Saturday, December 31, 2022

Parallel Mission


She may prove to be the biggest winner of 2022. 

Despite having voted unanimously a month earlier to subpoena Donald J. Trump

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol has withdrawn its subpoena of former President Donald Trump, according to a letter from the committee chair to Trump's attorney and obtained by CBS News.

The withdrawal comes as the committee's authority to operate comes to a close when the new Republican-controlled Congress begins in January. The New York Times first reported the committee has withdrawn its outstanding subpoenas, an admission that the committee has run out of time to receive its requested information.

"In light of the imminent end of our investigation, the select committee can no longer pursue the specific information covered by the subpoena," wrote Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, in a Tuesday letter to Trump attorney David Warrington. "Therefore, through this letter, I hereby formally withdraw the subpoena issued to former President Trump, and notify you that he is no longer obligated to comply or produce records in response to said subpoena."

The panel "sunsets" in January and goes out of business unless the new House of Representatives revives it which, being controlled by Republicans, it will not do.

Print media has reported that the subpoena has been withdrawn while CNN & MSNBC largely have ignored the news, and even print media is light on explaining the alternative to withdrawal by the Democratic-majority committee of the subpoena.

On November 11, Trump filed  a suit in federal court seeking to block enforcement of the subpoena. Upon hearing of the withdrawal, the former President celebrated on his Truth Social platform by boasting the committee" probably did so because they knew I did nothing wrong, or they were about to lose in Court. Perhaps the FBI’s involvement in RIGGING the Election played into their decision. In any event, the Subpoena is DEAD" (no period, unsurprisingly).

There was a nugget of truth in Trump's remark because the committee, notwithstanding the inevitability of its dissolution in early January, 2023, probably was not required to withdraw its subpoena. Instead, it could have allowed it to remain, leaving it to the GOP House to take the affirmative step of withdrawing it.

But it did not do so.. Perhaps for a similar reason, the members chose to limit its report to Donald Trump and closely related issues, rather than to consider: militia and other extremist groups; funding for the attack on the Capitol; or failure of the law enforcement and intelligence community to assess the threat. And now we have this:

 

 


With all due respect to Renato Mariotti, who seems on his cable news appearances to be a very nice mand, it does matter. Or at least this sort of thing matters to one prominent Democrat because in late June

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, said he found former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to be a "100% credible witness," and encouraged anyone who disagrees with her to also testify under oath.

"Ms. Hutchinson testified under oath in front of millions of people," Raskin said. "All we've heard is some anonymously sourced reports that someone disagrees with that. We encourage anybody who's got any evidence that's relevant to our investigation to come forward and testify under oath."

Raskin stated that Hutchinson testified under oath and challenged anyone who would challenge her testimony "to come forward and testify under oath." And Ginni Thomas, the election-denying wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, would make any top ten list of individuals who would not be credible sans swearing on a Bible to tell the truth.

Admittedly, the decision by the January 6 committee to withdraw its warrant, which ultimately would not have been enforced, is of little significance, though it would have forced Republicans to take action to prevent the former President's testimony. Moreover, there is a chance Ginni Thomas even under oath would have lied. And maybe the enormity of the crimes committed by Donald Trump and the grave threat he posed to the constitutional republic would have been clouded if other issues were included in the committee's final report.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But there is no question that the single-minded focus on the (justifiably) despised Donald Trump, protection of a very conservative Republican Justice appointed by a GOP President, and sparing the Republican House of Representatives from controversially withdrawing a subpoena serve the interest of one (and probably only one) member of the committee.

That member clearly appears to have been the de facto chairperson- or at least de facto co-chairperson- of the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Liz Cheney, one of a minority of Republican officials who is definitively appreciate of our democratic republic, nevertheless remains a very conservative Republican, probably the central part of her identity.  This year, she lost her bid for a fourth term in the United States House of Representatives. Nevertheless, with her outsized impact on the Committee, she had a very good year, indeed.



 

 

 


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Finally, (Limited) Outrage


The Hill notes

Elaine Chao, former President Trump’s Transportation secretary, is declining to respond to Trump’s latest use of a racist nickname to attack her and urging the media to not repeat it.

Trump on multiple occasions has invoked Chao as he lambastes her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and he did so again on Wednesday evening in a Truth Social post that included a racist nickname for Chao.

“I think it’s very helpful if the media does not repeat that racist tweet,” Chao told Kaitlan Collins on “CNN This Morning.” “I mean, if it were the N-word or any other word, the media would not repeat it. But the media continuously repeats his racist taunt.”

Typically, the media does not verbalize "Coco Chao" and in this case, apparently Collins followed custom. Media types do, as Chao noted, has placed Trump's tweets with the derogatory nickname on air- but it generally does so with the n-word, also. And the six-letter word for which the latter substitutes is easily reduced to the "n-word," whereas if the media referred to the "CC name" or "CC nickname," no one would have a clue what they're referring to.

The report continues

The attack came as part of a post criticizing McConnell for voting for the $1.7 trillion omnibus package to fund the government into next year.

“Something is going on with Mitch McConnell and all of the terrible and virtually automatic ‘surrenders’ he makes to the Marxist Democrats, like on the $1.7 Trillion ‘Ominous’ Bill. Could have killed it using the Debt Ceiling, or made it MUCH better in the Republican House,” Trump wrote.

He later in the post invoked the nickname in an apparent attack on Chao’s family’s U.S.-based charter shipping company, which has dealings in China and other countries.

“He’s trying to get a rise out of us,” Chao, who also served as Labor secretary under former President George W. Bush, said on CNN. “He says all sorts of outrageous things, and I don’t make a point of answering any one of them.”

But she had made a point of condoning them. This is not the "new Coke" or the "new Trump."  While Elaine Chao was Secretary of Transportation- leaving only after the attempted coup- President Trump was consistently promoting bigotry.  We remember "the very good people on both sides," the refugees from Haiti who "all have AIDS," the Nigerian immigrants who would "never go back to their huts." Vox pointed out other  examples, including two in which

Trump mocked Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, again calling her “Pocahontas” in a 2019 tweet before adding, “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” The capitalized “TRAIL” is seemingly a reference to the Trail of Tears — a horrific act of ethnic cleansing in the 19th century in which Native Americans were forcibly relocated, causing thousands of deaths.

Trump tweeted later that year that several Black and brown members of Congress — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — are “from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and that they should “go back” to those countries. It’s a common racist trope to say that Black and brown people, particularly immigrants, should go back to their countries of origin. Three of the four members of Congress whom Trump targeted were born in the US.

Chao kept her mouth shut then and throughout her 47-month stint in the Administration. It was an awfully good gig with regular pay, steady hours, and no heavy lifting. The position brought other advantages because as a 2020 report from the Office of Inspector General

details, Chao tasked her staff with far more than travel planning. The internal watchdog cited Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including requiring DOT's staff to help with personal errands and with marketing her father's biography....

... during her time at the Department of Transportation, Chao's office handled matters related to her father, James Chao, who founded the shipping company Foremost Group, and her sister, Angela Chao, who runs the company.

It was been a wise move, then, for Chao not to criticize Donald Trump until she left the Administration. And it's not that Trump avoided stereotyping Asian-Americans while Chao was in the Administration. At 1:40 of the video below, President Trump can be seen referring to SARS-CoV-2 as the "Kung Flu," yet Chao did not find her voice until she was personally attacked- and Trump suddenly realized her involvement with the family business is unseemly. 



"The media continuously repeats his racist taunt,” says Elaine Chao, who disapproves of Trump when he specifically condemns her and includes reference to the family business she kept more than an eye on when she was supposedly serving all Americans. But ignoring Donald Trump and what he says or tweets will not again keep him from becoming President again, nor would it play any role in holding him accountable for crimes committed during his presidency.  The blame lies in Donald Trump and those who served the authoritarian faithfully, including the wife of the Senate Minority Leader.

 


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Eroding the Constitution


This former federal prosecutor and Republican, now a Democrat, so strongly disagrees with Lauren Boebert that he believes an explanation is unnecessary:He's a smart guy because if I held this view, I, too, would avoid all attempts at rationalization.   


On January 4, 2019, The Washington Post reported

A newly diverse House of Representatives has passed a rule that, for the first time in 181 years, allows head coverings to be worn on the House floor for religious reasons.

The rules package passed Thursday, 234 to 197, includes a number of provisions, among them several seeking to “restore inclusion and diversity.” It passed the same day the country’s first female Muslim members of Congress took office — Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who wears a head covering. Both women are Democrats.

The ban on head coverings has been in place since 1837, the Washington Post history blog Retropolis reported Friday.

Lifting of the ban

was proposed last month by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), then the House minority leader; Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), the House Rules Committee’s ranking Democrat; and Omar, of Minnesota. It was proposed to accommodate Omar. The rule change reads:

“During the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear nonreligious headdress or a hat or remain by the Clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots. A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum.”

Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which represents the interests of Orthodox Jews, said when the rule change was recently proposed that no Jewish House member had made the ban an issue in the past. However, he said there have been special House sessions when Jewish men wore head coverings — including when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress, and Israeli officials wore yarmulkes — called “kippot” in Hebrew.

“The Orthodox Union has long supported laws and policies that foster the accommodation of religious practices in the workplace. Religious practices — such as wearing religious garb, whether a kippot or a hijab, should be accommodated in all workplaces — including in the halls of Congress,” he said.

They should- but only if the rules apply to everyone. In the US House, they do not because head covering still is prohibited if it is "nonreligious." If it is religious, it is acceptable, prompted by the election of a religious Muslim (Omar), whom Nancy Pelosi, the Toughest Congressional Leader Ever&nbsp™; chose to accommodate.

Of course, we have no way of knowing with any confidence whether if a Christian or Jewish member, accompanied by profession of religious faith, had wanted to wear religious "headdress or a hat," he or she would be afforded the privilege. My guess is: previously, no; currently, yes, but that is mere speculation.

Admittedly, that is off-topic because Christians are not being discriminated against nor, at least in the short clip Filipkowski offered, was Representative Boebert claiming they are.  Instead, she maintained that Democrats were being hypocritical in changing House rules to favor an individual wanting to don a religious garment while boasting that they support "separation of church and state." 

Well, of course, they are. McGovern did not boldly propose a rule change which would have eroded the stuffiness (nay I say "elitism?") of House rules by permitting someone on the House floor to wear a "headdress or a hat." It was only to favor religion, which not only seems to be violative of Amendment 1A, but is.  The Constitution does not demand that Congress make no law respecting establishment of a (specific) religion; it reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Whether the House of Representatives would permit a non-Muslim to wear head covering for religious (or alleged) religious reasons is not determinative. Allowing anyone to do, Absent allowing an individual to do so for non-religious reasons, allowing the garb is respecting establishment of religion.

Alas, when it is convenient, there is no such thing as a "strict constructionist."  Conservatives for many years now have pushed policies which allow carve-outs for an individual who says proclaims a religious faith exemption in the name of the God of the Old and New Testaments.

These have come in the manner of performing abortions or providing reproductive health services. They have been applied to impose discrimination upon gay persons, such as in foster care, or to "fire employees who have used abortion care, contraceptives or assisted reproductive technology, or who have had sex or become pregnant outside of marriage; or even to ignore federal law preventing discrimination on the basis of disability."  

The most famous example may be the case with plaintiffs The Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul House, in which the US Supreme Court decided that religious objectors are to be exempted from the regulatory requirement to provide health pans that include contraceptive coverage. If even the High Court doesn't believe in wall of separation inherent in the First Amendment, it's tough to get politicians of either party to risk offending people on behalf of the Constitution.

Boebert's 2019 complaint is way less significant than efforts by Republican officials and their fellow travelers to satisfy demands of conservatives, in the street or donors, for a society in which individuals may claim a prerogative to discriminate because of  "faith." Yet, where theocracy is absent, claiming a privilege in the name of either Jesus or Allah represents a dangerous trend. If a stopped clock can be right twice a day, surely even Lauren Boebert can be right every four years.



Sunday, December 25, 2022

Cheney and Trump



In an important and largely ignored piece about  the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, on November 23, The Washington Post explained that Representative Liz

Cheney’s influence over the committee’s final report has rankled many current and former committee staff. They are angered and disillusioned by Cheney’s push to focus the report primarily on former president Donald Trump, and have bristled at the committee morphing into what they have come to view as the vehicle for the outgoing Wyoming lawmaker’s political future.

Fifteen former and current staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, expressed concerns that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.

The reporters added

Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s Gold Team, excluding reams of other investigative work.

Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the Blue Team — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism.

The committee now has released its Executive Summary and full report and, as The New York Times notes, it described

in extensive detail how former President Donald J. Trump had carried out what it called “a multipart plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election” and offering recommendations for steps to assure nothing like it could happen again.

It revealed new evidence about Mr. Trump’s conduct, and recommended that Congress consider whether to bar Mr. Trump and his allies from holding office in the future under the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists.

“The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report said. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”

The report included a few recommendations for legislative action and one for bar associations. Nonetheless, either completely or nearly so, it reflects the work of the Gold Team.  Ron Brownstein recognizes

Both the 154-page executive summary unveiled Monday and the 845-page final report released last night made clear that the committee is focused preponderantly on Trump. The summary in particular read more like a draft criminal indictment than a typical congressional report. It contained breathtaking detail on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and concluded with an extensive legal analysis recommending that the Justice Department indict Trump on four separate offenses, including obstruction of a government proceeding and providing “aid and comfort” to an insurrection.

Brownstein wishes the committee had not largely ignored that

Thousands of far-right extremists responded to his call to assemble in Washington. Seventeen Republican state attorneys general signed on to a lawsuit to invalidate the election results in key states; 139 Republican House members and eight GOP senators voted to reject the outcome even after the riot on January 6. Nearly three dozen congressional Republicans exchanged ideas with Meadows on how to overturn the result, or exhorted him to do so. Dozens of prominent Republicans across the key battleground states signed on as fake electors. Nearly 300 Republicans who echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election were nominated in November—more than half of all GOP candidates, according to The Washington Post. And although many of the highest-profile election deniers were defeated, about 170 deniers won their campaign and now hold office, where they could be in position to threaten the integrity of future elections.

All are significant: fake electors; state attorneys general trying to overthrow the election; members of Congress keen on working with the President's Chief of Staff to overturn the results; 170 Republicans who were elected in November with the potential power to undermine elections.

But even more important were the issues addressed by the Blue Team and the Green Team.  Unsurprisingly, they were ignored by the committee members.

The role the Secret Service and Chris Wray's FBI may have played in the insurrection has been unexplored by the media. Any role played by either- worse yet, possibly in concert- strikes at the very heart of American government and democracy. If the committee had not chosen to bury the work of its Blue Team staffers, we may have learned of the existence of a "Deep State"- not  the one Donald Trump and his acolytes periodically have bleated about for seven years, but one actually existing in reality.

In his "All the President's Men," author/journalist Bob Woodward said to Watergate committee chairperson Sam Ervin (D-NC) "The key was the secret campaign cash and it should all be traced," a line simplified as "follow the money." Instead, the January 6th committee decided to turn a blind eye to the financial backing of the insurrection, whatever it was and whomever it may have led to. The Green Team, like the Blue Team, was neutered.

It's not hard to determine why.  According to the Post, a "former committee staffer" maintained

We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public. But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.

It's hard to believe that Liz Cheney is sufficiently deluded to believe that she has any chance to be the next GOP presidential nominee. More likely, as a lifelong, traditional Republican, she didn't want the report to reflect badly on conservative institutions, such as federal law enforcement agencies,  nor on the web of financing which might include Turning Point USA/Action, American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, Charles Koch, or whomever.

Now, we'll never know about this, nor what institutions ignored the threat of an attempted coup or even facilitated it.   Hats off to the remarkably focused Liz Cheney, who has a special hatred of Donald Trump and is leading us down the road to something better, or not nearly to where we might have been. He's her special project and with it, she wielded more influence this year than any other woman (save the Speaker of the House) in American politics.





                     HAPPY BELATED CHANUKAH and MERRY CHRISTMAS

 


Friday, December 23, 2022

"Ex-President"



The old adage goes "even a stopped clock is right twice a day." For Rich Lowry of the National Review, it's more like twice a year but we'll take it- especially because it's something so many of the journalistic and pundit class get wrong.  Obversely, even a journalist such as David Frum exceedingly skilled in both traditional and social media can get something wrong, especially on a matter so common in the political class. Here he is, being overly impressed with an article by the overly-impressed Sahil Kapur (his correspondent's report, below).

I don't see it. I don't see references to the "former President" as either subtly undermining Donald Trump;s claim still to be president or only temporarily removed; nor to such disgust that McConnell "doesn't want Trump's name in his breath."  Disturbingly, Lowry has it right when he explains

The man who has spent a lifetime putting his name on everything can still keep it off the lips of people appalled by something he has said or done. It’s a GOP taboo that became so deeply ingrained during his presidency and the immediate aftermath that it will only lift slowly, if ever.

“The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day. Beyond that, I don’t have any immediate observations,” Mitch McConnell said in a statement after the Jan. 6 criminal referrals on Tuesday.

So, who exactly is responsible? Do we know anything about this person? Is there any description? Has he or she been seen since Jan. 6, 2021? In what direction did he or she flee afterward?

The Republican Jewish Coalition spoke out after the infamous dinner with Ye (better known as Kanye West): “We strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them.”

Really? “Political leaders” — note the plural — have been penciling Nick Fuentes meetings onto their calendars? This statement would have been more accurate, if even more blatant in its evasion, if it had called on “a certain political leader” not to meet with notorious antisemites.

South Dakota GOP Sen. Mike Rounds responded after Trump suggested suspending the Constitution: “As elected officials, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. We should never dishonor that oath. No one is above the Constitution.”

He added, “Anyone who desires to lead our country must commit to protecting the Constitution. They should not threaten to terminate it.”

This sermonette was certainly welcome and unobjectionable, except for the fact that you’d have no idea who or what occasioned it. The senator could have been making observations to mark Constitution Day.

It’s as if, after Trump’s announcement hawking his trading card NFTs, a Republican entity or officeholder called on “all of us to do better at not trading on our names in tawdry and ridiculous ways, especially by promoting trading cards depicting us as superheroes.”

If Republicans were playing by these rules during Watergate, they would have distanced themselves from “anyone” authorizing a burglary of the opposition party’s political headquarters and strongly urged all “elected leaders” to preserve audio tapes of their conversations in their entirety.

How much does this matter? On the one hand, everyone knows who they’re talking about, especially Donald Trump. On the other, avoiding his name speaks to a continued increment of fear, a reflexive cringe before the political top dog who for years could make the lives of straying Republicans miserable with a tweet or a swipe during a press conference. When this reflex finally gives way, it’ll be a sign that Trump’s grip on the party really has loosened.

This parallels a tactic employed by some social justice activists. The “Say Their Names” hashtag was created by the African American Policy Forum in 2014 and supported by the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISP) to increase awareness of police violence against black females. The movement gained strength after the murder of Breonna Taylor and became identified with the killing of both black men and women, though it has faded as the nation has veered rightward and turned its attention elsewhere.

Nonetheless, the phrase, sometimes modified to “Say Her Name,” is powerful when invoked because it acknowledges and celebrates the power of a victim’s name.  No longer is she nameless and faceless; she is a human being and cannot easily be ignored. 

And so it is with the reference by Mitch McConnell- and by countless journalists and others on CNN and MSNBC- of referring to Donald Trump as "the ex-president" or "the former president." Though intentional, it is employed by the Senate Minority Leader not to denigrate Republican hero Trump, but to soften the impact of his criticism.  McConnell is fully aware that center-left media realizes he is talking about Trump, and they approve his sentiment and applaud what it regards as courage.

Most of the MAGA crowd also realizes whom McConnell is talking about, although a few will not. Nonetheless, even among the majority which harbors no illusion, the Senator's reference to "ex-president" mitigates the harshness of the attack. There is no condemnation of "Donald Trump" or "Trump" or even "Mr. Trump" to rile up the base unnecessarily.

Let's be bold and avoid references to Donald Trump as merely "ex" or "former."  Say his name, and often.



Thursday, December 22, 2022

Snowflakes, Save Your Disgust


In times gone by- before selfies, disseminating photos of a fine-looking lunch, or standing throughout a concert or athletic event, it was called "sitting." Sometimes it was called "respectfully listening."  And it was recognized as self-effacing. Instead, some people I respect, one of them a member of Congress, the other two individuals I almost always agree with, have the following entirely wrong:


 


We could, I suppose get their names, put them on an "enemies list," and thank the late Richard Nixon for the idea.  We could be offended because in an audience of over 300 members of Congress, seven (7) individuals chose not to stand and applaud- though "during the last portions of Zelensky's speech," they did so. Or we could get their names, put them on an "enemies list," and thank the late Richard Nixon for the idea.  

The first would be foolish, the latter dangerous. The ironic thing is that anyone who is honest would admit that hundreds of Congressmen did not repeatedly, spontaneously rise as one from their seats to applaud the President of Ukraine. Some were genuinely moved, stood up and applauded, and the others realized that if they did not do so themselves, they'd be conspicuous and subject themselves to extensive criticism on social media and elsewhere.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has suffered through far worse than having a few people not fawn over him. Policy, including congressional appropriation for Ukraine's defense, is infinitely more important. It's time we grow up, disregard affronts to our sensibilities, and reserve our outrage for significant speech and behavior.



Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Tweet of the Day- A Coup, Not a Foreign Assault


Count me out.


Asked about the then-upcoming release of the report from the January 6 committee, Jean-Pierre had in full replied

So I’ll first say, and you’ve heard me say this many times, and the President as well: We’ve been very clear from the beginning that what we saw on January 6th was the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. And the President has been very clear: Our democracy continues and remains under threat, and we all have a — have a part to protect it.

The committee has been doing important bipartisan work to get to the truth of what happened on that very day so we can — we can make — so we can make sure that that doesn’t happen again. So I’ll leave it there.

Jean-Pierre did not criticize the USA nor minimize any other attack ever upon the nation. The events of January 6 did constitute "the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War." 

I'm not a fan of Karine Jean-Pierre, who holds down a position that is clearly too big for her. But a fellow who identifies as a "pastor" and " Christian saved by grace through faith in Jesus" should set an example for honesty instead of going down the path of demagoguery.

 

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Monday, December 19, 2022

Clearly and Obviously, Not Legitimate



This person's Twitter description reads in part "not affiliated with the NFL." No kidding.


These calls may have determined the outcome of the two games. In the one below, if the official had made the accurate call, the New England Patriots would have won the game in overtime. Instead, the Las Vegas Raiders tied it (with the fairly routine extra point) and won the game in overtime in arguably the most stupid play in NFL history.

I would have posted this YouTube video below but it is "unavailable" because "this video contains content from NFL, who has blocked it from play on this website or any application." Good thinking. Therefore, this will have to do:


In which the spokesperson deserves an “A” for effort

NFL senior Vice President of officiating Walt Anderson explained the call during a PFWA pool report conducted by ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“We looked at every available angle and it was not clear and obvious that the foot was on the white,” Anderson said. “It was very tight, very close. There was no shot that we could see — we even enhanced and blew up the views that we had. There was nothing that was clear and obvious that his foot was touching the white.”

Anderson said that there wasn’t a “down the sideline view” available to review.

“Probably the best view was what we term a ‘high end zone’ view. TV gave us the most enhanced view that they had as well,” Anderson said. “We blew it up and I believe TV blew it up and there was nothing that was clear and obvious either way. Had the ruling on the field been incomplete, we would not have been able to change that either.”

Here it should be noted that according to broadcasters on National Football League game telecasts, the NFL reviews every touchdown. Given what I’ve witnessed the last few years, that claim objectively lacks veracity. The naked eye viewing the video of the Raiders’ tying touchdown clearly reveals that the receiver was out-of-bounds when he caught the football. Yet, somehow, with all its advanced technology, the official couldn’t see it definitively. Or so we're told.

There is a possibility that all such errors should be attributed to an NFL official making make a bad call (as is fairly routine), then finding insufficient evidence to reverse it. There is also, as I like to say in instances of similar probability, a chance it will snow tomorrow inMiami. Nine years ago, when professional athletics still maintained a modicum of integrity, five professional sports leagues filed suit against New Jersey's plan to institute Nevada-style sports gambling, assistant professor of sports law Ryan Rodenberg, explaining the distinction in law between spectator sports and entertainment/scripted events, wrote

Uncertainty of outcome is also the reason American sports fans should take a moment to pause when commercialized sports are juxtaposed with the Quiz Show Scandal from more than 50 years ago. The web of laws applicable to sports, such as the Sports Bribery Act of 1964, only prohibits gambling-related corruption. There is no federal law explicitly preventing the clandestine manipulation of sporting events to enhance suspense. This gap is problematic. As with certain televised quiz shows decades ago, the in-game action of sporting events can be contrived in profit-maximizing ways. The federal law passed in the wake of the Quiz Show Scandal does not explicitly include televised sports; it only forbids deception of the public in connection with contests of an "intellectual" nature. Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire are covered by the law. Football, basketball, and baseball are not…

Rodenberg continued

it is insufficient to act as though gambling-related game-fixing is the only threat in this regard. A non-gambling artifice bent on increasing suspense for the purpose of viewer engagement and advertisement effectiveness is equally dangerous. Academics have extensively researched the extent that uncertainty is important to ticket sales, at-home viewers, and sponsor marketing. Published empirical studies have found increased fan enjoyment during buzzer beaters, certain pecuniary biases among sports referees, and heightened advertiser brand effectiveness following close contests. Leagues, broadcasters, and marketing agencies are surely aware of such studies, all of which probably mirror their own in-house analyses. Accordingly, they have a strong incentive to be tempted to act insidiously absent any explicit prohibition.

"To be sure," he wrote "this concern is as of now hypothetical." It no longer is.

 


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Blueprint for Republican Triumph


The Guardian reports

After more than a year delving into history and studies to make its case for reparations to California descendants of enslaved Black people, a first-in-the-nation taskforce began deliberations on Wednesday to quantify how financial compensation might be calculated and what might be required to prove eligibility....

The taskforce has a 1 July deadline to complete its final report for the Legislature listing recommendations for how the state can atone for and address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians. Lawmakers will need to pass legislation for payments and other policy changes to take place.

On a positive note (or two)

Earlier this year, the committee made the controversial decision to limit reparations to descendants of Black people in the United States as of the 19th century, either as freed or enslaved people....

Kamilah Moore, the taskforce’s chairperson, said the group has not decided on any dollar amounts or what form reparations could take, nor where the money would come from.

Limiting reparations, as well as the possibility that without knowing where from, how much, or in what form this will come, suggests that reparations may not come about.

That would be a positive development, though blogger Steve M maintains "reparations would be moral justice."  He's wrong about that, in large part because in some way, taxpayers and/or consumers in no way responsible for the harm experienced by African-Americans will be the ones held responsible and blamed.

And this movement is not limited to California, insofar as

On Wednesday, the Boston city council voted to form a taskforce to study reparations and other forms of atonement to Black residents for the city’s role in slavery and its legacy of inequality. Lawmakers in other parts of the country have pushed their states and cities to study reparations without much progress. But Evanston, Illinois, became the first US city last year to make reparations available for Black residents, and public officials in New York will try anew to create a reparations commission in the state.

But SM accurately notes

Even if it's just California, Boston, and Evanston, that'll be enough for the backlash. Chris Rufo will be all over this. So will Fox News. So will Ron DeSantis. I expect the 2024 Republican presidential nominee to win in part on the basis of an angry pledge never to support reparations.

Reparations will be portrayed as a budget-buster that picks the pockets of white, Asian, and Hispanic people, as a handout to the (few) descendants of the enslaved who are now fabulously wealthy, and as The Racist Democrat Party's means of making poor hard-working Volk pay for the consequences of its own racism. (Did you know Robert Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Did you know Abraham Lincoln was a Republican?) All just in time for the 2024 cycle. Get ready.

That's how politicians and pundits of the GOP establishment will frame it.  Working-class Latinos, Asian-Americans, non-Hispanic whites will be expected to fund blacks (poor, middle-class, and rich) because of the actions of wealthy and powerful whites generations ago. One group of consumers or taxpayers would be mandated to subsidize another group based on racial background. Critics will be accused of being racist and "haters," a formula for stoking racial antagonism.

It would not set "black and brown" people or "people of color" against non-Hispanic whites , as supporters may hope. It's a formula for setting the latter group, Latinos, and Asian-Americans against blacks. A veritable conservative wet dream, Republican pols would not be able to believe their great good fortune. The backlash may not be furious- but will be ongoing and lasting, with political ramifications beyond even those Steve M fears.


 



Friday, December 16, 2022

Conservative Id


Jonathan Last of The Bulwark writes

Remember the Stop WOKE Act? It was DeSantis’s big anti-CRT-in-schools legislation. (This was back when CRT was the most important issue facing the republic.) It was stopped by the courts because it is flatly and obviously unconstitutional.

Remember when DeSantis punished Disney for opposing his Don’t Say Gay law by revoking the company’s Reedy Creek special tax district? Yeah, that’s going by the wayside because it wasn’t thought out and would wind up costing Florida taxpayers money. The face-saving climbdown spin seems to be that DeSantis is reconsidering because Disney has changed CEOs and it was the old CEO whom he wanted to punish.1

And how about DeSantis’s mass “voter fraud” arrests, which managed to round up a bunch of people who don’t look like they live in the Villages on trumped-up voter-fraud charges? Yeah, those cases are falling apart in court because they had no basis in law.

Oh—and don’t forget the DeSantis promise to ship immigrants out of Florida after his stunt sending asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard blew up in his face.

This is what he does. And his anti-vaccine programs are no different.

No vaccine maker will be prosecuted in Florida.

There will be no peer-reviewed research showing that the risks of vaccine side effects were greater than the benefits.

A “Public Health Integrity Committee” will not interfere with the practice of medicine in Florida.

And that’s by design.

The great blogger, Steve M., disagrees, remarking

I'm afraid that the main thrust of Last's argument -- that, in the end, none of these bad policies stick, and that DeSantis doesn't really want them to, because he's just trying to win over right-wing voters and isn't really an extremist -- will become the conventional wisdom in the mainstream media. This would be part of the process whereby the media sells DeSantis as the mainstream, moderate, within-the-pale alternative to Donald Trump.

There is anecdotal evidence that one of these DeSantis policies, voter suppression, worked as

Voting rights advocates and others say the arrests discouraged the tens of thousands of potentially eligible voters with felony records to not take part in midterm elections.

“We know that registered voters with prior convictions and even people who are fully eligible to vote such as people who only have a misdemeanor are concerned or even scared about getting in trouble if they cast their ballots,” said Amy Keith, program director of Common Cause Florida.

Although his landslide victory persuaded many GOP voters- temporarily, I believe- to think that a DeSantis presidential nomination may be just the ticket to vanquish the Democratic Party, DeSantis would have won, anyway.. And I think that he has neither the seemingly pleasant personality of some so-called "moderate" Republicans nor the charisma of Donald Trump to convince the media that he is a throwback to the good old days of the Reagan/Bush/Ryan era GOP in which everyone, of whatever race or sexual preference, is valuable as long as wealthy.

The Florida governor probably is an extremist who opposes the teaching of inconvenient historical facts, recognizes the value of refugees and illegal immigrants to the business community, and wants to deny the vote to hardcore Democrats while limiting pandemic restrictions and the rights of gay individuals.

But as Last suggests, that's not why DeSantis does as he does.  Even Steve M maintains "I don't believe DeSantis is playing eleven-dimensional chess in the way Last describes. I think DeSantis simply doesn't care what happens to people as a result of his actions, as long as the libs are owned and his poll numbers rise."

It may not be eleven-dimensional chess because conservatives are not given to nuance or deep deliberation. However, it is apiece of a clever strategy.  Prior to the election, Republicans ranted and raved about inflation, especially gas prices, and crime.  Hysteria about inflation has declined precipitously, and not only because  the rise in cost of living has abated. Talk of crime has virtually disappeared from public discourse.

Collectively, GOP voters suffer from something akin to political Adult ADHD.  They get hot-and=bothered about a couple of issues, then lose interest and go on to another topic. It's the flavor of the day which matters to Republicans in the street.   It can be inflation, crime, race, voting fraud or non-existent "lockdowns," but the interest will be relatively fleeting.

Performative politics is popular among voters generally, whether Republican, Democratic, or unaffiliated.  Nonetheless, the particular attraction among Republicans for the ephemeral, something to be exorcised about for the moment, is an underappreciated phenomenon.

No doubt Governor DeSantis understands this, as does Donald Trump.  It may not be "by design" that the policies will fail or be annulled. However, their value to DeSantis goes far beyond any efficacy they may accidentally exhibit. While insufficient to propel him to a presidential nomination, it does demonstrate Ron DeSantis' recognition of the value of performative politics in Republican presidential campaigns.


 



Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Not-So Anti-Gun Violence Party


Congratulations, Missouri! Congratulations, Democratic National Committee! In news from Missouri

The driver has fled and the victim hospitalized in critical condition after reportedly on Monday evening, a customer at a KFC fast-food restaurant in St. Louis

tried to place an order in the restaurant's drive-thru lane. He became upset and threatened employees when he was told the business was out of corn, police said.

The man had a handgun when he drove up to the drive-thru window. A 25-year-old employee who went outside to talk to the driver returned to the restaurant and said he had been shot, police said.



There is nothing out of the ordinary there, in a city and state where a 19-year-old man (then shot dead by police) killed two individuals at the performing arts school from which he he had graduated. Authorities said he possessed an !$-15 style rife and more than 600 rounds of ammunition.

In its 2022 rankings, Everytown for Gun Safety ranks Missouri as #41 in the country for gun safety legislation and

It experiences the fourth-highest rate of gun deaths, is among the five states with the highest gun homicide rates, and is also among the top ten states for household firearm ownership. Missouri not only has none of the foundational gun violence prevention laws, but indeed the state repealed an 80-year-old permit to purchase—leading to an increase in gun homicide of up to 27%.

Only eight of the 50 top policies are in place in Missouri, and legislators have shown no momentum for passing gun safety protections, despite the fact that St. Louis has had the highest rate of gun murders among all cities in the country.

Of course, it does. Gun ownership is not discouraged in Missouri, a situation condoned by its GOP-dominated legislature and now encouraged by Republican governor Mike Parson, who in 2021

signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act into law, which states "that all federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders... and regulations, whether past, present or future that infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution... of the Missouri Constitution must be invalid in this state."

Also doing poorly, though not as much so, is the State of South Carolina, which

has weak gun laws—missing 39 out of 50 key policies—and suffers the ninth-worst rate of gun deaths in the nation. Despite lending the name of its largest city to the gap in federal law that allows gun sales to go through while a background check is still underway, South Carolina has still not closed the Charleston Loophole that armed the shooter in the 2015 Emanuel AME church shooting.

That wouldn't worry the Republican Party, which is unmoved about firearm violence. However, it should concern the Democratic Party, which becomes energized about the need for gun safety legislation following every mass shooting or school shooting incident.

Yet, earlier this month we learned

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) gathered in Washington this week, where they voted to approve recommendations put forward by President Joe Biden that included making South Carolina the first primary contest.

The president's proposal came after South Carolina delivered him a decisive and pivotal primary victory in 2020 and launched him on a path to the White House. Under the recommendations, South Carolina would hold its primary on Feb. 3, 2024.  The window for early voting states would also include New Hampshire and Nevada with contests the following week. Georgia would be fourth, and Michigan would go fifth.

Ah, South Carolina, which has shown its passion for liberal and progressive values by electing statewide ten Republican officials and zero (0) Democratic ones, and which last voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in 1976. South Carolina, whose passion for weapons of death is eclipsed only by Missouri and eight other states.

Nevertheless, in South Carolina, which as #4 in the march to nomination already has an outsized influence in picking the nominee, an estimated 63.7% of Democratic primary voters are black. It might be a violent and gun-loving Republican state, akin to Missouri, but nothing eclipses race in Democratic Party politics. Safety from murder and mayhem is important- but only up to a point, and that point is quickly reached.

 


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Biden On the Defensive



This is one ludicrous tweet:

No need to take notes- Republicans are masters at this.

GOP officials could have applauded the swap of Viktor Bout for Brittney Griner. They might have, in the manner of John Bolton, defended Republican President Donald Trump for refusing to consider bargaining with the Kremlin for Griner. They could have could have argued that the Administration should have cut a better deal. 

They could have followed the lead of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who decried leaving behind "Marine Paul Whalen and teacher Mark Fogel."

But Rubio has been an outlier among Republicans.  Senators Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, and  James Lankford;  Representatives Mike Rogers, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Banks, Kevin Hern, Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Walz, Scott Perry, Lisa McClain, Adam Kinzinger, Tim Walberg, Bill Keating, Byron Donalds, and Representative-elect John Block- all criticized the Administration's deal and cited their concern that Paul Whelan was not released. Representatives French Hall and Haley Stevens also name-checked the disgraced ex-Marine, though were less negative than the others.

It has had an immediate effect, in which 

American officials will hold talks “this week” with Russian leaders about negotiations to release former Marine Paul Whelan, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.

“With respect to the question of whether we’ve had engagement with the Russian Federation on the Whelan case, we will have an engagement with them this week,” Sullivan told reporters.

Although Whelan was court-martialed and was given a bad-conduct discharge, he is still a "Marine" or "ex-Marine" to Republicans, who have been unsparing in their criticism of the President. Representative Banks remarked “Biden just returned the ‘Merchant of Death,’ an international arms dealer convicted of conspiring to kill Americans, to Putin and left former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained for over four years, to rot in a Russian prison." The price of freeing Whelan has been bid up, as Republicans have anticipated.

Reportedly, "according to a senior Biden administration official," Russia is willing to discuss Whelan because "they have things they want in the world." Reportedly, that is Vadim Krasikov, "a former colonel in Russia's domestic spy organization serving a life sentence for murder in Germany." However Washington is balking at releasing an individual in foreign custody who is described by Secretary of State spokesman John Kirby as an "assassin."

Vladimir Putin cannot help but realize that, having gained the release of Griner and confronted with harsh accusations from Republicans for not doing the same for an ex-Marine, President Biden has been painted into a corner. Freedom for Paul Whelan won't come cheap.

 "Politics ain't beanbag," the fictional Mr. Dooley once said.  As if to prove him right, Tim Scott, in a manner similar to his GOP colleagues, charged "Leaving Paul in Russia to Putin’s whim would be a disgraceful abdication of Biden’s leadership." Joe Biden has heard, and the bill for bringing Whelan back to the USA will be steep.


 


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Hypocrisy, A Family Attribute


It should not escape notice how often Republicans slam the Viktor Bout for Britney Griner deal as one for a "celebrity" without ever labeling Griner "a star basketball player." It's almost as if there is a certain genus of voter which believes that athletes- though not celebrities- deserve the consideration other people do not. Condemning the transaction, here Donald Trump Jr. says "in America, as a female celebrity, minority, lesbian she probably felt she could be above the law.
"  


Probably not anywhere would she believe that. However, the glaring problem with statements from son Trump and father Trump are their profession of love for Paul Whelan, the ex-Marine still in Russian custody. 


That tweet will be filed under "things I wish I had said but didn't." 



On a Positive Note, It's What He Believes

During the War of 1812, Master Commandant Oliver Perry wrote to Major General William Henry Harrison " we have met the enemy and they ...