Eastman began drafting the Eastman Memo calling for Pence to refuse to count electors from states Biden won and laying out a number of ways Pence could throw the election to Trump. (Trump’s own loyal attorney general, William Barr, and his deputy Jeffrey Rosen, who replaced Barr when he resigned on December 23, 2020, had already concluded the election was not fraudulent.) The plan, as Costa and Woodward put it in Peril, was: “Either have Pence declare Trump the winner, or make sure it is thrown to the House where Trump is guaranteed to win.”

The White House had the memo by January 1. Meadows was working with the Trump team to push the ideas in it. Someone in the White House gave it to Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and others on January 2. Meadows met with both Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Meadows’s office on January 2 to brief Graham, who was then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on what they claimed was voter fraud. Graham demanded proof.

On January 3, Pence conferred with the Senate parliamentarian, who told him he was simply there to count the votes. It was clear he was not on board with Trump’s plan.

On January 4, Trump called Pence to the Oval Office to pressure him. Eastman presented his case to Pence; Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short; and Pence’s legal counsel, Greg Jacob. On that day, someone presented the PowerPoint to a number of Republican senators and members of the House.

Apparently, none of the people briefed called the attention of the FBI to the coming attempt to overturn the election.

On the evening of January 5, Trump called Pence to a meeting as his supporters were gathering on Freedom Plaza near the White House. The people in the streets were cheering and waving “Make America Great Again” flags. Trump asked Pence to throw the election to the House of Representatives; Pence again said he did not have authority to do anything other than count the certified electoral votes.

And then, according to Costa and Woodward in Peril, Trump asked: “Well, what if these people say you do?” gesturing to the crowds outside. “If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?”

Pence, who would have been the face of the insurrection if he had done as he was asked, still said no.

That night, Trump called his people in the so-called “war room” at the Willard Hotel, where loyalists had been trying to figure out a way to delay certification if Pence didn’t cave. He called the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, since Giuliani wanted to preserve attorney-client privilege. “He’s arrogant,” Trump told his lieutenant Stephen Bannon.

They appear to have settled on a plan to get Republican lawmakers to raise enough objections that it would delay the counting long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives. (This squares with the voicemail Giuliani left for newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in the midst of the insurrection, saying: “The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.”)

Since his memo became public, John Eastman has said it “was not being provided to Trump or Pence as my advice…. The memo was designed to outline every single possible scenario that had been floated, so that we could talk about it.” When subpoenaed by the January 6 committee, Eastman declined to appear, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Since journalist Lowell broke the story of Trump’s calls to the Willard the night of January 5, Trump’s spokesperson has said that the account “is totally false” but provided no more information.

Since the story of the PowerPoint dropped, retired U.S. Army colonel Phil Waldron, who was working with the Trump team to challenge the election results, claimed authorship of it. Waldron told the Washington Post that he met with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times” and was the one who briefed several members of Congress about the information in his presentation on January 5.

Since Politico dropped the story about her memos, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said: “At no time did I advocate for overturning the election or that Mike Pence had the authority to do so…. As part of my role as a campaign lawyer and counsel for President Trump, I explored legal options that might be available within the context of the U.S. Constitution and statutory law.”

Yesterday, the January 6 committee subpoenaed six more people who had been involved in planning the rallies in Washington on January 5 and January 6. Some of them communicated with Trump directly; one communicated with Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). Subpoenas went to Bryan Lewis, Ed Martin, Kimberly Fletcher, Robert “Bobby” Peede Jr., Max Miller, and Brian Jack.

On Monday, December 6, we learned that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, has been cooperating with the January 6 committee.

END QUOTE

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

If you are Red, you are headed toward Dead

Likely, anyway. Statistically here is why.

Heather Cox Richardson’s November 29, 2021, edition of _Letters from an American_ <heather cox richardson@substack.com> has this gem.

There were no COVID-related deaths yesterday in New York City, where the vaccination rate is 90%. For adult Democrats the vaccination rate is about 90%, while the vaccination rate for adult Republicans hovers around 60%. Counties that went strongly for Trump have a death rate three times that of counties that voted heavily for Biden.

Friday, November 26, 2021

AZ audit results cannot be replicated - AZ Senate president caved to Trump - hired inexperienced 'auditors'

Tim Steller’s opinion: New reports show AZ audit fatally flawed from start to finish.

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The Steve Pierce Precedent — that is a clever way of explaining the most important Arizona political event of the year.

Pierce was a Republican state senator representing Legislative District 1, the Prescott district, from 2009 to 2017. He was Senate president for one full legislative session in 2012.

But in November that year, then-Sen. Andy Biggs challenged Pierce and outflanked him from the political right, narrowly sneaking away with a majority of Republican senators to win the powerful Senate presidency.

Sen. Karen Fann succeeded Pierce in office in 2017, and she also convinced her fellow Republicans to elect her Senate president. When Trump and his supporters pressured her hard to conduct a review of Maricopa County’s election, she went along, even though her equivalent in the other chamber, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, declined.

Fann, it appears, did not want to end up outflanked on the right like Steve Pierce.

That’s one of the key insights I drew from The Arizona Republic’s recent five-part series, measuring a whopping 27,000 words, that analyzed how the Cyber Ninjas’ so-called audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election came to be and played out. Their reporting was derived in part from public records that the newspaper wrenched out of the Senate through a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, from a different source, the latest report on the Cyber Ninjas’ performance by Tucsonan Benny White and others, we find the upshot of that “audit”: The Ninjas’ crucial count of the votes simply cannot be reconciled.

White and his colleagues Larry Moore and Tim Halvorsen, who have dubbed themselves The Audit Guys, analyzed a Nov. 1 release of data from the Cyber Ninjas’ recount. They found that the Ninjas’ hand count of ballots, which took place over months at a Phoenix coliseum, quite literally does not add up.

“We have used the official results and the Ninja database in numerous attempts to determine how they arrived at the vote totals they announced at their Sept. 24, 2021, press conference in the Arizona Senate chambers,” their report says.

“We have tried dozens of ways to include and exclude various boxes and batches to arrive at those precise figures and have been unable to replicate their announced results.”

As The Republic series shows, it was pressure from then-President Donald Trump himself, along with associates such as Rudy Giuliani, and thousands of Trump’s followers that convinced Fann to pursue a “forensic audit” of Maricopa County’s election.

In the weeks after the election, Trump called Fann and Bowers more than once each, and Giuliani called and showed up, imploring them to overturn the election results or, barring that, to conduct an audit, because of all the evidence of fraud.

Bowers demanded to see the evidence, but Fann went along, even as Giuliani’s promised evidence never appeared.

History has already shown Bowers made the right choice. In an August 2021 deposition for a civil suit in which Giuliani is a defendant, he admitted that he did not have evidence for the claims he made. He just got information from social media or from what other people told him.

“It’s not my job, in a fast-moving case, to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that was given to me. Otherwise, you’re never going to write a story. You’ll never come to a conclusion,” Giuliani said in the deposition.

While Bowers and Fann originally discussed bringing in a qualified election auditor to review Maricopa County’s election, Fann eventually followed Giuliani and others into the world of Trump supporters who wanted to overturn the election and claimed to have a way to do it, in the name of “election integrity.”

She hired the firm Cyber Ninjas, led by a man, Doug Logan, who was inexperienced in elections, had publicly stated he believed in the “Stop the Steal” movement and had stayed with the deranged election conspiracist Lin Wood while working to overturn the election.

White, who was the Republican candidate for Pima County recorder in 2020, joined with Halvorsen and Moore, who were formerly leaders of the Clear Ballot Group, a Boston-based election technology company, to try to check the work of the Cyber Ninjas. They have found the Ninjas’ work wanting, from its faulty inception.

"Normally in an audit, what you would do is take a known group of ballots, then check them against the official results,” White said this week. “The objective there is to find out if the official count is correct. But the Ninjas never attempted to do that.”

Instead, they invented a system to conduct their own hand count, and it’s this that White and company think reveals the fatal flaws of the review Fann ordered. In October, they issued a report arguing that the hand count numbers appeared to be a hoax, invented to nearly match a machine count the Senate had ordered.

The new report goes further, alleging that the Cyber Ninjas’ team miscounted original ballots that needed duplication to be correctly counted, and the duplicates made for that purpose. This problem alone led to 1,142 more ballots being counted than should have been, they say.

But the problems, again, were in the conception of the audit, they report: “The point of an audit is to determine whether there are errors in the official results and discover the reasons for the errors. The objective of the Senate ‘forensic audit’ was to create a new result for the election; this is obvious since there was no attempt to directly compare even a minimal number of batches or boxes to the official result.”

No wonder Fann never attempted to hire an experienced, unbiased auditor. That was never the point, as The Republic’s reporting shows. The point was to satisfy Trump and the election-fraud true believers, and to avoid the Steve Pierce Precedent.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Avoiding the maw of outrage

Jonathan V. Last (aka JVL) has some good advice conveyed via _The Bulwark_: Don’t get sucked into the maw of outrage.

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It’s easy to get sucked into the maw of outrage. After the verdict came down last week there were a lot of bad people acting badly. But here is my ask of you:

Don’t react to the reactions. Because they are—at most—of tertiary importance.

What is important about the Rittenhouse trial?

First and foremost: America. Everything about this case was designed to pour gasoline on the culture war and put us at each others’ throats even more than we already were.

The absolute worst-case result would be that people aggrieved by the verdict launch into retaliatory violence and people who cheered Rittenhouse feel empowered to do more shooting, thinking that self-defense is now a shield that will protect them from hurting others when they go looking for trouble.

It is possible that the Waukesha car killings from Sunday are downstream from the Rittenhouse case in one way or the other. It’s also possible they’re unrelated.

The point is this: The single most important thing for America is bringing the temperature down on all of this.

Yes, there are bad people acting badly. But this isn’t about them. It’s about the country. It’s about putting a lid on violence before it gets even more out of control and costs even more people their lives.

Second, this trial was about real people: Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Kyle Rittenhouse. None of these three woke up on August 25, 2020 and thought that their lives were going to change irrevocably. Rosenbaum and Huber didn’t think it was the last time they’d see the sun rise. Rittenhouse didn’t think that everything about his life was about to be swept away, for good.

These three individuals—and their families—suffered terribly because they each made a series of stupid decisions that led them into tragedy. There are no good guys. Just three men with bad judgment. Two of them didn’t get to walk away; the other will carry the burden of that night for the rest of his days. If you think Kyle Rittenhouse “won,” then you’re crazy. I would not trade places with that boy for all the whiskey in Ireland.

Everything else is just noise. The bad people behaving badly, the circus—none of that actually matters.

And yet the way our society functions today, the circus is what gets elevated above everything else.

Some bad actor acts badly in a bid for your attention. What he says is so vile that you react, thinking that it’s important to push back against it. And then you’re pulled into the hurricane.

Don’t do it.

You have a finite amount of energy. Don’t give any of it—not one damn joule—to the circus. Instead, give your energy to people you love. Give it to people who need help this week. Chances are that someone you know lost a loved one this year. Instead of hitting retweet or reply on something awful, text them to see how they’re doing. Or give them a call. Or pop over and knock on their door to check on them.

It may not look like it right now, but we are all in this together.

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