The dangerous falsehood that American schools still teach

The United States is as flawed as any other nation. These are collective statements of some historical and contemporary fact, and are not simply the citationless opinions of one person. And yet, to many, this is not only an opinion, but a nasty, hateful and unpatriotic one.

What those figures are calling "hate" for the United States is, in fact, nothing of the sort. These people are reacting adversely to the unadulterated history of our country, in all of the ways in which it has all played out, and continues to actively play out. This history, to be sure, is not always as brilliant and beautiful as they would like, but is dreadful and nasty, despicable and oftentimes hypocritical.

It does, however, all remain worth learning, considering and appraising. Only through understanding the truth of what has occurred, to the best of our abilities, can we navigate the world of which has been left to us by previous generations.

During the recent national, reactionary outcry regarding, among other things, their own perceived understanding of the legal concept of critical race theory, political and intellectual figures of modern conservatism have done and said all they can to censor history and the effective education of it. State officials across the country have mounted a relentless campaign to denounce, not only legal and historical theories of which they are woefully ignorant regarding, but educators and institutions of education for teaching children to analyze their own nation as critically as any other, or in the particular words of some, to "hate their country."

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This is among the most ludicrous of accusations that reactionaries in America have made in recent memory. If anything, it could very well be argued that, far from creating a disdain for the United States, public and private school history classes alike are massive manufactories of unquestioning and unthinking fervor and assent for the United States, its history and its historical and contemporary policies. Meanwhile, attacks on the "liberal" and "leftist" schools and universities of the nation are laughable, if for no other reason than that these alleged pits of Socialism and Communism, that are, in the case of the latter, understood to be generally more liberal or leftist, continue to team up to pump out relatively moderate liberal politicians on one hand, alongside rabidly reactionary, nearly illiberal politicians on the other.

That these reactionary figures and hyper-conservative politicians are attacking this system of education, essentially blaming it for its own losses and lack of electoral popularity, demonstrates just how unhinged they are, and how far from reasonable so many of them have grown to become. They cannot tolerate even the smallest levels of cognitive dissonance, impinging or intruding on their exceptional world view of America, both historically and, sometimes, presently.

To these individuals, only undying, unyielding fealty to the faults of this country's past constitutes a proper and patriotic individual or education. A person who brings up the most grotesque moments of this country's history is likely to be castigated, and in line to face an almost infinite amount of cynical, ill-informed and perfidious questions not only from the public, various media outlets and publications, but from friends, and family members, too.

In this vein, it seems, sadly, to be common sense, perhaps even common knowledge for many, that the United States is a "good" country, with relatively "good" allies, while other nations and powers of the world are considered, in juxtaposition, "bad" nations, who consistently get in the way of the wonderful, global innovations America is churning out. Somehow, apparently, the Trotskyite grade schools of the United States have failed to stifle this verbose nationalism, despite their alleged best attempts.

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No, when one hears a reactionary politician, public figure, or think tank state that they believe American exceptionalism should be taught in all schools, one cannot help but cringe. Far from needing to double down on narcissistic, self-aggrandizing nationalistic pseudo-history, America must further unshackle itself from this false, historically inaccurate and intellectually confining understanding and instead embrace the historical and practical reality of our national existence.

The United States, while full of positives, both historically, as well as contemporarily speaking, is, to use an analogy, but another house in the international community of nations, of which 194 other houses feature as well. In a community, a real community, everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows the wealthiest and the poorest, the pleasant and the unpleasant, the vain and humble as well as the good and bad that each house has produced over the years.

All of the houses in this particular community, on this particular planet, have made some dreadful mistakes at some time or another. While the mistakes themselves are often abhorrent, such as enslaving millions of human beings, genocidal ambitions in America, Ireland, Palestine, China, Ukraine, or much of Europe for that matter, the weaponization of starvation across the world or divvying entire continents up between distant family members, the common thread between them all is that in some manner all are guilty.

America in this way is actually as unexceptional as any other nation. It is a great and brilliant polity, with incredible material and political innovations across so many sectors of life across its own existence. Meanwhile, it is also plagued by historical travesties and modern blights for which it sometimes apologizes for or acknowledges, as a government or nation, while at other times, it simply doubles down on its own barbarism and indignance in the face of agony and anguish.

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The size and scope of these national mistakes, on the other hand, might be seriously considered the most exceptional part of this "exceptional nation." Ethnic cleansing and resettlement, slavery, segregation, forced sterilization campaigns, internment camps, racial prejudice, xenophobia and more, are all part of our short yet strangely accelerated history that has yet to even reach its 300th birthday. Again, while America is not the only nation to have committed acts of these types, it has certainly accomplished many of them, and in less time than it has taken many of its neighbors to as well.

America, therefore, must be taught about itself in an honest manner. The people and the greater society would benefit tremendously on the institutional level by teaching a history that is not so strictly divided into "US History" and "Global History," as though there is only us, a singular nation, and them, an amalgamation of any number of unknown peoples or nations, states or territories, speaking any number of unknown languages, while practicing unknown or unfamiliar customs. America must learn about the journey that this great project has gone through, and hear about the immense contributions of others so that it can collectively grow to understand not only how we shaped the world, but how the world and its people have shaped us.

The contributions of nations throughout the world to the American story makes telling that story without them tantamount to skipping everyone's dialogue in a novel with the exception of one character. Teaching America as exceptional, as with teaching any nation as more important than the rest, works to tear America and its people from the rest of humanity, invariably creating, as with the history that is taught to children, an "America" and an "everyone else."

Moreover, teaching the children of the United States biased history has some real domestic risks and dangers inherent to it as well. While the majority of the public continues to support the United States as something like "A global force for good", more and more Americans, with the access to news and information from across the globe, are coming to different conclusions, not because of the extreme leftist ideological bases of power that are allegedly driving schools, but because of, and thanks to, the intellectual bounty of which the internet can provide for wary, diligent researchers.

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At the same time, too, the internet can send people of any age who are convinced of the reality that they've read in their textbooks toward hyper-reactionary behavior and beliefs, in which America and "real" Americans themselves are fighting internal enemies of even more ferocity than any nation in Europe or Asia: the illegal immigrants who lurk behind every corner, the terrorists who hide behind each tree or light pole, the Black or brown people of the country, of whom are allegedly "replacing" white people, the strange and insidious LGBTQ community, and of course, the communistic American far-left that wishes to consistently enable all of this.

While those views are disgustingly and abjectly false, they demonstrate the danger, on the one hand, presented by teaching even a partially exceptional American history to children. They eventually grow up to be adults, where those perceptions of the United States can do real harm to the nation and to the greater international community itself.

On the other hand, however, when someone finds out that something they've been told over the course of their entire lives is not true, and worse still, that most everyone else has known it, the secondary reaction after frustration or anger usually ends up being the development of further questions, and therefore further research or education on those matters as well.

The masses of counter-reactionaries, many of them younger Millennials and members of Generation Z, grew up in the post-9/11 era of forever wars, wars on terror, wars on crime, and even wars on domestic civil liberties. These views have been molded, not exclusively by their schooling, but by their perceptions, their experiences and how all of it reconciles itself in their own minds and existences.

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While conservative "intellectuals" still believe educating Americans as though they are intrinsically or uniquely special relative to others might bind and keep the society bound more tightly together, they are woefully incorrect. Instead, it seems to create greater division within the already splintered American electorate, and sets many on their way towards extreme right-wing sentiments and conclusions, while making many others resent the propaganda that they feel has been unjustly taught to them under the label of US History.

Therefore, when we appraise our nation, we must do so without this personal and intimate indignancy, and instead take into consideration not only the good and the negative of which we as a nation have contributed to the greater international community of nations, but also the positives and the negatives of which the rest of the polities, young and old, alive and long dead, have contributed to us as well.

As the famous Mary Parker Follett said many, many years ago, "We are not wholly patriotic when we are working with all our heart for America merely; we are truly patriotic only when we are working also that America may take her place worthily and helpfully in the world of nations. … Interdependence is the keynote of the relations of nations as it is the keynote of the relations of individuals within nations."

The truth about the withdrawal from Afghanistan is hard for partisans to admit

The situation in Afghanistan deteriorated quickly over the weekend. The Taliban took control of its capital city last night. That co-op of regional warlords now has effective control of the country. The swift developments provide partisans here in the states plenty of reasons for being partisan. The Republicans are acting like the fall of Kabul is the same — politically, strategically, morally — as the fall of Saigon at the end of another forever war that had no point but cost us blood and treasure. Naturally, this puts the Democrats on the defensive. I'm no expert on military history. I'm no expert on international affairs. I do know, however, that partisanship often makes people say silly things.

I think it took a degree of courage for Joe Biden to end "the forever war." Decisions like this don't come without cost in every sense of the word. The president surely knew what was going to happen, though he probably could not have known how or how quickly it would. Given that uncertainty, it took courage. But contrary to what some liberals are saying in Biden's defense, I don't think it took that much courage.

I think instead it was a sound political calculation, like everything else. No matter how much money we pour into it, Afghanistan is just not in the mood, and may never be in the mood, to behave like a democratic nation-state. There is no such thing as "the national interest" in that country. (Even calling it a "country" is overstating things). There is no such thing as a moral belief in the fundamental equality between and among members of a political community dedicated to that very same national interest. Not even in theory. And that's not something you can buy. That "the president of Afghanistan" fled the country should be of no surprise after you understand that he was president on paper.

It's not possible for Joe Biden to have been the only president to have recognized that reality. He is the first to act on it, though. It's as if he said to himself one day: "Well, this isn't getting any better." Two decades is a long time. Memories of Sept. 11, 2001, have faded. Domestic politics, including the public-private interests of the military-industrial complex, is pretty much what kept past presidents from making the decision BIden made. It's said he's long been critical of "the forever war." He saw an opportunity. He took it. Does that take courage? Yes, to a degree. But let's not overstate the degree, please.

Democratic partisans will worry that saying such things makes the president vulnerable to partisan attacks, like the preposterous notion that he should be removed from office using the 25th amendment on account of Afghanistan's swift collapse. Democratic partisans need not worry so much. If there's one thing you can count on about politics inside the United States, it's that normal people don't care about politics outside the United States, unless it involves Americans.

That's another part of Biden's calculation, first brought to my attention by Hussein Ibish, who really does know what he's talking about when it comes to these things. If you know all the headlines are going to be bad, and I mean all of them, there's an ideal time of the year for them to influence public opinion. That's the "August doldrums." As Ibish said, August is when most people most of the time are doing something — anything — other than paying attention to politics. By the time we get to Labor Day, Ibish said, the whole political discourse will have reset. The president almost certainly made August the basis for his choice.

This is not to say the Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media apparatus, which is global in scale, won't milk every ounce of manufactured outrage from Biden's decision to pull out of Afghanistan. Some Senate Republicans who value their reputations as reasonable legislators will raise legitimate concerns about national security. Others will try shoehorning Afghanistan into the longer conservative story about liberal weakness in military affairs. Others will, well, they'll do what they always do. Get mad, foam at the mouth, etc. But unless an American dies in the process of evacuating embassy personnel out of Kabul, unless a marine is killed in the line of duty, all that will be more of the same partisan froth. The right-wing media apparatus is global in scale but it's no match for reliable American chauvinism.

Even if an American dies, this won't be a repeat of Benghazi. The Republicans won't be able to do to Biden what they did to Hillary Clinton, though they will try, I have no doubt, especially if they retake control of the House next year. But expecting the Republicans to act like partisans is expecting the sun to rise in the east. Whatever they do in the name of "national security," they will do it after having earned a reputation for being the party of insurrection, treason and domestic terrorism. Though he made a political calculation, the president is still trying to do the right thing with all the consequences of having tried doing the right thing. Partisanship can be silly. It can also be good.

The core problem with American democracy has deep historical roots

The covid pandemic has taught us a couple things I want to talk about. One is that public health policies are not important to lots of people that we share democracy with. If the choice is between being wrong about democracy and dying, we have proof that lots of people we share democracy with will choose dying. Two is that politics does not run on a track separate from public health policy. They are the same track.

New research by political scientists Julie VanDusky-Allen and Olga Shvetsova finds that states with GOP governors saw more cases of the covid and more deaths by the covid, whereas states with Democratic governors saw the opposite. You might think GOP governors would change their minds—about mask mandates, for instance—after seeing so much death, but don't bet on it. "Recent history suggests that in the next public health crisis, governments across the US may once again focus more on politics than on policies grounded in the best available science," VanDusky-Allen and Shvetsova wrote. "Experience also suggests that even when this leads to bad health outcomes, Americans aren't likely to rethink the partisan divide over health care."

The conventional wisdom, at least among liberals, is that we should keep politics out of public health policy. The thinking is we should get people to do what's good for them. That can't hurt, I suppose, but it won't solve the problem given that, you know, lots of people would rather die than give bureaucrats the satisfaction of being right. To get people to do what's good for them, you have to do more than say it's good for them. More important than public health policy are political attitudes toward democracy.

We tend to think of the United States as a place where life changes swiftly, and where we're too busy keeping up with the next new thing to bother thinking about what just happened. But political attitudes toward democracy probably have not changed much since the country was fully settled by white people, since state and local governments were first established. According to journalist Colin Woodard, regional attitudes toward democracy are consistent with the settlement patterns of Europeans. The similarities are so striking Woodard wrote a book about them a decade ago called American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

I use Woodard's book when I teach undergraduates how to understand American politics.1 It's reductive, but it's knowingly reductive. Woodard understands the weakness of boiling down United States geography and history into 11 neatly defined units. Even so, the scheme is useful, because it gives students, and I think normal people, a means of thinking about the country in ways they had not previously. When it comes to a pandemic that will probably kill before it's over more than a million Americans, Woodard helps us understand the question isn't whether politics should be involved in public health policy. It's whether the politics in question is good or bad.

Of the 11 "nations" in America, Woodard identifies two "superpowers." These are what he calls "Yankeedom" and "Deep South." Each has "the identity, mission and numbers to shape continental debate," Woodard wrote. "For more than 200 years, they've fought for control of the federal government and, in a sense, the nation's soul."

Over the decades, Deep South has become strongly allied with Greater Appalachia and Tidewater, and more tenuously with the Far West. Their combined agenda—to slash taxes, regulations, social services and federal powers—is opposed by a Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast.
Other nations, especially the Midlands and El Norte, often hold the swing vote, whether in a presidential election or a congressional battle over health-care reform. Those swing nations stand to play a decisive role on violence-related issues as well.

Don't worry about all those names. They are his inventions. Focus on "Yankeedom" and "Deep South." Here are the former's political qualities. Since the outset, it has "put great emphasis on perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good and assimilation of outsiders. It has prized education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment and broad citizen participation in politics and government, the latter seen as the public's shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants. Since the Puritans, it has been more comfortable with government regulation and public-sector social projects than many of the other nations, who regard the Yankee utopian streak with trepidation."2

Here are the latter's political qualities

Established by English slave lords from Barbados, Deep South was meant as a West Indies–style slave society. This nation offered a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor and consumer regulations.3

You'll notice something important by now. The first map showing more cases of the covid and more deaths by the covid in states run by Republican governors overlaps pretty well with the second map, Woodard's, showing where "Deep South" is and where its attitudes toward democracy prevail around the country. The more people think "democracy is the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many," the more people have been getting sick and dying. Importantly, they have been insisting on getting sick and dying because they would rather die than be wrong about what they believe. In order to save American democracy, we should de-southernize it.

That probably won't ever happen fully. The best we can hope for is showing just enough people in regions of the country that have been in alignment with white southern politics that maintaining that alignment is the road to suicide. The best we can hope for is showing them public health policy is not just good for them but "a shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants"—which is to say, a Republican Party bent on denying the will of the people. Public health policy can take us only so far. We have to meet bad politics with good politics.

I'm hopeful the combo of Donald Trump's presidency and the pandemic has rejiggered the national electorate so that El Norte or the Midlands or Tidewater (again Woodard's inventions) stops siding with white southern attitudes toward democracy and starts siding with attitudes privileging the greatest good for the greatest number. Perhaps then democracy will thrive—if and when we get through this damn pandemic.

Here's the real reason Kevin McCarthy wants to block the Jan. 6 commission

Imagine if, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Republicans in the United States House of Representatives said let's move on. The United States Congress need not investigate. Other agencies are already doing that work. There's no sense in duplicating efforts. There's no sense in being counterproductive. Anyway, an inquiry can't do much good unless it examines all forms of political violence. Sure, 3,000 people are dead, but a proposed bipartisan commission would just be more divisive.

That's right. You can't imagine that. It was not possible. So why is Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, coming out this morning against a similar proposal to investigate the January 6 sacking and looting of the United States Capitol? Not as many people died, of course, but the insurrection was worse than 9/11 in that it was an existential threat to the democratic faith, the Constitution and the republic itself. An attack worse than 9/11 deserves a bipartisan commission similar to 9/11's, right?

You'd think so, but McCarthy is shielding from scrutiny the man most responsible for planning, organizing and leading the insurgency. He's doing that because his party is clinging to a losing president like it's given up hope of returning to power through valid democratic means. Most people are paying attention to state-level Republicans squeezing electorates to prejudicial sizes. Less attention is being paid to terrorism as a Republican option. The takeaway to today's news should be the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, might've been tolerable had Osama bin Laden been a Republican.

Make no mistake. McCarthy's reasoning isn't persuasive. The Republicans pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012, during which four Americans were killed, with the goal of undermining trust in Hillary Clinton, who was then secretary of state. They spent millions to conclude she wasn't responsible. It might have been funny had their mission gone nowhere. But from those investigations came revelations that Clinton used a private email server to conduct official business, a scandal the Russians exploited in 2016 to sabotage her presidential candidacy.

I continue to believe, perhaps naively, that most Americans would choose democracy and loyalty without a second's reservation over treason and tyranny if the choice were clear to them. I suspect Kevin McCarthy believes this, too. That's why the GOP leader and (I have no doubt) nearly all the House Republicans will vote soon enough against a proposed commission to investigate the January 6 attack despite the fact that a whole bunch of them, including McCarthy, pushed for and launched dozens of investigations into the Benghazi attack of 2012. Standing in the way muddies the water, as it were. It prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice.

It does something else, though. It covers their asses. Kevin McCarthy and the rest of his conference must know any formal investigation into the terrorist attack of January 6 has a high likelihood of finding its way back to them. At the very least, it would remind people that most of the House GOP voted against counting electoral votes after the insurgency, as if indifferent to acts of domestic terrorism. It would remind voters all but 10 voted against impeaching the former president. They are, therefore, doing far more than shielding Donald Trump. They are shielding themselves. In this sense, the Republicans are involved in what can accurately be called a conspiracy of silence.

Again, I suspect Kevin McCarthy probably thinks standing in the way of a bipartisan investigation prevents Americans of good conscience from making a clear and patriotic choice. But it does the opposite. There's just no good reason to stand in the way unless you fear what the investigation is going to find. And if it appears that you fear what it's going to find, Americans of good conscience have good reason to put more of their faith in the party standing against terrorism than in the party seeming to think terrorism is an option in a democracy when all other democratic options have failed.

I said 9/11 might've been tolerable had Bin Laden been a Republican. I'm (mostly) kidding to make an ominous point. I think the Republicans are betting that most (white) Americans are as cynical as they are—that they have lost so much faith in American democracy, and what it's capable of producing for the betterment of all, that they are ready to stop believing in doing the right thing for its own sake. In this sense, terrorism isn't the problem. The problem is who's doing it. If it's Osama bin Laden, or other nonwhite people here and abroad, it's bad. If not, it's good, or at least defensible, because, I mean, let's be honest, those people would murder us all if they could. Instead of asking Americans to choose their values, the GOP is asking them to pick their poison. We have better options. The question is whether we see them clearly.

Mitch McConnell's fake outrage fails to conceal his own betrayal

After voting to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did something few were expecting.

He took to the Senate floor and explained why Trump was guilty.

"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," Mcconnell said. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."

It was a forceful, clear, and powerful speech, one that would have fit well among the many widely praised performances by the House impeachment managers. But rather than mitigating McConnell's vote to acquit, it only aggravated the wrong he had done by covering, once again, for Trump. In attempting to strike a balance between voting in Trump's favor and verbally condemning him, McConnell only made it crystal clear that he's just as guilty as the former president.

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. That was true. But on Feb. 13, McConnell — along with many but not all of his Senate Republican colleagues, 43 of whom voted to acquit — were derelict in their own duties to hold Trump accountable.

McConnell's dereliction and betrayal of his office, however, was unique. The excuse he gave for voting to acquit Trump was based on a technicality that he personally engineered.

He claimed the former president is "constitutionally not eligible for conviction," citing the argument made by Trump's lawyers that because the Senate trial occurred after Trump left office, it was improperly held. And he blamed the House of Representatives for this fact: "Donald Trump was the President when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking after McConnell's remarks, eagerly rebutted this claim: "When this distinguished group of House managers were gathered on Jan. 15 to deliver the articles of impeachment, we're told it could not be received because Mitch McConnell had shut down the Senate. And was going to keep it shut down until the inauguration."

She added: "It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the article of impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump."

McConnell even admitted as much in another part of his speech when he said: "The Senate was right not to entertain some light-speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction."

So he essentially acknowledged that it was his choice to force a situation in which he now claims that Trump can no longer be held accountable by Congress. His suggestion that it would've been a "light-speed sham process" to conduct a snap trial after the House passed the article of impeachment doesn't hold up. The House was able to vote quickly to approve the article on a bipartisan basis. McConnell himself said there is "no question" that Trump did what the House accused him of. In another portion of the speech, McConnell called the impeachment power an "intra-governmental safety valve" — an apt phrase. But the point is to use it, and it provides little safety if it can't be used swiftly in an emergency.

An impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding, so it doesn't need to have the traditional level of due process usually afforded by the courts. Congress can adapt its procedures based on the seriousness of the violation in question and the persuasiveness of the available evidence. And McConnell's remarks make clear: he thinks the evidence was decisive. Trump's behavior was "unconscionable," he said, and it threatened to "either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out."

So why not hold the trial immediately? McConnell just didn't want to convict, so he delayed instead. He then used the delay as an excuse to acquit.

The constitutional argument on its own is dubious, even if McConnell weren't the source of the technicality that enabled its use as a fig leaf. Most constitutional scholars reject it, including originalists and conservative thinkers McConnell supposedly adores. And though he argued vehemently in favor of his interpretation, McConnell even admitted the Constitution is "legitimately ambiguous" on the question of trying former officials. Given this admission, McConnell should have, by all rights, let the matter remain settled by the Senate's vote on the question, 56-44, finding that it did have jurisdiction to hold Trump's trial. Instead, despite having lost this vote, McConnell used this separate issue as his excuse for voting on another matter entirely: regardless of jurisdiction, was Trump guilty of the charges laid out in the article of impeachment?

McConnell's speech made quite clear he thinks Trump was guilty. But instead — against his own judgment, and arguably in violation of his own oaths — he declared Trump "not guilty" when the roll was called.

Were McConnell really so opposed to the trial that he thought he couldn't in good faith vote to convict, he could have chosen to abstain from the final vote. He could have even boycotted the proceedings, which would have made it easier for the managers to obtain a conviction — a conviction only requires two-thirds of the senators who are present. Instead of choosing these alternatives, McConnell took a dishonest vote.

These choices on McConnell's part show how hollow his devotion to the Constitution and his cries of outrage about the president's conduct really are. But it wasn't just the games he played around impeachment that should draw scrutiny. His actions prior to Jan. 6 showed he's just as derelict in his duty as the president was.

Even though McConnell on Saturday denounced the "growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth" for inspiring the violent Capitol mob, the Kentucky senator himself had already personally enabled it.

On Nov. 10, 2020, after media outlets correctly projected Joe Biden as the winner of the election, Trump had already declared victory and was launching a wave of frivolous lawsuits attempting to overturn the result. The then-sitting president's refusal to concede despite the clear evidence of his loss disturbed many of his critics, and some of us correctly saw even then that he was plotting a coup. We warned of potential violence.

But McConnell defended Trump's array of legal challenges, despite their clear lack of merit and their role in stoking conspiracy theories and distrust in the election result.

"Until the electoral college votes, anyone who's running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction," McConnell said on Nov. 10. "That's not unusual. That should not be alarming."

He added: "At some point here we'll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states. And the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20. No reason for alarm."

There was reason for alarm, and many of us were correctly alarmed. Not only did McConnell dismiss those legitimate fears, he was defending what he has since called on Saturday the "increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup."

McConnell did recognize Biden as the president-elect after the Electoral College voted in mid-December. But by then the damage was done. McConnell had enabled Trump to spin his election lies for more than a month, and the train was already on a course for disaster. Had McConnell, as the then-leader of the Senate, joined with Speaker Pelosi in congratulating Biden and assuring the country that his victory was settled as soon as the election result had become clear, Trump's doomed effort to stay in power might never have gotten off the ground.

Just as Trump's riling up of the mob on Jan. 6 foreseeably resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol, McConnell's decision to humor the president in November foreseeably gave rise to an insurrectionist movement.

And indeed, McConnell's dereliction of duty goes back even further. He led the Senate through Trump's first impeachment trial at the beginning of 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took over our lives. And he was upfront from the start that there was no way he and the Republican caucus he led were going to let Trump be convicted.

During that trial, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff made a passionate plea that Trump's attempt to induce Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was a gross abuse of power and an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election. And Schiff warned that if Trump wasn't convicted and removed, he would continue to put democracy at risk

"You can't trust this president to do the right thing," Schiff told the Senate. "Not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can't. He will not change and you know it."

But McConnell, along with nearly the rest of his caucus, refused to listen. Even as Democrats said over and over that Trump's crime needed to be punished by impeachment because it was a threat to democracy, McConnell said their objections could be solved at the ballot box.

"If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the President's re-election, they should go out and make it. Let them try to do what they failed to do three years ago and sell the American people on their vision for the country," McConnell said during the first impeachment trial.

It was a disingenuous response, and he knew better. There was a plain warning that Trump was dangerous and didn't care about democracy, but McConnell couldn't be moved. He helped keep Trump in office, only to let Trump attack democracy in a more overt, gruesome, and vicious way. The Capitol was stormed. More than a hundred officers were injured. Five people died during the attack, including one Capitol police officer. Two other cops who responded to the assault died by suicide in the following days.

McConnell correctly said that Trump is "practically and morally responsible" for the events of that day. That's true. But McConnell shares in the blame as well.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: "The Senate's decision does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day. It simply shows that Senators did what the former President failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first."

But this isn't correct. Like the former president, McConnell abandoned his duty to protect the Constitution and fulfill his oath of office. By letting Trump off the hook, once again, McConnell's just as negligent and derelict.

McConnell tried to deflect such accusations by saying others can hold Trump responsible: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

But he also said: "By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement."

That claim is up for debate, and many legal scholars disagree. But if McConnell is right, Trump isn't subject to be held accountable for the acts he spent the speech condemning. If it is true that Trump's acts, reprehensible as they were in McConnell's view, didn't technically violate the criminal law, it would only emphasize why it's so important that the Constitution provides a specific remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. Officials can abuse their power and authority in unique and dangerous ways, and that's why impeachment exists. Through McConnell's actions, the remedy has been vacated. And if Trump does end up criminally charged for his Jan. 6 conduct, his party and supporters would have been better prepared for that eventuality if the Senate had properly fulfilled its duty and delivered a resounding bipartisan vote for conviction.

Instead, Republicans want someone else to take responsibility for Trump.

And regardless of the criminal question, the gravity of Trump's violation demands a constitutional response. It would prevent Trump from even credibly threatening to run for office again and help the country move on. And it would close that dark and dangerous chapter, and potentially allow the Republican Party to move in a healthier direction.

But McConnell, like most of the GOP, is refusing to defend American democracy from a would-be tyrant. He let Trump run wild and tramble over American institutions, cheering him on at certain moments, averting his gaze at others, and eventually throwing up his hands in a feigned inability to use his power to respond as needed. And for that, the minority leader shares in the former president's guilt.

Here's how Senate Democrats can pass almost anything — without nuking the filibuster

Astute politics observers well know that the Senate filibuster—the Jim Crow relic that requires supermajority support to pass most legislation—is a major obstacle for any hopes that Democrats have of enacting Joe Biden's agenda and righting the country after four years of wicked misrule. But because a handful of Democratic senators (as well as all Republicans) oppose curtailing the rule—for now, at least—party leaders are pursuing an alternative route that will allow them to bypass the filibuster and pass major bills with just a simple majority.

It's called reconciliation, and it's a complicated beast. If you've heard about it, you may have read that it can only be used in a limited fashion. But that's simply not so. Democrats can actually use the reconciliation process for almost anything, including an increase to the minimum wage, a current topic of contention. What's more, in contrast with filibuster reform, they don't need unanimity from their caucus to proceed. A mere 41 votes will do the trick.

Congressional experts usually say that the person who decides what can and can't be included in a reconciliation package is the Senate parliamentarian, an appointed official who advises the chamber on matters of procedure. The key word there, though, is "advises": The presiding officer—that person who occupies the big chair atop the central dais you've seen on C-SPAN, either the vice president or a sitting senator—is free to reject that advice.

So what happens if Kamala Harris (or, if you like, Jon Ossoff) does exactly that? A Republican could object, but in order to sustain that objection—that is to say, in order to override the presiding officer's decision to rebuff the parliamentarian—it would take 60 votes. In other words, all 50 Republicans would need 10 Democrats to join them. There's little chance that would happen.

And it's been done before, in the service of promoting majority rule in the Senate. The last occasion arose in 1975, when a bipartisan coalition, led by Minnesota Democrat Walter Mondale, sought to reduce the threshold for ending a filibuster from two-thirds to three-fifths. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, paved the way for the proposal to move forward by declining the parliamentarian's advice in order to allow a key vote that would buttress reformers' arguments. While pro-filibuster senators staged a revolt after the vote succeeded, the dispute ultimately ended with the filibuster requirement getting lowered to today's familiar 60-vote benchmark.

The same approach can be deployed when dealing with constraining guidance from the parliamentarian regarding reconciliation, and Democrats have no reason to fear doing so. While Republicans will inevitably complain, voters don't care about procedure—they care about results. That's especially so when we're talking about popular legislation like a $15 minimum wage, which poll after poll has shown Americans support in massive numbers.

Some have in fact already called for the Senate to take this tack. "You don't have to override the parliamentarian or get a new parliamentarian," noted one expert on Senate procedure, a likely reference to the occasion when then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott fired parliamentarian Bob Dove in 2001 after Republicans grew frustrated with him. "Under the statute, it is the vice president who rules. It is the presiding officer who makes the decision. The parliamentarian advises on that question."

That's precisely right, and it's precisely the approach Democrats should take. And when Republicans howl, Democrats need only point out that the expert who advocated for a robust use of reconciliation was none other than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Josh Hawley blasted for sitting in Senate gallery 'with his feet up' and ignoring impeachment trial

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, the freshman Missouri Republican who has been accused of effectively being one of the leaders of the January 6 insurrection, is now being blasted for ignoring the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump for inciting that insurrection – a trial in which Senator Hawley has sworn to be an impartial juror.
Sen. Hawley is "sitting up in the gallery with his feet up on the seat in front of him, reviewing paperwork, throughout" the trial, NBC News' Garrett Haake reports.
Other reporters confirmed Haake's account:

CNN's Manu Raju reports Hawley told him, "I can basically see the back of their heads. But I sort of picked a spot where I can look right down on them, I can see the TV, and it's interesting."

Hawley appears to be violating his oath as an impartial juror by ignoring the Senate's conclusion, based on Tuesday's vote, that it does have jurisdiction to try Trump.

Hawley is being blasted.

Dems to show never-before-seen security footage proving 'just how close Trump’s mob came to senators': report

Democratic impeachment managers, fresh off Tuesday's resounding first day win, are expected to show another damning video on Wednesday that should prove Trump's MAGA insurrectionists came dangerously close to members of both houses of Congress on January 6. The new video "evidence being shown by Democratic House Impeachment Managers today is previously unseen security camera footage shot from inside the Capitol," PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

Alcindor adds that a Democratic "source says that the video will show 'just how close Trump's mob came to senators, members of Congress and staff.'"

U.S. Senators on Tuesday sat through a damning 13-minute video compilation of the events of January 6, video that went viral on social media and on news outlets across the country. Some Republicans, including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, reportedly looked away or were caught doodling rather than paying attention and being impartial jurors, a role they were sworn in to uphold.

America 'should be ashamed': Texas teen forced to use college savings to prevent mom's eviction

After Alondra Carmona, a high school senior in Houston, recently exhausted all of her college savings to prevent her unemployed mother from being evicted, one media outlet on Tuesday tried to portray it as an "act of kindness," but progressives are emphasizing that the all-too-common story is an indictment of a deeply unequal society reliant on private charity as a result of policymakers' failure to guarantee livable incomes, affordable housing and higher education, and more.

"In February of 2020, my mom broke her ankle and was not able to work," Carmona explained in a GoFundMe ad she created to support her family. "Come March, the coronavirus started, which added to the financial problems we already had. Today, I found out that my mom has not had a job for 3 months and hid it from us. She owes two months of rent and will most likely get evicted in March."

"All of my college savings will go to paying the rent that we are behind on," wrote Carmona. "As much as I dream of going to Barnard College, it is not looking promising right now. I am turning to this as a last resort because Barnard will not be able to change my financial aid package."

While the performance of Carmona's online fundraising page suggests there may be a happy ending in this particular instance for the Barnard-bound aspiring scientist, critics slammed ABC News 7 for framing the story as a heartwarming tale of generosity rather than an opportunity to reflect on society's failure to meet people's needs—especially, but not only, during a pandemic.

Critics asserted that Carmona's effort—though undoubtedly selfless—is a devastating expression of how ordinary people, left behind by a government that caters to the wealthy while workers fend for themselves in a market-fundamentalist rat-race, are forced to suffer and beg privately—typically not as successfully—amid worsening inequality made even more intense by the coronavirus crisis.

"This is a heartbreaking story and one our nation should be ashamed of," said Julián Castro. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also pointed out that if the federal government refuses to deliver adequate rent relief to Americans who "owe $70 billion in back rent that they won't be able to pay... there will be millions of stories like these."

Alan MacLeod, a sociologist and journalist, in 2019 published an article denouncing corporate media outlets for spinning "horrifying stories as... perseverance porn."

"Any of these stories could have been used to explore the pressing social and economic realities of being poor in the United States, and having to work for things considered fundamental rights in other countries," the media critic wrote in Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. "But instead they are presented as uplifting features, something only possible if we unquestionably accept the political and economic system."

MacLeod continued:

What these articles highlight so clearly is not only the grim, inhuman, and unnecessary conditions so many Americans are forced to live under, but the degree to which mainstream corporate journalists have completely internalized them as unremarkable, inevitable facts of life, rather than the consequences of decades of neoliberal policies that have robbed Americans of dignity and basic human rights. Because corporate media wholly accept and promote neoliberal, free-market doctrine, they are unable to see how what they see as "awesome" is actually a manifestation of late-capitalist dystopia.

As philosopher Ben Burgis argued in Jacobin in May 2020, rather than forcing people to convince strangers to help them on crowdfunding sites, the U.S. needs a strong welfare state funded through redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met.

"The scale of the current crisis casts the absurdity of relying on GoFundMe for these social needs into sharp relief," wrote Burgis. "It's as if we were living on an island about to be wiped out by a volcano and we were relying on a multitude of individual fundraisers, each jostling for attention, to purchase each individual boat or plane to be used in the evacuation."

"But it's even worse," he added. "The fact that anyone has ever needed to use GoFundMe to pay for things like rent or healthcare is a symptom of a social sickness far older than Covid-19."

Watch: Lead impeachment manager lays out how 'inciter-in-chief' Trump 'praised and encouraged and cultivated violence'

The Democrats' lead impeachment manager, Congressman Jaime Raskin of Maryland, opened Wednesday's Senate trial by focusing on the violence caused by the ex-president, Donald Trump, who he called the "Inciter in Chief."

"The evidence will show you that ex-president Trump was no bystander. The evidence will show that he clearly incited the January 6 insurrection. It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role of commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief," Raskin told the Senate.

"You will see during this trial a man who praised and encouraged and cultivated violence," Raskin said.

"'We have just begun to fight,' he says, more than a month after the election has taken place. And that's before the second million MAGA March, a rally that ended in serious violence and even the burning of a church."

"And as the President forecast it was only the beginning. On December 19, 18 days before January 6, he told his base about where the battle would be that they would fight next. January 6 would be 'wild' he promised, be there, 'will be wild,' said the President of the United States of America. And that too, turned out to be true, you'll see in the days that followed Donald Trump continued to aggressively promote January 6 to his followers."

"The event was scheduled at the protest at the precise time that Congress would be meeting in joint session to count the Electoral College votes, and to finalize the 2020 presidential election. In fact, in the days leading up to the attack you'll learn that there were countless social media posts, news stories, and most importantly credible reports from the FBI in Capitol Police that that 1000's gathering for the president save America March were violent organized with weapons and we're targeting the Capitol. This mob got organized so openly, because as they would later scream in these halls and as they posted on forums before the attack, they were sent here by the President. They were invited here by the President of the United States of America."


Swarming of Biden campaign bus in Texas could be a factor in Trump impeachment trial: report

Back in October, just days before the presidential election, a Biden-Harris campaign was forced to cancel an event after one of its buses was swarmed by a caravan of Trump supporters in central Texas. Now, that incident could play a key role in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

According to KXAN, the Texas incident could be used as an example of the violence Trump incited leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Although the incident happened months prior to the Capitol insurrection, the disturbing incident could be referenced as an example of how Trump's rhetoric has incited violence. The House trial memorandum details the incident and how it correlates with the violence that erupted on Capitol hill.

"October 30, when a caravan of his supporters in Texas attacked a bus full of Biden campaign workers, nearly running it off the road, President Trump tweeted a stylized video of the caravan and captioned it, 'I LOVE TEXAS!' Days later, he declared that 'these patriots'—who could easily have killed a busload of innocent campaign staff—'did nothing wrong,'" the House trial memorandum reads.

During an interview with the publication, Wendy Davis, a Democratic congressional candidate in Austin, Texas, recalled what it was like to be on the bus when that incident occurred.

"It was unnerving for everyone," Davis said on Tuesday. "I would hope that we never get numb enough to that kind of behavior that it's normal and that it's okay and, really, that's what this impeachment trial is about right now."

While some Republican lawmakers are in support of convicting Trump in the Senate, others like Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) argue the trial may be unconstitutional.

"I'm happy to listen to the evidence, but really more than the facts or what happened that night I'm concerned about the precedent that would set," Cornyn said. "If Democrats can do this to a Republican president after he's left office, that means Republicans can do it to a Democratic president after they've left office. That strikes me as a bad outcome."

So what will the impeachment trial mean for Trump's future in politics? If he is convicted, he will be barred from holding public office in the future. Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor in Houston, believes there will be a number of Republicans who will vote in favor of Trump's impeachment. However, many others, like Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) likely will not.

"They're both Republicans in a state where Ted Cruz needs to have that success and John Cornyn just had some success so they both need to be able to follow the Trump model, at least a little bit," said the University of Houston professor. "This is a test of the Republican party unity and, by all accounts, they're going to stay together."

Even Trump's biggest Fox News cheerleaders think his impeachment lawyers are doing a terrible job

Donald Trump's lawyers put forth such a flimflam argument to open the Senate's impeachment trial that his biggest sycophants in the right-wing media didn't even bother trying to spin in the disastrous first day.

On Wednesday, Sean Hannity pressed Trump lawyer David Schoen on his team's performance. "I'm not attacking your partner. I don't know him at all, but I like focused arguments."

As Hannity's show closed, Ingraham told her colleague that she was glad to see him press Schoen on Castor's argument.

"Yeah, a little meandering, a little free-associate..." Hannity said of Castor's cringeworthy defense.

Ingraham cut him off. "It was terrible. I'm sorry, it was," she said to Hannity. "You're way too charitable. If you hired that guy in a case that you were paying the bills on, it woulda been like..."

Hannity admitted that he was "a little nervous" at the beginning of Castor's defense.

"How much time can he spend praising the democrats?" Ingraham asked. "The whole thing was, like, a walk down memory lane."

"Sorry," Ingraham continued, "I'm pretty worked up about given what's at stake for the Constitution and the country."

On "Fox & Friends" the next morning, co-host Brian Kilmeade offered a similarly dissatisfied review.

"These are not helpful things that was happening on the president's behalf," Kilmeade spoke for the former president who has gone curiously silent since being booted from Twitter. "You wouldn't blame him if he was upset, but it might've been the president's fault for firing his other attorneys that were doing all the preparing."

Miami Herald editorial board slams Florida's 'racist legislative proposal': Worse than Stand Your Ground

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature have been aggressively promoting House Bill 1, a stand-your-ground proposal being described by some Floridians as the "Combating Public Disorder Bill." The Miami Herald's editorial board slams the law in a blistering editorial published on February 10, arguing that HB1 isn't about public safety, but racial fear-mongering.

"Proponents of Florida's proposed 'Combating Public Disorder' law are spinning it as a reaction to the violent mobs that stormed the nation's Capitol on January 6 to try to reverse the results of the presidential election," the Herald's editorial board explains. "But don't be fooled. House Bill 1, a priority of the Republican leadership in Tallahassee, is redundant, racist and totally political. It's aimed at Black Lives Matter and will make it dangerous for the movement's supporters to take to the streets, however peacefully."

DeSantis first proposed such a bill in September — well before the January 6 insurrection. Micah Kubic, executive director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, has denounced HB1 as authoritarian and "problematic from beginning to end," and the Herald's editorial board concurs.

"Florida already has laws that punish violence, theft, burglary and vandalism committed at protests," the Herald's editorial board notes. "Last year, protests in the Sunshine State mostly were peaceful. But HB 1 would impose harsher sentences if those crimes are committed during participation in a 'riot" or 'unlawful assembly,' which are loosely defined in the bill. The proposal also would make it a third-degree felony to cause $200 or more in damage to a monument — by that, read Confederate monument — and would create a slew of new crimes."

The editorial board adds, "It would fill up jails by ordering that those deemed as rioters be detained with no bond until a first-appearance hearing. Worse, it lets vigilantes and counter protesters who injure or kill those considered rioters escape liability in a civil lawsuit. Kyle Rittenhouse, anyone?"

The Herald, in its editorial, also cites examples of law enforcement dealing with far-right extremists much less harshly than Black Lives Matter. In New Port Richey, Florida, for example, BLM activists got into a verbal confrontation with members of the Proud Boys in 2020 — and only BLM activists were cited for violating an anti-noise ordinance. Members of the Proud Boys were among the violent extremists who, along with QAnon sympathizers and members of various militia groups, were among the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6.

"HB 1 won't stop bad actors determined to cause mayhem," the Herald's editorial board argues. "It will create bad actors, then let them off the hook. Like Stand Your Ground, it will have deadly consequences — and as history has shown, Black and Brown people will likely pay the price."

Forensic research group confirms Capitol attack was not spontaneous

According to a report published by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was the "direct result of a months-long effort rooted in disinformation" that was "promoted by President Donald Trump."

The group has put together a comprehensive timeline that shows how the movement was "coordinated by some of his most fervent, conspiratorial supporters; and incorporating a wide range of supporting groups."

The research article, published at Just Security, uses material posted "in plain sight" on online platforms which were designed to convince people of falsehoods about the 2020 elections. The disinformation campaign centered around the "Stop the Steal" movement, which hosted a rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the violence at the Capitol.

"The Stop the Steal movement was far from monolithic, though, and included groups across a spectrum of radicalization: hyperpartisan pro-Trump activists and media outlets; the neo-fascist Proud Boys, a group with chapters committed to racism and the promotion of street violence; unlawful militias from around the country with a high degree of command and control, including the so-called Three Percenters movement; adherents to the collective delusion of QAnon; individuals identifying with the Boogaloo Bois, a loosely organized anti-government group that has called for a second civil war; and ideological fellow travelers of the far-right, who wanted to witness something they believed would be spectacular," the report states.

According to the report, the binding ingredients that brought these groups together was conspiracy theories about the 2020 election coupled with cult-like support for Trump.

Read the full report over at Just Security.

People with dementia are twice as likely to contract COVID-19: study

Recently, scientists have discovered peculiar connections between neurological conditions and COVID-19 risk. We know that there is a heightened risk of dying of COVID-19 complications for those with schizophrenia. Now, this week comes a new study which finds that people with dementia are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 as those without the deadly cognitive disease.

The study, which was mainly written by researchers from Case Western University and published on Tuesday in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, analyzed electronic health record data for nearly 62 million Americans adults.

"Currently, there is little if any quantitative analysis of the risks and outcomes for COVID‐19 in individuals with [Alzheimer's disease] or dementia in the United States," the authors explained.

But what accounts for the connection between contracting COVID-19 and dementia? The answer may lie in the relationship between the brain and the body.

Indeed, researchers hypothesized that, because individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia experience damage to the blood-brain barrier, they may be more susceptible to COVID-19 — just as they are to other diseases. In addition, they speculated that patients with dementia might struggle to follow public health guidelines to prevent transmission such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

Researchers also wanted to test whether patients with dementia who were infected with COVID-19 were at a higher risk of dying, noting that "SARS‐CoV2 has also been shown to affect the brain directly with reports of encephalitis, thrombotic events, and brain invasion."

The researchers found that patients with dementia were both more likely to develop COVID-19 and were more likely to suffer severe adverse effects after being infected with the novel coronavirus. Although only 25% of the overall number of patients studied in the article were hospitalized due to COVID-19, 59% of those with dementia had to be hospitalized. Similarly, although only 5% of the overall number of patients died as a result of COVID-19, that number quadrupled to 20% among those who had dementia.

The authors also noted a racial disparity. Among black patients with dementia who contracted COVID-19, a staggering 73% had to be hospitalized and 23% ultimately passed away, compared to 53% of white patients with dementia and COVID-19 being hospitalized and 19% of white patients dying.

This is the second recent study to draw attention to the vulnerability of mentally ill individuals to COVID-19. As alluded to, earlier this month a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that individuals on the schizophrenia spectrum were almost three times as likely to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

"In the first month and a half after COVID diagnosis, patients with schizophrenia as compared to patients without psychiatric disorders were roughly two-and-a-half times more likely to die," Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told Salon by email about the study. "An increased mortality risk was not found for patients with mood or anxiety, two common less severe conditions."

Experts also anticipate that there will be lingering psychological trauma caused by the pandemic, with the lockdowns and fear of death altering human behavior long after the plague itself has passed.

"This will take generations to get past," Dr. David Reiss, psychiatrist in private practice and expert in mental fitness evaluations, told Salon last month. "And that's because at every stage of development, things have been disrupted."

Nearly 60 percent of Capitol riot arrestees have something in common — a history of financial problems: analysis

More than 200 people are facing federal criminal charges for their alleged roles in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. And according to Washington Post reporter Todd C. Frankel, many of them have something in common: a history of financial problems.

"Nearly 60% of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records for 125 defendants with sufficient information to detail their financial histories," Frankel reports. "The group's bankruptcy rate, 18%, was nearly twice as high as that of the American public, the Post found. A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And one in five of them faced losing their home at one point, according to court filings."

On January 6, a violent mob of far-right extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in the hope of preventing Congress from certifying the Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. But the certification was only delayed, not prevented. And two weeks later, on January 20, Biden was sworn in as president of the United States — and former Sen. Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.

Although President Biden and Vice President Harris are centrist Democrats, they are more liberal on economic issues than Trump — who fought aggressively to abolish the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, and favored corporate tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest Americans but did precious little for the United States' working class. And yet, the January 6 insurrectionists were willing to resort to violence in the hope of keeping them out of the White House. Trump ran on a pseudo-populist platform, insisting that he was the working class' greatest friend and ally — and his MAGA base bought into it.

According to Frankel, the "financial problems" of so many January 6 rioters "are revealing because they offer potential clues for understanding why so many Trump supporters — many with professional careers and few with violent criminal histories — were willing to participate in an attack egged on by the president's rhetoric painting him and his supporters as undeserving victims."

Frankel explains, "While no single factor explains why someone decided to join in, experts say, Donald Trump and his brand of grievance politics tapped into something that resonated with the hundreds of people who descended on the Capitol in a historic burst of violence."

The Post discussed its findings with Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

"I think what you're finding is more than just economic insecurity, but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation," Miller-Idriss told the Post. "And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day."

Frankel notes that the January 6 rioters include not only people who presently have financial problems, but also, those who did in the past.

"The financial missteps by defendants in the attempted insurrection ranged from small debts of a few thousand dollars more than a decade ago to unpaid tax bills of $400,000 and homes facing foreclosure in recent years," Frankel notes. "Some of these people seemed to have regained their financial footing, but many of them once stood close to the edge."

One such person, according to Frankel, is 50-year-old Jenna Ryan, a Texas-based real estate agent who filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was still paying off a $37,000 lien for unpaid federal taxes when she was arrested in connection with the January 6 riot. Ryan, who is now facing federal charges, told the Post, "I bought into a lie, and the lie is the lie — and it's embarrassing. I regret everything."

Ryan, Frankel notes, "had nearly lost everything, and the stakes seemed similarly high to her when she came to Washington in early January. She fully believed Trump's false claims that the election was stolen and that he was going to save the country."

The Post also interviewed Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. Haider-Markel told the Post, "It's hard to ignore, with a Trump presidency, that message that 'the America you knew and loved is going away, and I'm going to protect it.' They feel, at a minimum, that they're under threat."

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Palm Beach officials mull evicting Trump from Mar-a-Lago as his second impeachment trial begins

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., kicked off former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, officials in Palm Beach, Fla., mulled over evicting him from his luxury golf resort Mar-a-Lago.

According to The Washington Post, a group of Florida lawmakers discussed a possibility that could lead to serious consequences for Trump — whether or not he has violated community guidelines he vowed to uphold. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Palm Beach town council held a virtual meeting where they discussed if Trump should be allowed to continue living at the luxury golf club.

Since Trump departed Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, he has been residing at the national historic landmark where he is reportedly "licking his wounds" after losing his presidential bid for a second term in the White House. While the golf resort is befitting for relaxation, there is a clause in the 1993 agreement he signed with the town that could prohibit Trump from living there. Neighbors near Mar-a-Lago argue that the agreement bars the former president from making the golf community his permanent residence.

Business Insider previously reported:

"The neighbors say that a 1993 agreement converting the site from a private residence into a members' club prevents the former president or anyone else from living there for more than three times a year for up to a week each time."

While some of the town council members have argued that Trump should abide by the terms of the agreement, others insist there is no reason why he cannot live there.

"It seems there is nothing … that would prohibit him from living in the owner's suite," Palm Beach Town Council President Margaret A. Zeidman said during the virtual meeting, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Zeidman's remarks come just one month after Palm Beach attorney John C. Randolph also argued that Trump could legally live at Mar-a-lago as he referred to the golf community's living quarters for employees, according to People magazine.

"Pointing to the town's zoning code, which Randolph said allows that "a private club may provide living quarters for bona fide employees only," he said that an employee of a private club is defined as "any person generally working on site for the establishment ... and includes sole proprietors [and other owners]."

Randolph said, "I have been advised that former President Trump is indeed an employee under this definition."

This bizarre conspiracy theory is why QAnon believers are predicting Trump’s return on March 4th

On CNN Wednesday, "QAnon Anonymous" podcast host Julian Feeld explained the strange new conspiracy theory that Trump will be re-inaugurated on March 4th as the "19th president" of the "restored" United States — and how it ties into long-standing "sovereign citizen" beliefs that the United States has been an illegitimate government for over a century.

"Can you explain the convoluted conspiracy theory that has begun to take hold that involved March 4th?" asked anchor Alisyn Camerota. "What are they expecting to happen on March 4th?"

"The March 4th theory actually comes from sovereign citizen beliefs," said Feeld. "Now in the past, we haven't seen such a huge overlap, but in this case, QAnon — certain QAnon followers have borrowed whole cloth from a belief that the last legitimate president was the 18th president, so this goes back to 1871, and this is the belief that Trump will be actually inaugurated as our 19th president."

"Now, of course, this is illogical since he was the 45th, but what they believe is that there is — there has been no country known as the United States ever since it was unstuck from the gold standard and they don't believe that any amendment past the 16th Amendment is valid," said Feeld. "They essentially believe that Ulysses S. Grant was the last American — valid American president. They believe — I mean, I think there's different beliefs, obviously, of what will happen on that day, but I think many are expecting a ceremony, and that ceremony may be accompanied in their mind by what QAnon believers called 'The Storm.' That would be, you know, as described a little earlier on the segment, the rounding up and often military tribunals, you know, for leading Democrats, but also some celebrities they believe falsely to be part of this pedophile cabal."

"So essentially people are still in this belief that Trump will come back and will become the president again. Obviously, falsely," he added.

Watch below:

Julian Feeld explains new QAnon/sovereign citizen conspiracy

Georgia officially launches investigation into Trump's demand for election official to 'find' votes for him

Georgia is among the battleground states where Donald Trump and his allies vigorously fought the Electoral College victory of Now-President Joe Biden. But despite tremendous pressure from Trump and his supporters, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, wouldn't budge — maintaining that Biden won the southeastern state fair and square. And now, journalist Chris Walker reports in Truthout, Raffensperger's office is launching an inquiry into Trump's underhanded efforts to have Georgia's presidential election results thrown out.

"The former chief executive, in trying to overturn the outcome of several state elections in order to remain in office, made a number of calls to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January, seeking to pressure officials to respond to his unfounded complaints," Walker explains. "Raffensperger's office recorded these conversations, perhaps knowing that the secretary of state might have a need for a record of them in order to challenge any contradictory comments from Trump later on. During the calls, Trump urged Raffensperger to 'find' votes for him, alleging, without evidence, that fraud in the presidential election within the state resulted in his loss to President Joe Biden."

In an official statement, Walter Jones — a spokesman for Raffensperger's office — noted, "The Secretary of State's office investigates complaints it receives. The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature. Any further legal efforts will be left to the attorney general."

After Raffensperger's office finishes its probe, the Georgia Election Board will decide whether or not to make a criminal referral to the Georgia Attorney General's Office. And at the county level, Walker notes, district attorneys can opt to pursue criminal charges against Trump if they believe they are appropriate.

Fulton County DA Fani Willis has described Trump's conversation with Raffensperger as "disturbing" and said she will pursue a criminal case against the former president if one is referred to her. Fulton County includes Atlanta, a Democratic stronghold in what was once a deep red state but has evolved into a swing state.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, considers Trump's efforts to pressure Raffensperger problematic and told Politico, "The president asked, in no uncertain terms, the secretary of state to invent votes, to create votes that were not there."

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