Later On

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How the Right operates

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From a reference given in the Heather Cox Richardson column in the previous post:

Click the link and read the thread.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2022 at 9:45 pm

One of Trump’s minions is working to protect him

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Heather Cox Richardson:

Today, on the federal holiday of Labor Day, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted former president Trump’s request for a special master to review the nearly 11,000 documents FBI agents seized in their search of the Trump Organization’s property at Mar-a-Lago on August 8.

The special master will examine the documents, some of which have the highest classification markings, to remove personal items or those covered by attorney-client privilege or those that might be covered by executive privilege (although President Joe Biden, who holds the presidency and thus should be able to determine that privilege, has waived it). The order temporarily stops the Department of Justice from reviewing or using the materials as part of their investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified information.

That is, a Trump-appointed judge, confirmed by the Senate on November 13, 2020, after Trump had lost the election, has stepped between the Department of Justice and the former president in the investigation of classified documents stolen from the government.

Legal analysts appear to be appalled by the poor quality of the opinion. Former U.S. acting solicitor general Neal Katyal called it “so bad it’s hard to know where to begin.” Law professor Stephen Vladeck told Charlie Savage of the New York Times that it was “an unprecedented intervention…into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation.” Paul Rosenzweig, a prosecutor in the independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton, told Savage it was “a genuinely unprecedented decision” and said stopping the criminal investigation was “simply untenable.” Duke University law professor Samuel Buell added: “To any lawyer with serious federal criminal court experience…, this ruling is laughably bad…. Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he’s being persecuted, when he is being privileged.”

The judge justified her decision because she was “mindful of the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented.”

Energy and politics reporter David Roberts of Volts pointed out that this is a common pattern for MAGA Republicans. First, they spread lies and conspiracy theories, then they act based on the “appearance” that something is shady. “So this… judge says Trump deserves extraordinary, unprecedented latitude because of the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and the ‘swirling questions about bias.’ But her fellow reactionaries were the only ones raising questions of bias! It’s a perfectly sealed feedback loop,” and one the right wing has perfected over “voter fraud.”

As political scientist Brendan Nyhan points out, bad-faith attacks on our democratic processes open the door for changing those processes.

Something else jumps out about the judge’s construction, though: it makes . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2022 at 9:34 pm

Chile’s Vote on a New Constitution Is a Big Loss for the CIA and the “Chicago Boys”

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The US — and the CIA — did shameful things in Chile, overthrowing a democratically elected president and government to install a murderous dictator. And no one in the CIA or the US government was held accountable for that crime. (Well, no surprise: neither George W. Bush or Dick Cheney were held accountable for lying the US into an invasion in Iraq, with the resulting destabilization and at least tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

Jon Schwarz reports in the Intercept:

IF YOU VISIT the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., you can read on the wall Thomas Jefferson’s perspective on constitutions. It’s a slightly edited version of a letter he wrote to a friend in 1816:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

While it’s gotten little attention in the U.S., Chile is currently putting Jefferson’s views into action. This Sunday, September 4, the country will vote on whether to adopt an entirely new constitution written by a convention last year.

Current polls suggest that the new constitution may be voted down, with support having fallen precipitously since the beginning of the year amid widespread disinformation. One recent survey showed that 37 percent of Chileans approved of it and 46 percent did not. However, voting is compulsory for all Chileans not overseas, and enough remain undecided to tip the balance. The perceived stakes are high enough that forces rejecting the new constitution ran over pro-constitution cyclists with a horse and carriage.

The proposed constitution is quite long — arguably too long, since complexity is always useful for the powerful — with 388 articles. Highlights include:

  • A requirement that membership of all “collegiate bodies of the State” be at least half women, as well as the boards of all companies owned or partially owned by the government.
  • A new, lower voting age of 16. Moreover, voting “constitutes a right and a civic duty,” and so voting would become compulsory for everyone 18 and over. (Voting previously was compulsory in Chile until 2012. Voting in regular elections is no longer compulsory, but the current constitutional referendum is a special case.) Also, foreigners can vote in all Chilean elections once they’ve lived there for five years.
  • Everyone has the right “to make free, autonomous and informed decisions about one’s own body, [including] reproduction” — i.e., the right to abortion. Until 2017, abortion was illegal in Chile under all circumstances, and it is still only permitted in rare cases.
  • Special provisions governing water, which is mentioned 32 times. Everyone has “the human right to water and sufficient, healthy, acceptable, affordable and accessible sanitation,” and “it is the duty of the State to guarantee it.” Chile has been suffering from a disastrous megadrought for a decade, likely caused by global warming and certainly exacerbated by voluminous water use by its mining and agriculture industries.
  • The state will have the duty “to stimulate, promote and strengthen the development of scientific and technological research in all areas of knowledge.”
  • New power and representation for Chile’s Indigenous population, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s citizenry.

But the significance of the proposed constitution is not simply its specifics. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the fact that it’s gotten this far is a vivid illustration of how regular people can generate an explosion of political imagination if they ever get the opportunity. And if the constitution is adopted, it will inevitably expand the imagination of regular people in Latin America and elsewhere — just as American leaders have long feared.

American corporations and the U.S. government have enthusiastically meddled in Chilean politics for centuries, but our involvement intensified during the 1950s and 1960s. In particular, successive U.S. administrations were anxious to prevent Salvador Allende, a popular socialist politician, from being elected president. After Allende narrowly lost the 1958 contest to the conservative, wealthy Jorge Alessandri, the U.S. spent heavily to support Alessandri’s government. When Allende ran again in the next election in 1964, the U.S. successfully went all-out to stop him from winning, with a huge investment of funds funneled into Chilean politics via the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

But Allende ran for president yet again in 1970, and on September 4 of that year, the worst nightmare of the U.S. came to pass: He won. The Nixon administration was desperate to prevent him from taking office. Their panic can be gauged by notes taken soon afterward by Richard Helms, then the director of the CIA: “1 in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile!; $10,000,000 available, more if necessary; full-time job — best men we have; game plan: make the economy scream.” The next day, Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, warned American newspaper editors off the record that Chile could be a “contagious example” that would “infect” U.S. allies in Europe.

Despite this, Allende was sworn in. Nixon and company did not give up, however, conducting an enormous covert campaign to undermine Allende’s government. On September 11, 1973, a military junta led by Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power, with Allende dying under murky circumstances in the presidential palace. The coup does not seem to have been directly organized by the U.S., but it’s obvious that we created the conditions that made it possible, and the plotters knew that America wouldn’t mind at all if they took over.

Pinochet’s new regime swiftly rounded up troublesome Chileans, killing over 3,000 of them. Meanwhile, his economic team — nicknamed the “Chicago Boys” due to the education many of them had received in right-wing economics at the University of Chicago — moved to restructure the Chilean economy. This was a success, in that both poverty and corporate profits (Chilean and American) increased.

Chile’s first real constitution had . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 5:33 pm

Trump Is Having a Nuclear Meltdown on His Sad Social Media Platform

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In the New Republic Alex Shephard looks at Trump’s decompensating under pressure. This archived version of the article doesn’t have the paywall, but the title of the article is overlaid. The article begins:

This week, the Department of Justice released photographs of highly sensitive, top secret documents that were recovered during the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago last month. If it’s true that a picture speaks a thousand words, then some of those words, in this instance were, “Wow it sure looks like Trump committed a serious crime,” and “If this was any other person, they’d likely be indicted right now, if not down a deep, dark hole.” But Trump is not “any other person: As a once and (he hopes) future head of state, he’s being treated with a lot more deference than most suspects. He’s also unlike other people in another way: He seems bent on personally decimating his own defense, with the help of his allies.

Since the DOJ executed their search warrant, there has been little doubt that this was a more serious matter than most other Trump peccadilloes. But throughout his political career—and business career, for that matter—Trump successfully skirted out of danger, often on some very flimsy premises. When impeached the first time for trying to withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden—a scandal that only looks worse with every passing week of Russia’s invasion—he and Republicans hung on to a sliver of ambiguity, arguing that there was never an explicit quid pro quo. When impeached a second time—this time for inciting a riot that nearly killed members of Congress—they followed more or less the same strategy. Sure, Trump implored his followers to “fight like hell.” But he didn’t mean it literally. In fact he meant the opposite.

There is no sliver of ambiguity now. The photographs released by the Department of Justice on Tuesday is the equivalent of the quintessential “drugs on the table” pictures associated with narcotics busts. The FBI went to Mar-a-Lago and found hundreds of pages of documents clearly marked “top secret.” Donald Trump, a private citizen, is not allowed to have those documents. Not only that, his lawyers lied to the Feds. For the first time in his post-presidency, it now seems more likely than not that he will be prosecuted. Trump is currently benefiting from the Department of Justice’s quasi-official directive to not indict a political figure within 90 days of an election. But it would not be surprising to see an indictment come the early winter. Trump is screwed. But so are the Republicans who have insisted that there was nothing to see here.


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For weeks, Trump has rotated through a variety of implausible explanations for why he was hanging on to these materials: First the documents were fake; later, despite being fake, he had declassified them anyway. With few exceptions, Republicans initially jumped into the fray in Trump’s defense, perhaps understandably considering he’d historically wriggled his way out of each and every jam. Trump’s defenders argued that the Department of Justice and its leader, Merrick Garland, were acting like the Gestapo; that this was a sign that the United States had become a banana republic. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised retaliation against Garland; others threatened to investigate Biden and his family when they retook power. (As if they aren’t already planning to do this.) Some issued calls to defund the FBI—an organization that, in their view, needed to be purged.

This response was almost autonomic; like watching the leg of a dead frog kick when an electric current runs through its corpse. Over the last seven years, there has only been one ironclad rule of GOP politics: The only excommunicable sin is to go against Donald Trump. And so Republicans reflexively backed him to the hilt—forgetting, as my colleague Matt Ford argued last month, that the smarter move is to always anticipate that something worse is coming.

They’d also forgotten that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 11:19 am

Student Debt Relief Is Undermining the Military’s Predatory Recruiting Practices

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Jordan Uhl writes in Jacobin:

Amid a brutal year for military recruiting, conservative war hawks are openly fretting that President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a onetime means-tested student debt cancellation will undercut the military’s ability to prey on desperate young Americans.

“Student loan forgiveness undermines one of our military’s greatest recruitment tools at a time of dangerously low enlistments,” Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted shortly after the announcement.

In the six years since Banks first ran for Congress, he has taken more than $400,000 from defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, and other major players in the military-industrial complex. Corporate political action committees for Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, L3Harris Technologies, and Ultra Electronics have each donated tens of thousands of dollars to Banks, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data analyzed by OpenSecrets. He now sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Department of Defense and United States military.

Members of the committee have already collectively received more than $3.4 million from defense contractors and weapons manufacturers this election cycle.

Banks’s admission highlights the way the student debt crisis has been exploited by the military-industrial complex. By saying the quiet part out loud, Banks is finally speaking the truth about how military recruiters use the GI Bill — the 1944 law that awards a robust benefits package to veterans — as a remedy for the cost of higher education to convince young people to enlist.

“To have members of Congress openly imply that the answer to this is to actually exacerbate hardship for poor and working-class youth is, actually, the best thing for young Americans to see,” Mike Prysner, an antiwar veteran and activist, told the Lever. “It proves their reasons for not joining are totally valid. Why allow yourself to be chewed up and spit out in service of a system that cares so little for you and your well being?”

Biden’s initiative will cancel up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt for people who make under $125,000 annually, plus an additional $10,000 for these borrowers who received a Pell Grant in college. The program is estimated to eliminate roughly $300 billion in total debt, reducing the outstanding student debt nationwide from $1.7 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, the average cost for annual tuition and fees at public four-year colleges has risen from $4,160 to $10,740 since the early 1990s — a 158 percent increase. At private institutions, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 7:09 pm

Prosecutors detail items seized from Trump estate, including dozens of empty ‘classified’ folders

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The empty folders are worrisome since we have no idea where the contents are. However, Jared did get $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.

Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney report in Politico:

Agents who searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate recovered records with highly classified marking mixed in boxes with other personal items like books and clothing, according to a government inventory unsealed in a court filing Friday.

The more detailed description of items seized during the Aug. 8 search also shows dozens of empty folders with classified marking, and many labeled “return to staff secretary/military aide.”

The filing comes a day after a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, heard arguments from the Justice Department and Trump’s legal team about potential restraints on the department’s access to the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

The new inventory shows that along with those records marked classified in one box of documents recovered from Trump’s estate were 99 press clippings, 69 government records without classification markings, 43 empty folders with “classified” banners and 28 empty folders marked “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide.”

Emphasis added.

“Clusterfuck” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 9:28 am

The Origin of Student Debt: Reagan Adviser Warned Free College Would Create a Dangerous “Educated Proletariat”

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Remember: In many advanced nations, education is tuition-free. That is, education costs, like healthcare costs, are paid from general tax revenue because those countries consider that an educated and healthy citizenry is in the national interest by making the country strong and prosperous. Those countries seek to ensure their citizens’ success, since if citizens are successful, so is the country.

The US, of course, is the land of Rugged Individualism, raised on myths of the Lone Hero — cf. Westerns for the purest form — and the idea of a cooperative community is replaced by a competitive struggle with One Big Winner (and many, many who struggle). A Rugged Individual resists being helped by anyone (that’s the “rugged” part) and also resists helping anyone (since others also are — or should be — Rugged Individuals).

I’m not saying the US approach is wrong, and it certainly has proved to work well for Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, and a few thousand more. 

Joe Schwarz reports in the Intercept:

WITH THE vociferous debate over President Joe Biden’s announcement that the federal government will cancel a portion of outstanding student debt, it’s important to understand how Americans came to owe the current cumulative total of more than $1.6 trillion for higher education.

In 1970, Ronald Reagan was running for reelection as governor of California. He had first won in 1966 with confrontational rhetoric toward the University of California public college system and executed confrontational policies when in office. In May 1970, Reagan had shut down all 28 UC and Cal State campuses in the midst of student protests against the Vietnam War and the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. On October 29, less than a week before the election, his education adviser Roger A. Freeman spoke at a press conference to defend him.

Freeman’s remarks were reported the next day in the San Francisco Chronicle under the headline “Professor Sees Peril in Education.” According to the Chronicle article, Freeman said, “We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. … That’s dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow [to go to college].”

“If not,” Freeman continued, “we will have a large number of highly trained and unemployed people.” Freeman also said — taking a highly idiosyncratic perspective on the cause of fascism —“that’s what happened in Germany. I saw it happen.”

Freeman was born in 1904 in Vienna, Austria, and emigrated to the United States after the rise of Hitler. An economist who became a longtime fixture in conservative politics, he served on the White House staff during both the Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon administrations. In 1970 he was seconded from the Nixon administration to work on Reagan’s campaign. He was also a senior fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution. In one of his books, he asked “can Western Civilization survive” what he believed to be excessive government spending on education, Social Security, etc.

A core theme of Reagan’s first gubernatorial campaign in 1966 was resentment toward California’s public colleges, in particular UC Berkeley, with Reagan repeatedly vowing “to clean up the mess” there. Berkeley, then nearly free to attend for California residents, had become a national center of organizing against the Vietnam War. Deep anxiety about this reached the highest levels of the U.S. government. John McCone, the head of the CIA, requested a meeting with J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, to discuss “communist influence” at Berkeley, a situation that “definitely required some corrective action.”

During the 1966 campaign, Reagan regularly communicated with the FBI about its concerns about Clark Kerr, the president of the entire University of California system. Despite requests from Hoover, Kerr had not cracked down on Berkeley protesters. Within weeks of Reagan taking office, Kerr was fired. A subsequent FBI memo stated that Reagan was “dedicated to the destruction of disruptive elements on California campuses.”

Reagan pushed to cut state funding for California’s public colleges but did not reveal his ideological motivation. Rather, he said, the state simply needed to save money. To cover the funding shortfall, Reagan suggested that California public colleges could charge residents tuition for the first time. This, he complained, “resulted in the almost hysterical charge that this would deny educational opportunities to those of the most moderate means. This is obviously untrue. … We made it plain that tuition must be accompanied by adequate loans to be paid back after graduation.”

The success of Reagan’s attacks on California public colleges inspired conservative politicians across the U.S. Nixon decried “campus revolt.” Spiro Agnew, his vice president, proclaimed that thanks to open admissions policies, “unqualified students are being swept into college on the wave of the new socialism.”

Prominent conservative intellectuals also took up the charge. Privately one worried that free education “may be producing a positively dangerous class situation” by raising the expectations of working-class students. Another referred to college students as “a parasite feeding on the rest of society” who exhibited a “failure to understand and to appreciate the crucial role played [by] the reward-punishment structure of the market.” The answer was “to close off the parasitic option.”

In practice, this meant to the National Review, a “system of full tuition charges supplemented by loans which students must pay out of their future income.”

In retrospect, this period was the clear turning point in America’s policies toward higher education. For decades, there had been enthusiastic bipartisan agreement that states should fund high-quality public colleges so that their youth could receive higher education for free or nearly so. That has now vanished. In 1968, California residents paid a $300 yearly fee to attend Berkeley, the equivalent of about $2,000 now. Now tuition at Berkeley is $15,000, with total yearly student costs reaching almost $40,000.

Student debt, which had played a minor role in American life through the 1960s, increased during the Reagan administration and then shot up after the 2007-2009 Great Recession as states made huge cuts to funding for their college systems. 

That brings us to today. Biden’s actions, while positive, are merely a Band-Aid on a crisis 50 years in the making. In 1822, founding father James Madison wrote to a friend that “ . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2022 at 12:34 pm

Taking a stand against anti-American authoritarianism

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Heather Cox Richardson has a good post that begins:

In a speech Thursday night, President Joe Biden called out today’s MAGA Republicans for threatening “our personal rights and economic security…. They’re a threat to our very democracy.” When he referred to them as “semi-fascists,” he drew headlines, some of them disapproving.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee called the comment “despicable,” although Republicans have called Democrats “socialists” now for so long it passes as normal discourse. Just this week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called Democrats “radical left-wing lunatics, laptop liberals, and Marxist misfits.”

Biden’s calling out of today’s radical Republicans mirrors the moment on June 21, 1856, when Representative Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts, a member of the newly formed Republican Party, stood up in Congress to announce that northerners were willing to take to the battlefield to defend their way of life against the southerners who were trying to destroy it. Less than a month before, Burlingame’s Massachusetts colleague Senator Charles Sumner had been brutally beaten by a southern representative for disparaging slavery, and Burlingame was sick and tired of buying sectional peace by letting southerners abuse the North. Enough, he said, was enough. The North was superior to the South in its morality, loyalty to the government, fidelity to the Constitution, and economy, and northerners were willing to defend their system, if necessary, with guns.

Burlingame’s “Defense of Massachusetts” speech marked the first time a prominent northerner had offered to fight to defend the northern way of life. Previously, southerners had been the ones threatening war and demanding concessions from the North to preserve the peace. He was willing to accept a battle, Burlingame explained, because what was at stake was the future of the nation. His speech invited a challenge to a duel.

Southerners championed their region as the one that had correctly developed the society envisioned by the Founders. In the South, a few very wealthy men controlled government and society, enslaving their neighbors. This system, its apologists asserted, was the highest form of human civilization. They opposed any attempt to restrict its spread. The South was superior to the North, enslavers insisted; it alone was patriotic, honored the Constitution, and understood economic growth. In the interests of union, northerners repeatedly ceded ground to enslavers and left their claim to superiority unchallenged.

At long last, the attack on Sumner inspired Burlingame to speak up for the North. The southern system was not superior, he thundered; it had dragged the nation backward. Slavery kept workers ignorant and godless while the northern system of freedom lifted workers up with schools and churches. Slavery feared innovation; freedom encouraged workers to try new ideas. Slavery kept the South mired in the past; freedom welcomed the modern world and pushed Americans into a new, thriving economy. And finally, when Sumner had spoken up against the tyranny of slavery, a southerner had clubbed him almost to death on the floor of the Senate.

Was ignorance, economic stagnation, and violence the true American system?

For his part, Burlingame preferred to throw his lot with education, morality, economic growth, and respect for government.

Burlingame had deliberately provoked the lawmaker who had beaten Sumner, Preston Brooks of South Carolina, and unable to resist any provocation, Brooks had challenged Burlingame to a duel. Brooks assumed all Yankees were cowards and figured that Burlingame would decline in embarrassment. But instead, Burlingame accepted with enthusiasm, choosing rifles as the dueling weapons. Burlingame, it turned out, was an expert marksman.

Burlingame also chose to duel in Canada, giving Brooks the opportunity to

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Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2022 at 3:41 am

Interesting history: Why Republicans today oppose public education

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Heather Cox Richardson:

On August 21, 1831, enslaved American Nat Turner led about 70 of his enslaved and free Black neighbors in a rebellion to awaken his white neighbors to the inherent brutality of slaveholding and the dangers it presented to their own safety. Turner and his friends traveled from house to house in their neighborhood in Southampton County, Virginia, freeing enslaved people and murdering about 60 of the white men, women, and children they encountered. Their goal, Turner later told an interviewer, was “to carry terror and devastation wherever we went.”

State militia put down the rebellion in a couple of days, and both the legal system and white vigilantes killed at least 200 Black Virginians, many of whom were not involved in Turner’s bid to end enslavement. Turner himself was captured in October, tried in November, sentenced to death, and hanged.

But white Virginians, and white folks in neighboring southern states, remained frightened. Turner had been, in their minds, a well-treated, educated enslaved man, who knew his Bible well and seemed the very last sort of person they would have expected to revolt. And so they responded to the rebellion in two ways. They turned against the idea that enslavement was a bad thing and instead began to argue that human enslavement was a positive good.

And states across the South passed laws making it a crime to teach enslaved Americans to read and write.

Denying enslaved Black Americans access to education exiled them from a place in the nation. The Framers had quite explicitly organized the United States not on the principles of religion or tradition, but rather on the principles of the Enlightenment: the idea that, by applying knowledge and reasoning to the natural world, men could figure out the best way to order society. Someone excluded from access to education could not participate in that national project. Instead, that person was read out of society, doomed to be controlled by leaders who marshaled propaganda and religion to defend their dominance.

In 1858, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond explained that society needed “a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill.”

But when they organized in the 1850s to push back against the efforts of elite enslavers like Hammond to take over the national government, members of the fledgling Republican Party recognized the importance of education. In 1859, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln explained that those who adhered to the “mud-sill” theory “assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible…. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous.”

Lincoln argued that workers were not simply drudges but rather were the heart of the economy. “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” He tied the political vision of the Framers to this economic vision. In order to prosper, he argued, men needed “book-learning,” and he called for universal education. An educated community, he said, “will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”

When they were in control of the federal government in the 1860s, Republicans passed the Land Grant College Act, funding public universities so that men without wealthy fathers might have access to higher education. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans also tried to use the federal government to fund public schools for poor Black and white Americans, dividing money up according to illiteracy rates.

But President Andrew Johnson vetoed that bill on the grounds that the federal government had no business protecting Black education; that process, he said, belonged to the states—which for the next century denied Black and Brown people equal access to schools, excluding them from full participation in American society and condemning them to menial labor.

Then, in 1954, after decades of pressure from Black and Brown Americans for equal access to public schools, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor of California, unanimously agreed that separate schools were inherently unequal, and thus unconstitutional. The federal government stepped in to make sure the states could not deny education to the children who lived within their boundaries.

And now, in 2022, we are in a new educational moment. Between . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2022 at 11:31 am

The Psychiatrist Who Warned Us That Donald Trump Would Unleash Violence Was Absolutely Right

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Joshua Kendall writes in Mother Jones:

On the afternoon of February 1, 2016, as Iowa voters prepared for that evening’s caucuses, Bandy Lee sat by the bedside of her mother, who was terminally ill with cancer. An assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Yale, Lee had been too preoccupied with her mother’s condition to pay attention to the nascent presidential race, so she was taken aback when she saw footage of a Donald Trump rally airing on the hospital room’s small TV. What shocked her was the way Trump interacted with the crowd. “He said something about how his supporters should knock the crap out of hecklers,” she recalls, “and that if they did, he would pay their legal bills.”

His belligerent behavior meant more to Lee than it might to a casual viewer. As part of her clinical work in prison settings, she had evaluated and treated hundreds of violent offenders, including leaders of prison gangs. A native New Yorker, she had assumed that Trump “was just a shady businessman,” Lee told me, but “I suddenly realized that he had a lot in common” with those patients. “Trump was engaging in the predatory manipulation of his vulnerable followers.” In some cases, gang leaders might “ask their members to engage in violence and then issue bogus promises of protection. Like Trump, these leaders also often project extreme self-confidence, and that appeals to their followers, who tend to feel a deep emotional need for protection, connection, and identity.”

Fast forward to November 9, 2016, the day after the election. Lee’s friends and colleagues were bombarding her with calls and emails. Would Trump’s victory herald an increase in hate crimes? “You are a violence expert,” one implored. “Can you do something?”

She decided to jump into the fray, organizing an academic conference that took place in New Haven the following April. Titled “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn?” the meeting featured a handful of prominent psychiatrists, including Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors (1986), who addressed Trump’s mental state and the risks they believed it posed to the health and safety of Americans. Their consensus was, as Lifton put it, that psychiatric professionals had a compelling ethical duty to “bring our experience and knowledge to bear on what threatens us and what might renew us.” The event was initially sponsored by Yale’s schools of public health, medicine, and nursing, but Lee ended up running it independently to avoid the perception of “politicization.”

On the day of the conference, when only two dozen people filed into the 450-seat auditorium, the speakers—who also included clinical psychiatry professor Judith Herman from Harvard Medical School, and New York University psychiatrist James Gilligan, who also specializes in violent behavior—were “disappointed,” Lee says. “We assumed that our effort was a failure until we saw the press coverage, which included write-ups in news outlets in [many] different countries.” She proceeded to solicit papers on Trump’s potential for violence from a couple dozen other mental health experts and published the entire collection that fall. The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump was a surprise bestseller, hailed by the Washington Post as “the most daring book” of 2017.

Shortly after the book came out, leaders of the American Psychiatric Association began publicly attacking Lee, arguing she was acting irresponsibly. Her alleged offense was violating the 1973 Goldwater Rule, an APA guideline stating that “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion” of anyone without conducting a personal examination and getting proper approval.

The rule was the APA’s response to a 1966 lawsuit by Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona senator and presidential candidate. Goldwater had successfully sued Fact magazine, which, shortly before the 1964 general election, ran a piece in which dozens of leading psychiatrists offered crude armchair assessments of the state of Goldwater’s psyche. “His impulsive, impetuous behavior…reflects an emotionally immature, unstable personality,” wrote one doctor, who went on to cite Goldwater’s “inability to dissociate himself from vituperative, sick extremists.” (While the archconservative’s fiery campaign speeches were startling to many Americans at the time, they now seem relatively tame compared with Trump’s.)

This was the heyday of classical Freudianism, and most of the Fact magazine commentary was rooted in theoretical mumbo jumbo rather than empirical facts. One psychiatrist declared that the “core of [Goldwater’s] paranoid personality is…his anality and latent homosexuality.” The legacy of these off-the-cuff evaluations is a primary reason that today’s APA leaders were so eager to quash Lee’s Trump commentary.

“Anything a psychiatrist says without examining a patient is likely to be inaccurate, so it can harm the public figure,” says Paul Appelbaum, a Columbia University professor who has served as the APA’s president. Appelbaum is also concerned that diagnosing people from a distance casts the profession in a negative light: “These seemingly cavalier and politically motivated public statements can prevent people from getting the psychiatric care that they need.”

And yet Lee’s Cassandra-like warnings turned out to be remarkably prescient. On the morning of the insurrection, as former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed in sworn testimony to the January 6 committee, Trump had no compunction about unleashing armed loyalists on the Capitol, and was furious when told he could not accompany them. Two days later, as Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in their book, Peril, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to channel Lee when she told General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “This unhinged president could not be more dangerous. And we must do everything we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country.”

We also know from January 6 testimony that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2022 at 4:28 pm

7 charts that show the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade

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Saima May Sidik has a very interesting article in Nature, which begins:

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that the constitution does not confer the right to an abortion. Now, 13 states have greatly restricted access to the procedure, and about a dozen more are expected to follow suit.

For a high-income country to take such a giant leap towards prohibiting what many people consider a basic human right is nearly unprecedented. Health researchers are scrambling to predict the effects of such changes. Most experts expect that abortions will continue to happen, but will be harder to obtain legally — sometimes requiring extensive travel — and could become less safe. Less certain are the long-term effects on abortion rates, public health and pregnant people’s economic prospects. “If people want me to extrapolate from prior evidence to what’s going on now, I don’t think there’s any comparable evidence,” says sociologist Jonathan Bearak at the Guttmacher Institute, a policy group in New York City focused on sexual and reproductive health rights.

As the United States hurtles into the unknown (see ‘Changing landscape’), evidence suggests that enacting abortion restrictions will create substantial burdens, both for people seeking abortions and for the clinics that continue to offer these procedures. . .

There’s more, including the seven charts. I’ll show two, with the introductory info.

Abortions won’t stop

Evidence from around the world suggests that restricting abortion doesn’t put an end to it. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Bearak and Bela Ganatra, a behavioural scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and their colleagues compiled 2,415 data points, including survey results and health records, to estimate the number of unwanted pregnancies and the rate of abortions in 195 countries and territories around the world1. The analysis found that high-income countries where abortion is broadly legal have the lowest rates of abortion (see ‘Legality and reality’).

And one more of the seven charts:

Maternal deaths are likely to rise

When carried out safely, an abortion poses less risk to a person’s health than does carrying a baby to term. As a result of reduced access, the number of pregnancy-associated deaths is expected to rise.

In a preprint study8, Amanda Stevenson, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and her colleagues modelled what would have happened in 2020 if no one had had access to abortions in 26 states that have imposed bans or are reasonably likely to do so in the future. The authors of the study made some assumptions: for example, that people who request abortions have the same age distribution as do those who have babies, and that the risk of maternal death is the same in people who have abortions as in those who don’t. With those and other limitations in mind, they estimated that if there had been no abortions in 2020, an additional 64 pregnant people would have died — an increase of 14% (see ‘Death rates rising’).

It’s worth reading the entire article to get an idea of how much damage Republicans have done in this area.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 11:53 am

Climate change and drought

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Update: Loire River runs dry.

This morning I read an article in the Boston Globe on the effects on Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, from the drought there: people no water in their homes and businesses for a few days each week, with some not having had water for a month — and when the water does flow, the pressure can be too low to fill a tank to save water for future use. (The article might be behind a paywall. However, I was able to read it because the Globe just had a subscription offer of $1 for six months. It’s a very good paper, so I jumped at the opportunity to have it for six months, though I doubt I’ll renew at the full rate.)

From that article:

Faced with this situation, the government of Nuevo León announced that there would be water restrictions: Once a week we would not have water for a day. However, the cuts began to be more frequent.

Sometimes there is water only in the mornings, other times there is water all day, but sometimes two, three, four days can pass without water. This has been my experience, but there are people who have had to go up to a month without water in their homes. This has caused demonstrations where people have blocked avenues demanding water for their neighborhoods.

Most of the houses were not equipped with water tanks. People have purchased them, but sometimes it is hard to fill the tanks because there is not enough pressure or enough water on the days they have running water. So they have to buy water from water tankers to fill them because the government does not bring water to all the neighborhoods.

On days when there is water at home, we store it in buckets so we are prepared when there isn’t. We also buy bottles of water at the supermarket (in some stores you cannot buy more than a certain number of bottles).

When there is water, we take advantage of it to take a shower, wash dishes and clothes because we don’t know if there will be water in the following hours or days. We have to do everything we need to do with water because there is always the question of whether there will be any tomorrow. It is also important to mention that women are the ones who have carried out the most work during this situation because in most households in Mexico, women are in charge of the majority of the domestic labor and care activities. They have been forced to adjust their schedules and drop everything the minute they notice that water is available in order to perform those activities and collect water to store it for the rest of the day or the week.

One day, I posted on Facebook: “Has anyone around here had to call a water tanker? Do you have any situation in your home, neighborhood, or business that you consider to be more serious than the rest? Send me a message, please.”

I was surprised by the number of friends who answered. That afternoon I spent taking calls and messages. “I’ve been without water for a week”; “I had to move in with my parents who do have water”; “We have to pee in a single toilet, and wait until the end of the day to flush it because we can’t waste the little water we have”; “Everyone in my house had COVID-19, we had no water in the house, it was the worst week of our lives. I was sick, sweating and couldn’t wash my sheets.”

It is difficult to listen to these experiences and know that there are people who are having a worse time. I think of the houses where older adults or sick people live. It is also important to consider that not everybody has the means to buy water bottles, install a water tank system, or buy water from a water tanker.

The drought in Mexico is a bad sign for the American Southwest, already struggling with the drying up of the Colorado River, which affects agriculture and the lives of millions who dwell in cities in that region. Seven states are now working out what they will do when that water is no longer available.

And The Eldest point out an article in Sky News on how Europe is suffering the worst drought in 500 years. From the article:

The latest data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) shows some 47% of the bloc’s territory under “warning” conditions, the second of three drought categories, during the 10 days leading to 30 July.

More worrying is the 17% of land that has moved into the most severe “alert” state, meaning not only is the soil drying out after low rain, but plants and crops are suffering too.

When water becomes scarce, not only are there food shortages (from crop failures and loss of livestock), but also people also must move away, so I expect there will be mass migrations from regions that lack water. That seems likely to lead to conflict.

The Great Famine in China under Mao resulted in millions dying (see this earlier post). The impact of climate change will almost certainly be worse.

It’s a great tragedy that humanity seems incapable of facing this on-coming crisis with constructive actions. (And “on-coming” is a bit of a misnomer: from the CO2 already added to the atmosphere, even if we discontinued today the use of all fossil fuels so that humans add no more CO2, conditions would still worsen for decades. The crisis has already happened; the effects will unfold over the coming decades.)

The best hope is a technology that would enable direct capture of CO2 from the atmosphere, and certainly people are working on that.

However, there are still a great many who deny that climate change is caused by human activity and who strongly resist any efforts to address climate change (because such efforts would be an admission that climate change is real)— the Republican party is a prime example. (I think in the case of Republicans, a stumbling block is that effectively addressing climate change requires large-scale group effort and almost certainly government leadership. That’s hard for Republicans to accept, since their philosophical outlook is that problems are solved through individual effort, heroic loners who require no help. In this view, help is for sissies. Republicans believe that problems should be addressed through competition, not cooperation. Libertarians take this attitude to an extreme, so that its failure is more immediately evident.)

Some states in the Southeast whose Atlantic coasts face ocean-level rise have passed laws to forbid the use of the words “climate change,” which seems a lot like magical thinking: “If we don’t say it aloud, it will not happen.” Examples: North Carolina and Miami (which already routinely sees sunny-day flooding). While such laws do show an effort to confront climate change, I do not see that that approach will be effective in addressing the problem, even in the relatively short term. It does, however, illustrate the first and most primitive psychological defense mechanism: denial.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 9:02 am

87 years of Social Security

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Heather Cox Richardson:

Since it seems clear we will be deciding whether we want to preserve the Social Security Act by our choice of leaders in the next few elections, I thought it not unreasonable to reprint this piece from last year about why people in the 1930s thought the measure was imperative. There is more news about the classified material at Mar-a-Lago, but nothing that can’t wait another day so I can catch this anniversary.

By the time most of you will read this, it will be August 14, and on this day in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. While FDR’s New Deal had put in place new measures to regulate business and banking and had provided temporary work relief to combat the Depression, this law permanently changed the nature of the American government.

The Social Security Act is known for its payments to older Americans, but it did far more than that. It established unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services. It was a sweeping reworking of the relationship between the government and its citizens, using the power of taxation to pool funds to provide a basic social safety net.

The driving force behind the law was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for having the longest tenure in that job: she lasted from 1933 to 1945.

She brought to the position a vision of government very different from that of the Republicans who had run it in the 1920s. While men like President Herbert Hoover had harped on the idea of a “rugged individualism” in which men worked their way up, providing for their families on their own, Perkins recognized that people in communities had always supported each other. The vision of a hardworking man supporting his wife and children was more myth than reality: her own husband suffered from bipolar disorder, making her the family’s primary support.

As a child, Perkins spent summers with her grandmother, with whom she was very close, in the small town of Newcastle, Maine, where the old-fashioned, close-knit community supported those in need. In college, at Mount Holyoke, she majored in chemistry and physics, but after a professor required students to tour a factory to observe working conditions, Perkins became committed to improving the lives of those trapped in industrial jobs. After college, Perkins became a social worker and, in 1910, earned a masters degree in economics and sociology from Columbia University. She became the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for the workers who made the products they were buying.

The next year, in 1911, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in which 146 workers, mostly women and girls, died. They were trapped in the building when the fire broke out because the factory owner had ordered the doors to the stairwells and exits locked to make sure no one slipped outside for a break. Unable to escape the smoke and fire in the factory, the workers—some of them on fire—leaped from the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the building, dying on the pavement.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire turned Perkins away from voluntary organizations to improve workers’ lives and toward using the government to adjust the harsh conditions of industrialization. She began to work with the Democratic politicians at Tammany Hall, who presided over communities in the city that mirrored rural towns and who exercised a form of social welfare for their voters, making sure they had jobs, food, and shelter and that wives and children had a support network if a husband and father died. In that system, the voices of women like Perkins were valuable, for their work in the immigrant wards of the city meant that they were the ones who knew what working families needed to survive.

The overwhelming unemployment, hunger, and suffering caused by the Great Depression made Perkins realize that state governments alone could not adjust the conditions of the modern world to create a safe, supportive community for ordinary people. She came to believe, as she said: “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

Through her Tammany connections, Perkins met FDR, and when he asked her to be his Secretary of Labor, she told him that she wanted the federal government to provide unemployment insurance, health insurance, and old-age insurance. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

Creating federal unemployment insurance became her primary concern. Congressmen had little interest in passing such legislation. They said they worried that unemployment insurance and federal aid to dependent families would undermine a man’s willingness to work. But Perkins recognized that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 10:18 pm

US crisis also intensifies: This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

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The pace seems to be picking up. Heather Cox Richardson writes:

This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

Perry was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He connected former president Trump with Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ) who supported Trump’s claims and who would have become acting attorney general if the leadership of the DOJ hadn’t threatened to resign as a group if Trump appointed him. Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

The DOJ searched Clark’s home in June. On the same day, it seized the phone of John Eastman, the author of the memo laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to refuse to count presidential electors for Democratic candidate Joe Biden and thus throw the election to Trump.

Eastman sued to get his phone back and to force the government to destroy any information agents had taken from it; the Department of Justice says the phone was obtained legally and that purging it would be “unprecedented” and “would cause substantial detriment to the investigation, as well as seriously impede any grand jury’s use of the seized material in a future charging decision.” A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for early September.

Trump and his supporters have spent the day complaining bitterly about yesterday’s search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, painting it an illegal “witch hunt” and threatening to launch a “revolution” over it. A search warrant requires a judge to sign off on the idea that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that a search will provide evidence of that crime. While the FBI cannot release the search warrant, Trump has a copy of it and could release it if he wanted to.

Legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at the Department of Justice, pointed out on Twitter that the law requires the FBI to give Trump an inventory of what they found. If indeed he wants to claim the search was a witch hunt and he had no government property in his home, he should release the search inventory.

Kyle Cheney at Politico noted that on January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump revoked the authority he had previously given and named seven new loyalists as his representatives to the National Archives with regard to his presidential records. They were Meadows; then–White House counsel Pat Cipollone; then–deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin; lawyer John Eisenberg, who as legal advisor to the National Security Council tried to keep the story about Trump’s call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky under wraps; Scott Gast, also of the White House counsel’s office during Trump’s term; lawyer Michael Purpura; and lawyer Steven Engel, who argued that Congress could not subpoena White House advisors.

Meanwhile,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 10:06 pm

Doctors don’t want to take jobs in antiabortion states

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Christopher Rowland has an interesting article in the Washington Post (gift link, no paywall). From the article:

. . . One large medical recruiting firm said it recently had 20 obstetrician-gynecologists turn down positions in red states because of abortion laws. The reluctance extends beyond those interested in providing abortion care, as laws meant to protect a fetus could open doctors up to new liabilities or limit their ability to practice. . .

One large health-care staffingfirm, AMN Healthcare, said clients in states with abortion bans are having greater trouble filling vacancies because some prospective OB/GYN candidates won’t even consider opportunities in states with new or pending abortion bans.

Tom Florence, president of Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company, cited 20 instances since the Supreme Court ruling where prospects specifically refused to relocate to states where reproductive rights are being targeted by lawmakers.

“To talk to approximately 20 candidates that state they would decline to practice in those restrictive states, that is certainly a trend we are seeing,” Florence said. “It is certainly going to impact things moving forward.”

Three candidates turned down one of the firm’s recruiters, who was working to fill a single job in maternal fetal medicine in Texas, he said: “All three expressed fear they could be fined or lose their license for doing their jobs.”

In another example, a physician contacted by phone by an AMN Healthcare recruiter trying to fill a post in an antiabortion state “simply said, ‘Roe versus Wade,’ and hung up,” Florence said.

Florence said the shift has especially serious implications for small, rural hospitals, which can afford just a small number of maternal specialists or, in some cases, only one.

“They can deliver hundreds of babies each year and see several thousand patients,” he said. “The potential absence of one OB/GYN that might be in their community, if not for the Supreme Court decision, is highly significant. The burden will be borne by the patients.”

Tellingly, Florence added, none of the recruiters had encountered a single physician seeking to practice in a state because it had banned abortion.

There’s quite a bit more, so read the whole thing (gift link, no paywall).  Conservatives have sown the wind; now they reap the whirlwind.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 11:17 am

Lies as warfare

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

I have spent the day rereading the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the news of the day has heightened its relevance.

During the Trump administration, after an extensive investigation, the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”

But that effort was not just about the election. It was “part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society…a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood…the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” It was “a sustained campaign of information warfare against the United States aimed at influencing how this nation’s citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.”

That effort is not limited to foreign nationals. This week, Alex Jones, a purveyor of conspiracy theories and false information on his InfoWars network—the tagline is “There’s a War on For Your Mind!”—is part of a civil trial to determine damages in his defamation of the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in which 26 people, 20 of them small children, were murdered.

Jones claimed that the massacre wasn’t real, and his listeners harassed the grieving families. A number of families sued him. In the case currently in the news, Jones refused for years to comply with orders to hand over documents and evidence, so finally, in September, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas, issued a default judgment holding him responsible for all damages. Since the judge has repeatedly had to reprimand Jones for lying under oath during this trial, it seems that Jones intended simply to continue spinning a false story of his finances, his business practices, and his actions.

The construction of a world based on lies is a key component of authoritarians’ takeover of democratic societies. George Orwell’s 1984 explored a world in which those in power use language to replace reality, shaping the past and people’s daily experiences to cement their control. They are constantly reconstructing the past to justify their actions in the present. In Orwell’s dystopian fantasy, Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite history for the Ministry of Truth to reflect the changing interests of a mysterious cult leader, Big Brother, who wants power for its own sake and enforces loyalty through The Party’s propaganda and destruction of those who do not conform.

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt went further, saying that the lies of an authoritarian were designed not to persuade people, but to organize them into a mass movement. Followers would “believe everything and nothing,” Arendt wrote, “think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” “The ideal subject” for such a dictator, Arendt wrote, was not those who were committed to an ideology, but rather “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist.”

It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 9:56 pm

When the dog catches the car: Republicans successes bring backlash

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have stripped it of protections for abortion rights. With 86% of the vote in, 62% of voters supported abortion protections; 37% wanted them gone. That spread is astonishing. Kansas voters had backed Trump in 2020; Republicans had arranged for the referendum to fall on the day of a primary, which traditionally attracts higher percentages of hard-line Republicans; and they had written the question so that a “yes” vote would remove abortion protections and a “no” would leave them in place. Then, today, a political action committee sent out texts that lied about which vote was which.

Still, voters turned out to protect abortion rights in such unexpectedly high numbers it suggests a sea change.

It appears the dog has caught the car, as so many of us noted when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision on June 24. Since 1972, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Republican politicians have attracted the votes of evangelicals and traditionalists who didn’t like the idea of women’s rights by promising to end abortion. But abortion rights have always had strong support. So politicians said they were “pro-life” without ever really intending to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Dobbs decision explicitly did just that and has opened the door to draconian laws that outlaw abortion with no exceptions, promptly showing us the horror of a pregnant 10-year-old and hospitals refusing abortion care during miscarriages. Today, in the privacy of the voting booth, voters did exactly as Republican politicians feared they would if Roe were overturned.

But this moment increasingly feels like it’s about more than abortion rights, crucial though they are. The loss of our constitutional rights at the hands of a radical extremist minority has pushed the majority to demonstrate that we care about the rights and freedoms that were articulated—however imperfectly they were carried out—in the Declaration of Independence.

We care about a lot of things that have been thin on the ground for a while.

We care about justice:

Today, the Senate passed the PACT Act in exactly the same form it had last week, when Republicans claimed they could no longer support the bill they had previously passed because Democrats had snuck a “slush fund” into a bill providing medical care for veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the bill was unchanged, and Republicans’ refusal to repass the bill from the House seemed an act of spite after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on a bill to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs, invest in measures to combat climate change, raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, and reduce the deficit. Since their vote to kill the measure, the outcry around the country, led by veterans and veterans’ advocate Jon Stewart, has been extraordinary. The vote on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 tonight was 86 to 11 as Republicans scrambled to fix their mistake.

In an ongoing attempt to repair a past injustice, executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force Michelle Brané says it has reunified 400 children with their parents after their separation by the Trump administration at the southern border. Because the former administration did not keep records of the children or where they were sent, reunifying the families has been difficult, and as many as 1000 children out of the original 5000 who fell under this policy remain separated from their parents. [This is fucking shocking. – LG]

And we care about equality before the law:

Today, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News reported that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 7:58 am

‘They’re Just Going to Let Me Die?’ One Woman’s Abortion Odyssey

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Men should not be passing laws on abortion. This long read from the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) tells a harrowing story:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Madison Underwood was lying on the ultrasound table, nearly 19 weeks pregnant, when the doctor came in to say her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and started wiping away lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed belly as the doctor leaned over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She recalled that she went quiet, her body went still. What did they mean, they couldn’t do the abortion? Just two weeks earlier, she and her fiance had learned her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. If she tried to carry to term, she could become critically ill, or even die, her doctor had said. Now, she was being told she couldn’t have an abortion she didn’t even want, but needed.

“They’re just going to let me die?” she remembers wondering.

In the blur around her, she heard the doctor and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could do the procedure now that the legal risks of performing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with frustration in his voice, tell the doctor this was stupid. She heard the doctor agree.

Just three days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 that banned abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy had been blocked by a court order but could go into effect.

Ms. Underwood never thought any of this would affect her. She was 22 and excited to start a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth for days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was dreading the abortion. She had cried in the car pulling up to the clinic. She had heard about the Supreme Court undoing Roe v. Wade but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state ban took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was shifting so quickly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or while legal battles played out in state courts.

Century-old bans hanging around on the books were activated, but then just as quickly were under dispute. In states where abortion was still legal, wait times at clinics spiked as women from states with bans searched for alternatives.

It was into this chaos that Ms. Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. What would happen now? The doctor said . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 11:24 am

Trump Just Told Us His Master Plan

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I hope voters in the US are paying attention. David Frum reports in the Atlantic:

Yesterday, an ex-president who had tried to overturn a democratic election by violence returned to Washington, D.C., to call for law and order. Again and again, the speech reversed reality. The ex-president who had spread an actual big lie against the legitimacy of the 2020 election tried to appropriate the phrase big lie to use against his opponents. The ex-president who had fired an acting FBI director days before that official’s pension was due to be vested lamented that police officers might lose their pension for doing their job.

Yet scrape aside the audacity, the self-pity, and the self-aggrandizement, and there was indeed an idea in Donald Trump’s speech at a conference hosted by the America First Policy Institute: a sinister idea, but one to take seriously.

Trump sketched out a vision that a new Republican Congress could enact sweeping new emergency powers for the next Republican president. The president would be empowered to disregard state jurisdiction over criminal law. The president would be allowed to push aside a “weak, foolish, and stupid governor,” and to fire “radical and racist prosecutors”—racist here meaning “anti-white.” The president could federalize state National Guards for law-enforcement duties, stop and frisk suspects for illegal weapons, and impose death sentences on drug dealers after expedited trials.

Much of this may be hot air. All of it would require huge legal changes, and some of it would require the 6–3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn established precedents. You should listen to Trump’s speech less as an agenda of things to be done, and more as an indication of the direction of Trump’s thought.

The Trump Republican Party faces a strategic problem and a constitutional opportunity. The problem is that under Trump, the Republican Party is a minority force in American life. The opportunity is that an ever more unbalanced federal structure can enable a minority party based in many small states to control the majority population that lives in fewer big states. Abortion rights are one area where Republicans can use this opportunity, but that is not an area that especially interests Donald Trump.

Instead, and as always, the opportunity that most fascinates Trump is the opportunity to use the law as a weapon: a weapon to shield his own wrongdoing, a weapon to wield against his political opponents.

Trump’s first term was  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 4:27 pm

Here’s a test to see whether Supreme Court justices are above the law

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Jennifer Rubin, a Republican (but also rational) columnist for the Washington Post, has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) today:

The 65 Project, a bipartisan group dedicated to disbarring lawyers who filed frivolous cases related to the 2020 election, or who otherwise participated in the coup attempt, has been very busy in recent months. It filed a series of complaints against advisers of defeated former president Donald Trump, including Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Cleta Mitchell, John Eastman and Joseph diGenova, as well as two lawyers who signed on to be fake electors and two lawyers who participated in the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Now, the group is making its most ambitious move yet: It is filing a specific demand with the Supreme Court to kick Eastman, the chief architect of the coup plot, out of the elite Supreme Court Bar (lawyers eligible to argue in the highest court). And it has requested that Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the disciplinary proceeding because of the role that Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, played in the 2020 scheme.

The complaint, made available to me before it was filed, states that Eastman “bolstered and amplified” claims not backed by evidence or the law. It also alleges that Eastman “actively participated in an effort to undermine our elections – a scheme that led to the gravest attack on American democracy since the Civil War.”

The complaint describes five “spokes” in the coup plot, all of which included Eastman. They include litigating the 65 bogus lawsuits; arranging slates of phony electors in seven states; pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes; pressuring state lawmakers to overturn votes or rescind electors; and summoning “Trump’s supporters to Washington, D.C. and, having spent months lying to them about fraud and a stolen election, sending them to the Capitol, agitated and armed, to stop the electoral vote count.”

After a detailed review of facts revealed in the Jan. 6 hearings and in reporting, the group argues that Eastman’s conduct warrants expulsion from the Supreme Court Bar as well as the loss of his California legal license. The complaint amounts to a handy guide not only to Eastman’s professional violations, but also to facts that might be the basis for criminal charges in state and federal court.

Michael Teter, the 65 Project’s managing director, tells me, “If Mr. Eastman is allowed to continue to remain a member of the highest court in the United States despite the undisputed facts regarding his actions, the American public’s quickly eroding confidence in the Supreme Court will deteriorate even faster.”

But that’s not even the most intriguing part. Citing the obligation for federal judges to . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Update: One of the comments on the article:

CitizenCO July 28, 2022 11:41am

“… an important first step toward the Court’s regaining some of its legitimacy.”

I think the legitimacy ship has sailed. By several hundred steps.

McConnell denied Garland a lawful hearing, pushed through Barrett while the last 3 SCOTUS nominees brazenly lied to the Senate in saying they considered Roe settled precedent then ruled with the opinion that the Roe precedent was illegitimate. Add Roberts shepherding through the Citizens United ruling, the single most destructive ruling by the court to American Constitutional good order since Dredd Scott. Add the many shadow docket and one-off rulings without “setting precedent” and the Supreme Court legitimacy is well down the sewer.

Thomas, the long serving weakest jurisprudence wit on the court, whose record of probing questions could not even fill a napkin, recusing himself will not serve to add one iota of legitimacy to an already tainted court. The present court would be more legitimate in the public’s eyes if they just admitted they represented the interests of the largest corporations, whatever the Federalist society tells them to believe and that, like the Alito ruling, will twist the Constitution to suit their sponsors positions, however damaging to the citizens of the United States.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2022 at 10:01 am

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