Wednesday, July 6, 2022

We are all very familiar and concerned with the attention-grabbing headlines every day.   It's to the point where one might just want to chuck it all and go someplace where there is no news, no access to any media, and into a serene environment where peace and the wonders of nature are the only matters of the day.   However, it ain't all that easy of an escape.   Add this story to the mix, and absorb the playpen and toys of those hell-bent on capitalizing on the authoritarian destruction of our democracy:

Christian Nationalists Are Excited About What Comes Next

Credit...Sollina Images/Getty Images

Ms. Stewart has reported on the religious right for more than a decade. She is the author of "The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism."

The shape of the Christian nationalist movement in the post-Roe future is coming into view, and it should terrify anyone concerned for the future of constitutional democracy.
The Supreme Court's decision to rescind the reproductive rights that American women have enjoyed over the past half-century will not lead America's homegrown religious authoritarians to retire from the culture wars and enjoy a sweet moment of triumph. On the contrary, movement leaders are already preparing for a new and more brutal phase of their assault on individual rights and democratic self-governance. Breaking American democracy isn't an unintended side effect of Christian nationalism. It is the point of the project.
A good place to gauge the spirit and intentions of the movement that brought us the radical majority on the Supreme Court is the annual Road to Majority Policy Conference. At this year's event, which took place last month in Nashville, three clear trends were in evidence. First, the rhetoric of violence among movement leaders appeared to have increased significantly from the already alarming levels I had observed in previous years. Second, the theology of dominionism — that is, the belief that "right-thinking" Christians have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society — is now explicitly embraced. And third, the movement's key strategists were giddy about the legal arsenal that the Supreme Court had laid at their feet as they anticipated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

They intend to use that arsenal — together with additional weaponry collected in cases like Carson v. Makin, which requires state funding of religious schools if private, secular schools are also being funded; and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which licenses religious proselytizing by public school officials — to prosecute a war on individual rights, not merely in so-called red state legislatures but throughout the nation.

Although metaphors of battle are common enough in political gatherings, this year's rhetoric appeared more violent, more graphic and more tightly focused on fellow Americans, rather than on geopolitical foes.
"The greatest danger to America is not our enemies from the outside, as powerful as they may be," said former President Donald Trump, who delivered the keynote address at the event. "The greatest danger to America is the destruction of our nation from the people from within. And you know the people I'm talking about."
Speakers at the conference vied to outdo one another in their denigration of the people that Mr. Trump was evidently talking about. Democrats, they said, are "evil," "tyrannical" and "the enemy within," engaged in "a war against the truth."
"The backlash is coming," warned Senator Rick Scott of Florida. "Just mount up and ride to the sounds of the guns, and they are all over this country. It is time to take this country back."

Citing the fight against Nazi Germany during the Battle of the Bulge, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina said, "We find ourselves in a pitched battle to literally save this nation." Referencing a passage from Ephesians that Christian nationalists often use to signal their militancy, he added, "I don't know about you, but I got my pack on, I got my boots on, I got my helmet on, I've got on the whole armor."

It is not a stretch to link this rise in verbal aggression to the disinformation campaign to indoctrinate the Christian nationalist base in the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, along with what we're learning from the Jan. 6 hearings. The movement is preparing "patriots" for the continuation of the assault on democracy in 2022 and 2024.
The intensification of verbal warfare is connected to shifts in the Christian nationalist movement's messaging and outreach, which were very much in evidence at the Nashville conference. Seven Mountains Dominionism — the belief that "biblical" Christians should seek to dominate the seven key "mountains" or "molders" of American society, including the government — was once considered a fringe doctrine, even among representatives of the religious right. At last year's Road to Majority conference, however, there was a breakout session devoted to the topic. This year, there were two sessions, and the once arcane language of the Seven Mountains creed was on multiple speakers' lips.
The hunger for dominion that appears to motivate the leadership of the movement is the essential context for making sense of its strategy and intentions in the post-Roe world. The end of abortion rights is the beginning of a new and much more personal attack on individual rights.

And indeed it is personal. Much of the rhetoric on the right invokes visions of vigilante justice. This is about "good guys with guns" — or neighbors with good eavesdropping skills — heroically taking on the pernicious behavior of their fellow citizens. Among the principal battlefields will be the fallopian tubes and uteruses of women.
At a breakout session called "Life Is on the Line: What Does the Future of the Pro-Life Movement Look Like From Here?" Chelsey Youman, the Texas state director and national legislative adviser to Human Coalition Action, a Texas-based anti-abortion organization with a national strategic focus, described the connection between vigilantes and abortion rights.
Instead of the state regulating abortion providers, she explained, "You and me as citizens of Texas or this country or wherever we can pass this bill, can instead sue the abortion provider." Mrs. Youman, as it happens, played a role in promoting the Texas law Senate Bill 8, which passed in May 2021 and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion. She was exultant over the likely passage of similar laws across the nation. "We have legislation ready to roll out for every single state you live in to protect life regardless of the Supreme Court, regardless of your circuit court." To be sure, Christian nationalists are also pushing for a federal ban. But the struggle for the present will center on state-level enforcement mechanisms.

Movement leaders have also made it clear that the target of their ongoing offensive is not just in-state abortion providers, but what they call "abortion trafficking" — that is, women crossing state lines to access legal abortions, along with people who provide those women with services or support, like cars and taxis. Mrs. Youman hailed the development of a new "long-arm jurisdiction" bill that offers a mechanism for targeting out-of-state abortion providers. "It creates a wrongful death cause of action," she said, "so we're excited about that."

The National Right to Life Committee's model legislation for the post-Roe era includes broad criminal enforcement as well as civil enforcement mechanisms. "The model law also reaches well beyond the actual performance of an illegal abortion," according to text on the organization's website. It also includes "aiding or abetting an illegal abortion," targeting people who provide "instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication."
Mrs. Youman further made clear that Christian nationalists will target the pills used for medication abortions. "Our next big bill is going to make the Heartbeat Act look tame, you guys; they're going to freak out!" she said. "It's designed specifically to siphon off these illegal pills."
Americans who stand outside the movement have consistently underestimated its radicalism. But this movement has been explicitly antidemocratic and anti-American for a long time.
It is also a mistake to imagine that Christian nationalism is a social movement arising from the grassroots and aiming to satisfy the real needs of its base. It isn't. This is a leader-driven movement. The leaders set the agenda, and their main goals are power and access to public money. They aren't serving the interests of their base; they are exploiting their base as a means of exploiting the rest of us.
Christian nationalism isn't a route to the future. Its purpose is to hollow out democracy until nothing is left but a thin cover for rule by a supposedly right-thinking elite, bubble-wrapped in sanctimony and insulated from any real democratic check on its power.

More on Christian nationalism

Opinion | Thomas B. Edsall
The MAGA Formula Is Getting Darker and Darker
May 18, 2022

Opinion | Katherine Stewart
Christian Nationalism Is One of Trump's Most Powerful Weapons
Jan. 6, 2022

Opinion | Katherine Stewart
Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay
Nov. 16, 2020

Opinion | Katherine Stewart
Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus
Dec. 31, 2018
Katherine Stewart (@kathsstewart) is the author of "The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism."

The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

Monday, July 4, 2022

Something to Know - 4 July

Another day of "celebration".   It's also another year of a subscription renewal to the works of HCR, so that we might all share in her work of commentary on life in America.  Professor Heather Cox Richardson gives us moments of reflection on our existence through her daily "Letters from an American":

And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky little problem of Black and Indigenous slavery by defining "men" as "white men," and for all that it never crossed their minds that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators on the edges of a continent declared that no man was born better than any other.

America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.

What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to reshape America into a nation in which African Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, and Irish were locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a "proposition," rather than "self-evident."

"Four score and seven years ago," Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal to include Black men, men of color, and eventually to include women.

But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against our founding principle, as a few people seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 pledged their "Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor" to defend the idea of human equality. Ever since then, Americans have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives, for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to "take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Words to live by in 2022.


I have shared some version of this every year for the last few years. I wrote this quickly— actually running out the door— a few years ago, and no matter how long I sit at the laptop and fiddle, as I did this evening, I still think the original stands. It is a dark Independence Day in many ways this year, but I hope everyone is able to find at least a little respite, and to recall the whole point of what we're up to in this country.



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The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".


The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Something to Know - 3 July

I am not going into any political news story this morning.  Instead, I want to pass on a very cool, instructive, and important video that I just saw on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.   It is in regard to our catastrophic drive into the abyss of carbon in the air.   This relatively short (less than 7 minutes) video is for those who might not know that much about the problem, or what the problem is.   I especially think that young people, who are old enough to comprehend a video on building things with Lego blocks, would appreciate this, and introduce younger minds to the issue so that they might figure out what to do after graduation.   We adults, as a group, have failed, and it will be up to those who are younger to fix it, so that those like my 6-year old grandson and his family have a mission in life:

The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Something to Know - 2 July

Swirling around us is the barrage of newsworthy events that smothers and takes the oxygen out of the American Dream.   As we wallow in the fallout of the insurrection junk that the 1/6 Committee is finding for us, we need to lend some focus as to where all of this right-wing authoritarianism is taking us.   We need to worry.   It does not end with an unhinged freak in the White House, but as stated in this article from the Washington Post, we need to keep track of the subtle and overt tactics being employed that actually will turn this country into an authoritarian cesspool, stripping away any form of democracy that we thought we had.   So - here is what you need to know about the independent legislature theory

Democracy advocates raise alarm after Supreme Court takes election case

The decision to consider "independent legislature theory" concerned voting rights advocates who say state lawmakers could twist the election laws to favor their party

Voting rights advocates expressed alarm Friday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it will consider a conservative legal theory giving state legislatures virtually unchecked power over federal elections, warning that it could erode basic tenets of American democracy.

The idea, known as the "independent legislature theory," represents to some theorists a literal reading of the Constitution.
But in its most far-reaching interpretation, it could cut governors and state courts out of the decision-making process on election laws while giving state lawmakers free rein to change rules to favor their own party. The impact could extend to presidential elections in 2024 and beyond, experts say, making it easier for a legislature to disregard the will of its state's citizens.

This immense power would go to legislative bodies that are themselves undemocratic, many advocates say, because they have been gerrymandered to create partisan districts, virtually ensuring the party-in-power's candidates cannot be beaten. Republicans control both legislative chambers in 30 states and have been at the forefront of pushing the theory.

The Supreme Court's choice to take up the case came less than a week after the nation's highest court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving it to state legislatures to decide whether abortion should be legal, and two days after bombshell testimony before the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The committee has offered fresh evidence suggesting President Donald Trump sought to disrupt the congressional counting of electoral votes to allow state legislatures time to send alternate slates of electors as part of a bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

State legislatures have already introduced or enacted laws in a number of GOP-controlled states that voting rights groups say make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Experts say if the Supreme Court adopts the independent legislature theory, it would give state lawmakers ultimate control over election-related decisions like redistricting, as well as issues such as voting qualifications and voting by mail.

"This is part of a broader strategy to make voting harder and impose the will of state legislatures regardless of the will of the people," said Suzanne Almeida, director of state operations for Common Cause, a nonpartisan pro-democracy group. "It is a significant change to the power of state courts to rein in state legislatures."
The case could also open the door for state legislatures to claim ultimate control over electors in presidential elections, said Marc Elias, a veteran Democratic voting rights attorney.

"If you believe the strongest form of [the theory] then the legislators can do what they want and there's no judicial review of that," Elias said. "The way I view it, Republicans tried to subvert the 2020 election, but were clumsy and they are now learning from that where the pressure points and vulnerabilities are in our election systems, and refining their tactics."

The case that will go before the high court originates with North Carolina Republicans, who are appealing a state supreme court ruling that struck down the state's new congressional map as an unconstitutional gerrymander.
The Republicans argue that the Constitution's elections clause, which says that "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof," means the legislatures alone have power over elections-related activities. Past interpretations have taken the clause to mean state governments as a whole, including voters and the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

"This phony 'doctrine' is an anti-democratic Republican power grab masquerading as legal theory. It was cooked up in a right-wing legal hothouse by political operatives looking to give state legislatures the power to overturn the will of American voters in future elections," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in a statement to The Washington Post.

The theory, Whitehouse said, was wielded by Trump attorney John Eastman as he sought to "overturn the last presidential election, and it could plant seeds of chaos in time for the next one. The fact that the Court is even considering a case involving such an extreme idea shows how beholden it is to the right-wing donors who got so many of the justices their jobs."
Among the most outspoken advocates of the independent state legislature theory is the Honest Elections Project, an alias of the 85 Fund, a conservative nonprofit linked to Leonard Leo, the former longtime head of the Federalist Society. The 85 Fund reported revenue of more than $65 million in 2020, according to a tax filing, and its relationship with the Honest Elections Project is made clear in corporate records in Virginia.

The Honest Elections Project has made the case for the independent state legislature theory in amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in recent years. It cited the theory by name in a January brief in a dispute, also arising from North Carolina, over whether state lawmakers could intervene in litigation challenging the state's voter ID law. The high court ruled 8-1 in favor of the lawmakers on June 23, but did not weigh in on the merits of voter ID laws or the legal theory.

In its amicus brief, the Honest Elections Project noted that the Supreme Court had discussed the theory but never made clear "that the doctrine is our law."
"It should do so here," the group urged in its brief.
The Honest Elections Project made multiple references to a 2021 article in the Fordham Law Review explaining the theory. The article's author, Michael T. Morley, is a professor at the Florida State University College of Law and a contributor to the Federalist Society.

ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson appears before the Ohio Supreme Court on Dec. 8 during oral arguments in a constitutional challenge to new legislative district maps. (Julie Carr Smyth/AP)
An earlier brief from the Honest Elections Project, in a dispute over the 2020 election between Pennsylvania Republicans and the state's Democratic secretary of state, did not cite the theory by name but argued that state legislatures have sweeping authority over federal elections — unrestricted by state constitutions.

The lead attorney on the brief, David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said the theory, if embraced by the Supreme Court, would not shield state electoral maps from challenges based on racial discrimination or other claims rooted in the U.S. Constitution or federal statute. But it would nullify other grounds for rejecting state maps, including claims of partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that federal courts had no jurisdiction over claims of partisan gerrymandering, leaving that issue to state courts.

Voting rights advocates point to that decision, specifically a quote from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., as evidence that the Supreme Court has previously believed state courts have an oversight role.
"Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply" in policing partisan gerrymandering, Roberts wrote for the majority in Rucho v. Common Cause.

Rivkin, in an interview, touted his role in honing the theory. He dismissed concerns that it would pave the way for state legislatures to achieve the kind of election manipulation sought by Trump and Eastman. Rivkin said he placed no stock in "idiotic arguments used by Trump."
"If you ask me as a strictly constitutional and analytical matter, state legislatures can indeed recapture the power to choose electors themselves," he said. "I can also tell you as a pragmatic matter, I don't know of any state legislature that has done that."

Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project — created in 2020 to counter Democratic efforts to expand voting rights — similarly brushed off predictions that state legislatures would usurp power to choose electors. Snead, in an interview, argued that the doctrine "should be taken out of the context of Jan. 6 and what happened that day, which was absolutely terrible."

"This is not a novel idea," he said. "We're talking about first principles and constitutional text."
But the language in the Constitution pertaining to elections has never been interpreted that way. A version of the independent legislature theory got some buy-in during the Bush v. Gore lawsuit that determined the outcome of the 2000 election, in which the court sided with Republicans. Justices William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion that the Supreme Court could overrule a state Supreme Court's interpretation of its election laws to "preserve the state legislature's power over how the state runs its presidential elections."

Fifteen years later, the court narrowly rejected a challenge from Arizona's Republican-led state legislature using the independent legislature theory to argue against an independent redistricting commission drawing maps.
In a 2020 case about mail-in ballot deadlines in Wisconsin, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch seemed to endorse the theory, writing, "The Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules."
David Cohen, the founder and CEO of Forward Majority, a nonprofit aimed at electing Democrats in state legislatures, said the fact that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court is entertaining the idea makes his group's work that much more urgent.
"To me, the scary versions of this are legislators who throw out valid American votes in order to achieve their partisan outcome," Cohen said. "We should all be incredibly worried about any system that would allow for that possibility."

The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Something to Know - 29 June

London, UK / September 19 2009:  Smashed Heinz tomato ketchup bottle with spaltter in a violin shape on the sidewalk / pavement.

Plenty of news to unpack.  The problem is where do you start?   Trump's mess is a whole lot worse than even Tricky Dicky's.   So, if you are in need of catching up with the testimony presented yesterday at the 1/6 Investigation, here is lady HCR .  What is being presented today is the work of a friend, and a local professor of economics from CalState LA - Andy Winnick.   The other evening, he presented two topics of interest that you might appreciate - his opinions on three issues in the news that strike at the heart of confusion and discontent which we navigate every day.   So here are the topics 1) inflation,  2) the war in Ukraine, and 3) the Supreme Court:

We are living in a complicated economic time right now, but there is a lot of very false information being circulated about the causes of the inflation we are experiencing.  Let's talk about what may be contributing causes but are NOT the primary cause of the inflation.
1. Food Prices and the disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine.
The U.S. is a net EXPORTER of virtually all of the grains and other food stuffs that are normally exported from Ukraine. We are not buying significant quantities of higher priced grains.

2. Higher wages and the Gov't anti-pandemic expenditure programs.
Prices are going up faster than wages and family income net of inflation have fallen, NOT increased.  This is not a wage push inflation, nor is it being caused by government expenditure  programs, almost all of which have been terminated some time ago.

3. Supply chain disruptions and higher shipping costs.
These have been a contributing factor in some specific lines of products, like computer chips and cars, but these have been caused by greedy corporations destroying domestic production in seeking cheap products produced by poorly paid foreign labor and having moved to "just in time" supply chains to avoid the costs of maintaining inventories – all designed to increase profits and hold down domestic wages and incomes.

4. The high cost of oil and natural gas due to the sanctions imposed on Russia
But the U.S. is a net exporter of both oil and gas, and to the extent we do import certain specialty types of oil, we could compensate for that by increasing the exports of the oil and gas we produce. Yes, there are world prices of oil and gas, but out refineries do  NOT have to charge them to domestic consumers.  They charge the high world prices, far higher than their costs of production, merely to increase their profits.

Which brings us to the primary, real cause of the inflation.  
5.   The dramatic increase in corporate profit margins.
Corporate profit margins are the highest in more than 40 years.  And these historically high levels of corporate profits are NOT being used to further economic growth by being plowed into investments in either new technologies or expanded production facilities.  INSTEAD they are being paid out to the richest elements in our society in the form of stock buybacks or higher dividends.

And Biden and his Council of Economic Advisors and the Treasury Dept KNOW this is the case.  The last four Administrations, 2 Dems, 2 Republica  have pursued absolutiely no anti-trust programs. Biden started to mount one, giving orders to all the relevant depts and agencies to begin to prepare new anti trust programs.  But then dropped this effort when he immediately got massive blowback by the leaders of the large corporations and the rich.



The most important issue is NOT the war in Ukraine itself.  It is that we have moved into a whole new period of world history and geopolitics, and most activists in the Democratic Party do not even realize it..

From the fall of the USSR in 1989-91 until this year, the world has been uni-polar, there has been only one real world power, both militarily and economically -- the U.S., and we knew it and flouted it.  That period is over.  We are now entering a tri-polar world.  Both China and Russia are determined to be viewed, accepted and act as world powers, both militarily and economically.  Russia has the nuclear weapons, but not the economic wherewithal to really put this off.  The issue with Russia is how do we contain it and help Ukraine, and at the same time avoid a nuclear war.

But China has the economic, military and technical/scientific power to become the dominant world power.  It is now the dominant economic force in 52 of 54 African nations and in most Latin American nations.  Its Belt and Road program includes the first railroad across Africa and the first from China through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.  It includes control of the main port facilities in Greece and in Sri Lanka.  It is moving to control much of the security interests of the nations of the South Pacific. And China has become a primary trading partner of the European Union and Australia.  Their military forces are massive and technologically more advanced in many regards than ours.  They just launched their 3rd aircraft carrier, have operational hypersonic weapons, which we do not, are the first to land on the far side of the moon. They mean to be dominant and are willing to work with Russia to undercut us and the EU politically.

How we deal with these problems will be the tasks of the next decade and beyond, and it is not clear that our leadership really understands this.  It is certainly clear that the leadership of the Democratic Party has not even begun to think seriously about this.
We have to wake up our Party and prepare it for the next period in world history.

The Issue of the Supreme Court.

We have to come to terms with the fact that the Supreme Court is no longer a functional part of our democratic system. The five key conservatives were appointed by Presidents who failed to secure a majority of the popular vote and were confirmed by a U.S. Senate that was not ever designed to be democratic, and is certainly not democractic (small "d") either in its make up or in its functioning (the filibuster). And it will do far more harm to our freedoms and our society if it is not IMMEDIATELY RESTRUCTURED. Our focus has to be on
(1) Maintaining control of Congress in the next election and expanding our number of Senators
      to at least 52.
(2) Eliminating the filibuster.  
(3) Immediately expanding the number of Justices by 4, from 9 to 13,
      or our democracy, such as it is, is lost.

"Ketchup smear clean up in the executive dining room, aisle 45"

Monday, June 27, 2022

Something to Know - 27 June

The "news" happened last Friday.   Since then, a barrage of commentary, speculation, and public reaction to the "news" is enough to overfill one's capacity to absorb and process it all.   So, rather than comment on the aftermath of the "news", and joining the chorus of those who are wondering where to go next, I offer the following for you to process:   What if the availability of the procedure of abortion bypasses the domain of the state altogether and becomes available as a Federal solution.   In my mind, there currently exists federal land (think military bases) in just about every state in the union, or very close by, at least.   Why not have abortion services be provided in military hospitals?   A military installation is wholly separate from the state.   The Department of Defense can figure out a way to make this happen, and no state or its regulations will be in the way.   I know this proposal is a real stretch,  but it appears that the DOD is a better way to resolve all of this, and not bother the states, churches, or vested interests from screwing up the works.   Give me the arguments on why the military cannot do this?   Let's talk about it.

Defenders of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade insist that Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health does not outlaw abortion but simply returns the decision about reproductive rights to the states.

"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," Justice Samuel Alito wrote. He quoted the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote: "The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting." This, Alito wrote, "is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand."

The idea that state voters are the centerpiece of American democracy has its roots in the 1820s, when southern leaders convinced poorer Americans that the nation was drifting toward an aristocracy that ignored the needs of ordinary people. The election of 1824, when established politicians overrode the popular vote to put John Quincy Adams into the presidency, seemed to illustrate that drift. Supporters of Adams's chief rival, Andrew Jackson, complained that a wealthy elite was taking over the country and, once in charge, would use the power of the federal government to cement their control over the country's capital, crushing ordinary Americans.

The rough, uneducated Andrew Jackson, who promised to break the hold of northeastern elites on the government and return democracy to the people, began to articulate a new vision of American government. He insisted that democratic government should actually look like a democracy: it should be formed by the votes of local people, not those from some far-off capital, and it should be made up of those same ordinary voters, not eastern elites like Adams, whose wealthy president father, John, had reared his son to follow in his footsteps.

Jackson's new vision made ordinary Americans central to the democratic system. Democratic government put the power into the hands of individual voters. Local and state government was the most important stage of this system; the federal government always ran the risk of being taken over by an elite cabal that could override the will of the people. It must always be kept as small as possible.

But there was a power play in this argument. By the time Jackson was elected president in 1828, white southerners already knew they were badly outnumbered in the nation as a whole. In that year, quite dramatically, a congressional fight over tariffs ended up with a strong bill that hurt the South in favor of northern manufacturing. Outraged, southern leaders with Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina at their head claimed the right to "nullify" federal laws. (Jackson later said that one of the two regrets he had at the end of his term was that he "was unable to…hang John C. Calhoun.")

Congress lowered the tariff and the southerners backed down, but the idea that states were superior to the federal government only gained strength among southern enslavers as they felt the heat of a growing movement to abolish slavery. When it became clear that the U.S. might well acquire territory in Latin America, Democrats sympathetic to the South pushed back against the national majority that wanted to stop the spread of slavery into those lands by insisting on the doctrine of "popular sovereignty": permitting the people who lived in a territory to decide for themselves whether or not to permit enslavement in it (although Mexico had outlawed enslavement in 1829). The U.S. acquired the vast territory of the American West in 1848, and two years later, Congress turned to popular sovereignty to try to avoid a fight about enslavement there.

The issue turned volatile in 1854 when Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas pushed through Congress a law overturning the 1820 Missouri Compromise and organizing two super-states out of the remaining land of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Rather than being free as the Missouri Compromise had promised, those huge states of Kansas and Nebraska would have enslavement or not based on the votes of those who lived there. This, Douglas insisted in his debates with Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln in 1858, was the true meaning of democracy:

"I deny the right of Congress to force a slaveholding State upon an unwilling people," he said, "I deny their right to force a free State upon an unwilling people…. The great principle is the right of every community to judge and decide for itself, whether a thing is right or wrong, whether it would be good or evil for them to adopt it…. It is no answer to this argument to say that slavery is an evil, and hence should not be tolerated. You must allow the people to decide for themselves whether it is a good or an evil…." "Uniformity in local and domestic affairs," he said, "would be destructive of State rights, of State sovereignty, of personal liberty and personal freedom."

A strong majority in the U.S. opposed the extension of enslavement, but Douglas's reasoning overrode that majority by carving the voting population into small groups the Democrats could dominate by whipping up voters with viciously racist speeches. Then, in the 1857 Dred Scott decision, a stacked Supreme Court blessed this plan by announcing that Congress had no power to legislate in the territories. In our system, this would mean that states taken over by pro-slavery zealots would eventually win enough power at the federal level to make enslavement national.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand," Lincoln warned Americans. "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new—North as well as South."

After the Civil War had proved the power of the federal government to defend the will of the majority from the tyranny of the minority, Congress found itself once again forced to override the will of state governments. When state legislatures put in place the Black Codes, which created a second-class status in the South for Black Americans, Congress passed and the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, overriding the Dred Scott decision to make Black Americans citizens, and establishing that "[n]o state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Almost 80 years later, it was this amendment—the Fourteenth—to which the Supreme Court turned to protect the rights of Black and Brown Americans, women, LGBTQ, and so on, from state laws that threatened their health and safety or treated them as second-class citizens. In using the power of the federal government to guarantee "the equal protection of the laws," it made sure that a small pool of voters couldn't strip rights from their neighbors. It is this effort today's Supreme Court is gutting.

When today's jurists talk of sending decisions about civil rights back to the states, they are echoing Stephen Douglas. "Citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting" is indeed precisely how democracy is supposed to work. But choosing your voters to make sure the results will be what you want is a different kettle of fish altogether.



The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Something to Know - 26 June

In a week overfilled with news, there is an inability to cover it all without flooding one's level of tolerance.   So, today's article sticks to the work of the Select Committee's in its investigation.   We have seen 5 separate hearings so far, and there are more to go.   I was glued to my little TV when I was working the afternoon shift during Watergate, which ensured that I was able to watch all the live programming.   This time around, the format, the scripting, and the use of today's technology has enabled the presentation without all of the distractions from previous live hearings.   We see and hear all of the germane facts without bluster or fanfare as it rolls out before us.   Here is the story so far:

How the House Jan. 6 Panel Has Redefined the Congressional Hearing

No bloviating speeches or partisan rancor. Lots of video and a tight script. The story of Donald J. Trump's efforts to hold on to power is being unspooled in a way totally new to Capitol Hill.

The typical congressional hearing features a pileup of long-winded statements — what some might consider bloviating. There are harsh partisan exchanges that can obscure the substance at hand. Visual presentations tend to involve an easel. The television audience is largely on C-SPAN.
But the congressional hearing has been utterly, if perhaps temporarily, redefined over the past month by the House select committee investigating President Donald J. Trump's efforts to hold on to power.
The five sessions the panel has produced so far this month resemble a tightly scripted television series. Each episode has a defined story with a beginning, middle and end. Heroes and villains are clearly identified. Only a few of the committee members speak at any given hearing, and those who do often read from teleprompters.

The answers to the questions are known before they are asked. There is no grandstanding or partisan rancor.

Earlier this month, the committee postponed its third scheduled hearing for a reason far different from those that have typically troubled the tradition-bound elected officials and aides of Capitol Hill: Their writers and producers needed more time to sharpen their scripts and cut better video clips, people involved in the decision said.
When that hearing finally occurred on Thursday, the members — with the cable networks all carrying it live — wove together videos of depositions, audio from interviews and other material to document in detail how Mr. Trump tried to pressure the Justice Department into aiding his schemes.
"For the first time since Trump became president, there is a clarity of message and a clear story that is being told," said Michael Weisman, a longtime network and cable television producer and executive who oversaw live coverage of sporting, news and entertainment events. "In the past, it was muddy, they were talking over each other, there was playing to the camera and Democrats had a hard time getting their story out. This is different."
At the end of the day, the committee's success or failure will hinge primarily on the power of the extensive factual record it has marshaled about Mr. Trump's unrelenting efforts to reverse his election loss in 2020 and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. But it has also faced the challenge of presenting its evidence in a way that can break through to the public in a highly polarized environment in which Republicans often get their news from pro-Trump sources.

The committee has been aided by James Goldston, a former head of ABC News, who leads a small team that is sifting through the hours of depositions and vivid, sometimes disturbing footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to put together the presentations.

But the panel's ability to draw on all that material traces back to a decision its members and investigators made months ago to videotape depositions with witnesses, a move largely unheard-of on Capitol Hill.
Armed with thousands of hours of recorded depositions, the investigators and producers working for the committee have identified just the snippets they need for their storytelling. It is a tactic that keeps the narrative flowing but also has another big benefit: Having the option of using edited video means the committee does not have to call for live testimony from witnesses who could seize the opportunity to help Mr. Trump.
The committee has only been able to pull off its approach because the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, decided last year not to appoint members to the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of his choices. The result is that the only Republicans on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are in sync with the Democrats in judging Mr. Trump to be a danger to democracy.
And while current and former congressional officials said that it was highly unlikely that another committee could pull off the approach, they said the panel had probably permanently changed things in at least one way: Taped depositions in investigations are likely to become the norm and be relied on heavily by Republicans if they retake control of the House or Senate in November.
"In some sense, this is the first congressional hearing of the 21st century," said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the committee, who is set to lead a presentation at the panel's next hearing. "We have really made full use out of video, out of tweets and email, and interspersing technology with live statements by the witnesses and members."
The goal, Mr. Raskin said, has been to create riveting television, with constituents anticipating the next session as if it were a drama series.

"It's one thing to tell America there was an attempted coup and a violent insurrection," he said. "It's another to actually tell the inside story of how these things happened and what the human dimension was all about."

Allies of Mr. Trump have dismissed the proceedings as a showbiz stunt lacking any balance and ignoring testimony helpful to the former president.
The videos have rankled Mr. Trump, who has long prided himself on his instincts for good television.

"Those losers keep editing video," Mr. Trump has told associates.
Mr. Trump has closely watched the hearings, expressing surprise at the testimony against him from former administration officials and even his family members, associates said. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly told associates that episodes that former advisers have discussed on video simply "didn't happen."
A person familiar with the discussions at the time between Mr. Trump and Mr. McCarthy said that the former president supported walking away from the committee after the House leader's choices were blocked.
And some witnesses have claimed that the panel used their testimony out of context. One Trump adviser, Jason Miller, said the committee unfairly truncated parts of his interview. Mr. Miller has complained that the panel made "selective edits" in an effort "to turn MAGA teammates against each other" and Mr. Trump.

If they wanted to keep the quality of the production high, committee members determined, they only had the staff and bandwidth to put on two hearings a week, a conclusion that led them to delay the hearing on Mr. Trump's attempts to use the Justice Department to remain in power.

Each hearing has featured a behind-the-scenes element. The committee has played footage of high-profile members of Mr. Trump's administration, like former Attorney General William P. Barr, speaking candidly as if they were trading war stories. Mr. Barr, with his sport jacket open and flanked by his highly paid lawyers, cursed as he described to investigators how he told Mr. Trump his claims of election fraud were bogus.
The committee then played footage of Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump speaking on a Zoom-like conference call as she told investigators she respected Mr. Barr and believed him when he publicly pushed back on her father.
The hearings have also introduced new characters who were largely unknown to even the closest followers of the Trump story. Among them has been Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer in the final days of the administration. Sitting in what appeared like a fancy office with a black baseball bat with the word "Justice" in capital letters on the wall behind him, Mr. Herschmann has relayed expletive-laced anecdotes and rebukes of the lawyers Mr. Trump was using to try to overturn the election.

Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack appears to be laying out evidence  that could allow prosecutors to indict former President Donald J. Trump, though the path to a criminal trial is uncertain. Here are the main themes that have emerged so far:
An unsettling narrative. During the first hearing, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story were three main players: Mr. Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.
Creating election lies. In its second hearing, the panel showed how Mr. Trump ignored aides and advisers as he declaredg victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud he was told were wrong. "He's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff," William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.
Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump's actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.
Fake elector plan. The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Mr. Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.
Strong arming the Justice Department. During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Mr. Trump's wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive pardons.

After the committee was formed last July, the panel took months to build up its staff, hiring more than a dozen investigators — mostly former federal prosecutors. Their first interviews, such as those of top Justice Department officials, were done using only audio recordings.
As the investigation picked up momentum in the fall of last year, the committee made the critical decision to videotape every interview.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, spoke up at a meeting of the panel, insisting future interviews be recorded on video with an eye to using clips for public hearings. Among others who pushed for that approach was Timothy J. Heaphy, the committee's chief investigative counsel, who had never worked on Capitol Hill before.

To persuade witnesses to sit for taped interviews, investigators told them the footage would ensure accuracy and would most likely mean that they would not have to return to testify at a hearing. Over time, the panel got better with its use of video angles and quality; the interview with Mr. Barr, one of the last the committee conducted before public hearings began, showed him talking directly to the camera, and, by extension, the American people.

What resulted, committee officials and aides said, are congressional hearings unlike any that preceded them.
Rather than wasting viewers' time sitting through witness interviews lasting eight hours, the panel can boil down a person's testimony to a single incriminating sentence. There is no need to risk sparring with a combative pro-Trump witness when the panel can pluck key statements from a recording.
The hearings also featured graphics and extended montages that can take weeks to assemble. For a recent one digging into Mr. Trump's pressure campaign against his own vice president, staff members scrambled up until the morning of the hearing to pull together a detailed graphic demonstrating how close the mob came to Vice President Mike Pence.

The presentations have also called for discipline on the part of the committee members, most of whom are not heard from in any given hearing under an agreement among them to focus on laying out the evidence in the most compelling way they can.
Representative Pete Aguilar, Democrat of California, who led the presentation for the panel's hearing examining Mr. Trump's pressure campaign against Mr. Pence, said lawmakers studied past commissions before deciding to take a wholly different approach.

"We felt that the American public wasn't going to tune in to 10-hour Watergate hearings," Mr. Aguilar said. "We looked at Watergate; we looked at Iran-contra; we looked at the 9/11 Commission. We knew that we had to do something that was built for this century."

By relying on the footage of interviews, the committee has avoided having to confront witnesses who have publicly criticized its work. Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Mr. Pence, had said that he had little confidence in the panel's ability "to provide some sort of impartial analysis" and that by rejecting Mr. McCarthy's picks for the committee, "it went down more of a political show-trial path."
Mr. Short had been a crucial witness to Mr. Trump's attempts to pressure Mr. Pence. But instead of calling Mr. Short to testify publicly, the panel relied on video clips of Mr. Short's deposition — backed up by live testimony from Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence's chief counsel — to provide damning details about Mr. Trump's conduct.
Mr. Raskin said the work of the committee made him realize how much better Congress could do in carrying out its more normal duties.
"So it's melancholy to reflect on the differences between every other committee I serve on and this one," he said.
The Jan. 6 Hearings

Jan. 6 Panel Outlines Trump's Bid to Coerce Justice Dept. Officials
June 23, 2022

A Year Later, Some Republicans Second-Guess Boycotting the Jan. 6 Panel
June 22, 2022

Panel Ties Trump to Fake Elector Plan, Mapping His Attack on Democracy
June 21, 2022

Jan. 6: The Story So Far

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign's ties to Russia. @NYTMike
Luke Broadwater covers Congress. He was the lead reporter on a series of investigative articles at The Baltimore Sun that won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award in 2020. @lukebroadwater
Maggie Haberman is a White House correspondent. She joined The Times in 2015 as a campaign correspondent and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump's advisers and their connections to Russia. @maggieNYT

Understand the Ongoing Jan. 6 Investigations
As the House committee begins its public hearings about the events that led to the Capitol riot, a parallel investigation is underway within the Justice Department.

The House Investigation
The Committee: Who is on the House select committee? What is the panel trying to do? Here are some answers to your questions about the inquiry.
Key Figures: Over the course of nearly a year, the committee has scrutinized a long list of people and groups.
Hearings: House Democrats are seeking to use a landmark set of investigative hearings to refocus voters' attention back to Jan. 6, aiming to tie Republicans directly to an unprecedented plot to undermine democracy itself.
G.O.P. Regrets: The decision by Representative Kevin McCarthy not to appoint Republicans to the committee has left some pro-Trump Republicans regretting the decision to boycott the panel.

The Justice Department Investigation
People of Interest: The wide net being cast by prosecutors encompasses a sprawling cast of characters from inside and outside of government.
Jeffrey Clark: Federal investigators searched the home of the former Trump Justice Department official, who was central to an unsuccessful effort to strong-arm the nation's top prosecutors into supporting claims of election fraud.
Fake Electors: The Justice Department stepped up its criminal investigation of an effort to use fake electors to keep President Donald J. Trump in power, delivering subpoenas to at least four people connected to the plan.
Tensions Between Inquiries: Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Proud Boys sedition case joined forces to request a delay in the trial, citing headaches caused by the House committee's hearing.

Jan. 6 and Its Aftermath
Breaching the Capitol: The Times analyzed court documents, texts and hundreds of videos to reveal how the Proud Boys instigated critical breaches of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Timeline: We pieced together the narrative of former President Donald J. Trump's monthslong campaign to subvert American democracy and cling to power.
Visual Investigation: A Times analysis of thousands of videos and police radio communications from Jan. 6 shows how Trump supporters took the Capitol.
The Day of the Attack: A rally turned into a rampage during a critical two-hour time period.

The Republican Party - willing agents and representatives of the Gun Manufacturing and Ammunition Industry - "the lobby".