Later On

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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Situation Report: Killing off the Libertarian Hellscape Timeline

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Dave Troy’s Situation Reports are always worth reading. Here’s the latest.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2022 at 5:04 pm

How a New Hampshire libertarian utopia was foiled by bears

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This Vox report by Sean Illing is from just over a year ago — published in December, 2020 — but it deserves some recognition and reading:

Every ideology produces its own brand of fanatics, but there’s something special about libertarianism.

I don’t mean that as an insult, either. I love libertarians! For the most part, they’re fun and interesting people. But they also tend to be cocksure about core principles in a way most people aren’t. If you’ve ever encountered a freshly minted Ayn Rand enthusiast, you know what I mean.

And yet one of the things that makes political philosophy so amusing is that it’s mostly abstract. You can’t really prove anything — it’s just a never-ending argument about values. Every now and again, though, reality intervenes in a way that illustrates the absurdity of particular ideas.

Something like this happened in the mid-2000s in a small New Hampshire town called Grafton. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, author of a new book titled A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear, says it’s the “boldest social experiment in modern American history.” I don’t know if it’s the “boldest,” but it’s definitely one of the strangest.

The experiment was called the “Free Town Project” (it later became the “Free State Project”), and the goal was simple: take over Grafton’s local government and turn it into a libertarian utopia. The movement was cooked up by a small group of ragtag libertarian activists who saw in Grafton a unique opportunity to realize their dreams of a perfectly logical and perfectly market-based community. Needless to say, utopia never arrived, but the bears did! (I promise I’ll explain below.)

I reached out to Hongoltz-Hetling to talk about his book. I wanted to know what happened in New Hampshire, why the experiment failed, and what the whole saga can teach us not just about libertarianism but about the dangers of loving theory more than reality.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

How would you describe the “Free Town Project” to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

I’d put it like this: There’s a national community of libertarians that has developed over the last 40 or 50 years, and they’ve never really had a place to call their own. They’ve never been in charge of a nation, or a state, or even a city. And they’ve always really wanted to create a community that would showcase what would happen if they implemented their principles on a broad scale.

So in 2004, a group of them decided that they wanted to take some action on this deficiency, and they decided to launch what they called the Free Town Project. They sent out a call to a bunch of loosely affiliated national libertarians and told everyone to move to this one spot and found this utopian community that would then serve as a shining jewel for the world to see that libertarian philosophies worked not only in theory but in practice. And they chose a town in rural New Hampshire called Grafton that already had fewer than 1,000 people in it. And they just showed up and started working to take over the town government and get rid of every rule and regulation and tax expense that they could.

Sean Illing

Of all the towns in all the world, why Grafton?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

They didn’t choose it in a vacuum. They actually conducted a very careful and thorough search. They zeroed in on the state of New Hampshire fairly quickly because that’s the “Live Free or Die” state. They knew that it would align well with their philosophy of individualism and personal responsibility. But once they decided on New Hampshire, they actually visited dozens of small towns, looking for that perfect mix of factors that would enable them to take over.

What they needed was a town that was small enough that they could come up and elbow the existing citizenry, someplace where land was cheap, where they could come in and buy up a bunch of land and kind of host their incoming colonists. And they wanted a place that had no zoning, because they wanted to be able to live in nontraditional housing situations and not have to go through the rigamarole of building or buying expensive homes or preexisting homes.

Sean Illing

Wait, what do you mean by “nontraditional housing”?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

As the people of Grafton soon found out, a nontraditional housing situation meant a camp in the woods or a bunch of shipping containers or whatever. They brought in yurts and mobile homes and formed little clusters of cabins and tents. There was one location called “Tent City,” where a bunch of people just lived in tents from day to day. They all united under this broad umbrella principle of “personal freedom,” but as you’d expect, there was a lot of variation in how they exercised it.

Sean Illing

What did the demographics of the group look like? Are we talking mostly about white guys or Ayn Rand bros who found each other on the internet?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

Well, we’re talking about hundreds of people, though the numbers aren’t all that clear. They definitely skewed male. They definitely skewed white. Some of them had a lot of money, which gave them the freedom to be able to pick up roots and move to a small town in New Hampshire. A lot of them had very little money and nothing keeping them in their places. So they were able to pick up and come in. But most of them just didn’t have those family situations or those 9-to-5 jobs, and that was really what characterized them more than anything else.

Sean Illing

And how did they take over the local government? Did they meet much resistance?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

When they first showed up, they hadn’t told anyone that they were doing this, with the exception of a couple of sympathetic libertarians within the community. And so all of a sudden the people in Grafton woke up to the fact that their town was in the process of being invaded by a bunch of idealistic libertarians. And they were pissed. They had a big town meeting. It was a very shouty, very angry town meeting, during which they told the Free Towners who dared to come that they didn’t want them there and they didn’t appreciate being treated as if their community was an experimental playpen for libertarians to come in and try to prove something.

But the libertarians, even though they never outnumbered the existing Grafton residents, what they found was that they could come in, and they could find like-minded people, traditional conservatives or just very liberty-oriented individuals, who agreed with them on enough issues that, despite that angry opposition, they were able to start to work their will on the levers of government.

They couldn’t pass some of the initiatives they wanted. They tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from the school district and to completely discontinue paying for road repairs, or to declare Grafton a United Nations free zone, some of the outlandish things like that. But they did find that a lot of existing Grafton residents would be happy to cut town services to the bone. And so they successfully put a stranglehold on things like police services, things like road services and fire services and even the public library. All of these things were cut to the bone.

Sean Illing

Then what happened over the next few years or so?

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

By pretty much any measure you can look at to gauge a town’s success, Grafton got worse. Recycling rates went . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more — and indeed, there’s the book.

It strongly reminds me of Don Quixote, who spend so much time and study in reading his books of knights-errant that those became his reality, so that when he encountered things in the real world, he could see them only through the warped lens of his reading, so he attacked the windmills as though they were giants and the flock of sheep as though they were an army. He could no longer see things as they were, but only as his books and readings told him they should be.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 4:44 pm

The mask conundrum: A dialogue

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Kevin Drum treats us to a Socratic dialogue. He writes:

There’s a fundamental problem with our campaign to get people to wear masks. It’s pretty obvious, but here it is:

Socrates: Our greatest healers and physicians are united in urging us to wear masks in order to fight the plague that runs rampant among us. Do you believe their advice to be sound?

Glaucon: Why yes.

Socrates: And what evidence do they offer that you find so persuasive?

Glaucon: It is obvious that masks reduce the expulsion of bad airs from breathing and coughing. If I am suffering from the plague—but still out in the agora because I am not yet feeling any ill effects—it diminishes the number of malignant corpuscles that I introduce into the world.

Socrates: So when you wear a mask, you do it to help other people, not yourself?

Glaucon: That is so. It is not perfect, but it is still beneficent to the good health of Athens.

Socrates: And you consider this a virtuous act.

Glaucon: Indeed I do. A respect for the good of society is one of the highest virtues.

Socrates: Quite so. But you’ll admit that not everyone thinks as you do.

Glaucon: Unhappily, all my experience among men teaches me that you are right.

Socrates: So on the one side, we have your fellow citizens of virtue. They are the most likely to heed the advice of our physicians, are they not?

Glaucon: I cannot disagree.

Socrates: And being virtuous, they have probably already visited a physician and procured for themselves a potion that protects against the plague?

Glaucon: Indeed, I myself have done so. I believe it was called a “vaccine.”

Socrates: And what does this “vaccine” accomplish?

Glaucon:  . . .

Do continue reading. Drum points out a paradox we need to solve.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2022 at 1:36 pm

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up

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Russell Gold reports in the Texas Monthly:

Anthony Mecke had drifted to sleep in the break room when a loud knock roused him at 1:23 a.m. “We just got the call,” a coworker said.

Mecke, a moonfaced 45-year-old, is the manager of systems operation training at CPS Energy, the city-owned electricity provider that serves San Antonio. He started at the company not long after high school, working at one point as a cable splicer, a job he performed in hot tunnels beneath the sidewalks of San Antonio. He thought he’d seen it all. But when he hustled from the break room, where he’d sneaked in a power nap after an all-day shift, into the company’s cavernous control room, housed in a tornado-proof building on the city’s East Side, what he witnessed unsettled him.

This was Monday, February 15, 2021. A winter storm had brought unusually frigid temperatures to the entire middle swath of the United States, from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande. In San Antonio, it dropped to 9 degrees. In Fort Worth, the storm’s icy arrival a few days earlier had led to a 133-vehicle pileup that left 6 dead. Abilene and Pflugerville had advised residents to boil their water, the first of thousands of such warnings that would eventually affect 17 million Texans. Across the state, families hunkered down and did anything they could to stay warm. The overwhelming majority of Texas homes are outfitted with electric heaters that are the technological equivalent of a toaster oven. During the most severe cold fronts, residents crank up those inefficient units, and some even turn on and open electric ovens and use hair dryers.

Mecke could track the spiking energy use in real time. One wall of the control room is covered in enormous computer monitors displaying maps and data. He scanned for one particular piece of information. The state’s electricity reserves, which are tapped to prevent emergencies, were already depleted. The problem wasn’t just surging demand. Power plants all across the grid were shutting off, incapacitated by frozen equipment and a dearth of natural gas, the primary source of fuel.

The Texas power grid was, at that moment, like an airplane low on fuel that needed to jettison cargo to stay aloft. That’s what the call had been about. The state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, had just told CPS Energy and fifteen of the state’s other electric utility companies to immediately begin turning off power for portions of their service areas. The result would be blackouts.

Nobody yet knew just how widespread the blackouts would become—that they would spread across almost the entire state, leave an unprecedented 11 million Texans freezing in the dark for as long as three days, and result in as many as seven hundred deaths. But neither could the governor, legislators, and regulators who are supposed to oversee the state’s electric grid claim to be surprised. They had been warned repeatedly, by experts and by previous calamities—including a major blackout in 2011—that the grid was uniquely vulnerable to cold weather.

Unlike most other states that safely endured the February 2021 storm, Texas had stubbornly declined to require winterization of its power plants and, just as critically, its natural gas facilities. In large part, that’s because the state’s politicians and the regulators they appoint are often captive to the oil and gas industry, which lavishes them with millions of dollars a year in campaign contributions. During the February freeze, the gas industry failed to deliver critically needed fuel, and while Texans of all stripes suffered, the gas industry scored windfall profits of about $11 billion—creating debts that residents and businesses will pay for at least the next decade.

Since last February, the state has  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2022 at 1:23 pm

How coal holds on in America

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Cultural forces, conventions, pressures, and loyalty can result in what appears, to someone who is not a part of the culture, something that seems senseless if not outright stupid. The practice, thankfully abandoned, of footbinding in order to deform the feet, or (still practiced) female genital mutilation come to mind. Coal in North Dakota seems to be an example. Joshua Partlow reports in the Washington Post (and that’s a gift link, so no paywall):

David Saggau, the chief executive of an energy cooperative, tried to explain the losing economics of running a coal-fired power plant to a North Dakota industry group more than a year ago.

Coal Creek Station had lost $170 million in 2019 as abundant natural gas and proliferating wind projects had cut revenue far below what it cost to run the plant. After four decades sending electricity over the border to Minnesota, Coal Creek would be closing in 2022, Saggau said, and nobody was clamoring to buy it.

“We made folks aware that the plant was for sale for a dollar,” Saggau, of Great River Energy, told the Lignite Energy Council during an October 2020 virtual meeting. “We’re basically giving it away.”

A renewable future was at hand. Winds come howling over the Missouri River in the heart of North Dakota — at the site where Lewis and Clark spent their first frigid winter — and Great River Energy planned to supply wind power over Coal Creek’s valuable transmission line. NextEra Energy, EDF Renewables and other powerhouse firms were racing to lock landowners into leases to harvest some of the most powerful and sustained winds in the country.

But that new clean-energy future never materialized in this part of coal country, with a landscape that has been mined for more than a century and has the scars and sinkholes to prove it. And the sale of Coal Creek Station, which received its last major permit approval earlier this month, illuminates the United States’ halting transition to renewables. Even in places such as North Dakota, where supply and demand align with clean energy, culture and politics pose major obstacles.

In these rural North Dakota counties, local officials passed ordinances that blocked wind and solar projects. State officials rallied to save Coal Creek, and a politically connected North Dakota energy firm stepped in to prolong its life, promising someday to capture its carbon emissions and store them underground.

“I’m not just looking to prop up coal,” Stacy Tschider, the president of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp., said in July when his company announced it was buying the plant. “I’m looking to take coal to the next level.”

During the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in the fall, conference head Alok Sharma declared that “the end of coal is in sight.” More than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, the single-biggest source of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide emissions. The United States did not join them. Despite its rapid decline, coal still generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and has strong political backing in pockets of the country.

Charles Stroup, a local banker and land agent who supports wind power in North Dakota’s Mercer County, compared the coal industry here to a dying relative that the community is desperate to save, no matter how grim the prognosis.

“Mother doesn’t die in 10 minutes,” Stroup said. “She takes a while.”

For many here, the loss of coal remains unthinkable, and new sources of energy — no matter how promising for local residents and governments — represent a serious threat.

“If we get the word that [Coal Creek Station] is gone for sure, the best business and economic play for the lignite counties and the State is to ban any more renewables,” McLean County state’s attorney Ladd Erickson wrote in an email in 2020 to aides to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), part of a batch of documents obtained through a state public records request.

Otherwise, Erickson, an elected official who serves as prosecutor and legal adviser to the county commissioners, warned that “there will be no more coal mining because new mine areas will be all wind turbines, solar panels, and power lines.”

Homages to coal

The prospect of Coal Creek’s closing landed hard in Underwood, a city of about 800 people. The antiques shop on its . . .

Continue reading.(Gift link: no paywall)

The fate of human civilization is small potatoes compared to local politics and cultural allegiance. You can see now why the residents of Easter Island were able to chop down every palm on the island and thus destroy the forests that were the basis of the environment on which they depended. North Dakota proudly continues that tradition.

Written by Leisureguy

18 January 2022 at 2:54 pm

The Billionaires Funding the Coup’s Brain Trust

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Andy Kroll reports in Rolling Stone:

The Claremont Institute, once a little-known think tank often confused with the liberal-arts college of the same name, has emerged as a driving force in the conservative movement’s crusade to use bogus fraud claims about the 2020 election to rewrite voting laws and remake the election system in time for the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election. Most infamously, one of the group’s legal scholars crafted memos outlining a plan for how then-Vice President Mike Pence could potentially overturn the last election.

Conservative mega-donors like what they see.

The biggest right-wing megadonors in America made major contributions to Claremont in 2020 and 2021, according to foundation financial records obtained by Rolling Stone. The high-profile donors include several of the most influential families who fund conservative politics and policy: the DeVoses of West Michigan, the Bradleys of Milwaukee, and the Scaifes of Pittsburgh.

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation donated $240,000 to Claremont in 2020 and approved another $400,000 to be paid out in the future, tax records show. The Bradley Foundation donated $100,000 to Claremont in 2020 and another $100,000 in 2021, according to tax records and a spokeswoman for the group. The Sarah Scaife Foundation, one of several charities tied to the late right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, supplied another $450,000 to Claremont in 2020, according to its latest tax filings.

Claremont’s own tax filings show that its revenue rose from 2019 to 2020 by a half-million dollars to $6.2 million, one of the highest sums since the organization was founded in 1979, according to the most recent available data. A Claremont spokesman said the group wouldn’t comment about its donors beyond publicly available data but estimated that Claremont’s revenue for the 2021 fiscal year had increased to $7.5 million.

The DeVoses, Bradleys, and Scaifes are among the most prominent donor families in conservative politics. For Bradley and Scaife, the giving to Claremont tracks with a long history of funding right-wing causes and advocacy groups, from the American Enterprise Institute think tank and the “bill mill” American Legislative Exchange Council, to anti-immigration zealot David Horowitz’s Freedom Center and the climate-denying Heartland Institute.

Bradley in particular has given heavily to groups that traffic in misleading or baseless claims about “election integrity” or widespread “voter fraud.” Thanks to a $6.5 million infusion from the Bradley Impact Fund, a related nonprofit, the undercover-sting group Project Veritas nearly doubled its revenue in 2020 to $22 million, according to the group’s tax filing. Bradley is also a long-time funder of the Heritage Foundation, which helped architect the wave of voter suppression bills introduced in state legislatures this year, and True the Vote, a conservative group that trains poll watchers and stokes fears of rampant voter fraud in the past.

The Bradley Foundation was founded in 1942 by the Bradley family. Brothers Harry and Lynde Bradley co-founded the Allen-Bradley company, which would later provide much of the funding for the Bradley Foundation. The nonprofit, which has given out more than $1 billion in its history, no longer has any Bradley family members on its board.

But while the Bradley donations are to be expected, the contributions from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation to Claremont are perhaps more surprising. Betsy DeVos, in one of her final acts as Trump’s education secretary, condemned the “angry mob” on January 6 and said “the law must be upheld and the work of the people must go on.”

A spokesman for the DeVoses, Nick Wasmiller, said Betsy DeVos’s letter “speaks for itself.” He added: “Claremont does work in many areas. It would be baseless to assert the Foundation’s support has any connection to the one item you cite.” While the foundation’s 2020 tax filing said its grants to Claremont were unrestricted, Wasmiller said the filing was wrong and the money had been earmarked. However, he declined to say what it was earmarked for.

The donations flowing into Claremont illustrate that although the group’s full-throated support for Trump and fixation on election crimes may be extreme, they’re not fringe views when they have the backing of influential conservative funders. “Were it not for the patronage of billionaire conservatives and their family foundations, the Claremont Institute would likely be relegated to screaming about its anti-government agenda on the street corner,” says Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog group Accountable.US.

The Claremont spokesman responded to Herrig’s comment by saying . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2022 at 5:59 pm

Fox News makes money from poisoning society

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Is it a good thing that Fox News profits from creating a toxic political environment? Not for the public, nor for the functioning of our society and government, but quite good for Rupert Murdoch and his family and shareholders. 

Read this post by Kevin Drum.

A hospital might profit from contaminating a town’s water supply. I don’t think we would want that, nor would we allow it. I do know about freedom of the press, but the press for which that freedom was guaranteed is not at all like the “press” we experience today.

I’m not sure what the right remedy would be, but doing nothing risks the breakdown of social trust and productive amity. 

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2022 at 1:35 pm

Misinformation is mostly spread by chaotic evil conservatives

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Kevin Drum points out a new study:

Who spreads misinformation? A pair of researchers says it’s not liberals in general and it’s not conservatives in general. It’s a very specific subset of conservatives:

Using statistical analysis, we found that the only reliable explanation was a general desire for chaos — that is, a motivation to disregard, disrupt, and take down existing social and political institutions as a means of asserting the dominance and superiority of one’s own group. Participants indicated their appetite for chaos by using a scale to express how much they agreed with statements like, “I think society should be burned to the ground.” For LCCs, we concluded, sharing false information is a vehicle for propagating chaos.

An LCC is a “low-conscientiousness conservative,” and they were 2.5 times more likely to share misinformation than anyone else:

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2022 at 12:45 pm

Toni Morrison’s Ten Steps Towards Fascism

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Jason Kottke notes:

In a convocation address delivered at Howard University in March 1995, Toni Morrison noted that before fascist movements arrive at a “final solution” (the euphemism used by Nazi leaders to refer to the mass murder of Jews), there are preceding steps that they use to advance their agenda. From an excerpt of that speech published in The Journal of Negro Education:

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.

Morrison then continued, listing the pathway to fascism in ten steps:

  1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.
  2. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.
  3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works.
  4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification.
  5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy.
  6. Solicit,

Continue reading. . .

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 1:24 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  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 9:53 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 . . .

Continue reading.

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

What lies behind the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the murderers’ conviction

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Heather Cox Richardson wrote last night:

oday, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, as he jogged through a primarily white neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan chased Arbery in their trucks, cornering him on a suburban street. Travis McMichael shot and killed the unarmed Arbery, while Bryan filmed the encounter from inside his truck.

While the men were convicted of several different crimes, all three were convicted of felony murder or of committing felonies that led to Arbery’s death. Under Georgia law, they each faced life in prison, but the judge could determine whether they could be paroled. Judge Walmsley denied the possibility of parole for the McMichael father and son, but allowed it for Bryan. Under Georgia law, that means he will be eligible for parole after 30 years.

The state of Georgia came perilously close to ignoring the crimes that now have the McMichaels and Bryan serving life sentences.

Gregory McMichael was connected to the first two district attorneys in charge of the case, both of whom ultimately recused themselves, but not until they told law enforcement that Georgia’s citizens arrest law, dating from an 1863 law designed to permit white men to hunt down Black people escaping enslavement, enabled the men to chase Arbery and that they had shot him in self-defense. In late April, the state’s attorney general appointed a third district attorney to the investigation. “We don’t know anything about the case,” the new district attorney told reporters. “We don’t have any preconceived idea about it.”

On April 26, pressure from Arbery’s family and the community had kicked up enough dust that the New York Times reported on the case, noting that there had been no arrests. Eager to clear his name, and apparently thinking that anyone who saw the video of the shooting would believe, as the local district attorneys had, that it justified the shooting, on May 6 Gregory McMichael arranged for his lawyer to take the video to a local radio station, which uploaded it for public viewing.

The station took the video down two hours later, but not before a public outcry brought outside oversight. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and two days later, on May 7, GBI officers arrested the McMichaels. On May 11, the case was transferred to Atlanta, about 270 miles away from Brunswick. On May 21, 2020, officers arrested Bryan.

On Wednesday, November 24, a jury found the three men guilty of a range of crimes on the same day that the first district attorney turned herself in to officials after a grand jury indicted her for violating her oath of office and obstructing police, saying she used her position to discourage law enforcement officers from arresting the McMichaels.

The Arbery case echoes long historical themes. Arbery was a Black man, executed by white men who saw an unarmed jogger as a potential criminal and believed they had a right to arrest him. But it is also a story of local government and outsiders, and which are best suited to protect democracy.

From the nation’s early years, lawmakers who wanted to protect their own interests have insisted that true American democracy is local, where voters can make their wishes clearly known. They said that the federal government must not intervene in the choices state voters made about the way their government operated despite the fact that the federal government represents the will of the vast majority of Americans. Federal intervention in state laws, they said, was tyranny.

But those lawmakers shaped the state laws to their own interests by limiting the vote. They actually developed and deployed their argument primarily to protect the institution of human enslavement (although it was used later to promote big business). If state voters—almost all white men who owned at least some property—wanted to enslave their Black neighbors, the reasoning went, the federal government had no say in the matter despite representing the vast majority of the American people.

After the Civil War, the federal government stepped in to enable Black men to protect their equality before the law by guaranteeing their right to vote in the states. But it soon abandoned the effort and let the South revert to a one-party system in which who you knew and what you looked like mattered far more than the law.

After World War II, returning veterans, civil rights lawyers, and grassroots organizers set out to register Black and Brown people to vote in their home states and got beaten and murdered for their efforts. So in 1965, Congress stepped in, passing the Voting Rights Act.

It took only about 20 years for states once again to begin cutting back on voting rights. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and states promptly began to make it harder to vote. Since the 2020 election,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 January 2022 at 12:45 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, . . .

Continue reading.

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 . . ..

Continue reading.

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 . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 1:56 pm

The war on library books

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Judd Legum in Popular Information points out another sign of America’s downfall. From the post at the link:

. . . In Oklahoma, State Senator Rob Standridge (R) recently introduced legislation that would prohibit public school libraries from carrying “books that address the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, gender identity, or books that contain content of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know about or approve of before their child is exposed to it.”

Under Standridge’s legislation, parents are the sole arbiter of what books violate this standard. The bill would require schools to remove any book within 30 days of a parent’s request. If the book is not removed, “the employee tasked with removing the book is to be dismissed…  and he or she cannot be employed by a public school district or public charter school for 2 years.” Parents could also sue the school for “monetary damages” which “shall include a minimum of $10,000.00 per day the book requested for removal is not removed.” . . .

There’s much more. Read the whole thing.

Fahrenheit 451, here we come.

Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 10:33 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

Manufacturing grievances for profit at an industrial scale

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post that begins:

Julian Sanchez says:

Some products satisfy preexisting needs; some need to manufacture a perceived deficiency to move units. Modern politics generates demand by manufacturing grievances.

This is pretty much the Fox News raison d’être. Like the makers of many useless cosmetic products, they can exist only if they create problems their buyers never knew existed and then convince them that only using their product will solve these previously unrecognized problems.

Masks? An invasion of your freedom! CRT? They’re brainwashing white kids! The 2020 election? It wasn’t lost, it was stolen! Some judge had to take down his Ten Commandments plaque? Your Bible is next!

There was a time when this kind of thing was restricted to mimeographed newsletters mailed to maybe hundreds or thousands of people. But Fox News is the Henry Ford of outrage: the first to truly industrialize and then mass produce feverish outrage.

Their secret? Better . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 3:40 pm

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