Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Narratology: State of the Theory


Fall of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, October 1917

The most surprising news to me in the Tuesday hearing was the story that Trump really meant it on January 6 at the Ellipse:

And after this,
we're going to walk down,
and I'll be there with you,
we're going to walk down,
we're going to walk down.

I mean of course he was indeed lying about the walking part. It's two miles from the Ellipse to the Capitol, he hasn't walked anywhere near that far in 60 years and clearly can't, any more than he could walk the 700 yards with the G7 leaders in Taormina in 2017, when he had to chug behind them in a golf cart, and as Kayleigh McEnany recounted it, he seems to have pulled back from that notion pretty quickly:

Monday, June 27, 2022

Kristol Ball

Haven't given you all a good pundit prediction in a good long time, so here's one, with reference to tomorrow's surprise Select Committee session, 

to hear what the panel called “recently obtained evidence” and take witness testimony.

The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m., according to a news release issued by the committee, in which it provided no other details about the surprise session.

Hearing some ideas of the usual celebrity golf type about the identity of the mystery witness—is it Ivanka? Is it Eric? or Alex Holder, the Brit filmmaker who has been making a documentary on the Trump family—

and worst of all, is it Ginni? as if Mrs. Thomas had enough of a grasp on reality to know anything at all (what her text exchanges with Mark Meadows show is that Meadows was pretty anxious to keep her sweet and make her feel heard (that is he didn't want her complaining about him to Trump), but not to carry out any of her suggestions or (more important) give her any information. If she does know something she's way too addled to be a useful witness. 

But there was this one idea that impresssed me:

That sounds plausible—Alexander's evidence for the committee is certainly "recently obtained"—and of course (motivated reasoning alert) that's what I'd really like to be true, because Alexander—organizer of the "Stop the Steal" movement in particular close touch with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Michael Flynn, Congressmembers seeking pardons (at least Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, and conceivably drunk doctor Ronny Jackson) and especially ratfucker Roger Stone, the single person I would much rather imprison than Trump.

Alexander has provided the Committee with testimony before now, contrary to my tweet; he's been cooperating for a while (since back in December), but the three hours he gave them on Friday could easily have been on something new, related to all the new stuff about the Capitol invasion and its direction from outside the Capitol, or about its social organization as represented by the 47 participants in a group call of 30 December 2020, the time around which Thursday's hearing was focused.

It was known as F.O.S. — or Friends of Stone — and while its members shifted over time, they were a motley cast of characters.

There were “Stop the Steal” organizers, right-wing influencers, Florida state legislative aides and more than one failed candidate loyal to former President Donald J. Trump. One participant ran a website that promoted disinformation about the Capitol attack. Another was an officer in the Army Reserve allied with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

At least three members of the group chat are now facing charges in connection with the riot at the Capitol in January 2021. They include Owen Shroyer, the right-hand man of the conspiracy theorist Alex JonesEnrique Tarrio, the onetime chairman of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia.

Update: Bad call, Alexander is busy with the grand jury today.

Looks like this one:

She's terrific, judging from video of her we saw last Thursday (she was the one who listed all the congresscritters scrambling for pardons; asked about Marjorie Taylor Greene, she said, "I didn't interact much with Marjorie Taylor Greene.' making a really droll face). Her old boss Meadows is as central to the conspiratoriality as Alexander or more so—he was in the Oval Office, Alexander on the phone with Roger Stone, and I think Stone did more than Trump. Maybe DOJ is working my angle while the House Committee is working yours.

"Someone who isn't frightened of what's going to be done to their reputation"


Jeffrey Clark, the loathsome Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division who offered himself up as the Roy Cohn Trump was always saying he wanted, somehow had an aide in his office beginning in mid-December 2020, Ken Klukowski, who was simultaneously working for John Eastman, one of Donald Trump's private attorneys. It was Klukowski who drafted the letter to the governor of Georgia and leaders of the Georgia legislature dated 28 December that acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue refused to send when Trump told them to:

Friday, June 24, 2022

For the Record: "The people, through their elected representatives..."


Sorry, make that "all or most".

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Wednesday Cheap Shots

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

For the Record: Prayers and Thoughts

A really awful Supreme Court decision handed down today in a church-state case from Maine, where a private-school voucher program to compensate for the lack of public high schools in rural areas forbade funding for "sectarian" schools in which religious instruction was part of the program:

Monday, June 20, 2022

Republicans Want to Kill You department


Age-adjusted morality rates over five presidential terms show rates declining twice as fast in counties that vote Democratic. Via British Medical Journal.

Per Kaiser Health News:

study published June 7 by the BMJ examined mortality rates and voting patterns in the past five presidential elections, and found that people who lived in jurisdictions that consistently voted Democratic fared better than those that voted Republican.

“We all aspire to live in and exist in a sort of system where politics and health don’t intersect,” said Dr. Haider Warraich, the study’s lead author. “But what this paper actually shows is that politics and health, especially in the United States, are deeply intertwined.”

The patterns held broadly across age, sex, rural vs. urban residence, and race/ethnicity, except that there's very little gap among Latinos/Hispanics (who had the overall lowest mortality rates), and the gap is largest among white people, particularly white people in rural areas:

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Constitutional Republic

Juneteenth engraving by Thomas Nast. ca. 1865, via American Civil War Museum.

Just thinking about the degree to which the Juneteenth celebration might be, now that it's a national holiday, a commemoration of what historian Eric Foner called the Second Founding, following on the Civil War, in which the Republic of 1787 was replaced by the Democracy of Abraham Lincoln's intentions as expressed in the Gettysburg Address (that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish) and as spelled out in the explicit constitutional changes of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th Amendments (respectively abolishing chattel slavery in 1865, defining citizenship and offering equal protection under the law to all citizens in 1866. guaranteeing voting rights regardless of race in 1870, establishing the income tax in 1913, establishing direct election of senators in 1913, and guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of sex in 1920).

This really is what we're arguing about when conservatives say that the United States was not founded as a democracy but as a "constitutional republic"—feel perfectly free to say that, guys, and fight over the finer details, but the point is that it's not that any more: it was that, and we fixed it, to some extent, in the course of eradicating slavery, by changing the Constitution. Now, it's something different, and more democratic, as a consequence of each of those changes, though much work remains to be done.

Nathan Newman is making practically the same statement, with a slightly different terminology (to him the signing of the Articles of Confederation created the Second Republic and the 1787 Constitution the Third) and a reduced list of Amendments:

Juneteenth, celebrating the final word of the end of the Slave Constitution reaching the last slaves in Texas, marks the foundation of the Fourth Republic of our Nation, the one where the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments fundamentally reshaped the nation into a new constitutional order. As the southern states were readmitted only under conditions set by the US Congress, the new Republic’s principle was one of firm subordination of state authority to national power. Enforcement Acts would send troops to the South to enforce new civil rights laws, creating voting rights for all (male) Americans, a Freedmen’s Bureau would establish federally-run schools in the South, and other laws would ban segregation and build public works throughout the nation, most notably an Intercontinental Railroad. This is the nation most liberals recognize as our modern nation's core source and model.

I like how he emphasizes the Whiggishness of the new country, its commitment to an enormously more powerful central government engaged in infrastructure and education and the promotion of equity. The 20th-century amendments in my list further the same project—the income tax following up on an idea first implemented by the Lincoln Administration in the Revenue Act of 1861 (which also levied a federal tax on land, an idea to which I and my friends Professors Piketty, Saez, Zucman, and Warren remain deeply attached) to allow the federal government to raise a lot of money for its plans on a progressive basis, the direct election of senators remedying a ridiculously old-fashioned method of nominating them, and women suffrage repairing a hole that was becoming a scandal.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Texas has chosen the Juneteenth holiday to release its 2022 "platform":

You can't make it much clearer than that. Oh, wait, yes you can:

  • If approved, the new party platform would include declaring homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice," repealing the 16th Amendment that created the federal income tax, and mandating that Texas students "learn about the humanity of the preborn child,” in part by forcing students to listen to ultrasounds of gestating fetuses.

They're basically asking to reverse the results of the Civil War.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

For the Record: One More Time for the Second Amendment

This is a theme I keep recycling a little, but I felt this version came out extra-pithy, and also it's got a Boebert malapropism in it.

Not that the founders, speaking firmly, weren't some of them slaveholders too, as they certainly were, but it's still important that Virginians Washington, Jefferson, and Madison all agreed that slavery was a horrible crime. They were kind of like mythical Franklin Roosevelt saying, "Now make me do it," but unfortunately nobody did. Whereas those other Virginians Patrick Henry and George Mason were really explicitly freaked out by the possibility that Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, among others, might just up and ban slavery outright (as indeed they did, not that long afterwards) and before you knew it start helping their African property to escape from servitude

"Expedition" must have been the word she was hunting for.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Grift for the Mill


Image by Yellow Scene Magazine, December 2020.

A surprise, at least to me but I believe to pretty much everybody, in today's Select Committee hearing, was the video shown at the end. While the rest of the day was devoted as scheduled to showing how widespread the knowledge was in the administration that the stories of election fraud were entirely false, and Trump was repeatedly told they were false, the last bit was about something Trump did with the lies, which was to raise money, some $250 million worth by January 6 2021, as Washington Post live-blogged it, under very Trumpy false pretenses:

Amanda Wick, a committee investigator who has previously prosecuted financial crimes, said the Trump campaign sent millions of fundraising emails between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021. The emails asked supporters to “step up to protect the integrity of the election” and promoted an “Official Election Defense Fund.”

The committee, Wick said, “discovered no such fund existed.” Instead, it was a “marketing tactic,” as a senior digital adviser on the Trump campaign confirmed to investigators.

I'd just like the record to show I was telling you guys about this back in December 2020, on the basis of WaPo reporting, how money raised by the frantic emails after the election loss was actually ending up mostly in Trump's "leadership PAC" Save America (a leadership PAC is a vehicle through which politicians can do things from which a normal campaign committee is prohibited—like spending it on personal stuff.

It's Save America, which started out taking 60% of the contributions raised for the fictional "Official Election Defense Fund" and has been taking 75% since 19 November, and Trump can do whatever he wants with that three-scoops share. 

The story doesn't suggest he might just put it in his own bank account, in other words, but it's pretty clear he could, without any consequences; FEC just doesn't look at leadership PAC spending. It's one of those norms nobody ever thinks of violating. Even young Duncan Hunter only stole his $250,000 from his personal campaign committee; if he'd ripped off his leadership PAC instead (every congressman has one), he would not be in prison today. One of those norms, like presidents releasing their tax returns, or putting their financial interests in a blind trust, or not running businesses where foreign diplomats could spend millions of dollars in return for a favor, that Trump has specialized in ignoring.

You see what I'm saying: Trump, and his full partner in the Trump Make America Great Again Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel, are raising this money under blatantly false pretenses, not because they have any hope whatever of reversing the election and keeping their promise to the donors, but because they just want the money; McDaniel perhaps only for "legitimate" campaign purposes, but there's no reason to assume Trump wouldn't use it to pay off his and his family's personal lawyers in their own jungle of litigation (as he's been known to do, illegally, with contributions to his charity), or indeed just salt millions away for himself, maybe in those bizarre golf course account books.

Only. now, the Committee seems to have some idea exactly where the money is going:

That PAC, Save America, has sent millions of dollars to allies and former officials in the Trump White House, as Wick detailed. More than $200,000 has gone to the Trump Hotel Collection.

The committee has been looking for this information, starting with a subpoena for records from the Republican National Committee's fundraising vendor, a company called Salesforce:

the subpoena to Salesforce would help investigators understand the impact of the false messages sent before January 6, the flow of funds and whether contributions to the RNC and Trump campaign were directed to the purpose indicated in the fundraising emails. 

RNC sued to stop them in early March, and a (Trump-appointed) judge ruled in favor of the House committee on 2 May, but RNC got an injunction on 25 May that would effectively stop the House from getting the information before the hearings, but it looks like it has some other sources:

...The Select Committee no longer seeks the Salesforce documentation on a highly expedited schedule, and the Select Committee will continue to evaluate its needs for information on these and other related issues as additional material potentially becomes available from other sources.”

Can't help thinking Roger Stone and his thugs might have been among the recipients of all this cash, not to mention Rudolph Giuliani and his shysters, and that there's a real case of wire fraud against Trump and Mrs. McDaniel lurking in here. We'll see.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

For the Record: Working the Ruffs

Republican reaction to the January 6 committee hearings continue to develop along not unpredictable lines, like this scumbag's bragging about how he hasn't read any of the indictments:

Mulvaney has no suspicion, I guess, that Trump forces could plan anything without his help, like the way he set up Trump's extortion call to President Zelenskyy with the long months of denying Ukraine the congressionally mandated funding for the Javelins. He expected them to be paralyzed without him.

Then there's the. straight-out McCarthyism from our pal Senator Rubio:

Friday, June 10, 2022

Party of Weasels


Boys, proud or otherwise; photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images via Salon.

Talking point no. 1 from Republicans seems to be that Trump couldn't have been plotting a coup, since he asked the National Guard to send troops to Washington for the January 6 "Will Be Wild" event, specifically to protect the Capitol from the mob he encouraged (that's not disputed) to march on it—if not for Speaker Pelosi's obdurate refusal of this sensible request, there would have been no assault on the building.

Except the Speaker has no authority to make such a decision, and wouldn't have been asked; it was for the Capitol Police to do that, and nobody in fact asked them, or the Speaker either for that matter, or at least no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that anybody did, or even talked publicly about such an idea until Trump spontaneously brought it up himself, 28 February 2021, in a Fox interview; asked whether there had been anything he wished he had done differently that day, he said yes, but slipped Trump-style into explaining that the mistake he has in mind was actually Pelosi's and not his at all:

"We said to the Department of Defense, the top person, days before we had the rally … I requested … I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen, I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready. They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake."

The germ of truth being that he apparently really did speak to the "top person" at Defense, that is acting secretary Christopher Miller (after his firing of secretary Mark Esper, over Esper's correct insistence that it would be illegal to impose martial law with active-duty troops deployed against protesters during the George Floyd demonstrations of summer 2020), but Miller's recollections don't describe a president asking for the National Guard so much as asking about it: trying to find out what plans, if any, Miller had, not "days" but hours before the insurrection, the previous night, at a meeting on some other subject:

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Anticipating the hearing

Contempt for Peter Navarro ought to bring us all together, don't @ me. Photo from the Irish Independent.

Shorter David F. Brooks, "The Jan. 6 Committee Has Already Blown It", The New York Times, 8 June 2022:

We don’t need a committee to simply regurgitate what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. We need a committee that will preserve democracy on Jan. 6, 2025, and Jan. 6, 2029. How on earth would knowing what happened on Jan. 6 2021 help us prevent it from happening again?
Brooks is really more interested in concern trolling the Democrats on their hopes of using the coup attempt as a campaign issue, as reported in The Times by Annie Karni and Luke Broadwater, who also tells us that

Republican lawmakers have already begun pushing a counternarrative to dismiss the hearings as nothing more than political theater at a moment when Americans are more concerned with kitchen-table issues like the rising price of gas and a baby formula shortage.

On the part of the usual suspects, such as Marco

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Hispanics May Be of Any Race

Desi was willing to be non-white. For religious reasons. Good for him.

Some heartening media news on Friday was the story that TelevisaUnivision has sold 18 Spanish-language radio stations in 10 major markets including Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas as well as New York and Los Angeles to a new organization, the Latino Media Network, which seems to be led by Democrats Stephanie Valencia (who served as Obama's Latin outreach director) and Jess Morales Rocketto,

At least Marco was pretty upset for some reason:

Maybe it's because one of the Miami stations (the one he chose to @) is Radio Mambí, famous for pushing the worst disinformation through the Spanish-speaking community in the Miami—that Black Lives Matter is a "Satanic cult" and that BLM and "antifa" warriors masterminded the January 6 2021 invasion of the US Capitol, and hoped to kidnap Trump from the White House, and also pushing Replacement Theory:

Friday, June 3, 2022

For the record: Identity Politics

 A sequence that got disjointed into a bunch of different threads, presented here in part just so I could organize it a little better.

Heh, I didn't know that.

Literary Corner: Giant Girl


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Victory Lap


Special Counsel John Durham, rear, in his first movie role, Horse Feathers, 1932.

Let's just review why the FBI started the Crossfire Hurricane investigation sometime toward the end of July 2016.

After a long nomination campaign in which foreign relations played an unusually big role, dominated by candidate Trump's interest in "getting along" with Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, he knew "very well" after hanging out with him in the 60 Minutes green room in September 2015

and who was said (also falsely) to think Trump was a "genius", and during which Democratic National Committee computers were hacked by what they claimed (correctly) were Russian intelligence forces, some surprising things happened during the Republican convention in Cleveland, attended by Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak; 

For the Record