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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

#MAGApox Meltdown

Mainstream, alt, and "social" media are all in total hyperbolic freakout mode.

Pass the popcorn...
Likely to be an "interesting" week. One wherein a few actual facts may manage to slip through.

apropos of the escalating rhetoric this week:
...Clearly, at this early stage, the responsible reaction to what the FBI did is to withhold judgment, to wait and see, to base one’s assessment on the facts and the evidence as they become known. But such an approach is alien to the modern-day GOP. The entire incentive structure is to use language that is intemperate, belligerent, conspiratorial, even crazed. This week has once again proved that there’s no rhetorical line Trump Republicans won’t cross, no outlandish charge they won’t make. It’s now all about one-upmanship, with each person trying to make a more freakish claim than the next.

This debasement of language comes at a considerable cost. George Orwell believed that political language mattered because politics mattered, and that the corruption of one leads to the corruption of the other. And in some cases, the misuse of words can lead to political violence. We saw that on January 6, 2021. My fear is we’re edging ever closer to that. Some people on the right—enraged and inflamed, caught in an echo chamber of undiluted anger and massive lies—clearly hope for it. They are perpetually frenzied and hyper-agitated, convinced they are in an existential struggle against a wicked foe… [Peter Wehner]
Recall my up-the-ante analogy?

"If it bleeds, it leads."
A week of wild media speculation (the word "espionage" is in the air), GOP denials, and few facts. This afternoon, though, we may get details on the Mar-a-lago search warrant and results thereof. Maybe.

Interesting discussion. Good way to spend an hour.
Very good.Wish there was a text transcript.
@50:46: “Point me to a time or place in history where one side has had a monopoly on the truth and been right 100% of the time. I can’t think of one.”Josh Zseps

Monday, August 1, 2022

Some worthy new reads,

based on recent news...
When future historians come to chronicle the early 21st century, one curious paradox may epitomize the era in which we now live. The advent of the internet in the final decade of the 20th century promised the entire repository of the world’s information at our very fingertips, and a new dawn of mutual understanding that would transcend the confines of geography or politics. Fewer sages foresaw, however, that the same technology would enable the propagation of falsehood at staggering velocity to huge, receptive audiences. Fewer still predicted this would leave us more polarized and divided than ever before. The upheaval and division that define our current epoch will no doubt intrigue those future historians. Navigating our way now, without the benefit of hindsight, is an abiding challenge. With such a confluence of contradictory aspects, it is small wonder we’re frequently left feeling overwhelmed…

Grimes, David Robert. Good Thinking (p. xi). The Experiment. Kindle Edition

This book makes an unconventional claim about democracy. In almost every major work on the subject, democracy is reduced to a body of institutions and practices. We are told, time and again, that the touchstone of any democratic society is the universal right to vote and a government that enshrines the law. This description isn’t wrong so much as narrow; it identifies the core features of democracy, but it doesn’t capture the constitutive condition of this type of society. Moreover, it’s better to think of democracy less as a government type and more as an open communicative culture. Democracies can be liberal or illiberal, populist or consensus based, but those are potential outcomes that emerge from this open culture. And the direction any democracy takes largely depends on its tools of communication and the passions they promote. This is more than an academic distinction. To see democracy as a culture of free expression is to foreground its susceptibility to endless evolution, even danger.

We call this the paradox of democracy: a free and open communication environment that, because of its openness, invites exploitation and subversion from within. This tension sits at the core of every democracy, and it can’t be resolved or circumnavigated. To put it another way, the essential democratic freedom—the freedom of expression—is both ingrained in and potentially harmful to democracy…

Gershberg, Zac; Illing, Sean (2022-06-15T23:58:59.000). The Paradox of Democracy. University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
Stay tuned, a lot to unpack, analyze, and evaluate. Goes to my episodic Jones for so-called "Deliberation Science." Both of these books are eminently worthy of your time. Up to my eyeballs in reading, as always (you have no idea), but, I've been slackin' a bit lately, binge-watching a bunch of Netflix and Amazon Prime with my wife ("Bosch," "The Americans," "Borgen," "The Gray Man," etc), staying out of the Baltimore heat.


For scientists, publication in Nature is a career high-water mark. To make its pages, work must be deemed exceptionally important, with potentially transformative impact on scientific understanding. In 2006, a study of Alzheimer’s disease by the lead author Sylvain Lesné met those criteria: It suggested a new culprit for the illness, a molecule called Aβ*56, which seemingly caused dementia symptoms in rats. The study has since accrued more than 2,300 citations in the scientific literature and inspired years of follow-up work. But an investigation of the original paper and many others by Lesné, described last week in Science, identified numerous red flags indicating the possibility of data fraud… 

Science is an enterprise built on trust, and in general, scientists do not attribute to malice what could be equally well explained by ineptitude. Peer review is far from perfect, often failing utterly to do its job, and journals have a well-established bias toward publishing positive results. Errors in published works are legion, from errant inferences to inappropriate statistics. Voicing concerns over suspect results, however, is fraught with peril. Careers in academia are precarious, research communities can be small, and open criticism may garner enmity from colleagues who evaluate submitted papers and grant proposals. Scientists may even cite research they do not believe or trust, for the sake of appeasing publishers, funders, and potential reviewers...

Science may be self-correcting, but only in the long term...
That was in The Atlantic. It referred me to an article I'd seen in Science Magazine, but had not studied closely (an oversight now corrected).

In August 2021, Matthew Schrag, a neuroscientist and physician at Vanderbilt University, got a call that would plunge him into a maelstrom of possible scientific misconduct. A colleague wanted to connect him with an attorney investigating an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease called Simufilam. The drug’s developer, Cassava Sciences, claimed it improved cognition, partly by repairing a protein that can block sticky brain deposits of the protein amyloid beta (Aβ), a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The attorney’s clients—two prominent neuroscientists who are also short sellers who profit if the company’s stock falls—believed some research related to Simufilam may have been “fraudulent,” according to a petition later filed on their behalf with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Schrag, 37, a softspoken, nonchalantly rumpled junior professor, had already gained some notoriety by publicly criticizing the controversial FDA approval of the anti-Aβ drug Aduhelm. His own research also contradicted some of Cassava’s claims. He feared volunteers in ongoing Simufilam trials faced risks of side effects with no chance of benefit.

So he applied his technical and medical knowledge to interrogate published images about the drug and its underlying science—for which the attorney paid him $18,000. He identified apparently altered or duplicated images in dozens of journal articles. The attorney reported many of the discoveries in the FDA petition, and Schrag sent all of them to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which had invested tens of millions of dollars in the work.

But Schrag’s sleuthing drew him into a different episode of possible misconduct, leading to findings that threaten one of the most cited Alzheimer’s studies of this century and numerous related experiments...

Yeah... What a doozy, that dustup.

See also the Ezra Klein NY Times interview.
“At the very heart of democracy is a contradiction that cannot be resolved, one that has affected free societies from ancient Greece to contemporary America,” write Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing in their new book, “The Paradox of Democracy.” In order to live up to its name, democracy must be open to free communication and expression; yet that very feature opens democracies up to the forces of chaos, fragmentation and demagoguery that undermine them. Historically, this paradox becomes particularly profound during transitions between different communication technologies. “We see this time and again,” Gershberg and Illing write, “media continually evolve faster than politics, resulting in recurring patterns of democratic instability.”
Lots to digest and ponder. Stay tuned...

My email to the authors:

OK, y'all. Permit me an apology.

I just finished your new book. I saw/heard/read the interview podcasts & transcripts, then downloaded the (very generous) Amazon Preview, then downloaded the full Kindle edition. It's pre-empted everything else since I got it.

Have to admit, I was a bit put off by the Kindle ed price. This old coot SS retiree reads 8-10 ebooks a month, so my annual book budget is not trivial.

But, Chapter 8 alone was worth the entire price.

This is one important-assed read. Multiple awards-worthy.

You are two impressive dudes.

96 days to Nov 8th. Shit.

Were I still teaching Critical Thinking & Argument Analysis, this book would be a required text. Recommended triangulation, just for starters...
As the autocratic Hungarian White Christian Nationalist President Orban gets a Standing-O while addressing the GOP CPAC Conference in Dallas:

Now, onto Dr. Grimes...


Finished "Good Thinking." Also marvelous. Very accessible and timely. Very witty as well.

Very good trip through deductive/syllogistic "formal fallacies," as well as inductive/statistical methods and caveats. Also notable, the pitfalls of cognitive "heuristics" and a tour of the major types of "rhetorical/informal fallacies." Additionally, a pretty good treatment of Bayesian stats.

Having taught collegiate "critical thinking" and "argument analysis," this stuff was a great trip down memory lane for me. Dr. Grimes would also be on my Required Reading list.
The author concludes:
Society itself is a fragile fabric, easily torn apart by misconception or fearmongering. We share a glorious world, and our fates are intertwined with bonds that cannot be severed. If this world burns, so do we all. We cannot hope to improve things if we labor under delusion and unthinking tribalism. Those who would subvert our thinking can make us deny reality, creating a vacuum that tyrants and charlatans fill with hatred and falsehood. Voltaire’s warning that those who can make us believe absurdities can drive us to atrocity remains true, but the corollary to this dictum is equally important: Those who can erode human trust and cast doubt on shared truths can make us malleable to all evils. Whether this is propaganda that aims to sow discord, or misinformation propagated by those ideologically blind to reality, the net effect is societal division and distrust. Divided, we are weak and ineffectual, drifting toward disaster, incapable of collaborating on the truly global problems we face.

To allow facts, evidence, and reason to be disavowed is to stand on the precipice of tragedy. Berlin is home to many harrowing memorials marking the barbarity of the Nazi era. To me, the most unsettling one is the most understated. In beautiful Bebelplatz, there is a transparent floor plate in the center of the square. It commemorates the first Nazi book burnings, on May 10, 1933, where works deemed contrary to Nazi teachings were put to the flame. Today, this plate serves as a reminder of that madness; to glance downward is to be greeted by the haunting sight of row upon row of barren shelves, devoid of a single book. Inscribed close by are the words of poet Heinrich Heine: Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen (“That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people”).

That monument in Berlin is a potent reminder of what dark consequences can arise when truth is sidelined and destroyed. Heine’s words were written more than a century before Hitler seized power. He couldn’t have envisaged the brutality of the Third Reich, nor how percipient his sentiment would prove. But he alluded to a fundamental darkness in those who would seek to erase truth rather than embrace it. There will always be those who would render us pliant with confusion and lies, but we are more resilient than we know. Even in this era where falsehoods perpetuate faster and further than ever before, our capacity for analytical thought is the blade that cleaves the reliable from the ridiculous. This can seem overwhelming, making a retreat into apathy tempting. But apathy is the enemy; we cannot challenge falsehood if we are disengaged, nor strive toward a better world if stricken by inertia. Only our willingness to question–to ask “why?” and “why not?”–shields against those who would mislead or manipulate us, a compass to steer us toward viable solutions to the challenges we face together.

These challenges are truly daunting, from climate change to antibiotic resistance to global pandemics and geopolitical instability. To meet them and endure, we need to think like scientists, reflecting before we react, guided by evidence over emotion, and always self-correcting. Striving toward a better future for all of us requires bravery and compassion as much as intellect. For, although we might start as mere irrational apes, we are endowed with the ability to be so much more. We must be unafraid to let go of poor ideas or embrace new ones. We must be forgiving not only of the errors of others, but also of our own. Ultimately, whether we prosper or perish comes down to whether we choose to learn from our mistakes or succumb to them.
[Good Thinking, pp. 362-364]
142 bucks! 816 pages. Lordy.
...As we bring this Handbook to fruition, the world at large appears to be moving in some disconcerting anti-deliberative and anti-democratic directions. Post-truth politics is the antithesis of deliberative democracy. Resurgent authoritarian and populist leaders in many countries have little interest in deliberation—except to suppress it. Even where deliberation is not repressed, we too often see levels of political polarization that signal inabilities to listen to the other side and reflect upon what they may have to say.

We hope that these sorts of trends can and will be reversed, and that the ideas and practices of deliberative democracy can play a key role in their reversal. In the meantime, however, these trends feed the cynicism of those who believe that deliberative democracy is a pipe dream. A long tradition in political science deploys empirical evidence and analysis to show that ordinary people are not up to the task of competent participation in democracy...

(2018-08-22T23:58:59.000). The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy (Oxford Handbooks). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


She'd have turned 52 today. Miss her and her sister every day.
She joked to me that the title of her "Memoir" was going to be "I Was Raised Poor White Trash."

Sunday, July 24, 2022

From MAGApox to MonkeyPox

The hits just keep on comin'
Thus far, the outbreak has been concentrated largely among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, with many occurring in men who have had multiple recent sex partners — a fact that the WHO believes increases the chances the outbreak can be brought under control.

“This is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” Tedros said.

But health officials have stressed that the outbreak could spread to more vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, immunocompromised people, and children. And in fact on Thursday, Dutch researchers reported a case in a boy under the age of 10 who had no discernible link to any other infected individuals. Meanwhile, two children in the United States have been infected — likely through household transmission.

More broadly, some experts have expressed concern that it may be too late to try to contain the outbreak and that monkeypox may become endemic in countries worldwide…
Just imagine how our homophobic MAGApox crowd will react to this affliction in light of the reported (albeit non-exclusive) STD vector. Broadly, it comprises "contact-based" transmission pathways, not airborne like the Covid strains.
A new report published as a preprint on from researchers at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) reveals alarming trends in attitudes toward violence, including political violence, in the United States. The survey is the first of its kind to explore the participants’ personal willingness to engage in specific political violence scenarios.

“We expected the findings to be concerning, but these exceeded our worst expectations,” said Garen Wintemute, lead author of the study. Wintemute is an emergency department physician and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program and the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis.

The survey questions focused on three areas: beliefs regarding democracy and the potential for violence in the United States, beliefs regarding American society and institutions, and support for and willingness to engage in violence, including political violence. Some key findings from those surveyed:
  • 67.2% perceive there is “a serious threat to our democracy.”
  • 50.1% agree that “in the next several years, there will be civil war in the United States.”
  • 42.4% agreed that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy.”
  • 41.2% agreed that “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants.”
  • 18.7% agreed strongly or very strongly that violence or force is needed to “protect American democracy” when “elected leaders will not.”
  • 20.5% think that political violence is at least sometimes justifiable “in general.”
Among participants who considered political violence to be at least sometimes justified to achieve a specific objective, 12.2% were willing to commit political violence “to threaten or intimidate a person,” 10.4% “to injure a person,” and 7.1% “to kill a person.”

Among all participants, nearly 1 in 5 thought it was at least somewhat likely that within the next few years, in a situation where political violence was justified, “I will be armed with a gun.” Four percent thought it at least somewhat likely that “I will shoot someone with a gun.”

The researchers conducted the nationwide online survey in English and Spanish from May 13 to June 22. The questions were designed to gauge current attitudes and concerns about violence in the U.S. and willingness to engage in specific political violence scenarios.

A total of 8,620 people who are adult members of the Ipsos Knowledge Panel participated. The sample was designed to represent the general adult population of the United States.

The researchers note that the findings, coupled with prior research, suggest a continuing high level of alienation and a mistrust of American democratic society and its institutions.

Substantial minorities of the population endorse violence, including lethal violence, to obtain political objectives...
Got clued in to this journal the other day via Digby's Blog.

From "How Viktor Orbán Wins," by Kim Lane Scheppele
…In 2022, with the opposition united across the political spectrum and running neck and neck with Fidesz in the polls for more than a year, it finally seemed that Orbán could actually lose.

Against all predictions, however, Orbán had his biggest election triumph yet. On the eve of the election, polls had put Fidesz at about 5 percentage points ahead of the opposition, within the margin of error. Yet Orbán came out 20 points ahead on election day, winning 83 per- cent of the single-member districts and 54 percent of the party-list vote. Orbán did not just retain his two-thirds majority in parliament—he now has a comfortable cushion with 68 percent of the seats. With the worst opposition showing since the fall of the Berlin Wall, United for Hungary members are trying to figure out what path might lie ahead given that four more years of autocracy are in store.

How did the contest go from being too close to call to a blowout? Elections can be organized to turn a plurality party into a supermajority winner. While the Hungarian case has distinctive features, it demonstrates more generally how autocrats can rig elections legally, using their parliamentary majorities to change the law to neutralize whatever strategy the opposition adopts. Understanding how Orbán won his latest supermajority shows defenders of democracy what they are up against when autocrats lock in their power by law…
The Journal is affiliated with Hopkins, right down the street. It's pricey (outa this retiree's reach), and the articles are mostly paywalled (I managed to get a complete pdf copy of this one). The Washington Post has a good report on the Kim Lane Scheppele piece. Timely, given that our CPAC Republicans have recently been playing Kissy Face with the Orbán regime.

All goes to my "Deliberation Science and Crisis of Democracy" Jones. apropos, see Adam Serwer's recent essay in The Atlantic "Is Democracy Constitutional?"
apropos, from a post of mine back in April.
Been stewing over the "Crisis of Democracy" for quite a while now. 

Corruption, kleptocracy are significant factors.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

January 7th, 2021: A Fentanyl Overdose of Insincerity

"It's a small coup, after all..."
One could be forgiven for wondering whether this was the latest Animatronic Exhibit at Disney World in Orlando.

Reports pertaining to the January 6th Committee investigation indicate that an irritated and rattled Trump had to do multiple, grudging re-takes on this brief 2:41 address to the nation following the previous day's insurrection attack on the Capitol—vicious violence that he had fomented.

It is well beyond obvious that Trump did not write these words. He had to be coerced by staff, under the spectre of the 25th Amendment, to haltingly read them from the teleprompter.
"A republic, if you can keep it."
Such magnanimity.
On Thursday night, the House select committee charged with investigating January 6th concluded a two-month run of blockbuster hearings with a searing, minute-by-minute account of what Trump did—and didn’t do—in the dining room that awful afternoon. The words “dereliction of duty” came up a lot, as did phrases like “stain on our history” and “betrayed his oath of office.” It all added up to a portrait of something that the United States has not seen in its more than two hundred and forty years: a President who abdicated his role as Commander-in-Chief, having unleashed a violent mob of his own making and then chosen to sit by and do nothing as his nation’s Capitol was besieged and overwhelmed by that mob. “President Trump did not fail to act,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, the renegade, anti-Trump Republican from Illinois, who presented much of the evidence on Thursday, said. “He chose not to act.”
LOL. Found on Twitter



Monday, July 18, 2022

Anthropocene: Rapid job growth sector

Zero employment rate here going forward for the outdoorsy type.
"We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. This has to be the decade of decisive climate action. It is in our hands.” —United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, July 2022
Below, recent out-of-control inflagration in Spain.

The competing/interlocking exigencies are piling up, are they not? Synergistically so, to an increasing degree—adverse negative feedback loops gathering momentum. Just consider most recently, "Armed State Conflict"—Russia's attack on Ukraine. Adverse side effects have rippled through many areas of concern worldwide, and are likely to only worsen as the conflict drags on.
Prior anthropocene-related posts here

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Dial or text 988 from anywhere in the U.S.
People experiencing a mental health crisis have a new way to reach out for help in the U.S. Starting Saturday, they can simply call or text the numbers 9-8-8.

Modeled after 911, the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is designed to be a memorable and quick number that connects people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional.

"If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there," said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, at a recent press briefing. "988 won't be a busy signal, and 988 won't put you on hold. You will get help."
I put up a permanent right-hand links column link sbove the fold.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Lock him UP!

“Book ’im, Dano.”
After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen…

About the authors: Donald Ayer served as United States attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and as deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush. Stuart M. Gerson served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice from 1989 to 1993 and as acting attorney General in 1993. He is a member of the firm at Epstein Becker Green. Dennis Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor and former Chief Assistant City Attorney in San Francisco, currently Of Counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.
Read all of it. Please.
"For the past 18 months, and presently, Trump himself and his supporters have been engaged in concerted efforts across the country to prepare for a similar, but better-planned, effort to overcome the minority status of Trump’s support and put him back in the White House."
Indeed. Acute danger remains.

Click above title for 69 PDF pages of principled conservative evidentiary whup-ass.
Read all of it. Please.

We are political conservatives who have spent most of our adult lives working to support the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based: limited government, liberty, equality of opportunity, freedom of religion, a strong national defense, and the rule of law.

We have become deeply troubled by efforts to overturn or discredit the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. There is no principle of our Republic more fundamental than the right of the People to elect our leaders and for their votes to be counted accurately. Efforts to thwart the People’s choice are deeply undemocratic and unpatriotic. Claims that an election was stolen, or that the outcome resulted from fraud, are deadly serious and should be made only on the basis of real and powerful evidence. If the American people lose trust that our elections are free and fair, we will lose our democracy...

We therefore have undertaken an examination of every claim of fraud and miscount put forward by former President Trump and his advocates, and now put the results of those investigations before the American people, and especially before fellow conservatives who may be uncertain about what and whom to believe. Our conclusion is unequivocal: Joe Biden was the choice of a majority of the Electors, who themselves were the choice of the majority of voters in their states. Biden’s victory is easily explained by a political landscape that was much different in 2020 than it was when President Trump narrowly won the presidency in 2016. President Trump waged his campaign for re-election during a devastating worldwide pandemic that caused a severe downturn in the global economy. This, coupled with an electorate that included a small but statistically significant number willing to vote for other Republican candidates on the ballot but not for President Trump, are the reasons his campaign fell short, not a fraudulent election.

Donald Trump and his supporters have failed to present evidence of fraud or inaccurate results significant enough to invalidate the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. We do not claim that election administration is perfect. Election fraud is a real thing; there are prosecutions in almost every election year, and no doubt some election fraud goes undetected. Nor do we disparage attempts to reduce fraud. States should continue to do what they can do to eliminate opportunities for election fraud and to punish it when it occurs. But there is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election on the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, there was no fraud that changed the outcome in even a single precinct. It is wrong, and bad for our country, for people to propagate baseless claims that President Biden’s election was not legitimate…
"As part of his post-election attempts to retain the presidency, Donald Trump and his supporters filed 64 cases containing 187 counts in the six key battleground states, in addition to utilizing some of the recount and contest procedures available to them under state law. The former president maintains to this day that the 2020 election was stolen and the results fraudulent.

This Report takes a hard look at the very serious charges made by Trump and his supporters. The consequences of a president and a major party candidate making such charges are monumental…"

There are disconcerting, credible reports asserting that, according to the DHS Inspector General's Office, the U.S. Secret Service deleted certain Agents' text messages and mobile phone comms records pertaining to Jan 5th and 6th, 2021 activities. The January 6th Committee is reported to have issued subpoenas for information relevant to this. Historically, Secret Service compliance has been spotty at best—ostensibly owing to OpSec concerns. This bears watching.
"Former impeachment lawyer and White House ethics czar Norm Eisen speculated whether there were Secret Service agents who are part of Donald Trump's plot to overthrow the government."
Ok, couldn't resist. This is funny.


Sunday, July 10, 2022

A world of hurt

136 days of obscene Russian war (crimes) against Ukraine as of July 10th, with no end in sight. And, 121 days until the U.S. mid-term elections, portending the possible beginning-of-the-end of our Democracy (fully culminating in 2024 should the GOP retake the White House, assuming they gain control of Congress this November).
In that regard, the U.S. Supreme Court "conservative / textualist" supermajority has now struck down womens' federal reproductive rights via the Dobbs decision (nullifying Roe), made it easier to obtain handguns by overturning New York's permit regulations on "concealed carry," invalidated EPA Clean Air Act environmental regulatory authority, and further eroded the separation of Church and State via their Maine religious schools and Bremerton WA "kneeling Christian football coach" rulings. SCOTUS has also agreed to next hear cases intended to accord state legislatures unreviewable plenary authority to summarily appoint "Presidential Electors," irrespective of previously certified state popular vote tallies.
Inflation is now (unsurprisingly) rampant, globally. People in the underdeveloped world face massive looming starvation. War, droughts, adverse climate change comprise enervating force multipliers...
Had I not direct multigenerational offspring, perhaps I'd have fewer [bleeps] to give.
“We just have a few more tragedies to report before we can get to the fun stuff.”
"Autistic isolation," LOL. Mic drop.

Don't take my word for it. Do Your Own Research. 
Confirmation bias is normal human behavior. What’s not normal is the emergence of a populist madness on the American right that counts on the intimidation of the sensible many by the delusional few. This development threatens to turn a great republic into little more than a collection of unthinking and dangerous reflexes, its citizens like a school of fish aimlessly darting back and forth as they are lured by bait or chased by predators…

…That means it’s up to us to assert those norms and values in everything we do in our daily life. It means that citizens of good will must hold their ground, calmly and without reacting to the many bad-faith provocations thrown at them. It means linking arms with people with whom we disagree about almost everything, so long as we agree on the Constitution and our rights as citizens…
Tom Nichols, @TheAtlantic
...In his second year on the Court, Thomas said that he was “proudly and unapologetically irrelevant and anachronistic.” Almost thirty years later, he has become what conservatives of every era seek to be: anachronistic and relevant.

Under Thomas’s aegis, the Court now assumes a society of extraordinary violence and minimal liberty, with no hope of the state being able to provide security to its citizens. In his Bruen concurrence, Alito extends Thomas’s history of Reconstruction to all modern America: “Many people face a serious risk of lethal violence when they venture outside their homes.” Like the Black citizens of Reconstruction, he argues, few of us should expect the police to protect us. “The police cannot disarm every person who acquires a gun for use in criminal activity,” Alito writes, “nor can they provide bodyguard protection for [New York] State’s nearly 20 million residents.”

Once upon a time, Alito’s claims of systemic danger and state incapacity would have been dismissed as the rantings of a mountain survivalist. But, after decades of mass shootings, his assertion that the cops can’t protect you reads as a corollary to the left’s warning that the cops won’t protect you. What makes both beliefs plausible is the failed state that America has become, with no small amount of help from Thomas, the right-wing Court, and elected officials from both parties.

Today’s felt absence of physical security is the culmination of a decades-long war against social welfare. In the face of a state that won’t do anything about climate change, economic inequality, personal debt, voting rights, and women’s rights, it’s no wonder that an increasing portion of the population, across all races, genders, and beliefs, have determined that the best way to protect themselves, and their families, is by getting a gun. A society with no rights, no freedoms, except for those you claim yourself—this was always Thomas’s vision of the world. Now, for many Americans, it is the only one available. Corey Robin, the @NewYorker
Watching Justice Samuel Alito go spelunking in his Dobbs opinion through centuries of so-called history and tradition in search of legal justifications to overturn the right to abortion decided almost 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade was like watching a boy play in a pile of dirt. Where do I dig next, he seemed to be muttering to himself as he shoveled manure from a slave-era law in Virginia onto an 18th-century pile of garbage he quoted from some doofus who believed women were inferior beings. Clarence Thomas was right there behind him in his decision that New York can't prevent people from carrying concealed weapons, plowing through statutes from jolly old England and the American frontier to show that Dodge City didn't really mean it when they told cowboys they had to check their six-guns with the sheriff if they came into town.

And then along came Chief Justice Roberts as clean-up man, swinging the club of something known as the "major questions doctrine" to deny the Environmental Protection Agency its statutory authority to — duh — protect the environment unless Congress spells out exactly how they should do it. According to Roberts, it is Congress, not the EPA, that has to write a rule telling corporations they can't empty industrial waste directly into creeks, rivers or the ocean because it's a "major question" if it costs corporations a lot of money, so let's make it as hard as possible for the government to take a chunk out of our golf buddies' bottom lines…

All of this in service to their favorite doctrine of all — rights granted by the Constitution must be "deeply rooted in the nation's history and tradition" or they aren't really rights at all. Legal scholars have been predicting that the court will use its new jewel of a doctrine to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, not to mention other recent decisions recognizing rights under the privacy provision of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment … because we have no "history and tradition" of same-sex marriage or gay sex or rubbers or the pill, or anything else they simply don't like...
Lucian K. Truscott IV, @Salon