Later On

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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

Mini-golf game based on Congressional districts

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The Washington Post has an interactive mini-golf game that’s actually a lot of fun, while also displaying just how aggressive gerrymandering has become. That’s a gift link, so no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2022 at 1:14 pm

A determined effort to destroy the United States

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If this isn’t domestic terrorism and sedition, I don’t know what is. Heather Cox Richardson:

January 11, 2022 (Tuesday)

The United States came perilously close to losing its democracy in 2020, when an incumbent president refused to accept the results of an election he lost and worked with supporters to declare himself the winner and remain in power.

We are learning more about how that process happened.

Yesterday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol revealed that it has been looking at attempts to overturn the election not just at the national level but also at the state level. It has gathered thousands of records and interviewed a number of witnesses to see what Trump and his loyalists did to overturn the 2020 election in the four crucial states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

In those states, officials generally tried to ignore the pressure from Trump and his loyalists to overturn the election. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, was uncomfortable enough with a call from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on the subject that he recorded a call in which Trump urged him to “find” the votes Trump needed to win the state.

In Pennsylvania, right-wing Republican Representative Scott Perry tried to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes for Biden and to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen (who took over when Attorney General William Barr resigned on December 23) with Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who promised to challenge the election results.

But it turns out there was more. We knew that Trump supporters in Wisconsin had submitted fake election certificates to the National Archivist, but yesterday, public records requests by Politico revealed that Trump loyalists in Michigan and Arizona also submitted false certificates to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) declaring Trump the winner of Michigan’s and Arizona’s electoral votes. In Arizona, they actually affixed the state seal to their papers. NARA rejected the false certificates and alerted the secretaries of state. (Shout-out here to the NARA archivists and librarians, who are scrupulous in their roles as the keepers of our national history.)

Today, the committee issued more subpoenas, this time for documents and testimony from Andy Surabian, Arthur Schwartz, and Ross Worthington. Surabian and Schwartz were strategists communicating with Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle about the rally on the Ellipse on January 6 before the crowd broke into the Capitol. Worthington helped to write the speech Trump gave at the rally.

The committee today also debunked a story circulating on right-wing media that government agencies rather than Trump loyalists were behind the January 6 insurrection. Arizona resident Ray Epps was captured on video in Washington on January 5 and 6, and Trump allies, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have argued that he was a government agent trying to entrap Trump supporters. The committee says that it interviewed Epps and that he had told the members “he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.”

“Sorry crazies, it ain’t true,” committee member Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeted.

As the attack on our country has become clearer, the determination to restore our democracy has gained momentum.

Today, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took to the road to champion voting rights. They went to the district of the late Representative John Lewis, the Georgia congressman for whom one of the voting rights bills before the Senate is named.

Lewis was beaten by mobs and arrested 24 times in his quest to regain the vote for Black Americans. On March 7, 1965, as  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 9:53 pm

Average citizens have no measurable impact on public policy

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Here’s an article by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, who also wrote the book Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It. An abstract of the article (which itself is worth reading — and see also the previous post):

Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics – which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

American Democracy?

Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic, quantitative fashion.

By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

Interest groups do have substantial independent impacts on policy, and a few groups (particularly labor unions) represent average citizens’ views reasonably well. But the interest group system as a whole does not. Over-all, net interest group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens. The net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes. So existing interest groups do not serve effectively as transmission belts for the wishes of the populace as a whole.

Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically elite citizens who wield the actual influence.

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

A possible objection to populistic democracy is that average citizens are inattentive to politics and ignorant about public policy; why should we worry if their poorly informed preferences do not influence policy making? Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does. Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.

But we tend to doubt it. We believe instead that – collectively – ordinary citizens generally know their own values and interests pretty well, and that their expressed policy preferences are worthy of respect. Moreover, we are not so sure about the informational advantages of elites. Yes, detailed policy knowledge tends to rise with income and status. Surely wealthy Americans and corporate executives tend to know a lot about tax and regulatory policies that directly affect them. But how much do they know about the human impact of Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, or unemployment insurance, none of which is likely to be crucial to their own well-being? Most important, we see no reason to think that informational expertise is always accompanied by an inclination to transcend one’s own interests or a determination to work for the common good.

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

As a comment by Don McCanne, MD points out:

Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page present historical data that show that average Americans, even when represented by majoritarian interest groups, have negligible influence in shaping public policy. In sharp contrast, the economic elites and their business-oriented interest groups wield tremendous influence in public policy.

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez have shown that the flow of income to the top has resulted in a concentration of wealth that is not only self-sustaining but likely to perpetuate the transfer of more wealth to the wealthiest, at a cost to everyone else.

This combination – a concentration of wealth at the top with the domination of policymaking by the economic elite, does not bode well for new policies that would be established for the common good.

In health care reform, the common good would have been served by improving coverage through the removal of financial barriers to care and by expanding coverage to everyone. Instead, the interests of the economic elite were served by increasing the market for private insurance products that, for the majority, increased financial barriers to care and reduced choice of providers, while leaving tens of millions of the most vulnerable without any coverage. More wealth moves to the passive investors at the top, while the deterioration in coverage requires average Americans to spend more out-of-pocket through higher deductibles.

We desperately need a well-designed single payer system if we want everyone to have the health care that they should have. At this point it appears that the economic elites are not going to allow single payer, and we will have no say.

Even though our Constitution laid the plans for a democracy, by fiat we now have a plutarchy (plutocratic oligarchy). Although Gilens and Page have shown that our Majoritarian Electoral Democracy has “only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” perhaps the people can still change that. Although recent history demonstrates citizen inertia, that does not necessarily lock in the future. Think of Social Security, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act.

A decade ago, in a book review for the NEJM on . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 12:04 pm

Can a President do nothing illegal while in office?

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Trump and his loyalists/minions certainly seem to think that Trump cannot be held legally accountable for anything he did while in office. Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta held a hearing in Washington, D.C., to determine whether three lawsuits against former president Trump and a number of his loyalists should be permitted to go forward.

The lawsuits have been filed by Democratic members of the House and Capitol Police officers injured on January 6 against Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), and others. The plaintiffs are trying to hold Trump and his team liable in a civil suit for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

But the questions in these three cases mirror those being discussed by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and touch on whether the former president committed a crime by inciting insurrection or by standing back while the rioters stopped the official proceedings of Congress (which itself is a crime).

Most significantly, Judge Mehta grappled with the meaning of Trump’s refusal to call off the rioters for 187 crucial minutes during the insurrection as they stormed the Capitol. This is a key factor on which the January 6th committee is focused, and Mehta dug into it.

While Trump’s lawyer tried to argue that the president could not be in trouble for failing to do something—that is, for failing to call off the rioters—the judge wondered if Trump’s long silence indicated that he agreed with the insurrectionists inside the Capitol. “If my words had been misconstrued…and they led to violence, wouldn’t somebody, the reasonable person, just come out and say, wait a second, stop?” he asked.

The judge also tried to get at the answer to whether the actions of Trump and his loyalists at the rally were protected as official speech, or were part of campaign activities, which are not protected. Brooks told the judge that everything he did—including wearing body armor to tell the crowd to fight—was part of his official duties. The Department of Justice said this summer that it considered the rally a campaign event and would not defend Brooks for his part in it.

Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, argued that Trump is absolutely immune from any legal consequences for anything he said while president. “So the president, in your view, is both immune to inciting the riot and failing to stop it?” Mehta asked.

When Binnall suggested the judge was holding Trump to a different standard than he would hold a Democrat, Mehta called the charge “simply inappropriate.”

For all their bluster before the media, key figures in the events of January 6 appear to be increasingly uncomfortable. Last night, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) joined other Trump administration figures when he announced that he would not appear before the January 6th committee. It has asked him to testify voluntarily, since he has acknowledged that he spoke to Trump on January 6, and since the committee has at least one text from him appearing to embrace the theory that the election results could be overturned.

Jordan claimed that the committee has no legitimate legislative purpose, although a judge has said otherwise.

Observers today noted that Jordan is denying that he recognizes the authority of Congress, and pointed out that in 2015, then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, in fact, recognize that authority when she testified for 11 hours before ​​a Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Today, establishment Republicans showed some resistance to Trump’s attempt to remake the Republican Party as his own when they . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 3:17 am

The Jan. 6 Insurrectionists Begging for Pardons Sound an Awful Lot Like Confederate Soldiers

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In Mother Jones Anthony Conwright points out an interesting similarity:

Receiving a presidential pardon for subverting the government is not a novelty in the United States, though the Trump era made it almost a stamp of approval for criminal behavior. In an interview with Rolling Stone, an organizer of the “Stop the Steal” movement claimed that, before the Capitol breach, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) promised a “full pardon” for their “hard work” and said Trump was also on board.

“I would have done it either way with or without the pardon,” the organizer, who was granted anonymity by Rolling Stone, added. Gosar joined 197 other House Republicans who voted not to impeach Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” absolving Trump of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which forbids any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from “hold[ing] any office…under the United States,” itself a pardon of sorts.

Of course, now that Trump is out of office, the January 6 rioters aren’t going to get pardoned anytime soon. But the insurrectionists and their leaders have an awful lot in common with another group of white people who tried to destroy the country: Confederate soldiers. And the era of Reconstruction offers lessons for what happens when the government allows traitors posing as patriotic legislators to remain in its midst.

On December 8, 1863, while the war was still raging, Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which, in a bid to popularize emancipation, gave a full pardon to all Confederates who took an oath of allegiance to the United States, excepting the highest-ranking officials. Once 10 percent of those who voted in the 1860 election took the oath of allegiance, a state could be readmitted to the union. Private property of Southerners would be restored, so long as emancipation was accepted. The goals of Lincoln’s proclamation were to “suppress the insurrection” and provide a pathway for Confederate states to join the union; in other words, to allow the South to turn over a new leaf and help the country move forward.

Radical Republicans feared Lincoln’s 10 percent plan was too lenient. They were proved right when, after Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson—who not a year earlier gave a speech saying, “I am for a white man’s government, and in favor of free white qualified voters controlling this country, without regard to negroes”—began undermining Reconstruction. He started by pardoning high-ranking Confederates. Among them was Harry T. Hayes, a former Confederate general who led the rebels at Gettysburg. Following Hayes’ pardon, he became sheriff of New Orleans and in 1866 deputized fellow Confederates to disrupt a Louisiana constitutional convention. When a delegation of 130 Black citizens marched to the convention to extend voting rights to free Black people, remove Black Codes, and disenfranchise ex-Confederates, Hayes and his deputies fired upon the group, killing at least 40 free Black people in what is known as the New Orleans massacre.

In a speech, Johnson blamed the massacre on the “Radical Congress” pushing for a “new government” that intended “to enfranchise one portion of the population, called the colored population, who had just been emancipated, and at the same time disenfranchise white men.”

Trump, who opposed redesignating military bases named after Confederate generals, echoed Johnson days after the insurrection, blaming “antifa people.” He repeated the refrains he’d been pounding on for months, falsely accusing predominantly Black counties of election fraud. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats.” Trump’s “radical-left Democrats” are Johnson’s “Radical Congress,” a coalition of progressives who attempted to thwart their president’s anti-Black agenda. Like Johnson, Trump views Black suffrage as antithetical to his political existence. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump’s lies about the insurrection were a remastering of the South’s “lost cause,” a Confederate myth that the Civil War was not a battle for slavery but for “states’ rights” against Northern aggressors, and that white enslavers were benevolent owners of Black human beings. The lost cause presented Confederates with an attractive concession: The South lost the war not because their position was morally repugnant but because the North had superior resources.

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, touted the “lost cause” in his autobiographyThe Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. “I confidently refer for the establishment of the fact that whatever of bloodshed, of devastation, or shock to republican government has resulted from the war, is to be charged to the Northern States.” Davis was pardoned on December 25, 1868, when Johnson extended amnesty to each person who’d participated in the rebellion—which jettisoned Davis’ trial for treason and contravened Republicans’ attempts to punish Confederate soldiers—ultimately expunging every Confederate of crimes against the United States. (Although Davis was pardoned by Johnson, he was not allowed to vote or hold office. Davis was posthumously awarded “full rights of citizenship” in 1978 by Jimmy Carter.)

Trump reappraised the violence, treachery, and death his supporters caused on January 6 as honorable protest of “innocent people” whose rights were plundered. In Trump’s contemporary fiction, he did not lose the election—his presidency was overthrown by Democratic marauders, and he lacked the political resources to surmount their coup. In the year since,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 4:25 pm

The failure to protect

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Heather Cox Richardson writes about January 6:

Just before sunrise on a November day in 1861, Massachusetts abolitionist Julia Ward Howe woke up in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. She got out of bed, found a pen, and began to write about the struggle in which the country was engaged: could any nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” survive, or would such a nation inevitably descend into hierarchies and minority rule?

Howe had faith in America. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” she wrote in the gray dawn. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.”

She thought of the young soldiers she had seen the day before, huddled around fires in the raw winter weather, ringing the city to protect it from the soldiers of the Confederacy who were fighting to create a nation that rejected the idea that all men were created equal: “I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps; They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps, His day is marching on.”

Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic became inspiration for the soldiers protecting the United States government. And in a four-year war that took hundreds of thousands of lives, they prevailed. Despite the threats to Washington, D.C., and the terrible toll the war took, they made sure the Confederate flag never flew in the U.S. Capitol.

That changed a year ago today.

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists determined to overturn an election and undermine our democracy carried that flag into the seat of our government. Worse, they did so with the encouragement of former president Trump and members of his party.

This morning, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol tweeted out a brief timeline of what happened:

At 8:17 in the morning, Trump lied that states wanted to correct their electoral votes and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to send the electoral votes back to the states. If Pence would cooperate, he tweeted, “WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Starting at 12:00 noon, Trump spoke for an hour to supporters at the Ellipse, telling them, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.” He urged them to march to the Capitol.

Between 12:52 and 1:49, pipe bombs were found near the Capitol grounds at Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters. (We learned today that Vice President–elect Kamala Harris, then a senator from California, was in the DNC at the time.)

At 1:00, Congress met in joint session to count the certified electoral ballots, confirming Biden as president. Pence began to count the ballots. He refused to reject the ballots Trump wanted thrown out, writing in a letter before the joint session, “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

From 1:00 to 1:13, the mob began to charge the Capitol.

Between 1:30 and 1:59, Trump supporters continued to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol, overwhelming the Capitol Police, who were ordered to pull back and request support.

Between 2:12 and 2:30, the mob broke into the Capitol building, one man carrying the Confederate battle flag. Both the House and the Senate adjourned, and members began to evacuate their chambers.

From 2:24 to 3:13, with the rioters inside the Capitol, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done…. USA demands the truth!” and then “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement…. Stay peaceful!” (One of Trump’s aides today revealed that the former president did not want to tweet the words “stay peaceful” and was “very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.”)

At 4:17, shortly after Biden had publicly called on Trump to end the siege, Trump issued a video insisting that the election was fraudulent but nonetheless telling the mob to “go home. We love you, you’re very special.”

At 5:20, the first of the National Guard troops arrived at the Capitol. Law enforcement began to push the insurrectionists out of the building and secure it.

At 8:06, the building was secured. Pence reopened the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reopened the House.

When the counting of the ballots resumed, 147 Republicans maintained their objections to at least one certified state ballot.

Early on the morning of January 7, Congress confirmed that Joe Biden had been elected president with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. It was not a particularly close election: Biden’s victory in the popular vote was more than 7 million.

For almost a year, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 2:34 am

Capitol Rioter Admits False Statements to FBI, but Prosecutors Haven’t Charged Him With a Felony

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The reason, I imagine, is that the FBI is strongly conservative and so has considerable sympathy for the “patriots” who attacked the Capitol. Certainly, Muslims who lie to the FBI get no slack.

Trevor Aaronson reports in the Intercept:

IT WASN’T HARD for the FBI to identify Jeff Grace as one of the rioters in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. A 61-year-old long-haul truck driver from Washington state, Grace was in the background of one of the most ridiculous and iconic photographs from that day: the shot of a man in a red, white, and blue Trump hat waving to the camera while carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the rotunda. Grace’s bald head was visible in the background.

“You know the guy carrying the lectern out?” Grace would later ask a Texas police officer, in a video Grace recorded and posted online during a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border while he was on pretrial release.

“Yes, sir,” the officer responded.

“Look at the old man behind him,” Grace boasted. “That’s me.”

FBI agents arrested Grace at his home in Battle Ground, Washington, near the Oregon border, about three weeks after the Capitol riot.

According to a review of court records by The Intercept in collaboration with the Prosecution Project, Grace is one of 707 Americans charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with crimes related to the January 6 riot, during which five people died. As with 316 of those criminal defendants, or 45 percent of the total, Grace faces only misdemeanor charges for his part in a violent mob that overran barricades and killed and injured police officers at the Capitol as part of an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president

After his arrest, Grace told FBI agents that he had lost track of his son, Jeremy, with whom he had traveled from Washington state, during the melee and that he entered the U.S. Capitol without him. He also denied to federal agents that he was a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group that has been responsible for violence throughout the United States.

According to The Intercept’s analysis of federal court records, the Justice Department has charged at least 47 alleged members and affiliates of the Proud Boys with crimes related to the Capitol riot, including some with conspiring to obstruct a congressional proceeding. The Proud Boys represented the largest militant-group contingent during the insurrection; the far-right Oath Keepers made up the second-largest contingent, with 29 alleged Oath Keepers charged for their roles in the insurrection. The FBI appeared to be concerned in advance about possible violence from the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, with at least one informant providing firsthand details about the group’s activities to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors allege that Grace made two false statements to FBI agents: when he said he wasn’t with his son in the Capitol and when he said he wasn’t a member of the Proud Boys. Grace’s son has since also been charged with misdemeanors related to the January 6 riot, after investigators found videos among deleted files on Grace’s phone showing father and son together inside the Capitol.

Months after Grace pleaded not guilty to the federal misdemeanor charges, Justice Department prosecutors alleged in court that he engaged in armed clashes in Texas and Oregon. Prosecutors asked a judge to force Grace to relinquish his guns while he awaits trial. “Grace’s recent escalation in which he twice brought a firearm to pre-planned confrontations with others and vowed to continue doing so establishes that the proposed amendment is reasonably necessary to protect the safety of the community,” Mona Sedky, a federal prosecutor, wrote in a court filing.

A judge agreed and ordered Grace to turn over his guns to local police in Washington state. But the Justice Department has not brought additional charges for Grace’s false statements to the FBI, which would transform Grace’s case into a far more serious prosecution. Making false statements to FBI agents is a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and in international terrorism cases, prosecutors commonly file the charge. More than 150 defendants with alleged links to foreign terror groups have been charged with making false statements since 9/11, often for alleged offenses similar to Grace’s: misleading statements about their involvement in extremist groups or about people with whom they’re associated.

Grace has complained in videos he’s posted to YouTube that the Justice Department is treating him unfairly. “How do you feel free thinking that I don’t deserve to carry my firearms?” Grace asked in one video.

But Grace is in fact benefiting from a long-running double standard in how the Justice Department prosecutes violent domestic extremists compared with extremists associated with international groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Since 9/11, for example, Muslims involved in bombing cases are often charged with using weapons of mass destruction, an anti-terrorism charge that comes with decades in prison, while anti-abortion extremists who’ve bombed reproductive health clinics have faced lesser explosives charges for similar crimes.

“There is no question that the FBI and federal prosecutors have treated white supremacist and far-right violence far more leniently than Muslims they accuse of supporting terrorism and even more leniently than nonviolent protesters opposing racism and police violence,” said Michael German, a former FBI undercover agent who investigated domestic extremists and is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The felony charge of making false statements to federal agents is particularly emblematic of the double standard. The Justice Department gave Grace a pass on the charge, but federal prosecutors have not been as generous in similar cases involving alleged Islamist extremists.

A few months after prosecutors charged Grace for his role in the Capitol riot, for example, they . . ..

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 2:13 pm

January 6th was part of something larger — that we must confront now

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David Troy writes in Medium:

In 2009, Peter Thiel said, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” There exists today a coordinated effort to eliminate democracy, driven by libertarian billionaires like Thiel, a global network of anti-tax advocates, white supremacists, oil interests, and organized crime, all aligned in common purpose. This is incompatible with this country’s founding principles and must be countered forcefully.

The January 6th insurrection was an attack on American democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. A broader view of history reveals that this was just one facet of a much larger effort by the fossil fuel industry to destroy governments in its way using psychological warfare (including movement infiltrationtargeting lawmakers with sophisticated influence campaigns, and fake front groups), and pushing for changes in monetary policy.

We are at a crossroads. The global fossil fuel industry thinks in terms of decades and centuries. American democracy operates on two and four year cycles. The two are simply no match. Oil revenues can purchase influence and astroturfing cheaply, totally overwhelming our democracy. And once American democracy falls, others are not far behind.

We must, before it’s too late, bring the influence of the carbon fuel industry under control, and curb cryptocurrencies through strong regulation and taxation. As weather disasters become increasingly dire, we must confront the fact that attacks on democracy and monetary policy are in fact attacks on the planet. And we must stand up against the international fascist network seeking to use America’s collapse as a blueprint.

The current assault is a culmination of about 100 years of effort. In 1933, a network associated with the National Association of Manufacturers and the petroleum industry attempted to recruit Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler to overthrow the government, leading an army of “500,000 veteran super-soldiers” to capture or kill FDR, and reinstate the gold standard he had abandoned to fund the New Deal. They studied emerging fascism in Italy and France to plan their attack; Butler turned the plotters in to Congress.

The far right Council for National Policy, one network whose members planned and executed the January 6th attack, was created in 1981 with funding from the Hunt Brothers — oil billionaires whose net worth was sufficiently threatened by inflation that they attempted to corner the global silver market the year before. The idea of “sound money,” out of reach of central banks like the Federal Reserve, has long been a fixation of oil barons.

Koch Industries, through its network of affiliates such as Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, ALEC and the Federalist Society, has funded multiple efforts to obstruct the transition from carbon fuels, including the 5–4 capture of the Supreme Court. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has documented this Koch operation in a series of 10 speeches on the Senate Floor.

Today’s GOP agenda has been so overtaken by the Koch brand of libertarianism, powered by Austrian-school economics and funding from the Mercer, Scaife, Bradley, and Olin families, as to be indistinguishable from the 1980 libertarian party platform in which Vice Presidential candidate David Koch proposed nothing less than the dismantling of the administrative state — a concept later echoed by Steve Bannon and his Council for National Policy (CNP) counterparts.

Dr. Robert Brulle, a visiting scholar at Brown University, found that in recent decades, the oil and gas industry has increasingly shifted its focus from funding relatively ineffective and inexpensive “climate denial science” to spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year on population-centered psychological warfare and influence campaigns focused on “climate obstruction.”

Another key front in the effort to obstruct climate regulation is . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 1:56 pm

One Single Day. That’s All It Took for the World to Look Away From Us.

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Again, a gift link that bypasses the paywall. Francis Fukuyama writes in the NY Times:

The Jan. 6 attack on Congress by a mob inspired by former President Donald Trump marked an ominous precedent for U.S. politics. Not since the Civil War had the country failed to effect a peaceful transfer of power, and no previous candidate purposefully contested an election’s results in the face of broad evidence that it was free and fair.

The event continues to reverberate in American politics — but its impact is not just domestic. It has also had a large impact internationally and signals a significant decline in American global power and influence.

Jan. 6 needs to be seen against the backdrop of the broader global crisis of liberal democracy. According to Freedom House’s 2021 Freedom in the World report, democracy has been in decline for 15 straight years, with some of the largest setbacks coming in the world’s two largest democracies, the United States and India. Since that report was issued, coups took place in Myanmar, Tunisia and Sudan, countries that had previously taken promising steps toward democracy.

The world had experienced a huge expansion in the number of democracies, from around 35 in the early 1970s to well over 110 by the time of the 2008 financial crisis. The United States was critical to what was labeled the “Third Wave” of democratization. America provided security to democratic allies in Europe and East Asia, and presided over an increasingly integrated global economy that quadrupled its output in that same period.

But global democracy was underpinned by the success and durability of democracy in the United States itself — what the political scientist Joseph Nye labels its “soft power.” People around the world looked up to America’s example as one they sought to emulate, from the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to the protesters leading the “color revolutions” in Europe and the Middle East in subsequent decades.

The decline of democracy worldwide is driven by complex forces. Globalization and economic change have left many behind, and a huge cultural divide has emerged between highly educated professionals living in cities and residents of smaller towns with more traditional values. The rise of the internet has weakened elite control over information; we have always disagreed over values, but we now live in separate factual universes. And the desire to belong and have one’s dignity affirmed are often more powerful forces than economic self-interest.

The world thus looks very different from the way it did roughly 30 years ago, when the former Soviet Union collapsed. There were two key factors I underestimated back then — first, . . .

Continue reading. Gift link = no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 1:35 pm

How Republicans Are Rigging A Decade Of Elections

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US democracy is under assault, and the resistance to that seems divided and weak. 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 11:59 am

The truth about corporate contributions to Republican objectors since January 6

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Judd Legum has some encouraging findings in Popular Information. Contrary to newspaper headlines and claims by lobbyists, corporate contributions to the Republican members of Congress who objected to the election results (even though those results were certified by the various states) have plummeted. Read the whole article. The nut graf:

94 Republican objectors … are running for reelection in 2021 and also ran as incumbents in 2019. These 94 Republican objectors raised $11,052,925 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2021, the most recent data available. The same 94 Republican objectors raised $27,205,290 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2019. So while the media narrative is that corporate PAC contributions to Republican objectors have returned to normal, the reality is that they’ve dropped by 60%.

Do read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 12:32 pm

Investigation developments reported by Heather Cox Richardson

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

A quick review to get us up to speed for what promises to be a fraught week, launching a fraught year.

The big story of the new year is what we will learn from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose members have announced they will hold public hearings early in 2022. As the New York Times editorial board put it in the paper’s January 1, 2022, edition, “Every Day Is January 6 Now.”

The New York Times editorial board—which consists of opinion journalists who weigh in on important issues—warned that the attack on democracy we witnessed so traumatically on January 6 has not ended. It persists in ongoing threats to election officials, threats to murder opponents, and new state laws skewing elections toward Republicans.

“In short,” they wrote, “the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends.”

The board called for Republicans to be honest with their voters and to fight their party’s extremists. It called for Democrats to end the filibuster for voting rights legislation, at least. And it called for “Americans of all stripes who value their self-government” to “mobilize at every level…to win elections and help protect the basic functions of democracy.”

There were two stories that dropped late on Friday, December 31, New Year’s Eve, that reflect on the ongoing story of the attempt to undermine our democracy.

First, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik, a high-school dropout who began a meteoric rise to prominence after working as Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani’s chauffeur and bodyguard, delivered documents to the committee. Convicted in 2010 of tax fraud, ethics violations, and making false statements to loan officers and the federal government when being investigated for government positions, Kerik has been fiercely loyal to Trump, who granted him a full pardon in February 2020.

The documents Kerik’s lawyer delivered on Friday included a 22-page document titled “STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN—GIULIANI PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL DEFENSE TEAM.” Its subtitle was “We Have 10 Days To Execute This Plan & Certify President Trump!”

The document laid out a pressure campaign directed at “SWING STATE REPUBLICAN SENATORS—AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI,”  “REPULBICAN [sic] MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE, and “REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE SENATE.”  It laid out the false argument that the election had been stolen, offered messaging to push these false claims, and provided a list of outlets and influencers to use, including the House “Freedom Caucus” members. It called for protests around the country, including at “weak Members’ homes.”

Kerik’s lawyer also delivered a list of documents Kerik is withholding on the grounds that they are “attorney work product.” Although Kerik is not himself an attorney, the list indicates that the documents he is withholding were reviewed or written by an attorney.

The documents Kerik is withholding included a three-page letter with an eye-popping title: “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” Drafted on December 17, the letter might well refer to the plan advanced by Trump’s disgraced national security advisor Michael Flynn and then-attorney Sidney Powell in mid-December 2020 that Trump should declare martial law, seize voting machines, and “rerun” the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, the Big Lie behind this document—that our election system is hopelessly corrupt and Trump was cheated—continues to be proved false. Also on Friday, the first piece of the audit of the 2020 election in Texas, launched in September after former president Trump demanded that Texas governor Greg Abbott investigate the election in the state, came out. Friday’s report said the investigators found nothing out of the ordinary.

Today, members of the January 6 committee revealed some of what they have learned. On ABC’s This Week, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told host George Stephanopoulos that “we have uncovered some things that cause us real concern,” and that “[i]t appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election.”

On the same program and on CBS’s Face The Nation, committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) painted a picture of Trump watching the attack on the Capitol from the private dining room in the White House, refusing to call off the rioters despite the pleas of his staff, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and even his own daughter Ivanka.

His refusal to act, Cheney continues to emphasize, was a “supreme dereliction of duty.” He was the only person who could have stopped the rioters—many of whom have since told courts that they were there because they believed he had called them to be—and he refused to act. Instead, he tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence was a coward, and made at least one phone call to a senator demanding a delay in counting the electoral votes. When he finally did release a video telling the rioters to leave, more than three hours after the attack started, Trump acknowledged that he did, in fact, know that he commanded them.

We’ll see where this goes, but to this historian and non-lawyer (!) it does seem like he’s coming perilously close to being called out for leading a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

Aside from the story of what Trump was doing—or not doing—in those crucial hours, Cheney’s interviews this morning revealed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 8:20 pm

Shaken by the Jan. 6 attack, Capitol workers quit jobs that once made them proud

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Paul Schwartzman and Peter Jamison have an interesting report in the Washington Post of an ominous trend in public service: justifiable fear of the public. (Link is a gift link that bypasses the paywall). Their report begins:

The House staffer quit after awakening one night and imagining a pack of Proud Boys amassing outside his apartment door. Another left after questioning whether strangers he encountered had helped plot the insurrection. A police officer resigned, still agitated by the frantic voices of co-workers she recalled hearing on her radio scanner that day.

“What’s the plan?” one had asked.

“I’ve got an officer down!” another had shouted.

A year ago, they all worked at the U.S. Capitol, a citadel of American democracy they believed was as impervious to attack as any center of Washington power. But Jan. 6, 2021, upended all that. An invading mob of Donald Trump’s followers destroyed that sense of security — not only on that day but in the long year that followed.

“There’s a dark cloud over Capitol Hill,” said Jodi Breiterman, a Capitol Police officer who submitted retirement papers in November after almost 21 years on the force, and will officially leave the agency in mid-January. “I look at officers’ faces, and they’ve changed. They’ve lost weight and they don’t know why.”

In the months since the insurrection, senators and representatives have chronicled the trauma of Jan. 6, recalling how they cowered behind seats in the House chamber and barricaded themselves in offices as Trump acolytes pounded on doors and shouted threats of violence.

Yet alongside the political leaders, there were hundreds of Capitol workers who suffered their own trauma that day. They are the supporting cast on the edges of Washington’s biggest stage: the legislative aides, police officers, custodians and cafeteria workers who keep the business of government moving and ensure that the Capitol is safe, clean and well-functioning.

In many cases, they soldiered on after the insurrection, entrenched in positions that can be high-pressure and demanding even on routine days. But for other Capitol workers, Jan. 6 became a psychic tipping point, a reason to leave jobs that had made them targets for threats and potential danger.

“The idea that you’re in a place where your life is at risk was just — on top of everything else — the clinching factor for me,” said Rich Luchette, 35, a former senior adviser to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “It becomes overwhelming at some point.”

A sign of the enduring trauma, Luchette said, occurred a week or so after the insurrection, when the sounds of partying neighbors woke him up in his Navy Yard apartment. As he opened his eyes, his first thought was: “Are there Proud Boys out in the hallway?”

Luchette had considered looking for a new job before Jan. 6. By July, he had found one.

In any given year, staff turnover at the Capitol is constant, making it difficult to quantify the number of employees who quit or retired because of the insurrection. More than 100 U.S. Capitol Police officers had departed as of early December, a figure that was a sharp increase over the previous year.

On a typical day, the 290-acre Capitol complex is a veritable city unto itself, spread out over multiple blocks, with its own subway system, an array of cafeterias and a workforce approaching 30,000 people.

Jan. 6 was anything but typical, with the coronavirus having kept many employees at home. Yet, no matter where they were as the insurrection unfolded, Capitol employees could not help but feel violated as they saw rioters invade and vandalize their workplace.

Another former House staffer, a Democrat who quit months after Jan. 6, said the toll of that day grew as time passed.

“I got to the point where my mental health just took an absolute nose dive because I was still trying to process all this stuff,” said the former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retribution from Trump supporters.

Death threats continued to arrive daily by phone from constituents who were convinced that Democrats had stolen the election. “It absolutely broke me to know that people would be fine if my boss was dead, if I was dead, if my co-workers were dead,” she said. “The American people stopped believing in the institution. And if they don’t believe in it, what the hell are any of us doing working for it?” . . .

Continue reading. (Again: this is a gift link that bypasses the paywall.)

The effort to destroy the US government and bring down US democracy is serious and on-going.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 7:03 am

Year-end good news

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Heather Cox Richardson shares some good news — and some other news:

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  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2021 at 1:57 pm

The Paperwork Coup

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David A. Graham writes in the Atlantic:

This is a tale of two coups—or rather, two attempted coups.

One is the well-known January 6 insurrection, memorialized in iconic photographs, gripping videos, and minute-by-minute reconstructions, and followed by hundreds of arrests, more than 50 convictions, and a House select-committee investigation. The other attempt took place over weeks and was mostly waged in closed-door meetings, legal memos, and private phone calls; it has thus far produced little accountability.

In the days ahead of January 6, experts worried over what chicanery might happen inside the House chamber during certification, but that threat was quickly overshadowed by the violence outside. There are many reasons for this eclipse. One is the simple, disturbing drama of the insurrection, revived on Monday when Representative Liz Cheney read panicked texts from members of Congress, then under siege in the Capitol, and Fox News hosts, beseeching Mark Meadows to get then-President Donald Trump to stop the riot. Anyone can grasp what was going on immediately, regardless of how they feel about it, whereas a coup planned in dry legal language is more opaque and abstract. The violence was thus a natural messaging focus for Democrats who wanted to punish and, if possible, banish Trump. Meanwhile, information on Trump’s procedural efforts to steal the election has emerged only slowly and in small bits.

But this is a moment for reassessment. Evidence about the insurrection suggests that although the mob was an obvious threat to human life, it was never an especially serious one to American democracy. Coordination within the crowd seems to have been sporadic, and if White House officials were in touch with organizers, they weren’t likely directing them. Moreover, it’s not clear how the insurrection might have successfully kept Trump in office, even if it had managed to prevent certification that day. This was an inchoate moan, a spasm of despair for a cause already lost.

Meanwhile, we now have a better sense of how dangerous what we might call the “paperwork coup” was. The theory under which Trump and his cronies attempted to steal the election was not especially elaborate or persuasive, but it didn’t need to be. It was coherent, and if a few things had happened differently—most especially, if Vice President Mike Pence had gone along with it—the result would have been chaos at the least and possibly a second Trump term and widespread conflict at worst. The violence on January 6 broke a long string of peaceful transfers of power in the United States. If the paperwork coup had worked, though, peace might have prevailed—but the transfer of power might not have happened.

What Trump was trying to do is not in question. He has always understood, and demonstrated repeatedly throughout his presidency, that voters treat as scandalous what is hidden but are more apt to accept what is done openly. So this coup attempt was no secret. Trump made clear starting the night of the election that he intended to try to cling to the White House by hook or by crook. Because neither he nor anyone else has ever produced credible evidence that fraud shifted the results of the election, this would have been plain theft. The surprising thing, which more recent revelations help underscore, is that what looked from the outside like one of Trump’s classic chaotic improvisations was in fact a concerted effort, coordinated among multiple Trump loyalists over a matter of weeks.

Some of Trump’s veteran lieutenants, accustomed to accommodating his eccentricities and outrages, drew a line here. In the early days after the election, aides anonymously assured reporters that Trump’s refusal to concede was just a short-term denial. As it became clear that wasn’t true, and as Trump mounted more desperate efforts to halt the certification process, Attorney General Bill Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and the lawyers Jay Sekulow and Eric Herschmann were among the aides who had stuck with Trump through all sorts of dubious maneuvers but who now refused to get involved, recognizing that he had lost the election.

Rather than face reality, Trump tried to create his own—and the first step was to find lackeys who would make-believe with him. This proved easy. They included Rudy Giuliani, who had by then proved no ask was too far; the attorneys Jenna Ellis, who seems to have gone along despite having some hesitations, and Sidney Powell, who had none; the law professor John Eastman, who lent (and sacrificed) his long-standing credibility in conservative legal circles; Philip Waldron, a retired Army colonel turned cybersecurity consultant; and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

By the start of 2021, Trump was close to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2021 at 1:02 pm

PowerPoint to overthrow democracy tracks Trump’s public statements

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This Popular Information column by Judd Legum is important. It begins:

A 38-page PowerPoint that lays out a brazen plan to overthrow democracy landed in the inbox of former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on January 5. Meadows turned over the information to the special Congressional committee that is investigating the events that preceded the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol.

While it is a remarkable document, a close examination of the chaotic days following the 2020 presidential election reveals the core arguments of the PowerPoint largely track what Trump was saying publicly. The media, however, has characterized the contents of the PowerPoint as “extreme,” and “wild,” casting doubt whether its recommendations were “seriously… considered.” This is revisionist history.

Meadows, through his attorney, attempted to wave off interest in the document. Meadows’ lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, told reporters that Meadows “merely received it by email in his inbox and did nothing with it.” But Phil Waldron, a retired colonel who was involved in producing the PowerPoint, told the Washington Post that he spoke with Meadows “eight to 10 times” and briefed numerous members of Congress on the PowerPoint before January 6.

While the 38-page PowerPoint has not been released, a 36-page version — that is reportedly almost identical — has surfaced online. One key slide is the list of “Recommendations” that appears on page 23.  . .

Continue reading. It’s important. The US is under attack by domestic enemies.

Written by Leisureguy

14 December 2021 at 6:42 pm

Liz Cheney reads texts Republicans sent to Mark Meadows

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Kevin Drum has a good post on this, and I think you should read it. Also, watch this video (also included in his post):

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2021 at 10:42 pm

What on earth is Mark Meadows thinking?

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

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  . ..

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2021 at 4:26 am

The Republican destruction of American rights

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the Supreme Court undermined the federal protection of civil rights that has shaped our world since the 1950s.

The case asked whether opponents of Texas’s S.B. 8, the so-called Heartbeat Bill, could bring a federal case to block the law, which gets around normal challenges by putting private individuals, rather than the state itself, in charge of enforcing it. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court said they could sue, but it limited that ability so severely that the law itself will remain largely intact.

The state law, which went into effect on September 1, prohibits abortion after six weeks of a pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. And yet, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court affirmed that women have the constitutional right to abortion without undue restrictions, primarily in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

This case is about far more than abortion. It is about the federal protection of civil rights in the face of discriminatory state laws. That federal protection has been the key factor in advancing equal rights in America since the 1950s.

When the Framers wrote the Constitution in 1787, shortly after the American Revolution against a king colonists had come to believe was a tyrant, many leading Americans were still worried about concentrating too much power in the hands of a chief executive and a central government. In order to convince people to ratify the Constitution, leaders called for explicit limits to what the new national government could do to citizens. In 1791 the nation added ten amendments to the Constitution to protect individual freedom and rights, including, for example, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a speedy trial, and so on.

These limits applied to the federal government alone.

States could still enact fiercely repressive laws, including, before the Civil War, laws throwing Indigenous Americans off their lands, denying rights to women (including access to their children in the rare instance of divorce), and enslaving Black Americans. In the wake of the war, legislatures in former Confederate states tried to reassert white control through “Black Codes” that severely limited the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people.

Congressmen recognized the need to use the power of the federal government to override state laws in order to protect equality. In 1866, it passed and sent off to the states for ratification another amendment to the Constitution: the Fourteenth.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The amendment gave Congress the power to enforce the amendment “by appropriate legislation.”

Congress intended for the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that Black Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures wanted to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery. The states ratified it and it became part of the Constitution in 1868.

In 1870, as white supremacists organized as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized their Black neighbors, Congress passed a law establishing the Department of Justice, which promptly set out to prosecute Klan members, eventually driving the organization underground.

But federal protection of civil rights was both limited and short lived. State legislatures kept or passed wide-ranging discriminatory laws, against Black Americans, for sure, and also against other minorities—Asian immigrants were explicitly prohibited from owning land, for example—and all women. By the early twentieth century, there were state laws against mixed-race marriages, against contraception, against integrated schools and housing, against abortion.

World War II changed the equation. Lawmakers had both to . . .

Continue reading. Do read the entire column.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2021 at 12:47 am

Built to Fail: The US government

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Michael A. Cohen (the newspaper columnist, not the former Trump lawyer) writes:

The America Constitutional System Is A Hot Mess … By Design

Today in the New York Times, Thomas Edsall asked a host of political scientists what Democrats need to do to “pry the country” back from Donald Trump, and Steven Levitsky makes an essential point.

“The Democrats have been amazingly successful in national elections over the last 20 years,” Levitsky wrote in an email.

“They have won the popular vote in 7 out of 8 presidential elections — that’s almost unthinkable. They have also won the popular vote in the Senate in every six-year cycle since 2000. You cannot look at a party in a democracy that has won the popular vote almost without fail for two decades and say, gee, that party really has to get it together and address its “liabilities.’”

Instead, he argued,

“the liabilities lie in undemocratic electoral institutions such as the Electoral College, the structure of the Senate (where underpopulated states have an obscene amount of power that should be unacceptable in any democracy), gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts in many states, and recent political demographic trends — the concentration of Democratic votes in cities — that favor Republicans.”

“Until our parties are competing on a level playing field,” Levitsky added, “I am going to insist that our institutions are a bigger problem for democracy than liberal elitism and ‘wokeness.’”

Levitsky’s point gets to what I consider one of the enduring frustrations in writing about politics, namely that the explanation for America’s political dysfunction is relatively straightforward — a constitutional structure weighted against progress — but that answer is so unsatisfying that people are constantly searching for a deeper explanation.

This ingrained paralysis, not surprisingly, is more aggravating for progressives who want to see Democrats in Congress pass transformative legislation — and are frustrated by their failure to do so. Their inclination is to look for answers: is it the role of money in politics? Are Democrats bad at messaging? Why don’t they have more backbone? Are they the victims of a hostile press corps? To varying degrees, all of these are factors in explaining the legislative inadequacies of Democrats. But they miss the forest for the trees, which is that the constitutional deck is stacked against change.

Built To Fail

America’s constitutional system, established by the Founding Fathers more than 200 years ago, is festooned with chokepoints and political impediments to reform — and in defense of the status quo. Democrats have overcome these obstacles at various points in history, but those moments are the exception, not the rule.

Take, for example, the challenge of merely passing a law in Congress. Let’s say a House member introduces a piece of legislation (and if it involves the raising of revenue, it must originate in the House of Representatives). It is first debated and passed out of committee (though this is not a constitutional requirement). Then it needs to receive a majority of votes from House members. Once that happens, then the Senate considers the legislation. If it is re-written or changed, the two bills then need to be married so that the language is identical. Then both Houses need to pass it again.

If that happens in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is sent to the president for their signature. But the president can veto the bill, and the votes of two-thirds of each congressional body are required to override it. Think about the number of obstacles within the system to impede progress. This is not accidental. It’s the way the Founders wanted it. For a host of reasons, they purposely designed a system with a relatively weak executive brand and a powerful legislative branch. But one of the by-products of that decision is that debate and consensus-building take major precedent over quick action.

What about amending the Constitution? That’s even more difficult. According to Article 5, even proposing a constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of both the House and Senate or two-thirds of the state legislatures calling for a constitutional convention. If that obstacle can be surmounted, the state legislatures in three-fourths of the states must then ratify the amendment.

Since the passage of the Bill of Rights in 1791, which provided ten amendments to the Constitution, a mere 17 constitutional amendments have become law — that’s one every 13.5 years. And only one constitutional amendment has been ratified in the past 50 years – the 27th amendment, which limits how members of Congress are compensated and was first proposed in 1789.

The Informal Rules Are No Better

So far, I’ve only discussed the formal, constitutional rules that impede progress. But there’s a much more significant, less considered factor, which Levitsky gets to above, namely, “the structure of the Senate (where underpopulated states have an obscene amount of power that should be unacceptable in any democracy).”

The US constitutional system is heavily weighted toward supporting and defending regional and parochial interests. In a small “d” democratic system — or a parliamentary system — America would have one legislative body, the House of Representatives, where laws are passed by majority vote and become law. Instead, we have a second body, the Senate, where every state gets the same level of representation. This gives outsized power to small states and regional blocs which cultivates an ethos of parochialism in law-making. It’s why a small bloc of Southern states was able to wield its regional power for decades in blocking civil rights legislation from passing in the Senate.

And it’s why today, two Democrats senators (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) can singlehandedly block far-reaching Democratic reforms. In a system weighted toward parochialism and against change, two members of a narrowly-divided Senate, who happen to view their political interests in their home states very differently than the other 48 Democratic senators, have out-sized power. In a parliamentary system, the majority party tends to be more united and can act as one powerful bloc. In the US system, greater power is granted to the individual members of Congress — and they have far more leeway and ability to operate on their own and against the interests of their party’s policy agenda.

Also, because the Senate is, culturally, viewed as the proverbial “saucer” needed to cool “hot” bills that pass in the House of Representatives, the body itself has another set of checkpoints that make it extraordinarily difficult to pass legislation. Again, none of this is accidental. The Founders wanted it this way.

And because we have this chokepoint-filled constitutional system it inevitably disadvantages modern Democrats who are the party of reform and progress. Republicans are a counter-majoritarian party, reliant on minority support in the Senate (Senate Democrats represent a far larger share of the population, even though the body is 50-50), and structural advantages in the Electoral College. They have no real policy agenda and operate within a political structure that favors conservative preferences for maintaining the status quo and limiting the role and power of the federal government. Moreover, their disproportionate political power in small, rural, and conservative states, allows them to change the political rules at the state level on issues such as voting rights and gerrymandering. This gives them the ability to protect their political interests, maintain electoral power, and avoid true democratic accountability.

Finally, by seeding the federal courts with conservative judges — a by-product of their advantage in the Electoral College, which allowed Republicans to win two presidential elections in which they lost the popular vote — they can ensure that those rules, which fundamentally undermine basic notions of democratic equality, remain in place.

Occam’s Razor

The bottom line here is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 December 2021 at 5:02 pm

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