Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Calls Weren't Coming From Inside the Bureau

The Washington Post decries the flawed investigation of a crime without suggesting that a crime necessarily took place. Photo via bendydiaries.

This may turn out to be kind of unimportant and boring, but I've put too much into it to stop—about an old January 6 story that came up in a dust-up between esteemed commenters on Wednesday's post—and it touches on some general matters that have been preoccupying me for a long time, on how we're to go about looking at reality.

The story, which appeared in competing versions in Mother Jones and The Guardian on Halloween Day 2021, was extracted from a massive investigative piece (16 reporters are listed in the byline) that had come out earlier that day in the Washington Post, laying out everything they could learn about the insurrection considered as a security failure, as far as their sources understood it at that point, and it  focused, as The Guardian wrote it up, on one particular dereliction attributed to the FBI:

Among information that came officials’ way in the weeks before what turned into a riot as lawmakers met to certify the results of the presidential election was a 20 December tip to the FBI that supporters of Donald Trump were discussing online how to sneak guns into Washington to “overrun” police and arrest members of Congress, according to internal bureau documents obtained by the Post.

The tip included details showing those planning violence believed they had orders from the president, used code words such as “pickaxe” to describe guns, and posted the times and locations of four spots around the country for caravans to meet the day before the joint session.

On one site, a poster specifically mentioned Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah, as a target, the Post said....

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Little Good News?


"Troll och Yngling" (Trolls and Youth), by the Swedish artist Einar Bager (1887–1990), via Malmö Museer.

This thing Tuesday from Shane Goldmacher/NYTimes seems to have flown in under the radar, but I think it's interesting:

Small-dollar donations typically increase as an election nears. But just the opposite has happened in recent months across a wide range of Republican entities, including every major party committee and former President Donald J. Trump’s political operation.

The total amount donated online fell by more than 12 percent across all federal Republican campaigns and committees in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, according to an analysis of federal records from WinRed, the main online Republican donation-processing portal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Merrick Garland Did Something


Via The New York Times.

My narratological take is that it started on Friday, when ABC reporters spotted Marc Short, Mike Pence's vice presidential chief of staff, coming out of a federal courthouse in Washington with his lawyer. They asked him if he'd been testifying to the January 6 grand jury meeting there, and of course he had indeed, though he wasn't allowed to say about what. Then over the weekend The New York Times learned that another Pence aide, Greg Jacob, had been testifying as well, making it clear to anybody who's been thinking about it that the Justice Department has indeed been looking at Donald Trump's activities as part of its criminal investigation, because what else would they be talking about with Short (who'd testified to the Select Committee on Pence's January 4 meeting with  Trump and Eastman where Trump screamed at Pence, calling him a wimp and a pussy) or Jacob (who'd testified to telling Pence that Eastman's scheme for refusing to certify the election results was illegal)?

And after that the dam seems to have broken, and by last night we were all learning that that was in fact the case, not just recently in the wake of the House Select Committee's TV appearances but quite a bit earlier:

Saturday, July 23, 2022

How to Coup


Exit Liberté à la François! ... or... Buonaparte closing the Frace of Égalité at St-Cloud near Paris, November 9, 1799; caricature by James Gilray, via Napoléon & Empire.

Friday, July 22, 2022


About an hour into last night's hearing I began to think I was seeing signs of a narrative arc that was leading to a particular place; the repeated juxtapositions between Trump in the West Wing dining room refusing to respond to everybody's entreaties and the carnage ongoing in the Capitol (to which his TV was tuned) were leading inexorably to the moment when he finally consented to go out to the Rose Garden and make the video:

If, as I wrote after a previous hearing,

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Encore Presentation: Embedding

Now we're beginning to see, thanks to Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon, that the awful decline in President Biden's approval numbers was caused neither by public indignation over inflation nor Fox News bogus preoccupation with the president's age, but mostly by our "liberal" media's insane rage over the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I felt like re-upping this post from when it was going on, trying to puzzle out what the journos were so outraged over:

... but even Bunch has the same objection to "how" Biden left as all the embeds have: why did Biden bet that the Afghan government would be able to hold out for four weeks, giving us enough time to get all the journalists' friends to safety, along with the American business community and the Afghan employees of the military? Why didn't he realize it would collapse in a week and start moving everybody out earlier?

To which there's one obvious answer, if you give it a little thought: the moving-out process was going to be a trigger for the collapse, as the White House was warned—if we'd started three weeks earlier, it would have happened three weeks earlier, with the same results. Or 12 years earlier, no doubt.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Learning From Republicans: The Personal Call-Out


"Democrats need the Democratic Party, not the president, not a Speaker, not an elected officeholder, the party infrastructure, I think, has to organize with more ferocity of focus, more determination to set the agenda, set the course, and put the other party on the defense.

What I had in mind was more like this, really. In the first place, in my response to what seems to me like whining about the absence of leaders, that we need to be the leaders ourselves. You know what the "party infrastructure" is? Infrastructure is people, my friends, organizers, activists, and shouty people online like you and me.

And in what I say about some unified partisanship: everybody needs to criticize a Democrat now and then but we need to be more careful about how we do it:

Friday, July 15, 2022

Dirty Fighting


The Discourse is full of this kind of thing, complaining about how Democrats aren't sufficiently like Republicans without offering any examples of what "fighting dirty" would be like. Should we be spreading Big Lies and paranoid fantasies?

Or lots of horrible little ones? Should we be ruining ordinary people's lives the way Republicans did to election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, or to January 6 rioter Ray Epps, and even a 10-year-old girl who needed an abortion? (The latter two covered in a post last night from Steve that's absolutely combative enough, but not in any way I can see dirty—the truth is all he needs.)

What's the dirtiest thing Republicans do? 

Raising campaign money by standing for policies they know are harmful, from the fossil fuel industry to the gun industry to the payday loan industry? Should we be doing some of that? Finding ourselves a bunch of rich clients intent on destroying the world and giving them a legislative hand?

I don't think so. I do think we could use some of the partisanship with which Republicans from one interest group loyally stand behind all the ideas of all their interest groups no matter how terrible and indeed unpopular they are. 

We could just leave out the dirty part by not having any dirty policies, but we all need to get on the same page; "centrists" need to learn that the thing Republicans demonize under the name "critical race theory" actually isn't a bad thing (it's really antiracist education) and start saying so in public, and "progressives" need to understand that property taxes in New Jersey really are too high and opiate addiction among white people really is a problem. 

We should start with the assumption that if a substantial contingent of Democrats believes in something, they're likely to have a point. If Tim Ryan could figure out how many working class white people need help paying back student loans—

An estimated 38.6% of the 43 million student debtors in the United States — roughly 16.6 million people — have debt but no degree six years after first entering college, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data analyzed by the Hope Center’s Mark Huelsman. (Teen Vogue, for heaven's sake)

—and start talking about it, it would do some good. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found out that most of her constituents want to see more police officers on the street rather than fewer (just police officers who don't kill unarmed neighbors, please), she could talk about that too. 

Unlike Donald Trump talking about abortion, we could be telling the truth, but it would still be fighting. That one useful thing Republicans know is that they're in an army, and armies need unit cohesion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

We Are Not a Lawyer

WNYC's Brian Lehrer on the radio yesterday morning, previewing the hearing, reminding us as a "devil's advocate" that Trump asked his audience in the Ellipse speech "to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard" in their march on the Capitol, so maybe his intentions weren't violent at all, and I felt I needed to send him a tweet, as I do from time to time:

Well, Brian never responds to my tweets anyway, but I got something better than that in the afternoon; a fairly vivid account of how my speculation was exactly right, featuring Miller himself, on videotape, telling the January Six committee how he drafted the speech, with Trump demanding the insertion of denunciations of Vice President Pence, and Miller trying to pull them back out on the advice of counsel, in Rep. Stephanie Murphy's retelling:

Friday, July 8, 2022

Alexander Boris and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This Jonathan Pie is a little long, but it's choice British invective:

"If you cared about integrity why did you put him in in the first place?"

All I wanted to say about the thing is sort of in there. There's an irritating tendency here on the tubes to make it all about us, an object lesson, showing how bad America is because their Tories are more "honorable" than our Republicans:

No, you are wrong. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Rhode Island Reds


1844 editorial cartoon in support of democracy in Rhode Island, via Wikipedia.

Law professor Melissa Murray was on the radio pointing out the irony of the "independent state legislature theory" in the case of Moore v. Harper to which the Supreme Court granted cert. last week in what I guess was their last act of vandalism for the term. This is the case of the North Carolina Republicans claiming that the state supreme court had no right to throw out their 2020 redistricting map (it was so partisan that the court claimed it violated the state constitution) because the federal Constitution says state legislatures can do anything they want when it comes to federal elections, even if it's illegal in the state.

There are two relev­ant clauses. One is the Elec­tions Clause, which reads, “The Times, Places and Manner of hold­ing Elec­tions for Senat­ors and Repres­ent­at­ives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legis­lature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regu­la­tions.”

The other is the Pres­id­en­tial Elect­ors Clause, which reads, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legis­lature thereof may direct, a Number of Elect­ors.”

How you get from there to "the Legislature thereof" has supreme power to do whatever it wants I don't really know.

The "irony" Murray finds lies in the fact that the whole thing arose to public prominence because of concerns over election security in the 2020 election, and the idea that maybe state legislatures would have to step in to guarantee it, and yet now that the Supreme Court has decided to take up the case all those concerns have evaporated because it turned out there wasn't any evidence to justify them.

Except to me it's not ironic at all, since those "concerns" were bogus from the start. The "independent state legislature theory" has been around for a while (Chief Justice Rehnquist apparently evoked it in his concurrence in Bush v. Gore as a justification for Florida's deciding not to count all the votes), and though it's never attracted a SCOTUS majority, Alito, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, endorsed it pretty decisively in a dissent in one of Trump's attempts to thwart the 2020 Pennsylvania election results:

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Literary Corner: Confidence

Trump in 2018 stumping for Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in his beloved shtik about how "anyone can act presidential". 

Today, in another blast from the past, somebody tweeted an example of Trump actually attempting to act presidential in the normal sense of the term, during the last presidential campaign, reading a fairly simple statement about the kind of thing presidents normally talk about and getting tripped up by the Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit. Not in the most familiar way when he realizes he's misread a word in the text and tries to cover up the error—in this case he's looking for an error but can't find one; in fact he's not making any mistakes (other than a minor glitch between "the" and "an"), but can't believe it because he doesn't know what it means, what he's hearing coming out of his mouth sounds like complete nonsense to him, and he's really panicked.

So Think of That

by Donald J. Trump, July 2020

consumer confidence
which is great
that's a great number
to me because
that means confidence
is really good
if you don't have good consumer confidence
it's like life
if you don't have confidence
then you're not going to do very well
consumer confidence has risen twelve points
since April and six-month job expectations hit
the all-time
an all-time high
so think of that for a second
with all we go through
with all of the trials and tribulations
that we read about every night
much of it totally fake news
and if the consumer didn't get it
you wouldn't have good consumer confidence

we have
consumer confidence has risen
twelve points since April
an all-time high
think of that

Friday, July 1, 2022

Democrats Get in the Gutter But Not Like THAT Kind of Gutter

Who says we're hopelessly divided into camps that are unable to communicate with each other? Here's David F. Brooks of The New York Times ("Why on Earth Is Pelosi Supporting the Trumpists?") agreeing with Jeet Heer of The Nation ("Why Centrist Democrats Love Promoting Right-Wing Extremists") that the Democratic establishment ought to stop buying attack ads against "moderate" Republican primary candidates in what seems to be the hope of helping the wacky candidates become the ones Democrats will face in November.

Which seems to be what some of them have been doing:

In Illinois alone [writes Brooks], the Democratic Governors Association and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent at least $30 million to attack a Trumpist’s moderate gubernatorial opponent. In Pennsylvania, a Democratic campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads intended to help a Trumpist candidate win the G.O.P. gubernatorial primary. A political action committee affiliated with Nancy Pelosi worked to boost far-right Republican House candidates in California and Colorado.

Pritzker actually spent $32 million of his own money attacking Mayor Richard Irvin of Aurora, and the DGA another $18.4 million, which is certainly an awful lot—Irvin himself had a war chest of $50 million, from the Citadel hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, who's been mostly concerned with stopping Pritzker from replacing Illinois's flat income tax with a graduated one. Irvin, an African American veteran and former prosecutor who voted as a Democrat in the 2016 and 2020 primaries (Illinois has open primaries) and hedged publicly on his feelings about Trump, but not in text messages unearthed by WTTW-TV: