Category Archives: History

FBI probe Trump allies’ pardon-selling schemes’


The FBI has launched an investigation into allegations that some of Donald Trump’s closet allies are offering Presidential pardons in exchange for hefty cash payouts.

From the New York Times:

One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.

Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd has marketed himself to convicted felons as someone who could secure pardons because of his close relationship with the president, accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a wealthy felon and advising him and other potential clients to leverage Mr. Trump’s grievances about the justice system.

A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement.

And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization.

It’s all getting to sound like Watergate, and the memorable question asked by a Republican senator 48 years ago: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?

Trump gave huge boost to far-Right channels


Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric may be his biggest gift to the new far-Right media channels his words have spawned.

By granting them access to his press conferences, endlessly tweets linked to their coverage, and his feud with Fox News, he has shoveled millions into the pockets of professional propagandists by vastly expanding their audiences.

The PressGazette breaks down the numbers:

According to Nielsen television-viewing figures shared with Press Gazette by Newsmax, its total audience reach grew from 9m in July 2020 to 24.3m during election month. In addition to these figures, Newsmax said it recorded 115m online streams on its free over-the-top (OTT) channel in November – a 511% increase on the previous month.

Newsmax said that December was its highest-rated month ever, and that the first week of January – a period that included the 6 January pro-Trump protests-turned-riots in Washington – set new prime-time records, although it did not provide specific figures.

The news group also says its app, Newsmax TV, has been downloaded 4.3m times since election day.

According to online analytics firm SimilarWeb, Newsmax.com attracted 63m visits in November – up from 15m in October. In December, it fell only slightly to 62m.

It was a similar story for Thegatewaypundit.com, which saw its traffic jump from 29m to 57m between October and November before dropping slightly to 56m in December.

One America News Network’s website traffic jumped from 6.5m in October to 18.4m in November and fell slightly to 17.6m last month.

Cultural Civil War 2.0

Communities are based on narratives, stories that shape and fine our identity.

We have personal narratives, family narratives, group narratives, and larger meta-narratives.

Back in the 1950’s during my childhood, the shapers of metanarratives were schools, churches, vlubs and other social organizations, and the news media, primarily community newspapers and radio at the time [television came later].

The news media focused on the community, covering politics, police news, clubs, schools sports, and other community activities, and newspapers covered community events in far greater depth than they do today, in part because of classified ad revenues [long since migrated to eBay and other online media] and the advertising dollars spent by locally owned and operated newspapers and radio stations [all local radio had news staff back then, unlike today].

But with the onset of the Internet, everything change, and far more sensationalistic.

On one level, news media became delocalized and politicized. But more critically, this meany that next-door neighbors no longer shared a common stream of information. Instead, each of us is presented, thanks to the targeting tools of the online media giants, with a news stream that contains little or nothing of the “news” consumed by out neighbors.

One indication of this stream of parallel news universes can be seen in a new study of online news media from the Pew Research center:

About half of U.S. adults (53%) say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” and this use is spread out across a number of different sites, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2020.

Among 11 social media sites asked about as a regular source of news, Facebook sits at the top, with about a third (36%) of Americans getting news there regularly. YouTube comes next, with 23% of U.S. adults regularly getting news there. Twitter serves as a regular news source for 15% of U.S. adults.

Other social media sites are less likely to be regular news sources. About one-in-ten Americans or fewer report regularly getting news on Instagram (11%), Reddit (6%), Snapchat (4%), LinkedIn (4%), TikTok (3%), WhatsApp (3%), Tumblr (1%) and Twitch (1%).

These lower percentages for news use are in some cases related to the fact that fewer Americans report using them at all, compared with the shares who use Facebook and YouTube. If we consider news users as a portion of a site’s overall user base, some sites stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, is used by 25% of U.S. adults, but over half of those users get news on the site regularly. And 42% of Reddit users get news regularly on the site, though it overall has a very small user base (15% of U.S. adults say they use Reddit). On the other hand, YouTube, though widely used, sees a smaller portion of its users turning to the site for news regularly (32%).

Two charts illustrate the nature of the online mediascape.

The first graphic shows where folks seek out their news online:

The second, and more fascinating chart reveals how much we actually trust the content to the online news we peruse:

More form the report:

Most Americans do not say news on social media has helped them better understand current events. The largest segment, 47%, says it doesn’t make much of a difference, while 29% say that it has helped their understanding and 23% say it has actually left them more confused. This largely reflects responses to similar questions in 2018 and 2019, when a minority said that social media news helped them better understand current events.

Such is where we are, living in a world where the tools that once brought communities together now serve to divide us.

Georgia ever-Trumpers stripped of committee posts


Powerful Georgia state legislators were stripped of the committee chairmanships after backing Trump’s demands that the state strip Joe Biden of his presidential victory.

One has to wonder if this is the sign of a rift in the GOP?

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

It’s payback time. The Republican rift in the state Senate came to a head Tuesday when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan demoted three Republican senators who have backed attempts to overturn the presidential vote in Georgia over baseless allegations of irregularities.

When the bloodletting was over, state Sens. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, Matt Brass of Newnan and Burt Jones of Jackson were sapped of their political influence on the second day of the winter session.

As our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports, Duncan stripped Beach of his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee, while Jones will no longer lead the Insurance and Labor Committee. Neither will serve as even a rank-and-file member on the two panels they once led.

And though state Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan will still be a committee chairman this term, he was shelved to a lesser posting. Instead of serving as chairman of the committee that is set to redraw the political map later this year, he’ll oversee a banking committee.

None of this was much of a surprise. The three aggressively promoted President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud, and pushed efforts to overturn the outcome that ran afoul of Duncan, who has called out the phony narrative.

When legislators who’ve taken an oath to uphold their state’s constitution violate the oath, punitive action should follow, especially when it comes to ensuring the sanctity of the franchise.

Given Georgia’s long history of disenfranchising Black citizens for a century after the Civil War, we have to applaud the Republican Lieutenant Governor for his actions, given that Black voters gave Biden his ket victory in the Peace State.

Trump incites, America divides, terror looms


Contrition isn’t a concept familiar to Donald Trump.

Heading to Texas to praise himself, Trump took time to make his first appearance before the nation’s press this morning, and his performance was classic Trump.

From the Guardian:

The president spoke to reporters for the first time since a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol last Wednesday, leaving five people dead. Democrats accuse him of stoking violence and could vote to impeach him on Wednesday.

“So if you read my speech, and many people have done it, and I’ve seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it’s been analysed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump insisted at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, ahead of a trip to Texas.

What people thought his remarks appropriate?

Sadly, the question was never asked. But given that he’s been holed up with nothing but fellow unindicted co-conspirators, you can guess.

More from the New York Times:

“If you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was a real problem,” he said.

<snip>

When asked directly on Tuesday morning if he would resign with just nine days left in office, Mr. Trump said “I want no violence.”

He did not address his own role in inciting the mob of Trump supporters. Instead, the president framed himself as a victim, calling impeachment a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”

“I think it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said.

The Capitol takeover was just the beginning

We are seeing the opening round of a new civil war.

The people who broke into the Capitol, including those who entered intent on murder, we just the opening wave of a tide of violence incited over the past five years [including the 2016 original campaign season] of five years of manipulation by a soulless egoist willing to use any tools to ensure his enshrinement in the national memory.

Trump is a genius when it comes to one thing: propaganda, and while people often compare him to Hitler, a much more accurate comparison is with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s most devoted acolyte and the first master of modern media.

Goebbels was the master of the pithy communique, the branding of enemies with pithy and memorable catchphrases designed to pigeonhole and neutralize his enemies.

The classic example is Bernhard Weiss, the vice president of Berlin police during Goebbels’ years as head of the Nazi Party in Berlin.

Weiss struggled to control the violence of Nazi stormtroops [the Sturmabteilung, or SA] before the 30 January 1933 Nazi takeover of the German government.

Goebbels called the Jewish Weiss “Isidore,” rather than the Germanic Bernhard, and blasted him for defending the “Jew’s republic,” the term he used to describe the government under the Weimar Republic.

Like Trump, Goebbels was a master of contempt and the inflammatory epigram. Before taking power, Goebbels welcomed the hostile press his remarks ensured, noting the attacks in his diary, often followed by this phrase: “The main thing is, they’re talking about us.”

And Goebbels and Trump both played to the same base. To quote the German propagandist: “We will never get anywhere, if we lean on the interests of the cultured and propertied classes. Everything will come to us if we appeal to the hunger and despair of the masses.”

The danger in the police, military

Today’s news brings us word that an officer of the Secret Service, the ageny charged with protecting the president, has been caught posting Tump support on Facebook, even in the aftermath of the attempted putsch.

From the Washington Post:

The Secret Service indicated Monday that it was investigating an officer who posted comments on Facebook in which she accused lawmakers who formalized Biden’s win of treason and echoed Trump’s conspiracy theories about the rigging of the election.

According to images provided to The Post, the officer posted a meme on Facebook of Trump shaking hands with himself in the Oval Office, titled “Here’s to the Peaceful Transition of Power.” The day after the attack on the Capitol, a comment posted in the officer’s name ridiculed efforts to remove Trump from office and accused lawmakers who were formally accepting the electoral college vote of “committing treason on live tv.”

It read in part: “Good morning patriots! Yesterday started out beautiful and as usual Antifa soured the mood and attacked police and an Air Force veteran was murdered….It’s OFFENSE time finally!!”

This revelation comes after the Secret Service already announced it was moving agents out of the presidential detail because of their avid support for Trump and his agenda.

As the Independent reported on New Years Eve, “The Secret Service is planning to make changes to the presidential security detail before president-elect Joe Biden comes to power, amid rising concerns that some current personnel may be Donald Trump loyalists.”

Just as alarming are new reports of suspicious conduct by the very officers assigned to protect the Capitol building, the U.S. Capitol Police.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Several U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration last week that turned into a deadly riot at the Capitol, according to members of Congress, police officials and staff members briefed on the developments.

Eight separate investigations have been launched into the actions of Capitol officers, according to one congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the status of the internal review.

In one of the cases, officers had posted what Capitol Police investigators found to be messages showing support for the rally on Wednesday that preceded the attack on the complex, including touting President Trump’s baseless contention that the election had been stolen through voter fraud, the aide said.

The question of community police reliability

And now, with Trump’s supporters vowing armed sieges of all 50 state capitals, the question of police reliability is being raised, and with good reason.

First consider this Police Magazine 2016 poll conducted before Trump’s 2016 electoral victory. Only serving law enforcement officers voted, and their sentiments were clear:

No poll was conducted last year, but we suspect Trump’s supporter woulhave been even greater, given the national wave of anti-police protests.

So what about now? What about what happebned in Washington?

From NPR:

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, attention is turning to the nation’s police: How many sympathized with what happened?

The head of the Chicago police union minimized the severity of the riot, while his counterpart in Seattle repeated unfounded claims that the “far left” shared responsibility.

Around the country, police departments are following up on reports of off-duty officers spotted in Washington, D.C. The Seattle Police Department has put two officers on paid leave as their presence in D.C. is investigated.

Let’s not forget the the Federation of Police, the largest union representing officers in the U.S. has always been in Trump’s camp, endorsing him in both of his White House runs.

Michael Zoorob of Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science examined the role of the Federation of Police in Trump’s 2016 Republican primaries and found that regions where union membership was concentrated, votes shifted from George Romney to Donald Trump.

He writes, in research published in the academic journal Political Science & Politics on 23 November 2018:

Throughout American history, police have gravitated to right-wing, law-and-order politicians and ethnocentric groups: “The police find few segments of the body politic who appreciate their contribution to society… i f they do, they find this appreciation among conservatives, and particularly the extreme right” (quoting noted sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset’s 1972 study “The Politics of the Police.”). Trump fits this mold. In one primary debate, he said, “Police are the most mistreated people in this country. . .We have to give power back to the police because crime is rampant.” Trump’s win was thus a relief. The FOP leader in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania—traditionally a Democratic stronghold—cheered that “We, law enforcement, and the people needed this win.”

More from the Washington Post today:

Several vocal police unions have endorsed President Trump, there have been several reports of uniformed police officers expressing explicit preference for the president in public, and there have been complaints of coziness or bias shown by some officers toward armed right-wing groups and self-described militias. The incidents have added to an already heightened climate of tension across the country.

Already the focus of anger because of a rash of police killings of unarmed Black men and women, the police are more defensive and more angry than at any time since the 1960’s. In other words, they’re armed, and many of them may be dangerous.

The threat from America’s military

The police and the military are the two organizations entitled to use armed force.

And like the police, the military too harbors a hard core of radical extremist, inckluding members of the Klan and other organizations dedicated to the repression of people of color, religious minorities, and politicians they oppose.

From Pacific Standard, 26 March 2019:

In 2012 alone, a member of the Missouri National Guard was arrested for providing weapons for and running a neo-Nazi paramilitary training camp in Florida, two soldiers were arrested after murdering a former soldier and his girlfriend in an attempt to cover up their assassination plot against then-President Barack Obama, and a Marine Corps scout sniper team in Afghanistan posed with a Nazi SS flag. A 2014 Vice News segment showed the KKK was actively seeking to recruit U.S. military veterans, and a few were answering their call.

A majority of U.S. military personnel who’ve committed domestic terror attacks have been veterans, not active duty. According to the same New America data, 21 military veterans were identified as having committed or attempted an act of violence as a right-wing extremist between 2001 and 2013. While some were radicalized before or during military service, others seemed to first participate in far-right extremism after leaving the military, while they searched for identities as civilians.

From BU Today:

White nationalists, the military, and protests have a history together. For white nationalists that have infiltrated the military, protests are the perfect opportunity to incite a race war. Many groups view a race war as a way to destabilize and overthrow the US government and establish a white ethnostate. White nationalist groups encourage their members to join the military for weapons expertise and recruit military members for their access to weaponry.

During the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., a Marine assaulted multiple people, bragged about it online, and returned to duty. ProPublica made the Marine Corps aware of the video evidence, at which point the Marine faced the equivalent of a misdemeanor trial.

<snip>

In the last three years, every military service publicly dealt with an active duty member with an extremist affiliation. Most cases are discovered, not by the military itself, but from media outlets, volunteer internet sleuths, and the FBI. 

More from the 11 September 2020 New York Times:

The role of veterans in the newly proliferating militia groups — which sometimes are steeped in racism and other times steeped simply in antigovernment zealotry — has increased over the last decade, said a dozen experts on law enforcement, domestic terrorism and extremist groups.

Although only a small fraction of the nation’s 20 million veterans joins militia groups, experts in domestic terrorism and law enforcement analysts estimate that veterans and active-duty members of the military may now make up at least 25 percent of militia rosters. These experts estimate that there are some 15,000 to 20,000 active militia members in around 300 groups.

A more recent report comes from Politico, posted yesterday:

A 2020 survey found that more than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members reported witnessing first-hand examples of white nationalism or other ideologically-driven racism.

“The number of extremists in the military has increased due to a higher percentage of white supremacists attempting to join the military and the development of white supremacist leanings among some currently-serving personnel,” Mark Pitcavage, a specialist on far-right groups for the Anti-Defamation League, told the House Armed Services Committee last year.

“To an even greater degree than in previous surges of extremism,” he added, “the Internet has played a role in the present one, with extremist content found on websites, discussion forums, chat rooms, social media, messaging apps, gaming and streaming sites, and other platforms.”

Pitcavage recounted a litany of incidents involving right-wing extremists in the ranks over the past few years, including: troops offering to teach how to make explosives and target left-wing activists, joining pro-Nazi organizations and traveling to Ukraine without orders to train with a right-wing militia. A Florida National Guardsman even founded a neo-Nazi group.

In February 2020, Military Times reported on extremism in the armed forces, and the results are not reassuring:

Last fall, the names of several service members, veterans and potential military recruits were found among users of the neo-Nazi forum Iron March after activists leaked an internal database connected to the group. Around the same time, Army investigators opened an inquiry into a Reserve operations officer in connection with racist, anti-government screeds calling for extreme violence he allegedly posted online. That investigation is still ongoing.

The Army National Guard kicked out two soldiers in December after activists uncovered their membership in a religious group with white supremacist ties. Defense Department officials tracked at least 27 reports of extremist activity by active-duty troops from 2013 to 2018.

“We’re seen groups encouraging members to join the military, to get training in weaponry and survival skills,” Miller said. “It’s something that they really value.

“We also know that hate groups and white supremacy groups are actively recruiting military members. If they want to use violence to push the country into a race war, they need people with a knowledge of firearms, explosives and other military skills.”

Their report accompanied the latest of the publication’s surveys on extremism in the military, and they discovered a dramatic rise in soldiers reporting first-hand contact with white nationalists and other racists in the ranks:

Anyone who thinks that dramatic rise in 2019 was unrelated to Trump’s violent, racist rhetoric is living in an illusion.

Remember the Praetorian Guard

The Praetorian Guard was the Roman army’s most elite unit, a force entrusted with protecting the person of the Roman emperor.

But the Praetorians went far beyond their statutory role, killing at least emperor and forcing the installation of others.

The real question for today is what about the police and the military, the latter-day incarnations of the Praetorians.

And remember, the extremists in the military include snipers and other skilled in long-range murder.

Are we, like Rome, an ethnically diverse nation riven with rivalries and heading to slow collapse? And will today’s Praetorians intervene as they did long before?

There are real questions, and of deadly import.

Josh Hawley, fascism and a White House ambition


A fascinating story broke today in the Kansas City Star about Missouri Senator Joshua David Hawley, perhaps the most defiant voice of all in the drive to overturn the Joe Biden presidential victory:

Hallmark Cards is asking Kansas City area U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall to return employee donations following last week’s riot in Washington, D.C.

Employees and retirees of the Kansas City company pool financial contributions through the Hallmark Cards PAC, donating to political candidates at the local, state and federal levels.

Over the last two years, the group donated $7,000 to Hawley, of Missouri, and $5,000 to Marshall, of Kansas, officials said.

Both Republican senators have been widely condemned for supporting baseless allegations of voter fraud in the November presidential election. Those claims fueled supporters of President Donald Trump to storm the capitol building last week. Six people, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers, died in the aftermath of the violent attack.

“Hallmark believes the peaceful transition of power is part of the bedrock of our democratic system, and we abhor violence of any kind,” Hallmark spokeswoman JiaoJiao Shen said in a statement. “The recent actions of Senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall do not reflect our company’s values. As a result, HALLPAC requested Sens. Hawley and Marshall to return all HALLPAC campaign contributions.”

Quite a greeting card, no?

But what motivates Hawley’s fanaticism?

Katherine Stewart of the New York Times explains:

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. Mr. Hawley is not shy about making the point explicit. In a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project, he declared — paraphrasing the Dutch Reformed theologian and onetime prime minister Abraham Kuyper — “There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord.” Mr. Kuyper is perhaps best known for his claim that Christianity has sole legitimate authority over all aspects of human life.

“We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm,” Mr. Hawley said. “That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!

Hawley hews close to traditional fascism

Fascism in its original form was authoritarian, but also included programs for lifting the lower economic classes, unlike it’s modern variant, which combines authoritarianism with strongly pro-corporate policies.

As Sheri Berman, professor of political science at Barnard College, writes about European fascists of the first half of the 20th Century, “Fascists insisted that states could and should control capitalism, that the state should and could promote social welfare, and that national communities needed to be cultivated.”

Similarly, as Emma Green writers in a 24 November 2019 Atlantic profile of the senator:

He is totally comfortable citing statistics popular on the progressive left: the fact that 70 percent of American wealth is held by the top 10 percent of households, according to the Federal Reserve, or that working-class wages have stagnated compared with the rapid wage growth among top earners. When I asked him whether he sees himself as a Bernie Sanders or a Donald Trump–style politician, he laughed loudly—for all of Hawley’s rhetoric, he’s nowhere near a flirtation with socialism. But he clearly admires the work of upsetting the political order. In his 2008 book on Theodore Roosevelt, Hawley wrote approvingly that the former president “talked as a conservative, but harbored the political ambitions of a radical.”

But unlike Hitler and Mussolini, who suppressed religion in their countries, Hawley is an ardent evangelical, so it is no surprise that the church becomes the deciding authority in his vision of an ideal political system.

He is also militantly opposed to abortion, a foe of Obamacare, a bag fan of Trump’s border wall, and anti-union,

He’s also no dummy, graduating summa cum laude from Stanford and the holder of a law degree form Yale.

Hawley, who harbors presidential ambitions, was one of only six Republican Senators to back all the pro-Trump electoral college challenges in the Senate. His fanaticism in the face of all evidence is the learest sign of what a Hawley presidency would be like: A Trump with a brain and an agenda both more coherent and more dangerous than the man whose job he fought to save.

So what does Hawley represent?

Perhaps Amber Philips of the Washington Post sums it up best:

Fourteen senators before the invasion had signaled that they’d support challenges. Afterward, a half-dozen of those changed their minds. And it was Hawley still leading the way. Taking to the Senate floor that Wednesday night, he was unapologetic about questioning election results, despite the fact that McConnell had warned earlier in the day that if the objections overturned results, that would put democracy “in a death spiral.”

“I hope that this body will not miss the opportunity to take affirmative action to address the concerns of so many millions of Americans,” Hawley said when debate finally resumed, explaining why he was protesting Arizona’s results.

What he and others fail to mention, and what became sharply clear after the violence of Wednesday, is that the “concerns” Hawley speaks of didn’t arise because of how the election was carried out. Trump’s own former attorney general said he saw no major issues, and dozens of court challenges affirmed the results. It was Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen, tacitly supported by lawmakers such as Hawley raising questions about how elections were conducted, that drove such “concerns.” They ultimately manifested in a historic breach of democracy.

“You say it and say it and say it and say it,” Biden said in the wake of the attacks, about Senate Republicans’ culpability in getting to this point. “The degree to which it becomes corrosive is in direct proportion to the number of people who say it.”

Hawley wasn’t the first GOP lawmaker, nor will he be the last, to question democratic norms without evidence in the Trump era and post-Trump era. But he made himself the most prominent, and that’s why he’s being singled out.

Hawley, then, represents not commitment to truth, but the remorseful hunger for for power on behalf of a Christofascist vision, one in which he becomes President of a Calvinist state committed to a global religious crusade to be governed by dictates defined by him.

We leave the final comment to the creator of this graphic, found on Reddit:

Historians, legal scholars call for impeachment


More than three hundred of the nation’s leading historians and constitutional experts have called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Signatories include well-known names, including Garry Wills, Laurence Tribe, David Rosner, Rick Perlstein, Dave Garrow, Thomas Sugrue, John H, McWhorter, Claudia Koonz, Todd Gitlin, Taylor Branch, and many more

Here’sthe full statement from Historians and Legal Scholars for Impeachment:

As American historians and constitutional scholars, we support the impeachment and removal of President Donald J. Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump has defied the Constitution and broken laws, norms, practices, and precedents, for which he must be held accountable now and after he leaves office. No future president should be tempted by the example of his defiance going unpunished.

One of Trump’s earlier abuses of power did result in his impeachment on December 18, 2019, for attempting to coerce a foreign power to interfere in the U.S. presidential election of 2020. But since November 2020, Trump has refused to accept the results of a free and fair election, something no president before him has ever done. Instead of engaging in the peaceful transfer of power, he encouraged an insurrection by a mob of his supporters on January 6, 2021, urging them to march on the U.S. Capitol, to “fight,” in his word, and halt the constitutionally prescribed process of counting the Electoral Votes that would confirm former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as President-Elect.

By fomenting violence against the Congress and seeking to subvert constitutional democracy, which resulted in the killing of a Capitol police officer and the deaths of several rioters, Trump has violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He is a clear and present danger to American democracy and the national security of the United States. He has disqualified himself from continuing to serve out even his few remaining days as president, as well as from ever again holding, according to the Constitution, “any Office of honor, Trust or profit under the United States.” We urge members of the House of Representatives to conduct a speedy impeachment and the Senate to hold a prompt trial as the Constitution stipulates.

Cornel West on America’s existential crisis


Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University’s Department of African and African-American Studies’ is perhaps the country’s best known moral philospher.

In this sobering episode of RT America’s Contact with Chris Hedges he offers his assessment of last week’s violence at the Capitol and its implications for the country’s future:

America’s existential crisis

Program notes:

On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to moral philosopher, Dr. Cornel West, about what we can learn about America’s existential crisis after witnessing enraged supporters of Donald Trump storming the Capitol to try and halt Congress’s counting of the electoral votes to confirm the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

Capitol seizure’s foreign policy fallout certain


From an essay by Emma Ashford, senior fellow in the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, writing in Foreign Policy:

Wednesday’s insurrection worsens two concrete foreign-policy problems for the United States. First, it will increase the likelihood that other governments will be wary of any binding commitments or in-depth cooperation with the United States. Four years of Trump have already convinced countries in Europe and Asia that U.S. commitments may not be worth the paper they are written on, particularly in an increasingly partisan environment. The Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Paris climate accords were all victims of a shift to a more partisan, seesaw form of foreign policy. This week’s violence in Washington and the broader political turmoil since the November election have added to those concerns that future U.S. elections may not even be free and fair.

Second, it increases the likelihood that other countries will start to see the United States as a risk factor in the international system rather than a stabilizer. There is something to this fear: U.S. actions in the Middle East since 2001 helped to destabilize it, contributing to Europe’s refugee crises. U.S. sanctions policy has often been costly and unpopular with other countries. And the Trump administration’s brinkmanship over the last few years—with Iran, North Korea, and even with China—has been far more destabilizing than stabilizing. The risk of a U.S. leadership untethered from public scrutiny, or a nation that retains a massively powerful military while its domestic politics become ever more erratic and undemocratic, is one that other countries cannot take lightly.

We would note that for many countries, the U.S. has been anything but a stabilizer.

The first major action of the the newly formed Central Intelligence agency involved fixing an Italian election, setting a precedent for further remote-control coups in countless countries, most notably Iran, where it set off a chain of events still resonating today.

Best outcome of impeachment: Reconstruction 2.O


Corey Robin is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center and one of America’s most perceptive cultural critics.

In an essay for Jacobin, the considers the likelihood of the proposed second impeachment of Donald Trump and what he believes is its best possible outcome, picking up on one extremely relevant thread in the ongoing discussions::

There are a lot of references today to Reconstruction, the Lost Cause, and all that, but whether or not today’s Republican Party is like the white supremacist cadre of former slaveholders and their allies, it’s very clear that today’s Democratic Party is nothing like the Republican Party that smashed the slaveocracy and then sought, through a multiracial coalition of Jacobins and proto-comrades, to reconstruct the South, to completely transform the society in which formerly enslaved and newly subjugated peoples could sit as equals in the temple of democracy.

Where does that leave us? Where we were before: in a moment of extended suspension, an interregnum between an old world and a new. I see real possibilities, in theory, for the kind of confrontation with the Reagan order, and could imagine an impeachment battle leading to the kind of confrontation within the Democratic Party that we need for a realignment. Whether it will come, I don’t know.

I don’t quite see the political forces necessary to turn these political battles of impeachment into a larger question of the social standing of citizens. But sometimes those necessary forces are summoned, to our surprise, through the very fact of struggle or limited political battle.

If it comes to impeachment, that would be my hope.

Schwarzenegger: Capitol riot like Kristallnacht


Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was the most dramatic Nazi antisemitic action before the Holocaust, an orgy of violence and destruction that saw 267 German synagogues burned, thousands of Jewish-owned businesses destroyed, and more than 30,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps on the night of 9-10 November 1938.

The orgy of violence and destruction captured the world’s attention and stripped Nazi Germany of any pretense of civility.

And one famous America born whose father was both a member of the Nazi Party and an officer of the German police state has a chilling reminder for Americans:

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Message Following this Week’s Attack on the Capitol

Program note:

This is my message to my fellow Americans and my friends around the world after January 6, 2021.

Pompeo monkey wrenches Biden foreign policy


By officially opening up Taiwan to diplomatic contacts with the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has presented the incoming Biden administration with a major political mess, certain to disrupt the relationship with America’s largest trading partner.

When the Red Army defeated Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s Koumintang forces in 1948, Chaing and his followers retreated to Taiwan, declaring themselves the real government of China, a fiction maintained by the U.S. until Henry Kissinger paved the way for Richard Nixon’s trip to China and the opening of diplomatic relations.

Ads part of the deal, the U>S> recognized the regime in Beijing as China’s legitimate government, ousting China from its seat on the U.N. Security Council and handing it over to the mainland.

As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to cut off diplomatic relations with the Taiwan government.

But now it’s all up for grabs, with China certain to be outraged just as the Biden team takes office.

From Aljazeera:

The United States will end its decades-old restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced, a move in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration that is certain to anger China.

In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the US State Department had for several decades “created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts”.

“The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing,” he said. “No more.”

It was not clear what the change means in practice, with Pompeo saying executive branch communications with Taiwan will be handled by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which is owned by the US government and serves as the de facto embassy on Taiwan.

Trump and his team have made an effort to throw so many obstacles in the path of the Biden team that much of their first year in office will be devoted to cleaning up messes.

L.A. Dem gets hot reception back home


Back when we first came to Southern California back in 1967, Orange County was California’s capital of reaction.

The John Birch Society played a major role in local politics, and A radical Right Republican named James B. Utt represented the district in Congress.

Utt voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and against the Voting Rights Act.

His pet cause, the subject of many press releases sent out by his office, was his passion for pulling the U.S. out of the United Nations.

As Wikipedia notes, “in 1963, he claimed that ‘a large contingent of barefooted Africans’ might be training in Georgia as part of a United Nations military exercise to take over the United States.” That same year he also claimed Cuba was training a horde of African Americans to take over the country and turn it red.

That same year he also claimed that African Americans might be training in Cuba to invade the United States.

Orange County tilted so far to the Right that it became the subject of jokes on national television, drawing laughs from New York audiences.

But 2019 saw the culmination of a major political shift, the result of aging and demographic change, as the Los Angeles Times reported on 7 August 2019:

Orange County, long a Republican stronghold, has officially turned blue.

The county that nurtured Ronald Reagan’s conservatism and is the resting place of Richard Nixon is now home to 547,458 registered Democrats, compared with 547,369 Republicans, according to statistics released early Wednesday morning by the county Registrar of Voters. The number of voters not aligned with a political party has also surged in recent years, and stands at 440,711, or 27.4% of the county’s voters.

The real shocker came in November, when 54 percent of Orange County’s vote went to Joe Biden.

But that doesn’t mean the radical Right is any less fervent than in the days when the county spurned Democratic candidates, as one Democratic Congressional Representative discovered on his homecoming after this weeks Capitol siege.

From the Los Angeles Daily News:

Hours after President Donald Trump’s supporters seized the U.S. Capitol building, forcing congress members to barricade doors and crouch behind chairs they hoped would save their lives, an exhausted Rep. Lou Correa was getting ready to board a flight home to Anaheim.

Video circulating Saturday shows a crowd surrounding the Democratic congressman at an airport, hurling expletives and pointing fingers.

In some instances, Correa shouted back at them.

The video was shot Thursday morning at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. It was posted on the YouTube page of The Healthy Alchemist, where other videos suggest the explosion in Nashville on Dec. 25 was the result of a missile strike, discuss a UFO sighting and claim that voting machines in Georgia were inappropriately connected to the internet.

<snip>

Correa said it took several minutes for airport police to show up. The crowd quickly dispersed when police came. But Correa said he was shocked the harassment was allowed to go on as long as it did in a place where security is supposed to be so tight.

Looks like the spirit of James B. Utt us alive and well in Orange County.

Far Right groups plan more actions, monitors warn


The bans on restrictions on Donald Trump and his neo-fascist backers stemmed not only from the capture of the Capitol, but indications that what happened in Washington may be only the start of something bigger.

From the Washington Post:

The fear that Trump’s social media postings were fueling violent action appears to be well founded by what researchers have detailed in their monitoring of far-right conversation online.

A detailed new analysis of such posts by Alethea Group, an organization combating disinformation that draws its name from the Greek word for “truth,” found abundant evidence of threatening plans on a range of platforms large and small. The aggressive and often hateful chatter has appeared on both mainstream sites such as Twitter and Facebook and niche, conservative sites such as TheDonald.win and Parler.

“REFUSE TO BE SILENCED,” said one online post cited by Alethea Group, calling for an “ARMED MARCH ON CAPITOL HILL & ALL STATE CAPITOLS” for Jan. 17, the last Sunday of Trump’s polarizing presidency. Another post calling for action at “DC & All State Capitols” and signed by “common folk who are tired of being tread upon” declares: “We were warned!”

<snip>

The Alethea report lists events planned for Jan. 17, as well as the day before the inauguration and on Inauguration Day itself. The specified locations include the U.S. Capitol and the Mall in Washington, the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, and locations in Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio. Some events, including an “Armed March on All State Capitals,” include localized events in all 50 states.

And now that Trump has abandoned them, the coalition of the radically disaffected is being driven by further calls for radicalization, and without the ersatz ringleader in the White House, we suspect that the nation is about to see a a wave of political violence unlike any seen within living memory.

A Rush to judgment

Consider the case of Rush Limbaugh, the ur-voice of the radical Right, broadcasting hate for more than four decades.

Consider one of his latest utterances:

‘We’re supposed to be horrified by the protesters,’ Limbaugh said on his show Thursday. 

‘There’s a lot of people calling for the end of violence. There’s a lot of conservatives, social media, who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable. Regardless of the circumstances,’ he said. 

‘I’m glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.’   

Guess who paid for the pre-takeover rally?

Another belligerent voice from the uber-Right may have played a critical role in the Capitol insurgency, reports the Austin American-Statesman:

Austin-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed his company paid for the rally that preceded the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Jones explained his role in a video posted a day after unprecedented violence at the Capitol when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building to disrupt proceedings to formalize the presidential election results. The riot lead to evacuation of lawmakers, more than 50 arrests, and five deaths. Supporters had gathered nearby for two days of Trump rallies before a march to the Capitol turned into a riot. 

<snip>

In the Jan. 7 video filmed in Washington, D.C, Jones claimed he was asked by the White House to lead the march to the Capitol three days prior to the event. 

In the video, Jones said the Secret Service would pull him out of the front row during the president’s speech, about 30 minutes before it ended, so he could go to the place where he would start the march. Jones said he ultimately did not end up leading the march because there was already a crowd ahead of him. 

More from Texas News Today:

Alex also revealed that his media company had paid $ 500,000 for a lawn rally in the White House prior to the violent siege of the Capitol. “When I say this to you, it’s not about bragging about my relationship with this embarrassed president,” he said. “No one booked the ellipse and no other area. Nobody paid for it. We went and paid.”

He said 80 percent of the money spent on bookings was provided by donors. “It costs nearly $ 500,000,” he claimed.

Contrary to Alex’s allegations and other conspiracy theorists’ speculations, the FBI said there were “no signs” that Antifa was involved in the Capitol Hill riots.

The curious case of the Secret Service

We find the involvement of the Secret Service very peculiar, given that the Washington Post reported this on 30 December:

The Secret Service is making some staff changes in the presidential detail that will guard President-elect Joe Biden, amid concerns from Biden allies that some current members were politically aligned with President Trump, according to two people familiar with the changes.

<snip>

Some presidential detail members urged other agents and Secret Service officers not to wear masks on presidential trips this year — against the administration’s own public health guidance — as the president felt wearing masks projected weakness, The Washington Post has reported.

The Secret Service also took the unprecedented step of allowing the former detail leader to temporarily leave his job to become a White House political adviser. Anthony Ornato was hired as White House deputy chief of staff earlier this year. In that role, he helped coordinate a controversial June photo opportunity in which Trump strode defiantly across Lafayette Square to pose with a Bible after the park was forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters.

Following Twitters cancellation of Trump’s account, Limbaugh dropped Twitter, and now Google and Facebook are cracking down on Parler and telling them to clean up the accounts so heavily relied on by those who seized control of the Capitol.

But Trump himself has said he wants to start his own social media service, where censorship by Goggle, Facebook and other established media connectors would be largely irrelevant.

Indeed, isolation would be a dual advantage. The radical Right doesn’t need the corporate giant once word gets out, and forbidden fruit is always tastier.

Isolation would also allow their activities to occur out of sight of most of us [though intelligence agencies would undoubtedly be paying attention.

As for police agencies, ah, there’s the problem

Some of the images that were most striking from the Capitol siege featured cops and Trumpies posing together for selfies, even as chaos reigned.

Their mutual affinity comes from a mutual suspicion of people of color, a loathing for the Left, and a general sense of victimization, of being targeted by progressive social forces.

Of the scores of police officers I’ve encountered in my journalistic years, only a handful could be counted as liberal, while most lean toward the right end of he Republican party’s albeit narrow ideological spectrum.

Black people are stopped while driving with far greater frequency people, and their targeted fro more field interrogations, those “What are you doing here?” conversations.

The far Right has always played to police, starting with the John Birch Society’s “Support Your Local Police” drive launched in 1963 at the time television news was playing scenes of attacks by police and their dogs on civil rights marchers in the South. and activists were pushing for civilian oversight boards to review police conduct.

The not-so-hidden message was that only the cops will save you from the black and brown killers, rapists, and robbers.

Way back in 1966, when reporting for the Las Vegas Review-Journl, we devoted considerable coerage to the John Birch Society, then considered a fringe group. One of their organizers told me then that “we’ve got a lot of fine police officers on our side”

We suspect the same is true today. And if you doubt it, consider how cops have handled Black Lives Matter protests,, then contrast it with the way the Trumpp mob was received.

So what lies ahead?

During our time in Las Vegas, we also reported on the Minutemen, an extremist paramilitary outfit headed by a man name Robert Bolivar de Pugh, who published an organizational manual that included tips on how to kill people with homemade nerve gas.

Unlike the Birchers, Minutemen talked about taking up arms against the government.

Later came the militias, gaining strength in the American agricultural heartland neglected by both Democrats and Republicans, though the latter was leaning more heavily into fundamentalist evangelism and its promise heavenly rewards as opposed to “socialist” Democratic programs to help the poor, programs deemed the soul-sapping creations of “godless” communists.

The militias, of course, lead to a surge of bank robberies and the murder of a liberal Jewish radio talk show host, and culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Center in Oklahoma City.

I fully expect to see a wave of assassinations as the radicals, energized by the massive coverage of the Capitol siege, strike out.

And never forget that when it comes to radical politics, it’s the far Right that has all the weaponry.

It’s going to be interesting.

And the man most responsible is still sitting in the White House.

Confederates capture the Capitol, 156 years later


The last tine an angry horde marching under the Confederate battle flag tried to capture the Capitol came on 11 July 1864, when rebel troops under Lieut. Gen. Jubal Early of the Confederate States Army came within six miles of Washington.

But by the time he got his tired troops rested up, he found his way blocked by solid lines of determined men in blue, called in to reinforce the thinly spread troops stationed around Washington..

Earley’s troops were thwarted by the resolute actions of the military under a Republican administration devoted to granting full civil rights, including the right to vote, to America’s Black citizens

Fast forward 156 years, and another angry horde marched on the Capitol, this time given weeks of forewarning, only to find thinly spread ranks of the local police standing in the way of capturing the seat of government.

The time America’s military might was no where in sight, despite desperate calls from inside the Capitol to Maryland’s governor, begging for his state’s National Guard contingent.

Informed that only the Secretary of Defense could authorize deployment, Maryland officials had to wait more than 90 minutes before approval came in the form of a call from the Secretary of the Army,

Meanwhile, the horde was inside the building, the Confederate Battle flag held high, invited by a Republican President intent on stripping Black Americans of their franchise, backed by a horde of lawyers.

And unlike 1964, when Early arrived unexpected, no one in Washington had cause yesterday to claim ignorance of the invasion, which Trump had been touting for weeks and had been widely covered in the press.

And given that the horde was summoned for the day of the counting of Electoral College votes, something Trump openly and repeatedly challenged, there was no excuse for anticipating the very violence he and his enablers have evoked.

Jubal Earley must be laughing his ass off.

Tweet of the day: A warning from Germany


Germany’s Foreign Minister sees parallels between his country and Trump’s America, via his Thomas Sparrow:

FBI, state police investigate Georgia election threats


And while officials haven’t revealed just what those threats are, they’ve been received by officials in several counties, and they’re serious enough that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been called in to find the still-unknown culprit or culprits.

The threats are just the latest twist in the state’s 150-year-long record of Black voter suppression.

From The Hill:

A top Georgia elections official said Monday that officials are investigating potential threats surrounding Tuesday’s Senate runoffs.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, would not detail specific threats but acknowledged at a Monday afternoon press conference that officials believe there could be “any number of potential threats attempting to encourage or discourage turnout.”

“We’ve discussed with GBI, FBI and sheriff’s departments potentially there being threats and we’ve seen some of that nature potentially out there. They’re under investigation,” Sterling said, referring to the Georgia and federal bureaus of investigations.

Meanwhile, local news reported on the existence of a threatening email that was sent to employees in Cherokee County and other counties about polling locations before the Jan. 5 runoffs. 

More from WXIA-TV in Atlanta:

Just days before an already tense U.S. Senate election which has placed considerable attention on Georgia, one county says its employees are being threatened.

And the county said it just learned that they aren’t alone.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said that it learned of a threatening email that was sent to several county employees regarding polling locations ahead of Georgia’s second election day.

Since the series of email threats were uncovered, Cherokee County officials said they had learned of several other counties that had received the same email. The contents of the message have not been released and the source not yet identified.

However, the emails have garnered the attention of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and FBI which both acknowledged to 11Alive that they were aware of the threat in question. The GBI didn’t say exactly how many or specifically which counties, other than Cherokee, received the ominous message.

More from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office:

Saturday afternoon, Jan. 2, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office learned of a threatening email that was sent to several Cherokee County employees regarding threats to polling locations on Election Day. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were notified, and an investigation into the emails began.

It was discovered that employees from several Georgia counties received the same email. Currently the source of the emails has not been identified.

There are 40 polling locations in Cherokee County. Prior to the report of the threatening emails, arrangements had already been made to have Cherokee Sheriff’s deputies, Cherokee County marshals, municipal police and Cherokee County School Police officers at every polling station in Cherokee County. Sheriff Frank Reynolds, along with other law enforcement agencies are working with the Cherokee County Office of Elections and Voter Registration to ensure those voting on Election Day are safe.

Georgia’s long, tarnished record of voter suppression

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month on the history of Black voter suppression in the Peach State, and it isn’t pretty, and it’s still ongoing:

Georgia has a long history of voter suppression, dating back to the post-Civil War period when the Ku Klux Klan used widespread violence to intimidate Black and Republican voters in order to re-establish white supremacy. Georgia was one of the states that perfected Jim Crow laws to limit Black votes. Now, as Rev. William Barber II notes, “Jim Crow did not retire; he went to law school and launched a second career. Meet James Crow, Esquire.”

Georgia has employed all of the modern techniques of voter suppression. It has closed polling places disproportionately in areas of Black concentration, forcing voters to wait in lines for hours to cast a vote. It has repeatedly purged the voting rolls, striking far more voters off than the average state across the country. It required “exact match” voter signatures on registrations, with up to 80% of those disqualified people of color (a lawsuit brought that ploy largely to an end in 2019). When Republicans assumed total control of the state in 2010, the resulting gerrymandering was, as Rep. John Lewis stated, “an affront to the spirit and the letter of the Voting Rights Act.”

What has been happening in Georgia has been happening in states under Republican control across the country. Increasingly a minority party in a diverse and young nation, Republicans have been perfecting ways to gain power without capturing a majority of the votes.

More from Georgia Public Broadcasting:

Following the Civil War, many state and local governments passed Jim Crow laws: legislation meant to deprive Black men of their new rights. These discriminatory policies were not fully abolished until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. But in the past several years, we have seen an unfortunate resurgence in laws meant to disenfranchise voters of color.    

Adrienne Jones, a political science professor at Morehouse College, has studied the history of political involvement of Black people in America. She focuses on the myriad barriers that were put up in former Confederate states to prevent Black people from exercising their vote: 

“There are a number of ways that became popular, like grandfather clauses, which meant you couldn’t get to the polls if your grandfather couldn’t vote; your grandfather presumably was a slave,” Jones said. “Poll taxes, which even at just a dollar or two, were extremely expensive for people during that period of time. Literacy tests, where black people were prevented from solid education or public education. And then, of course, violence.”

Jones said that in mostly rural Georgia, it would have been hard for Black people to get to the polls without others in the community knowing.

“Lynching is at an all-time high, of course, from the late 1880s, 1890s through much of the middle of the 1900s,” she said. “And so you got a situation where people are unable to register to vote. They’re unable to access the polls. So they’re unable to participate in selecting their elected officials. And they’re also prevented from being able to run for office themselves. The United States is actually the only country where they have granted the franchise to groups of people and then taken it back again.”

This persecution continued until the Civil Rights Movement, almost a century after the passing of the 15th Amendment. The Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964 all attempted to strengthen the voting rights of African Americans to little avail. Only the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave teeth to the enforcement of non-discriminatory laws and practices. 

Public Integrity highlights one of the most dramatic cases of modern suppression [and there other other examples at the link]:

In 2013, a Supreme Court decision invalidated parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, freeing Georgia from pre-clearance by the U.S. Justice Department to change certain election rules. After the decision, local consolidation of polling places often justified by budget concerns began escalating, cutting polling places statewide by almost 10%, according to an analysis by Georgia Public Broadcasting and Pro Publica. 

Georgia’s then Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, also began escalating purges of the state’s voter rolls after the 2013 court ruling. Under the policy, state election officials sent voters who hadn’t cast a ballot for three years a notice that they could be removed from the rolls. If they didn’t respond to renew their registration or didn’t vote in two subsequent elections, they’d be purged. The process took seven years.

In one day in 2017, while Kemp was still secretary of state and running for governor, his office removed more than half a million voters from the rolls.

American Public Media estimated that at least 107,000 voters were dumped because of the “use it or lose it” policy. Kemp won his race for governor in 2018, defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams by fewer than 55,000 votes

Kemp faced an uproar against his purging practices. As governor, he signed a bill in 2019 extending the period before a voter can be purged from seven to nine years and added a mandate that officials send voters in danger of removal a second notice.

While the source of the threats remains unknown, we note that one organization that’s been around as long as Blacks have had the right to vote is very much active in Georgia today in the form of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and the headquarters of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

And let’s not forget these guts, high one a mountain and overlooking Atlanta, and carved by the same guy who later did Mt. Rushmore:

Stone Mountain’s carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, upholding segregation now and forever within sight of downtown Atlanta. Via Wikipedia.

Policy change ravages L.A.’s homeless with COVID


Homeless people in Los Angeles County had been doing surprising well during the pandemic,. until government officials took a step that has left the unhoused with soaring rates of infection.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Though infections among the homeless have generally lagged slightly below the county’s per capita rate, belying early predictions of devastating outbreaks in shelters and encampments, the December surge has brought a spike in the homeless numbers as well, further straining the overstretched services system.

After averaging about 60 new cases each week through the fall, infections of homeless people doubled in the week after Thanksgiving and have since continued to climb sharply. On Tuesday, the Department of Public Health’s latest report showed 547 new cases in the previous week.

“The unexplainable protection that people who are homeless have had from COVID is disappearing,” Bales said. “All of skid row and many agencies/missions are hot spots. All are overwhelmed.”

One reason for the spike may be a change in city policy.

When the pandemic struck, the city had followed Health Department advance and allowed the homeless to remain in their encampanents. Health teams were sent out by Housing for Health to provide tests and advice, that seemed to work.

The homeless were already isolated by definition, and kept largely to themselves. Under that regime, their COVID infection rates held steadily below the rate for Los Angeles County.

But then the city changed course and ordered encampments cleared, with their occupants sent shelters.

The Times reported what happened next:

About 60% of the 4,059 cumulative homeless cases reported last week occurred in shelters.

It’s not that the city hadn’t been warned.

From the Times:

“There is simply no public health justification for continuing the displacement of unhoused residents at this time,” Shayla Myers, an attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Doing so places unhoused residents and the community at significant, unnecessary and foreseeable risk.”

California’s long history of “homeless” politics

Homeless people and the marginalized have always loved California, and California has always hated them.

The coast is particularly attractive to the homeless because of its relatively warm winters and lack of snow. Back in the mid-1970s homelessness became a political issue in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and many other cities, and bans on sleeping overnight in cars arrived even earlier.

But it first became a major political issue even earlier, in the depths of the Great Depression.

Upton Sinclair, the most progressive major party candidate to ever make a serious run for California’s governorship, was the target of what some have called the first modern media campaign in 1934, with backers of Republican Gov. Frank Merriam transforming hapless Dust Bowl immigrants from the east in much the same way Donald Trump portrayed latter-day immigrants from the south — as rapacious hordes. [The Netflix drama Mank touches on the anti-Sinclair smears and the central role played by Hollywood studio moguls.]

As American Heritage noted back in 1988:

The American political campaign as we know it today was born on August 28, 1934, when Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author and lifelong socialist, won the Democratic primary for governor of California. Sinclair’s landslide primary victory left his opponents with only ten weeks until election day to turn back one of the strongest mass movements in the nation’s history. Extraordinary campaign tactics were clearly called for, and the Republicans pioneered strategies against Sinclair—including the first use of motion pictures to attack a candidate—that have now become the norm in the age of television.

“The Republican success,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has observed, “marked a new advance in the art of public relations, in which advertising men now believed they could sell or destroy political candidates as they sold one brand of soap and defamed its competitor.” In another two decades, according to Schlesinger, “the techniques of manipulation, employed so crudely in 1934, would spread east, achieve a new refinement, and begin to dominate the politics of the nation.”

Greg Mitchell, author of the American Heritage essay, has also posted of video about the campaign, featuring some of the ads. You’ll note the homeless references about midway through:

The First “Attack Ads” On the Screen

Sinclair, the Socialist Democrat whose ferocious social realist novels about the underbelly of the American economy had led directly to the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and a rising public awareness of the dangers of unchecked corporate power, was a champion of those left out as corporateers consolidated the nations wealth in their hands.

Looks like California’s homeless could use another champ[ion of his caliber.

Native Americans mobilize for elders during COVID


“First they cut my hair, then they made me eat soap and then they beat me for speaking my language.”

— Joe Wheeler, a member of the Wichita Tribe from Oklahoma, describing his experience as a boy at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

When Europeans invaded the America’s their vision from the start was conquest, capturing the land, resources, and labor of the people who had lived there for thousands of years.

Native Americans were killed, captured, enslaved, or reduced to peonage.

Even Abraham Lincoln, who would give his life to end Black slavery, had little use for the nation’s aboriginal inhabitants, though he did act to end the some of the corruption caused by political hacks who controlled the distribution of resources to conquered tribes.

Retired Brig. Gen. Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle School, spent much of his military career fighting tribes on the Great Plains, some of it as the White commander of a company of Black troops from the famed 10th Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers. He started the school after his retirement from the army.

It was there he coined the phrase “Kill the Indian, save the man” to describe his agenda: Turn Native Americans White by stripping them of their languages, customs, and religions to better facilitate their transformation. Hence the beating Joe Wheeler received for speaking the language of his people.

The boarding schools were run largely by Christians, with Quakers playing a dominant role. With government support, children were seized from reservations and shipped off to distant boarding schools for indoctrination, and by 1926, 83 percent of Native American children were being educated far from home and speaking only the language of their captors.

Back in my youth I got to know a Hopi artist who had grown up in a boarding school. “It was like I was no one,” he told me. “I wasn’t Indian. I wasn’t White. I was no one.”

The trauma haunted him, a scar he could never fully conceal.

The boarding schools proved even more damaging that the rifles of the Buffalo soldiers, leaving Indians stripped of their heritage and thrust into a world where White people still saw them as little more than savages.

The schools may be gone now, but deep wounds remain.

Native speakers are rare in many tribes, and it is the elders who are the true repositories of languages, cultural practices, traditional medicine and agriculture, and so much more.

Now throw in the coronavirus pandemic, which strikes particularly hard at elders and Native Americans, and tribal cultures are facing the perfect storm of cultural destruction.

But tribes are stepping up to meet the challenge.

From the Associated Press:

Tribes across the nation are working to protect elder members who serve as honored links to customs passed from one generation to the next. The efforts to deliver protective gear, meals and vaccines are about more than saving lives. Tribal elders often possess unique knowledge of language and history that is all the more valuable because tribes commonly pass down their traditions orally. That means losing elders to the virus could wipe out irreplaceable pieces of culture.

<snip>

In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation has increased food distributions to elders and offered financial aid to those who were struggling to pay rent or utilities. Concern for elders is also apparent in the tribe’s COVID-19 vaccine-distribution plans. Participants and workers in the tribe’s elder program are first in line for the shots, along with hospital workers and first responders. Next are those whose first language is Cherokee and others considered “tribal treasures,” an honor given to members who keep Cherokee art, language and other culture alive through their work.

An effort among the Blackfeet in Montana is helping the tribe’s 600-plus members connect with elders who need support. Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Nation is providing its citizens with masks and telemedicine, delivering meals to their doors and organizing home visits to give flu vaccines.

<snip>

Mashantucket Pequot elders shifted to a virtual format for the intergenerational gatherings where they tell traditional stories. An elders council also helps to organize Pequot language bingo nights and Schemitzun, the annual Festival of the Green Corn.

Donald Trump has proven himself no friend of the Native American, opening up their sacred sites to mining and drilling, while ignoring and then mismanaging the pandemic crisis.

And now, with a Native American picked as the incoming Secretary of Interior, the agency charged with managing the government’s treatment of Native Americans, there is at lest one bright glimmer on the horizon.

To conclude, a video from Vox, recounting the tragic legacy of Washington’s attempts to destroy Native American culture:

How the US stole thousands of Native American children

Program notes:

The long and brutal history of the US trying to “kill the Indian and save the man.”

Toward the end of the 19th century, the US took thousands of Native American children and enrolled them in off-reservation boarding schools, stripping them of their cultures and languages. Yet decades later as the US phased out the schools, following years of indigenous activism, it found a new way to assimilate Native American children: promoting their adoption into white families. Watch the episode to find out how these two distinct eras in US history have had lasting impacts on Native American families.

Republicans want to pack pistols in Congress


From Axios:

Several incoming House freshmen have inquired about carrying guns into the Capitol, leading a board overseeing congressional security to rethink a regulation banning members from packing heat under the dome, a House aide with direct knowledge of the board review told Axios.

Why it matters: Some Democratic members say expanded gun carrying on Capitol Hill would be a “provocation” in light of the current political climate. Some Republicans consider it an expression of a citizen’s Second Amendment rights.

The matter will be reviewed by the Capitol Police Board, which consists of the sergeant-at-arms of the House, the sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper of the Senate, and the Architect of the Capitol, said the House aide. The chief of the Capitol Police also serves on the board.

“The Architect of the Capitol and the Senate sergeant-at-arms are gonna do whatever [Mitch] McConnell wants,” another aide to a top Democratic lawmaker told Axios.

If history is any precedent, a weapon brought into the Capitol presents a clear and present danger.Consider, for example, what happened in the Senate in 1856, via the Library of Congress:

The artist recreates the May 22 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks’s actions were provoked by Sumner’s insulting public remarks against his cousin, Senator Andrew Pickens Butler, and against Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas, delivered in the Senate two days earlier. The print shows an enraged Brooks (right) standing over the seated Sumner in the Senate chamber, about to land on him a heavy blow of his cane. The unsuspecting Sumner sits writing at his desk. At left is another group. Brooks’s fellow South Carolinian Representative Lawrence M. Keitt stands in the center, raising his own cane menacingly to stay possible intervention by the other legislators present. Clearly no help for Sumner is forthcoming. Behind Keitt’s back, concealed in his left hand, Keitt holds a pistol. In the foreground are Georgia senator Robert Toombs (far left) and Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas (hands in pockets) looking vindicated by the event. Behind them elderly Kentucky senator John J. Crittenden is restrained by a fifth, unidentified man. Above the scene is a quote from Henry Ward Beecher’s May 31 speech at a Sumner rally in New York, where he proclaimed, “The symbol of the North is the pen; the symbol of the South is the bludgeon.”

The battle was fought after Sumner, a passionate foe of slavery delivered a powerful speech advocating granting statehood to Kansas as a free state, including an attack on the authors of the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed two years earlier, legislation that led directly to the creation of the abolitionist Republican Party.

While Northerners wanted expansion of slavery blocked, the act determined that residents of new states could decide the issue of slavery on their own, leading to the rise of John Brown and an era known as “Bleeding Kansas,” as pro-slavery advocates from Missouri flooded Kansas and fought it out, at one point leading to two rival Kansas legislatures before the anti-slavery advocates finally won the day.

The one-sided assault in the Senate, rather than the First Battle of Bull Run, might rightly be called the first combat of the Civil War.

And so,do we really want pistol-packing pols?

The dark past of Trump’s architectural decree


From Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday making classical architecture the preferred style for federal buildings in Washington, a White House official said Monday.

The presidential action stops short of mandating that all new federal buildings are built in a classical style, saying merely that they must be “beautiful.”

Under the order, a “Council for Improving Federal Civic Architecture” will be formed to recommenced updates to the General Services Administration’s architectural guidelines.

The administration has been writing the executive order for months, and an early draft that would have banned modernist design prompted condemnation from the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates,” the AIA said in a statement. “Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”

The Trump New Architectural Order has a fan

One person watching Trump’s architectural ambitions from the start was Pharos, the pseudonynmous author of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer [named after Der Stürmer the vision rag put out by Hitler’s top antisemitic scribe, Julius Streicher. After praising the effort to bring back the neoclassical, he ventures to explain why the style iis so popular among his ilk:

White Southerners are like the Italians living among the ruins of the Roman Empire. These monuments are reminders that we used to be a great people and can be so again. In the 19th century, the Southern people were a race of masters, explorers, settlers, statesmen, military leaders and orators. We see neoclassical Greco-Roman architecture and Greek and Roman place names all over the South because that’s who our classically educated ancestors admired and wanted to be like.

Also noticing the connection between totalitarianism and buildings with columns was The Architect’s Newspaper, which reported on a disturbing trend two years ago:

British magazine New Statesman recently published an article on the troubling links that tie Twitter accounts that cover traditional architecture to racist and xenophobic figures from across the web. As the article describes, some social media accounts that at first seem to simply celebrate historic structures have a tendency to veer into rhetoric that praises European culture over others and aggressively denies the impact of non-white or non-Christian people on Western design. One of the accounts profiled in the piece follows many ethnocentrist figures and has a followership that sharply denounces any attempts to include or even acknowledge global influences.

This is not the first time that neo-traditionalist architects have been tied to fascists. The accounts frequently post drawings from Leon Krier, the traditionalist architect who studies the work Albert Speer, the chief architect of the Nazi Regime. Philip Johnson was famously a Nazi sympathizer, despite being openly gay, something that would have gotten him sent to a concentration camp in Hitler’s Germany. Even Le Corbusier, that icon of modernism, apparently did not see much wrong with fascist regimes—they may have appealed to his desire for an authoritarian, top-down remake of society.

Hitler move the classical too

Albert Speer’s vast model of a redesigned Berlin, to be known as Germania and to be completed after a Nazi victory in World War II.

The link between classical architecture and fascism was made clear by Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and perhaps the closest thing the Nazi boss had to a friend, in an interview with Peter Foges, cited in Lapham’s Quarterly:

Thirty years later the Führer ordered the rebuilding of thirty German cities, and Speer’s particular mission was to reshape Berlin. “My architecture was essentially political, a display of power,” said Speer without a hint of apology. “Some clever English critic recently called it ‘total’ architecture. The Romans understood this. When they built the new marbled Rome, the Emperors Augustus and Hadrian set out to intimidate, to create awe. My Berlin was designed to do the same. It was modeled on Roman lines. A new imperial Roman city would be laid out with the main avenue being a north-south cardo maximus. This bisected a decumanus maximus running east-west, in the city center, and there, where they crossed, was the forum, where the great public buildings were positioned. Berlin was going to have that. At our intersection we were going to create a huge public forum with massive monuments and state buildings on display—the so-called opera publica. That was where the almost unbelievably massive Volkshalle was going to be. Hitler wanted it to be a copy of the Pantheon in Rome—but twenty times larger.” At this point Speer took out a drawing folded into one of the books he had fetched and spread it on the stone terrace floor. It must have measured three feet by six. “There,” he said. It was the plan, rendered in faded shades of brown and green on a scale of 1: 4,000. At the top of the by-now deeply creased architect’s sheet, it simply said: “A new plan for Berlin, based on an idea of the Führer’s, and worked out in detail by A. Speer.” “Hitler was of course a megalomaniac,” said the former Nazi Inspector General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital, matter-of-factly.

And on a lighter note. . .

We’ll close with a graphic comment from the the editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee:

Jack Ohman: Come on in. . .