DailyKos

Jan. 6 committee interviews ex-aide who claims 'Trump was framed' for insurrection

Jason Funes, a Jan. 6 rally organizer and former aide to President Trump who insists that Trump was framed for the insurrection at the Capitol, has been interviewed by the Jan. 6 Committee.

NBC News was first to report the development Thursday. Funes does not appear to have been formally subpoenaed. In December, when his mother received a letter from the committee notifying her that it had subpoenaed Verizon for her son’s phone records, Funes told CNN he was outraged. He would have been a “willing witness” and wished investigators contacted him directly, he said.

Funes did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Thursday.

Arriving on the 2020 Trump campaign after a stint as a special assistant to Trump’s ethics-rules abusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Funes joined the ranks of ‘Stop the Steal’ and Women for America First organizers that were readying themselves for the pro-Trump events at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

In November, Funes did an interview with Gail Golec. Golec describes herself as an “all-American Entrepreneur, Christian Conservative, Citizen Journalist, and a Constitutionalist” on her campaign website for the Maricopa County Board Supervisors in Arizona. In their interview, Funes claimed that the rioting at the U.S. Capitol was effectively orchestrated by right-wing activist and ‘Stop the Steal’ movement leader Ali Alexander and InfoWars host Alex Jones.

Alexander and Jones “attracted attention to the U.S. Capitol building, yelling that they had a permitted event and to come to the event but Jones trapped everyone to come to the Capitol building steps and create more chaos to steal the election from Trump as opposed to stopping it,” Funes said in November. “

Posts on his Twitter account, where Funes labels himself as “Latino MAGA Man” are littered with allegations that Jan. 6 was a “staged coup” intended to frame Trump. Funes has outwardly aligned himself on Twitter against other Trump world or supporting figures like Roger Stone, Nick Fuentes, and Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio, to name a few.

In the last week, Funes tagged Republican lawmakers like Reps. Jim Jordan, Jim Banks, and Senator Josh Hawley with messages like, “Not all #J6 prisoners are created equal. Fake Trump supporters created violence, Trump was framed.”

All of the lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 election results and both Jordan and Banks serve on a Republican-controlled Jan. 6 shadow committee.

Investigators are likely far more interested in having Funes field questions about his role helping to organize pro-Trump rallies rather than his easily-debunked conspiracy theory that Trump was “framed” for the insurrection.

Funes has historically pushed blame for the violence that day on Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist activists despite having no proof of their involvement beyond backing of the claim from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have confirmed there was no participation by either BLM or antifa activists in the Capitol attack though that has not stopped the former president or his lackeys from promoting the theory anyway.

In a Twitter post on Thursday after news broke that he met with investigators, Funes wrote: “The first victim of every war is the TRUTH!!” [Emphasis original] and in light of the burgeoning aggression from Russia against Ukraine, he called “foreign wars” a distraction, put the blame on President Joe Biden, and called the Jan. 6 probe crooked.

Funes has also claimed that Jacob Chansley, the so-called “Q-Anon Shaman” who stormed the Capitol, has been unfairly prosecuted.

“Jacob Chansley was the Lee Harvey Oswald of January 6,” Funes said last November.

'It’s a huge scam': Trump is using political donations to prop up Trump Tower

While my writing ordinarily focuses on McDonaldland characters locked in a stunning array of ill-considered Kama Sutra positions, my second-favorite topic is likely Donald Trump and his infinite scams.

The dude oozes dishonesty—and God knows what else. Which, of course, means he never stops grifting. It’s his default setting.

The latest? He’s using his donors’ money to “fill” one of the empty office spaces in his eponymous Manhattan tower. Because his cult followers’ naiveté is bottomless and his appetite for fraud is inexhaustible, Trump is hoovering up another $375,000 in political cash to feather his filthy nest. And that money is supposedly going to rent office space in the building, even though his political action committees are all located in Florida.

HuffPost:

“It’s a huge scam,” said one former aide with direct knowledge of Trump’s political spending. “I can’t believe his base lets him get away with it.”
The ex-aide’s assertion was confirmed by a Trump Tower employee who screens traffic to offices above the floors that are open to visitors. When asked for permission to visit Trump’s political office recently, the employee told HuffPost that Save America and its related entities did not have offices there.

A huge scam? Trump? Next you’ll tell me the guy masturbating on our front lawn on Christmas Eve 1971 wasn’t really Santa Claus.

According to HuffPost, Trump’s Make America Great Again PAC spent $37,541.67 in each of 10 months during 2021 to rent space at Trump Tower. It was the same amount his campaign spent on rent from 2017 through 2020—a period during which his campaign was actually based in northern Virginia.

In all those months, there was at most one person who periodically visited the 7,000-square-foot office in Trump Tower, the former aide said. But Trump insisted on having the campaign continue renting there ― as it had during the 2016 election ― because the building was having trouble finding tenants, he said. “They knew they couldn’t lose that money because the building is hurting so bad.”

Hmm, Donald Trump grifting his witless followers. Where have I heard that before?

Years ago, Trump attempted to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Every day I curse the gods who prevented that from happening. Why couldn’t he have focused his energies on destroying the National Football League instead of the entire country?

Oh, I know why. Because purchasing the Bills might have required him to release his tax returns. Apparently, the POTUS gig isn’t nearly important enough to require such trifles.

GOP’s internal battle over Jan. 6 poises Republicans to tear each other limb from limb in primaries

As Democrats warily eyed a tight Virginia gubernatorial race last fall, one key hope was that Donald Trump’s faithful would stay home the way they had in Georgia’s Senate runoffs in early 2021, delivering two precious seats and the chamber’s majority to Democrats.

But in Virginia, that turned out to be a false hope as Trumpers swarmed the polls, becoming a key part of a coalition that helped lift Republican Glenn Youngkin to victory.

Whether that same enthusiasm will carry Republicans to victory in November remains to be seen. But one big difference between Youngkin’s candidacy and the upcoming bids of other Republicans is the fact that Youngkin never faced a bitter primary. He was effectively chosen to run and then installed by the party apparatus, therefore avoiding what could have been a bitterly divisive primary in which Republicans shredded each other and turned off core parts of their base.

The fact that Youngkin neither had to claim a lane nor malign someone to his right or left gave him a lot of room to maneuver in the general election, thereby sidestepping the impossible choice of seeming sane enough to win over suburban voters or radical enough to inspire Trump’s cultists. On top of that, Youngkin also benefitted from having no history in public service and no corresponding voting record to defend. In other words, he was a blank slate, and that undoubtedly helped his ability to build a permission structure for both suburbanites and Trumpers alike to vote for him.

But on the Trump side of that equation, Youngkin needed only to avoid saying something that was completely disqualifying. Far from being demoralized, Trump voters turned out to be highly motivated. As GOP strategist and never-Trumper Sarah Longwell noted in one of her Focus Group podcasts last fall, Trump voters in Virginia were on a “revenge tour.” They couldn’t wait to get to the polls and vote in such large numbers that the election couldn’t possibly be “stolen” from them (falsely believing that 2020 had been).

One factor that might curb that enthusiasm next fall is for Republicans to field a series of primaries this spring and summer in which pro-Trump candidates and establishment Republicans grind down each other and their supporters until they’re barely a nub of their former selves.

The very public Republican row this week over the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, whether it was “legitimate” or rather a violent insurrection,” and who exactly speaks for the Republican Party and its base previewed the fact that an epic intra-party battle is brewing that could depress a sliver of GOP voters is indeed in the offing.

As the New York Times reported:

Republican voters’ appetite for Trump-inspired talk of election audits and voting irregularities will be measured in contests throughout the spring and summer — in primaries for Senate in Alaska and North Carolina, for governor in Georgia and Arizona, as well as in dozens of congressional and state legislative races.

The races that could compound that internal disruption within the GOP are those taking place in states that will also be hosting high-profile Senate races, such as in Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection.

In Wisconsin, Timothy Ramthun, a state assemblyman who has been one of the state’s most aggressive promoters of election conspiracies, is expected to announce his campaign for governor on Saturday. On Wednesday night, he briefly published a website in which he pledged to conduct “an independent full forensic physical cyber audit” of the 2022 election — win or lose.

Trump’s base surely loves that promise, but swing voters who Democrats badly need to survive the worst this fall? Not so much.

Republican primaries for governor in Arizona and Georgia also promise to bleed over into important Senate races in those two states. The bid of former Republican Senator David Perdue to unseat sitting GOP Gov. Brian Kemp is already forcing bitter divisions in the state.

All of these rivalries that play out in critical swing state races are welcome developments that, in the best of all possible worlds, will confound GOP efforts at both the state and federal levels.

The conflict that broke out this week between the Trump and McConnell wings of the Republican Party—and the attendant hostilities—are a sign that the Republican Party is ripe for managing to alienate critical factions of voters that it must win over to retake the House and Senate in November, not to mention locking up governorships in key swing states in both the Rustbelt and Sunbelt.

The media is due for a heavy dose of accountability

Donald Trump went into the 2020 election with some of the worst approval ratings on record for a sitting president. He made virtually no effort to appeal to those who didn’t vote for him. How was he able to remain standing, and how did he even potentially have a chance at a second term even if he lost the popular vote? One big reason is that he and his acolytes had convinced their base that the media can’t be trusted.

As we know by now, whenever the media aired even mildly critical coverage of Trump or those who were supposedly helping him make America great again, the response on the right was some variation of “(noun) (verb) fake news!” Indeed, it’s almost an article of faith among the Republican base that the media can’t be trusted.

If your news diet consists of the likes of Fox News, Newsmax, right-wing social media, and Christian conservative outlets, you probably think that when the mainstream media isn’t making things up, it’s crossing lines that should never be crossed in order. But there’s one problem—with few exceptions, it’s right-wing media that engages in that very behavior. And while some of those elements are finally answering for the worst of their sins, others are long overdue for a dose of accountability.

Contrary to what Trump and his diehards would have us think, whenever mainstream media outlets make a mistake, those mistakes are usually corrected fairly quickly once caught. A case in point was a 2017 editorial in The New York Times that held 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin partly responsible for a grisly 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The Old Grey Lady’s editorial board claimed that just days before the shooting, Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that placed stylized crosshairs on the districts of 19 Democratic House members. The implication was clear—that map was a big reason why one of those lawmakers, then-Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, nearly died that day.

That claim was slammed on all sides of the aisle, prompting the Times to partly retract the editorial within five hours of it going online. All of the inaccurate information was retracted within two days. Despite this, Palin sued the Times for defamation. As near as can be determined, Palin is suing because she didn’t just want the Times to retract, but to grovel. The suit was due to go to trial in late January, but was pushed back to early February after the rabidly anti-vaccine Palin caught COVID-19.

Palin faces tough sledding under current precedent for libel and defamation suits. As a public figure, she would have to prove that when the editorial board greenlighted the initial version of the editorial, it did so acting with actual malice. That is, Palin would have to convince a jury that the editorial board either knew the story was false or published it with reckless disregard for whether it was true or false. Remember, the statements at issue were retracted in almost no time at all in modern media terms. Her only chance of winning is to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court in hopes of making it easier for public figures to win libel suits.

As it currently stands, Palin’s suit betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how media outlets with actual standards work. Indeed, the Times’ quick retraction stands in marked contrast to the behavior of celebrity gossip blog Gawker. In March 2016, Gawker was effectively forced out of business when it was ordered to cough up $140 million in damages to pro wrestler Hulk Hogan for posting a clip of a sex tape of Hogan. While its sister sites (such as sports culture blog Deadspin, tech blog Gizmodo, and feminist blog Jezebel) were sold to Univision at a bankruptcy auction, Gawker itself was shut down that August. Ultimately, Gawker settled with Hogan for $31 million that November.

A number of observers slammed the verdict for its potential chilling effect on freedom of the press, especially after billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel revealed that he had bankrolled the suit. Thiel openly admitted that he wanted to punish Gawker after its now-defunct tech gossip sister, Valleywag, outed him as gay in 2007. Indeed, in a post-mortem about Gawker on its last day of business, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik observed that Thiel’s involvement in Hogan’s suit against Gawker portended “ugly implications for press freedom in light of adversaries with nearly infinite resources.”

At its peak in 2015, Gawker had over 23 million visits per month, making it one of the most visited sites in the world. With that level of popularity, it’s only fair to wonder—why was no one willing to ride to Gawker’s rescue? Granted, potential buyers might have been skittish about having to deal with the massive legal headache of a lawsuit bankrolled by a billionaire. But surely someone with the wherewithal to withstand Thiel’s resources would have rescued Gawker solely on the principle of defending freedom of the press, right?

By then, however, Gawker had lost a lot of goodwill as a result of two instances where its disregard for standards dating back to the days of typewriters and leaflets was exposed for all to see. In 2015, Gawker ran an article that claimed Conde Nast Chief Financial Officer David Geithner, the brother of President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, was being extorted by a gay porn star and male escort. As the story goes, when Geithner reneged on a deal to meet up with the porn star on a trip to Chicago, the escort went to Gawker and offered to tell all. He supplied copies of text exchanges between himself and Geithner and a selfie that Geithner supposedly sent him.

When the story went live, the criticism came in hard, fast, and from all directions. Most of the detractors argued that it served no public interest to even imply that Geithner was gay. For example, the University of Minnesota’s Jane Kirtley, a media law expert, told The Daily Beast that absent evidence that Geithner gave “preferential treatment to people in the hiring process” or was guilty of sexual harassment, she was “really hard-pressed” to see a legitimate reason for running the story.

But this story had a more fundamental problem than lack of public interest. It was sourced almost entirely from a guy who was extorting Geithner. Specifically, the bulk of the story came from texts provided to Gawker staff writer Jordan Sargent. Despite this, according to Mother Jones, Gawker took only one working day to research, vet, and fact-check the story before it went live.

A number of media experts found the rapid turnaround time for this story extremely problematic. Ken Paulson, former editor-in-chief of USA Today and current president of the First Amendment Center, told Mother Jones that stories that could even potentially wreck someone’s reputation “are typically vetted over a longer period.” Over that time, Paulson added, details could come up that “could give you pause about publishing.” First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams was interviewed in the same article, saying that when there is evidence of blackmail or extortion, it ought to be “a blinking yellow light, or even a blinking red light” to thoroughly vet it before you even consider publishing it.

Gawker’s defense, at the time, seemed to be that the story was true and nothing else mattered. In response to withering criticism—including from Gawker’s own readers—Natasha Vargas-Cooper of Jezebel harrumphed in a since-deleted tweet that in her mind, “if it’s true, you publish.”

The fact that Gawker seemed to justify this story simply because it was true appeared especially tone-deaf a mere four years after the News of the World was forced out of existence due to rampant phone-hacking. Indeed, Gawker’s ethos appeared little different from that of WikiLeaks. By then, we’d known since at least 2010 that Julian Assange’s idea of transparency included releasing unredacted Social Security numbers—and dismissing any potential harm as “collateral damage.”

A mere 18 hours after the story went live, Gawker Media’s six-member managing partnership voted to remove it over the furious objections of Gawker’s editorial staff. But when Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton delivered the official explanation for removing the post, he proved that he still didn’t get it.

Denton said that the story about Geithner was “true and well reported,” which would have been enough to justify running it “in the early days of the Internet.” However, he said, “Gawker is no longer the insolent blog that began in 2003,” and this meant that potential stories “have to be true and interesting” in order to pass editorial muster. Denton went further in a memo to Gawker’s editorial team, saying that he was “ashamed” to have his name attached to the story, even if “we were within our legal right to publish.”

There are times when what was considered good reporting years ago is patently unacceptable now. For instance, the relentless coverage of Britney Spears in the early 2000s would never be tolerated today given greater awareness about mental health and sexism. But this didn’t even come close to being one of those times. By suggesting that an article that essentially amounted to aiding and abetting extortion would be even remotely acceptable in 2003, Denton made his statement announcing the article’s deletion amount to a non-apology apology. It also casts a pall on the good that Gawker actually did—like turning the hot lights on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s substance abuse, or revealing that Bill O’Reilly used his influence to start an investigation of his ex-wife’s boyfriend.

Soon after the furor over the Geithner article died down, it became even clearer just how serious Gawker’s cultural problem was. In July 2015, Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson tweeted a mea culpa about his days at Gawker. He admitted that he’d written, on orders from his boss, “baseless posts accusing an actor of raping an ex-boyfriend.” That actor was James Franco.

From 2008 to around 2014, Gawker churned out a series of articles that attempted to out Franco. The first of these articles, penned by Lawson, was a follow-up to a blind item in the New York Post in which an unidentified actor reportedly broke into his former boyfriend’s apartment and violently raped him. In his article, Lawson mused that the three likely suspects were Will Smith, Christian Bale—and Franco.

Soon afterward, Lawson wrote another article suggesting that based on Gawker commenters’ sentiment, “the people” felt Franco was a gay rapist. He then followed that up with a third article suggesting that the “gay rapist” Franco had actually been mentioned by the person who tipped off the Post about the supposed violent attack. If there is any difference between that article and Trump’s penchant for spewing baseless garbage that’s supposedly based on what “many people are saying,” I don’t see it.

Later, other Gawker writers penned articles suggesting that Franco was gay, based on the thinnest reeds of evidence. According to The Daily Beast, this was part of Gawker’s “creepy obsession with outing closeted men.” Granted, Franco is no angel. In 2021, he not only settled a lawsuit alleging that he harassed several students at the acting school he ran from 2014 to 2017, but admitted sleeping with some of his students.

Seen in this light, it’s no wonder that it took more than six years and at least one false start for Gawker to be revived. It returned in the summer of 2021 as a sister publication to women’s magazine Bustle, who bought Gawker’s remains in 2019. One would have thought that given Gawker’s popularity, it would have been revived sooner. However, NPR’s Folkenflik noted that when Univision bought Gawker’s sister sites, it concluded that Gawker itself was “too toxic to touch.”

Given how long it took for Gawker to be revived, any potential white knights must have reached the same conclusion. Who would want to take on an organization that not only believed there was a time where extortion was at all acceptable, but had no qualms about running libel?

Indeed, even as I write this, the articles libeling Franco are still available on Gawker’s website. That contrasts sharply with how the Times handled the initial version of its editorial attack on Palin. Contrary to what she and her fellow deplorables would have us believe, mainstream media outlets have standards—and those that lack standards get culled.

The same, however, can’t be said for some mainstays of right-wing media. For instance, when former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore made a bid for the U.S. Senate seat that came open when Jeff Sessions was tapped as Trump’s attorney general, Breitbart led a relentless smear campaign against the women who claimed Moore sexually assaulted them or pursued improper relationships with them. And it did so even though its editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, believed at least one of the accusers was credible.

Marlow made this shocking assertion in an interview with CNN’s Oliver Darcy in December 2017, a month after Moore’s narrow loss to Democrat Doug Jones. He revealed that he believed that Moore’s initial accuser, Leigh Corfman, had “a lot of credibility.” Corfman, you may recall, claimed Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14.

By admitting that he believed Moore’s accusers were credible even as Breitbart was smearing them, Marlow effectively put big, fat asterisks by every story Breitbart ran about the election. Victim shaming is bad enough, but doing so when you have reason to believe a victim is telling the truth is absolutely heinous. It’s even more so considering that Marlow admitted Breitbart went all-in for Moore to protect Trump.

Project Veritas also joined in on this disgraceful campaign. Its ringleader, James O’Keefe, even went as far as having one of his minions, Jaime Phillips, try to plant a bogus story in The Washington Post claiming that Moore had impregnated her. But that story came apart when the Post did some actual journalism and discovered Phillips’ story had more red flags than a lifetime of Alabama football games. Most damningly, Phillips had created a GoFundMe page boasting about her goal to join “the conservative media movement” in exposing “the liberal MSM.”

To pile obscenity on top of insult, O’Keefe revealed in December 2017 that he believed Moore’s accusers were credible. And yet, he felt compelled to smear them because—wait for it—he felt their credibility was “not my subject matter,” and his real goal was exposing “bias in the media.” So the man whose stock in trade is targeting journalists for supposed bias admitted that doing so was so important that he felt compelled to shame victims that he believed were credible. Let that sink in.

To give you an idea how outrageous Breitbart and Project Veritas’ behavior was here, imagine if every news outlet that passed on the prospect of exposing Harvey Weinstein’s depravities had reason to believe Weinstein’s accusers were credible—and yet ran stories effectively calling them liars. It makes Palin’s squawking about the Times’ failure to basically grovel before her look hypocritical as all hell.

Fortunately, at least two other members of the deplorable fever swamp are facing long-overdue accountability. Take InfoWars, for instance. Even after Alex Jones was kicked off mainstream social media and blackballed from smartphone app stores, it looked like he was going to continue his years-long promotion of conspiracy theories and hate speech—albeit with a much reduced audience.

But what may have been the beginning of the end for Jones came in 2018, not long after Facebook and YouTube gave him the boot. Several families of Sandy Hook victims, along with an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, sued Jones for defamation. Specifically, they wanted Jones held to account for his numerous claims that the Sandy Hook victims and survivors were “crisis actors.” These claims have resulted in the survivors being relentlessly harassed and trolled. The family of Noah Pozner, for instance, has had to move numerous times due to the harassment, and now live under high security in an undisclosed location. They have never been able to visit their son’s grave.

A series of legal reversals for Jones and InfoWars culminated in the fall of 2021. That September, a Texas judge issued three default judgments against Jones and InfoWars in two defamation suits filed by Sandy Hook families. The judge had lost patience with Jones’ refusal to turn over documents, and found it egregious enough to conclude that Jones had already lost. In November, a Connecticut judge issued a default judgment in a suit filed against Jones in another lawsuit. While damages will be determined at trial later this year, they are likely to add up to hundreds of millions of dollars—in all likelihood, enough to put InfoWars out of business.

Another fixture of the deplorable fever swamp, Gateway Pundit, may also face extinction after being sued for orchestrating a vicious trolling campaign that falsely accused Georgia election workers of stealing their state for Joe Biden. The two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, claim that Gateway Pundit started a flood of disinformation that reached all the way to Trump, who attacked Freeman by name in his now-infamous attempt to shake down Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Dozens of bogus stories about Freeman and Moss resulted in death threats, doxing, and kidnapping attempts, among other things. Rather than apologize, Gateway Pundit actually tried to raise money off the lawsuit, netting over $81,000. If there is any justice, though, that fundraising effort will be a futile exercise. Gateway Pundit and its impresarios, the Hoft brothers, ought to get a very hard lesson on why private citizens only need to prove negligence in order to win libel suits.

The Times moves in almost no time at all by current media standards to retract claims about Palin—and yet, Breitbart, Project Veritas, and Gateway Pundit refuse to even attempt to apologize for far worse. What’s wrong with this picture?

The answer to that question is simpler than you may think. For all the caterwauling we hear from the right about the media not having any standards, we have seen instance after instance where the media has shown it actually does. Moreover, whenever elements of the mainstream press show they don’t have standards, they are weeded out. The demise of Gawker is a stark example of what happens when you catapult your way into the mainstream, only to show you have little regard for basic standards of decency.

If we are to remove the tinder from our politics, we must subject the media to the same level of accountability that Gawker faced, and what InfoWars is more than likely to face. As Gawker learned in 2016, that standard ought to apply regardless of political shade. But if Palin and other right-wingers are willing to take off their blinders, they would see that their own side of the media divide is long overdue for a cleaning.

Poll 426 votes Show Results

New York Times called out for once again elevating sedition

he New York Times got a lot of attention this weekend, none of it good, for their latest zoological profile of pro-Trump, anti-democracy voters. The Times did not go the sleepy small-town diner route this time, but instead profiled Jan. 6 insurrectionists who marched to demand the toppling of our government but, like, did it less violently than some of the others. People who didn't enter the U.S. Capitol building, but only took a few flashbangs from the officers trying to defend the building. People who didn't bring guns, but who now regret not doing so. To overthrow the government. Because Donald Trump wanted them too.

There's a whole lot to be said about this, but the Times itself continues its tradition of elevating extremist, anti-democratic, pro-sedition voices while almost completely ignoring the origins of their beliefs, the dangers they pose, or whether or not attempting to end democracy on a madman's turgid whim might be bad. Whether democracy lives or dies in this country is emphatically not something the Times wants to take sides on inside of individual stories. The opinion side of the paper might pipe up with it (alongside, of course, conservative columns arguing the opposite) but identifying the larger frameworks in which fascism is not just growing, in America, but is able to pose a genuine threat to government—that's right out.

What's especially galling is that the Times freely uses the word insurrection to describe the events of Jan. 6. The Times is able to identify the goal of the extremists who marched that day just fine. So what does that make the people who marched to do it?

Oh, you know. Jus' folk. Can't draw any conclusions here.

What's maddening about the Times story is how far the paper goes, in fact, to not draw any conclusions about the gaggle of conspiracy cranks, far-right extremists, and willing seditionists that it holds up for reader perusal. It is like going to a zoo in which all the animals are wrapped in burlap sacks; do you want to know what this creature looks like? Then figure it out yourself, dear visitors, this is how each animal was delivered to us and we're not going to the work of unwrapping them. Trying to determine how each of these specimens fits in the grand ecosystem of "people who want to end American democracy rather than abide a single election loss" is left entirely as an exercise to the reader. It's a fascism-agnostic sudoku puzzle.

We open the piece with the tale of Paul Treasonguy—we don't need to give him the publicity of using his real name, the Times is already giving him all the advertising he could ask for—who is not at all sorry about his participation in a march to topple the government at Trump's behest. "It definitely activated me more," says Paul, and "it gave me street cred." Paul is now promoting himself as an anti-vaccine "lawyer for patriots," using his support for sedition as launching pad, a way to devote himself to far-right causes professionally rather than just as hobby.

Why is the Times helping him? Very good question, but our Texas-based insurrection marcher is quite pleased that they did.

But what does this American mean by "activated"—a word conspicuously out of place, one associated more commonly with cults, extremist groups, and militias? Being identified as a pro-insurrection marcher, getting fired from your job and being dumped by a fiancee gives street cred on what particular street?

We are told that, in interviews, the insurrection has "mutated into an emblem of resistance" that is a "troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election." We are told that "many" of the insurrectionists have slipped smoothly into anti-vaccine resistance, now citing "Mr. Biden's vaccine mandates as justification for their efforts" to nullify the election.

Mostly we learn that none of these people appear to be regretting a single damn thing about the insurrection. Mostly.

"Most everybody thinks we ought to have went with guns, and I kind of agree with that myself," says Oren Treasonguy, a landscaper. And "I think we ought to have went armed, and took it back." He admitted to bringing a baton and a Taser with him when he travelled to the insurrection but "did not get them out," which is evidently why he is in in the profile of "nonviolent" seditionists. But he doesn't sound nonviolent. He sounds like he thinks the crowd's nonviolence was the main problem of the day.

And he's not shy about saying that the goal of the insurrection was to "take" the election results "back." He, like the rest of the crowd, intended their actions to be an insurrection.

The next mini-profile is of a Jeff Treasonguy. Jeff is now running for public office—another case in which the violence of the day is being used to boost the conservative "cred" of those who participated. Jeff, along with his adult son, "took two flash bangs" during the crowd's drive that "pushed Congress out of session." "I'm hurt but we accomplished the job."

Jeff believes "Covid-19 was a bioweapon meant to convert the United States to socialism," among other things. Jeff is par for the course, among this group. He talks a lot about Jesus, is quite proud of destabilizing the country, and would "absolutely" do it again.

Okay, but Jeff here is undeniably a member of a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government based on batshit theories scraped off the insides of a fever dream. Why are we hearing from him at all? What purpose does it give to parade a series of unrepentant and paranoia-obsessed backers of a violent insurrection before the nation but yet beat so thoroughly around the bush on what it means?

Now we go to Greg Treasonguy, a Michigan city councilman who is meant to demonstrate the "sense of community" among those that attended Trump's "march" to erase a United States election rather than abide the embarrassment of losing. We learn that Greg "found solidarity, he said, in similar men's groups growing in Hungary and Poland" and hold right the hell up, this man voluntarily pipes up with admiration for the democracy-toppling, authoritarian far-right groups of Hungary and Poland because "men got to step up" in service to masculinity?

How, exactly, does one form a positive view of the pro-authoritarian far-right movements of Hungary and Poland? What newsletter is Greg here getting that endorses the pro-authoritarian, xenophobic, eliminationist far-far-right looking to scrub out democracy in their own countries? Is it Tucker Carlson? Is it a militia group? Greg here is tapped into the zeitgeist of American fascism to enough of an extent that he knows he should be emulating Hungary's malevolent thugs, but we don't get any explanation of that? He just drops that bomb into the conversation and the Times thinks well, that's as good a closer as any?

Huh.

The word insurrection is used repeatedly in the Times piece. Words not used: Insurrectionist. Sedition. Authoritarian. Anti-democratic. Conspirator. The premise of the piece is an examination of the nonviolent—or at least, less violent—Americans who responded to Trump's call to overthrow the government, and while we are told that the group tends towards conspiracy theories, remains enamored with Trump's particular conspiracy theories, and has taken up the anti-vaccination cause like they were born for the moment, but the central trait that ties them all together is a belief that democracy should be nullified if democracy is unwilling to ensconce them, personally, as social victors.

The Times, however, is quite willing to portray them in their own terms—as supposed patriots, and portray the central goal of their fight, the nullification of elections that do not end with conservative victors, as a social choice.

The problem with all of this is that, yet again, we have a major media outlet using the conventions of neutrality to obscure the severity of the moment rather than clarify it. The facts now all conclusively point to the same determination: This was an insurrection, it was intended as an insurrection, those that boosted it did so as part of a very real plan to capture government, there was a propaganda campaign to encourage and justify it, the propaganda campaign continues, and the Republican Party is behind all of it. The people who were summoned by Trump that day do not regret their actions—except for when asked by a federal judge, immediately before that judge is to decide whether or not to throw them in prison for a spell—and, if anything, are restructuring their lives around their new authoritarian devotions.

What is this new movement that the Times has found, then? It is a movement based incontrovertibly around false propaganda intended to discredit United States elections by claiming that they have been corrupted by an imaginary other. It is a movement that seeks partisan control over elections, including the ability to overturn results that go against them. It focuses on a need for national renewal, or "saving" the country from their enemies. The enemies list includes immigrants, nonwhite citizens, the sexually "deviant," universities, schoolteachers, journalists, scientists, and a supposed secret cabal of elites responsible for all of it. It insists that a loss of "masculinity" is responsible for the world's ailments; it features demands that its political enemies be jailed as central rhetorical planks, not just in the chants of a know-nothing rabble but in vows from top party leaders.

And it celebrates the use of violence as a path towards that national "renewal," with top party voices insisting that those who participated in an attempted insurrection be freed—and honored.

These are the traits of a fascist movement, down to the individual details, the performative religious bent, and the focus on a central, buffoonishily hyper-"masculine" leader and the supposed savior who will make the rest of it come to pass.

So why are readers led through a series of mini-hagiographies that glance through each trait example-by-example, but left to their own devices to ponder out what actual "news" can be gleaned from it?

What do you call people who were willing to attack police officers in an attempt to nullify an American presidential election rather than abide by results they did not like? Insurrectionists; seditionists; coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, but who only provided bodies to fill out the crowd, leaving it to others to do the actual fighting while they took advantage of whatever crimes were committed to get closer to their goal? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, timed to coincide with the constitutional acknowledgement of that election, even if they did not enter the Capitol at all? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

But what if they were tricked into it, and only wanted to topple the legitimate United States government because they were told the government was invalid and needed to be toppled?

Then they are insurrectionists. Seditionists. Willing allies of a hoax-premised coup.

Anyone who gathered that day to demand the erasure of an American election, violent or not, allied themselves against their country to side with a hoax-spewing, toxic buffoon. That goes for those in Congress who allied with the effort and helped promote the hoax used to incite the crowds; that goes for the lawyers who tossed countless false statements towards judges with full knowledge that they were promoting nonsense. Anyone who brought a "baton" or a "Taser" to Washington, D.C., in case violence was needed to erase an election is a seditionist. Anyone who waved a Trump flag and screamed their agreement when he told the crowd that his defeat was invalid and should be overturned chose the ravings of a belligerent clown over loyalty to their own nation. Anyone who called elections workers to threaten hangings based on hoaxes that they need no evidence to believe.

None of these people need to be understood. It should be enough for them that most will not be imprisoned. The press should be exposing them as dangerous, not providing publicity for their new anti-democracy ventures. It is indeed news that many or the majority of those that participated in an act of sedition remain eager to do it again—but that makes them enemies of their nation, not subjects for wispy examinations of sedition as new social fad.

If journalism intends to ally itself with democracy, it is both reasonable and necessary to portray those who would topple the country in service of growing fascist beliefs as unreasonable. As not just odd characters, but willfully dangerous. It is not necessary to feign neutrality on a fascist coup or those currently running for small-time office or staking new legal careers on ambitions of being more successful the next time around.

It is a fascist movement. It consists of people who have demanded and are still demanding that democracy either bend to it or be erased. They believe paranoid and delusional things—paranoid and delusional things that should not be spread in national newspapers as merely alternative belief systems, but should be highlighted as dangerous hoaxes promoted by propagandists and embraced by fools.

It is fine and reasonable to condemn those that want to end democracy and have already proven willing to take action to do it. Journalistic neutrality does not mean that those that attack the country and those that protect it should be given equal respect. Do not respect them!

The Times continues to drift through political events with practiced unawareness, unwilling to commit itself to standing for anything in particular. Reading through its pages is like wandering into the foyer of a particularly unambitious natural history museum, with individual bones of current historical changes bolted together haphazardly into skeletons that may or may not look anything like the creatures they are supposed to represent. We are allowed to gawk, but there are no curators who can tell us anything or who can differentiate between a ancient femur and a rusty 6 iron—and we get sniffed at if we even ask.

It is unremarkable for a newspaper to ally itself with democracy and to assert, in its pages, that those that would erase it are doing harm. This is not a high bar. The Times knows full well how close the coup came to succeeding, and how the individuals it profiles are retooling things to allow a near-future version to more efficiently trundle over the obstacles that stalled it the last time around. For the love of God and country, stop hiding the danger of the moment behind gauzy profiles of democracy's self-declared enemies.

Dam begins to break on ridiculous Big Lie — even in GOP circles

Biden came out swinging against Trump on January 6th, which enraged the former president, but something notable happened. Few Republicans stood up for Trump. Many Republicans tried the delicate balance of condemning the insurrection attempt on January 6th but not the guy responsible for it by propagating the Big Lie. It seems some have finally had enough.

GOP Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) was fed up with Trump’s ego when he appeared on This Week. He said what every non-cultish person already knew: "the [2020] election was fair, as fair as we have seen."

This was followed by Mitt Romney, who will always stand up for what’s right--after someone else does it first:

Then Senator Kevin Cramer, Senator John Thune, and Senator Shelley Capito backed him. Even Trumpy Senator Ron Johnson said Trump lost---although he said it in private and was caught on tape.

I'm not giving much props to Mitch McConnell, who immediately condemned the Big Lie last year, but is happy to capitalize on the conspiracy to support state-level voting restrictions that he believes will help Republicans. Anything to hold on to power, I suppose.

Then I watched a Fox person pile on:

Everyone with the slightest degree of common sense knows Trump can’t handle losing. He said the Emmy’s were rigged; he said the popular vote in 2016 was rigged; and he even said Ted Cruz’s Iowa caucus victory was rigged. How you rig a caucus when the people are publicly counted in front of everyone remains unclear, but this was never supposed to make sense. No one ever explained who was doing the rigging, or how millions of ballots were fraudulent for Biden yet picked Republicans in all the down-ballot races.

Yet instead of believing that the guy who claims to get tweets from Korean War parents is lying, Republicans expect us to believe that all the poll workers, Republican state legislators, the media, Republican governors, Bill Barr, election officials, and all of the judges who threw out more than 60 fake cases--including the ones who were appointed by Trump--were all in a giant conspiracy to help Joe Biden beat Trump. The GOP leaders were so terrified of Trump they actually tried to make this plausible, at great cost to their reputations. Shame, however, is something you need to dispense with if you want to be a Republican official or pundit these days.

The GOP is turning on Trump’s Big Lie, but not because they suddenly got patriotic. These guys aren’t doing it because they want to save Democracy, but because, in Kilmeade’s own words, if “we simply look back and tell our people don’t vote because there’s cheating going on, then we’re going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage.”

He’s right. The Big Lie may soothe Trump’s ego, but if the people he picks in the mid-terms lose and are told it was rigged, his cult-like followers will wonder what’s the point of voting. The only turnout depressed by the Big Lie is Trump’s own people. It’s a lose-lose proposition for Trump, but he’s too arrogant and dumb to change course. He all but said at an unofficial campaign stop that he’s going to run on his 2020 Election loss because that gets the “biggest applause” at his (increasingly sparsely-attended) rallies.

As Trump begins to lose steam, Republican leaders are finally beginning to break ranks. Trump’s cult seems to be open to following other authoritarian leaders, who Republican politicians hope next time won’t be as selfish and self-destructive.

Christian conservative reporter humiliated on social media after attacking BLM on Twitter

If you don’t know who David Brody is, God bless you. He’s a longtime TV personality from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), whose hits include promoting the idea that Donald Trump has been blessed by God to own a private golf course. (True story.) In Brody and CBN’s defense, the conservative Christian God that they pray to is a shitty misogynist. Brody and his employer lost a lot of access to the White House after Donald Trump was trounced by Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Brody has made sure to allow sentient bile tank Trump to promote the Big Lie and whatever other grotesquery the far right doggedly proposes.

On Monday, Brody went to his Twitter account where he traditionally posts all kinds of bad takes to send what appeared to be a screen shot of his phone’s camera (yes, he messed up taking a straight photo), seemingly showing a very snowy road, purportedly in Washington, D.C., from inside of a car he was driving. He wrote: “Today in DC. They knew a snowstorm was coming for days. Apparently ‘black lives matter’ but the lives of people driving in a snowstorm don’t.” It is hard to impart how absolute the incoherence of this attempted political opinion is without crossing one’s eyes. The levels of what was wrong with the image and the tweet and the contents and the logic of everything was more blinding than a whiteout snowstorm. The internet responded to help.

First, a visualization to help us understand the twisted logic of the right-wing fanatic.

There was even some advice.

An offer to spitball a few more Newt Gingrich-level ideas.

An analysis.

Here’s a card that can be used forever.

Let’s call this tweet “Brody’s Dilemma.”

Some practical safety advice.

And some practical life advice for Brody.

Judge wants ‘forgiveness and understanding’ after she’s caught on video calling suspect N-word

Last weekend a Lafayette City Court judge and her family were the victims of a car burglary at their home. Police were called and the suspect was arrested. But, of course, that wasn’t the end of it.

Days later, Judge Michelle Odinet and her four children were captured on cellphone video watching security footage of the moment the suspected burglar was apprehended. And oh boy, did that family enjoy watching it. They whooped and hollered as they joyfully commented on the home surveillance video, calling the suspect, a Black man, a “roach” and using the N-word repeatedly.

“We have a n---—. It’s a n-----, like a roach,” a female’s voice can be heard saying while laughing.

Now Odinet is asking for “forgiveness and understanding.”

“My children and I were the victim [sic] of an armed burglary at our home. The police were called and the assailant was arrested. The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile,” Odinet said in a statement Monday, The Acadiana Advocate reports.

According to the Daily Beast, the Lafayette Police Department confirmed to local media that an attempted burglary of a vehicle took place at Odinet’s home at around 2 a.m. Saturday.

But Lafayette Police Sgt. Paul Mouton told KLFY that the suspect—identified as Ronald Handy—did not have a weapon with him at the time of his arrest despite the fact that Courthouse Karen described the incident to police as an “armed burglary.”

Odinet added that she “was given a sedative at the time” and had “zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”

“Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary,” she said.

Odinet was elected to her position on Nov. 3, 2020. According to the website for the City Court of Lafayette, Louisiana, prior to being a judge, she worked as a prosecutor for both Orleans and Lafayette Parish District Attorneys offices, “where she prosecuted juvenile delinquencies and adult felonies ranging from theft and narcotics to rape and first-degree murder.“

Handy was charged with two counts of simple burglary and is being held on a $10,000 bond.

The sedative excuse and nonapology are not working as the judge had hoped for. And now the community is calling for her to lose her damn job—which she should.

“I’m sure that people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equally when they have to stand for judgment before Judge Odinet,” Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas said in a statement Tuesday.

“We will not tolerate bigotry from the bench. Fairness and impartiality cannot coexist with racism; Lafayette needs a new Judge,” Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt said in a press release demanding “Judge Odinet’s immediate resignation.”

On Monday, Lafayette NAACP chapter President Michael Toussain called for Odinet to resign.

Toussain’s letter reads in part:

“While we continue to strive to form the more perfect union there are still those who bare the mark of America’s original sin of racism. The recently reveal video is clear that Judge Michelle Odinet see people base on the color of their skin and she holds a firm belief they are no more than roaches, rats or lesser species than herself. Her quote “We got ——!” is the clearest expression of her heart in regards to respecting people of diverse racial backgrounds. If she had said “We got thieves” we would understand that, but the use of the word ——, clearly expresses that Judge Michelle Odinet places all black people in a position of inferiority and discontent. Her voice is remnant of the shouts at lynchings in years gone by and white mob’s mentality that is evident still today.”

Sen. Gerald Boudreaux called Odinet’s comments “reprehensible, offensive and unacceptable” from anyone serving as a judge, according to The Advocate, adding that he will officially petition the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to investigate the ethical conduct and actions associated with the incident.

"We have struggled miserably to garner public support for our judicial system at every level in this country. The political landscape has become so toxic that the negative impact has been identified and evident from the United States Supreme Court to the Lafayette City Court,” Boudreaux said.

Manchin offers America lumps of coal for Christmas

Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a vote before Christmas on their historic investment in American families and combatting climate change, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"The Senate is moving forward on the reconciliation process so that we can vote on President Biden's Build Back Better Act before the Christmas holiday," Schumer said on Monday from the Senate floor.

But the successful passage of President Joe Biden's roughly $2 trillion signature piece of legislation by Dec. 25 is going to require a miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue—if you listen to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose vote is essential. Manchin spoke to the president by phone Monday.

Sure, "anything is possible here," Manchin said, following the call, according to the New York Times. But let's be real, Manchin is on his own holiday timeline, and instead of delivering massive help to pandemic-overstretched families and the promise of a habitable planet for future generations, he's just fine the status quo.

"People have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but I think, basically, we’re seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday, before his call with Biden. “And that’s what we should do."

Following the conversation, Manchin offered, “Listen, let’s at least see the bill. Need to see what they write, what’s the final print. That tells you everything."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki framed the Biden-Manchin call as “a conversation between two people who have been in public life for some time and have had good-faith discussions directly.”

That's a whole lot of nothing in the way of commitments and a clear path forward. The two intend to speak again "in the coming days," according to Politico.

Part of Democrats' urgency is due to the fact that the child tax credit Democrats folded into pandemic relief earlier this year is set to expire at the end of the year.

But part of the Democrats' full-court press also reflects the political realities facing the president's party as it heads into the midterm election year. Once the calendar flips to 2022, every passing day tends to make lawmakers squeamish about taking big votes on historic pieces of legislation.

“There’s nothing more to be gained from more talk,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the Times. “We have talked and talked and talked. It’s time to make some final decisions and vote.”

Democrats also have other pressing priorities next year—voting rights, first and foremost— and they simply can't afford to waste more precious time on inaction. Very early next year, Democrats must turn one and all to the battle for the soul of our democracy.

The biggest hurdle to both Democratic priorities is Sen. Manchin, who seems quite content to deliver nothing more than a lump of coal, a warming planet, and a fraying democracy to brighten the nation’s holiday season. Republicans are surely loving it.

What killed Trump's coup inside the Capitol may have been Trump's insurgency outside the Capitol: analysis

The texts released by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 show that the White House, Republicans in Congress, and Donald Trump Jr. were all terrified about the insurgents breaching the Capitol. Some were terrified for how it would cost them politically. Some for how the insurgents might harm them physically. Right-wing pundits, hoping to make the best of embarrassing and incriminating information, have hurried to claim that, if Fox News and congressional Republicans were screaming to make it stop, they couldn’t have been in on the insurgency.

However, the latest releases drop several more puzzle pieces into place. The picture of how Donald Trump and the Republican Party planned to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 election and install Trump as dictator in everything but name still isn’t quite complete. But what’s there is frightening in both its depth and breadth.

It shows that they had the means of keeping Trump in power, a supposed motivation for their actions, and that they viewed Jan. 6 as an opportunity to put their plans into effect. Only not everyone was playing from the same book, and some of them forgot to synchronize their watches.

This was not a closely held scheme. The plan to refuse to seat electors from states that voted for Joe Biden wasn’t whispered about solely in one White House meeting, where Mike Pence made some kind of heroic stand against Trump, chief of staff Mark Meadows, and attorney John Eastman. The essence of the plan circulated widely among Republicans. Versions of it were batted around by White House staffers and among Trump’s campaign team. They played through themes, scenarios, and alternatives.

A 38-page PowerPoint discussion of all the different ways that Pence could wreck the electoral vote certification on Jan. 6, and how they could put down any attempts to prevent Trump from seizing power, was briefed to Republicans in Congress. Some of those briefed were sill texting elements of the plan back to Meadows even as the assault on the Capitol was underway.

There was a second track to this plan. That was the pseudo-legal track being managed by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and a revolving cast of others willing to sign their names to lawsuits that vanished as quickly as they appeared. The purpose of this team was to generate theoretical justification for taking action that would overturn one of the cleanest, most closely observed elections in American history. It didn’t matter that this track ran on malicious speculation and deliberate lies, not when there was media—and Republicans in Congress—ready to pretend that it was real. Whether it was Venezuelan dictators, Italian satellites, or just “trash cans of votes,” evidence wasn’t required.

And then there was the third track. That was the Trump rally track. The “wild time” track. The Stop the Steal track being managed by Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander. The purpose of this track was simple enough: It was there to generate anger. Anger that could help justify action. Anger that could bully the reluctant into going along.

On Jan. 6, that anger got ahead of everything else, and the third track turned into a third rail.

Both the “legal” track and the protest track were there, in part, to demonstrate to Republicans inside and outside Congress what it meant to defy Trump. It didn’t matter if it was county-level election officials in Michigan, or the hard-right governor of Georgia: No one was above being named in a lawsuit, or turned into the object of death threats. Anyone could find their home surrounded by angry white militants screaming at their spouse and children, or being labeled across right-wing media as a RINO traitor. All it took was a tweet.

Much of this was visible before the select committee began its work. Or even before Jan. 6. Trump and company were not exactly subtle, nor secretive.

Some of these issues raise real points of concern. Such as: How did multiple members of the Republican Party in Congress receive an extended briefing on methods by which they might illegally overturn the election results, and none of that appeared in the press? It might be too much to think that a Republican in the House would let the media in on what they were up to, but were there no staffers, no observers, no AV guy hired to run the projector who thought the public needed to know what these guys were up to? The idea that Republicans sat through a 38-page PowerPoint on “How to Destroy America” in the week before Jan. 6, and the public didn’t learn about it for 11 months, should be—and is—terrifying.

The coup plans were the means of execution. The legal claims, ridiculous as they were and are, were the justification. But the rally track, the violence track, was the lever to make it all happen.

Bannon and Stone didn’t come into this cold. They had worked on “Stop the Steal” in 2016, with intentions of accusing Democrats of voter fraud in that election. Stone was back with “Stop the Steal” in Florida for 2018, deploying claims that the election there was going to be stolen when it looked like Democrats might pull off a victory in the Senate and governor’s race. They had it ready again in 2020, with Trump, Stone, and others insisting there was going to be massive election fraud months before the election was ever held. Trump underlined all this with claims that the only way he could lose was if there was fraud.

Months before the election, Alexander announced that he was already building out “digital infrastructure” for “Stop the Steal 2020.” That included a database of Trump supporters who could be activated for the purposes of intimidating poll workers and state officials through their “physical presence.” Trump tweeted his own “Stop the Steal!” tweet the same day as Alexander’s announcement, showing the closeness of his efforts and those of the Trump campaign.

After the election, from Pennsylvania, to Georgia, to Arizona, to Michigan, to Nevada, to Wisconsin, Trump’s team launched anger-a-thons that terrorized vote counters and election officials at all levels. Some of these were done on the off chance that they might intimidate an official into actually trying to flip electoral votes. All of them were done to perpetuate the idea that there was “a dispute” over the vote count in these states. That idea was given an enormous boost by attention from the media; primarily Fox News, where the claims of Trump’s legal team aired on a constant loop.

In the days before Jan. 6, the violence track got special attention. Trump had sent a signal to his white supremacist militia supporters, promising them “it will be wild” if they showed up. The Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and other militant groups didn’t show up unprepared. They planned for months, using encrypted platforms like Telegram, where they and worked with neofascist groups supported by Bannon.

In advance of Jan. 6, these groups decided to change up their uniform, appearing in all black. That clothing came in handy for Fox News host Laura Ingraham and a cluster of right-wing radio hosts (including former FEMA director Michael “Brownie” Brown). Even as Ingraham was texting with Mark Meadows, trying to get him to halt the assault on the Capitol, she was back on Fox, insisting to her audience that the black outfits were “not what Trump supporters wear”, and that there were “some reports that antifa was sprinkled throughout the crowd." That same argument was making its way across right-wing radio. Ingraham also insisted to her audience that only “around three dozen” people were involved breaching the Capitol, no matter what they may have seen on their screens.

But there’s another reason that the violence squad was wearing black that day. A Jan. 5 email from Meadows to an unknown party indicated that the National Guard would be standby on Jan. 6 to “protect pro Trump people.” As Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch has pointed out, Trump tweeted about antifa twice on Jan. 5, indicating that trouble was expected. Trump had also spoken with the Pentagon when planning events for that day. It was not a coincidence that Mike Flynn’s brother was in position to release, or withhold, National Guard support on that day.

Here’s some selections from a timeline for events that actually happened on Jan. 6:

09:00 AM—Trump rally begins at the Ellipse, with the hanging of banners for the “Save America March.” Rep. Mo Brooks steps up, to deliver a speech in which he demands that those present “fight for America” and calls on them to “kick ass.” Then Rudy Giuliani steps in front of the mic to demand "Let's have a trial by combat.” Even before his speech has ended, the first contingent of Proud Boys leaves the Ellipse area and begins moving toward the Capitol.

12:00 PM—Trump begins his speech at the rally. He promises to march with his supporters to the Capitol, tells them “We are going to have to fight much harder,” that the election outcome is an “egregious assault on our democracy,” and instructs them “You have to show strength.” Shortly after Trump begins speaking, Rep. Paul Gosar sends this tweet, with a hat tip to Ali Alexander.

What happens next is the critical point. A point where both the law, and the coup plan, may have simultaneously exited the scene.

12:30 PM—Though Trump is still speaking, at least 300 Proud Boys are already confronting police at the Capitol. Within minutes, 10,000 to 15,000 more people are marching that way. Before Trump finishes making his promises to the crowd, his supporters have already pushed through the first police barriers. The chief of the Capitol Police makes his first call for help from the National Guard.

1:00 PM—Senators and Pence walk to the House chamber to begin the formal certification of electoral votes.

1:10 PM—Trump finishes his speech, with another call to march on Congress and to give Republicans the “pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

1:12 PM—The list of states being counted reaches Arizona. Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz immediately object to certifying the results in that state. The House and Senate split apart for two hours of debate over the objection.

1:17 PM—As Trump supporters climb scaffolding, force their way up stairs, and press into the tunnel beneath the House, Lauren Boebert tweets “We are locked in the House Chambers.” and then tweets “The Speaker has been removed from the Chambers.”

1:51 PM—Alex Jones tells the crowd on west side of Capitol to come around to the east side, claiming there is a stage there and that Trump will join them. Some follow Jones, but others began battering the doors and window of the Capitol.

2:11 PM—Insurgents enter the Capitol.

With the insurgents occupying the building, ransacking offices, invading both congressional chambers, carrying off souvenirs, and smearing feces on the walls, Congress doesn’t return to finish the count until 8:06 PM.

When Congress finally reconvened, the Arizona objections were dealt with, the vote continued, then, despite several other objections, Pence announced the results of Biden’s victory.

But consider this alternate timeline:

3:05 PM—Congress completes debate and the session reconvenes to report the results of that discussion. Pence then doesn’t immediately move to count the Arizona votes, but—as both the memo from attorney John Eastman explained, and as was detailed in the coup plan briefed to Congress—Pence insists that Arizona be skipped over, and that the count continue with other states. This soon brings other objections, resulting in Pence either calling for Congress to once again adjourn for separate debates, or adding them to the “in dispute” category.

Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, men dressed in black threaten police and shove against barricades. As Congress continues with the count, and Pence continues to set states aside, Trump calls in the National Guard, insisting that they protect both Trump supporters and Congress from antifa terrorists. When they are deployed, Trump joins Jones and others on the east side of the Capitol, raising the crowd to a fever pitch.

It’s not difficult to see how this day spins out very differently, and more along the lines of the coup scheme, ending with either Pence declaring Trump the winner, or—as Bannon suggested—with Trump announcing a do-over election under military supervision.

The difference in this timeline is that in the second version, Trump’s supporters don’t actually breach the Capitol, or at least don’t do so until after Pence has the chance to declare Arizona in dispute.

And yes, in the real world, Pence did not do that. Instead, he’s been lauded handing over a letter at the beginning of the session indicating that his powers there were limited, and for pushing past objections to reach a Biden victory as the Electoral Count Act demands.

However, Pence’s apparent bold stand, and the reversal of some votes among Republicans in Congress, came after the invasion of the Capitol. It came after Fox News pundits texted warnings that the scenes of violence on television were ruining everything. It came after multiple Republicans had texted Meadows, mostly to let him know they were scared shitless. When the Capitol was breached and Pence led away from the crowd chanting for his death, the Arizona votes had not been counted.

Pence declared Biden the victor in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol. That he would have done the same thing without hours of America watching Trump’s supporters loot and pillage and threaten—without the audible chants of “hang Mike Pence”—is only an assumption.

Trump had the plan for how he would reverse the election. He had the pretense of a justification. He had a large percentage of Republicans thinking that the election had problems. He had support among Republicans in both the House and Senate to raise the objections that would put his plan in play. But on Jan. 6, it may not have been Pence that generated the point of failure in this plan.

Instead, it seems as if the part of Trump’s plan that was left to Bannon, Stone, and others who sat back to watch from their control room at the Willard Hotel simply moved too fast and too hard. The wild time got too wild.

What sank Trump’s coup inside the Capitol may have been Trump’s insurgency outside the Capitol.

Democratic lawmakers blast Supreme Court commission for 'both-sidesing' court politicization

Four congressional Democrats wrote a scathing letter to President Joe Biden's Supreme Court reform commission this week, calling out the commission's failure to address or even examine the degree to which dark money groups with well-funded lobbying campaigns have influenced the court, both in terms of the justices appointed and their decisions.

In the letter, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, and Georgia Representative Hank Johnson remind the commission that they've already called this issue out: "We wrote to you earlier this year to emphasize that the issues your Commission is tasked to consider cannot be addressed without grappling with pressing judicial ethics concerns, including the role of secretive special-interest influence in and around the Court." The commission released its first discussion drafts last month, showing that it was failing to address some of the Court's fundamental problems—like the politicization of the court through groups like the Federalist Society—and downplaying others.

"As currently drafted, this report is a disappointment to anyone who had hoped for a clear-eyed effort to address the Supreme Court's deep troubles," the lawmakers write. "The Commission's draft report acknowledges in passing that 'confirmation battles of recent years have given rise to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaigns' to support and oppose particular nominations," the lawmakers note.

"But the Commission has failed to probe why such sums are being spent to control the Court's composition, or to ask who might be spending this money and—most important—what interests they may have before the Court. The Commission has also failed to consider whether these investments have actually shaped the substance and outcomes of the Court's decision-making, as they were no doubt intended to do."

The lawmakers also strike at the core of the commissions' failings, it's insistence on "both-sidesing" the politicization of the court. "This view that 'both sides' are equally to blame for the politicization of the Court, and the implicit assumption that members of the Court are themselves insulated and apart from this politicization, is an unproven proposition," they wrote.

"In the face of overwhelming evidence that the Court has been captured by partisan donor interests, it is wrong to perpetuate the fiction that it has not been," the lawmakers write. "By grounding its draft report foremost in the concern that the public must perceive the Court to be legitimate and independent, the Commission fails to consider the very real and much more dangerous possibility that it might not be."

The updated draft of the commission, released ahead of a Friday public meeting, shows that the commission is still not dealing with that fundamental challenge of this court. That's not too surprising—the commission includes a few staunchly anti-abortion lawyers and Federalist Society members.

Although the Federalist Society has succeeded in packing the court, the commission argues that expanding the court would endanger the court's legitimacy. "This uncertainty leads even some who fundamentally disagree with aspects of the current Supreme Court's jurisprudence to believe it is better to preserve the court's long-term legitimacy and independence than to open up the court to be packed by potentially dangerous and even authoritarian political movements going forward," the commission materials said. Again, as if this court, with three Trump appointees whose legitimacy is at best questionable, is above question.

The lawmakers detail the evidence of a broken court, influenced by political groups, and demand that the commission address these facts:

(a) that the last three Supreme Court vacancies were filled through the efforts of a private organization (the Federalist Society) receiving enormous contemporaneous, anonymous donations;

(b) that anonymous individual checks as large as $17 million funded Supreme Court confirmation battle advertising, with no way to know what business those donors had before the Court;

(c) that orchestrated flotillas of anonymously funded right-wing amici appear regularly before the Court, and achieve virtually perfect success with the Republican appointees;

(d) that a peculiar fast lane has emerged that rushes politically loaded cases to the Supreme Court through deliberate trial and appellate court losses;

(e) that intensely political partisan decisions have hinged on findings of fact that were not an appellate court's ordinary province, that were not supported by a factual record, and that ultimately were demonstrably false;

(f) that capture by special interests is not limited to administrative agencies but can infect courts as well;

(g) that as much as $400 million in anonymized money has been spent through an array of coordinated groups seemingly designed to capture the Supreme Court, a sum not usually spent without motive; and

(h) that, in civil cases decided by a 5-4 partisan Supreme Court majority during the Roberts era in which there was an evident Republican donor interest, the donor interest win record was an astonishing 80-0.

"These unpleasant facts do not disappear just because we may wish them to," the lawmakers write. "The American people are counting on this Commission. Please do your duty."

The commission is expected to release its final report on Dec. 15.

Trump gave $100M for COVID-19 supply chains — $99M was left unspent as the pandemic raged

The Trump administration was a swampy con job. The Trump organization is a swampy con. The only saving grace of the Trump administration and Trump as a person and brand is that he and it is and are incompetent. The fruit is so low-hanging, the participants are usually rich kids who have never had to really work hard for anything, and the laziness of thought and execution is apparent. This incompetence is also attached to a cruelty and sociopathy that has been destructive to millions of people around the world, and ultimately helped lead to a poorly managed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBC News has a report about one such example. One of the agencies run by a college buddy of Jared Kushner reportedly received $100 million in federal funds to help ameliorate issues facing our supply chain due to the pandemic. That by itself would not be news. What is news is that in the year since receiving that money, the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has "so far failed to invest a single dime" towards its directive. In opposite land, one might say they were shocked by this news.

The DFC was led by former Jared Kushner roommate Adam Boehler from 2019 until the end of Trump's reign of terror. This position afforded him all kinds of fun times, bopping around the globe fixing all of the world's and America's problems with Trump's son-in-law. Remember how Jared solved the Israel/Palestine problem? Remember how the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly had Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered, and then we helped cover it up? Boehler got to be on most of those plane flights and in those meeting rooms with Kushner.

The Trump administration tasked Boehler's DFC, through an executive order that expanded the DFC's purview, with re-shoring the manufacturing of personal protective equipment and other pandemic necessitates in the hopes of relieving the stresses on the world's supply chains. However, Trump's move to earmark the money for the DFC was an attempt to alleviate the crunch felt domestically as the U.S. scrambled to find gloves and masks for front-line workers.

The $100 million given to the DFC was reportedly there to be potentially "leveraged" into many billions of dollars in loans. One of the promises being made to the American public was that in creating this international loan program that would help keep supplies like pharmaceuticals coming into the United States, it would bring jobs into the country by leveraging these loans to give the U.S. supply chain manufacturing footholds that have disappeared over the decades with China's dominance as the world's manufacturing hub.

At the time, Boehler told Reuters that an attractive $12 billion Taiwanese semiconductor plant could end up in Arizona with this money. "We provide loan and investment financing, so could we be relevant there? Absolutely. We're talking tens of billions of dollars in potential here, so that's a possibility, I wouldn't exclude that."

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) points out that none of this seems to have happened. Not that the promises made didn't happen, just that the $100 million that was taken from the CARES Act didn't go anywhere. The author of the GAO report, Chelsea Kenney, told NBC News that the DFC sat on the money for two years, looking at 175 loan applications and getting them down to eight. After two years and being floated $100 million, the DFC has next to nothing to show for it.

The DFC says that even though it was tasked with this job, there are other agencies that are tasked with jobs too, and there are a lot of reviews that must happen before money is handed out, and it is unfair that the DFC has only just begun handling this money and is being judged harshly. Kenney told NBC that that's the job of the GAO, to figure out how well or not well a government agency is working. "Here we are two years in and without an evaluation we can't really understand if this is a tool to address these needs in a national emergency."

The DFC, however, responded and said that while it did not disburse any of the $100 million towards its stated goals, it had spent about $1 million going through the loan applications. The GAO also found that the "DFC has not tracked how much money it spent on the Covid supply-chain program."

The silverish lining in all of this is that while tens of millions of dollars were irresponsibly frittered away by the Trump administration during the pandemic, the DFC seems to have mostly just been a waste of time and resources, wrapped inside of a PR stunt facade:

In July 2020 the agency announced a $765 million commitment to work with Kodak to make generic drug ingredients needed in the pandemic. Kodak's stocks soared by 570 percent and the company said it was planning to expand existing facilities in Rochester, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
The deal came under immediate scrutiny and never went through.

The fact of the matter is that from the very beginning of the pandemic, the Trump administration did what it did in regards to every single move it made even before the pandemic: Trump and his hangers-on looked to find out how it could make money, meaning siphon off taxpayer dollars to Trump and his allies.

How Democrats can deal with Manchin and McConnell in one go

The House and Senate are both in recess this week, neither planning floor sessions. However, that doesn't mean that they're not working on the critical half of President Joe Biden's big economic, climate change, and family agenda he's calling Build Back Better (BBB). It's the companion bill to the hard infrastructure bill that both the House and Senate have passed. Now that House Democrats have decided to trust Biden's ability to bring recalcitrant Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema along and do it in the next three weeks, with the Thanksgiving holiday thrown in, the pressure is very much on. Because it's not just BBB that has to be dealt with by Dec. 3.

The conservative House Democrats who have been fighting that larger budget reconciliation bill agreed that they would allow for a vote on the package "no later than the week of Nov. 15." So that's the immediate job. There won't be any time to rest if that achievement is met because Congress agreed to give themselves that Dec. 3 deadline for two rather important things: lifting or suspending the debt ceiling, and providing government funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2022 (we're already almost a month and a half into it).

Republicans are going to help with neither task. Which means it would make a lot of sense for Democrats to get one of those big must-pass things done as quickly as possible—they need to put the debt ceiling suspension in the budget reconciliation BBB bill, which will pass with only Democratic votes.

There's a lot of good reasons to do that. Joe Manchin is one big one. He backed the idea as recently as a few weeks ago, saying, "Democrats have the responsibility, being the majority party right now, to do it through reconciliation" if Republicans refuse to help. Republicans will refuse to help.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already promised that, and he can't back down. He's already been blasted by other Senate Republicans who said he caved on extending the deadline in early October. For his reward, the former guy is renewing his attacks on McConnell. Republicans aren't going to help.

It would be a sweetener for Manchin—as much of an obstructionist asshole as he is, he's not willing to play with that particular fire, the full faith and credit of the United States. But he is going to be more than willing to delay and delay and delay the BBB budget reconciliation bill. It's been a constant game of whack-a-mole for Democrats with him, as he takes turns with Sinema to pose objections that Democrats have to address—because this thing doesn't pass without them.

If it's the only game in town for lifting the debt ceiling, or better yet forever eliminating it as a weapon for McConnell, then Democrats had better do that.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has blessed the strategy. On the way to the Glasgow climate summit last week, Yellen told reporters that Democrats should be willing to do it. "Should it be done on a bipartisan basis? Absolutely. Now, if they're not going to cooperate, I don't want to play chicken and end up not raising the debt ceiling. I think that's the worst possible outcome," Yellen told The Washington Post. "If Democrats have to do it by themselves, that's better than defaulting on the debt to teach the Republicans a lesson."

The Senate Budget Committee has ruled out that approach previously, but they could and should change their minds, and they should do it using the process Greg Sargent at the Post discussed with Georgetown law professor David Super. The reluctance of Democrats to deal with the debt limit in reconciliation has been because this form of bill requires specific amounts of either spending or revenue increases, and they don't want to saddle themselves with having passed a $3 or $4 or whatever trillion increase. But, Super has argued, they don't actually have to specify a number: "You can probably change the number to something you don't spell out in ink, but that you describe," Super explained. "You tie it to the national debt. That is a number. It's just not a number you wrote out." The number is the national debt, and the debt ceiling is set is tied to that number. Period. No more need for Congress to ever get involved.

Resolve those two things by Thanksgiving (a tall order, but not impossible). Then Congress can focus all of its attention on government funding, which is also mired down right now by Republicans refusing to help appropriators in the Senate set spending levels. They want to skip the budgeting and appropriations process completely and just have another full-year continuing resolution—the kind of stop-gap funding measure that continues funding for everything at current levels until a date specified in the resolution. The current one runs until Dec. 3.

"An endless cycle of continuing resolutions is not a responsible way to govern," Appropriations Chairman Patric Leahy said in response to the proposal. "It means cuts to veterans, cuts to national security and defense, handcuffing our response to the pandemic, and not meeting the challenges of climate change. We have made clear what we are for. What are they for? We are ready to get to work as soon as they come to the table."

They will not come to the table, and they don't have to. There are 50 of them, just like there are 50 Democrats, and they have Manchin and Sinema willing to continue giving Republicans veto power over the Democrats' agenda. As long as the two of them insist the filibuster remains, McConnell has minority rule, with the exception of budget reconciliation. So Democrats need to use it, and they need to make Manchin help. That would make the next two months just slightly less hellish.

GOP congressman appears unaware of how unemployment insurance works — so Ocasio-Cortez helps him out

Tim Burchett is an actual U.S. representative from the state of Tennessee, and he apparently has no idea how unemployment insurance (UI) works. As in, we don't (very rarely, anyway) pay people who quit their jobs. The people who are quitting are frequently applying early for Social Security and/or living off whatever savings they managed to claw back from the hulking dragon hoard of our oh-so-magnanimous cabal of hardly working plutocrats.

Okay, so we're dusting off the bleached bones of this talking point? I'm starting to miss the intellectual heft of the Dr. Seuss/Mr. Potato Head wars. It's like everything Republicans say these days was crafted and focus-grouped by a think tank that shares coworking space with painter Jon McNaughton and a meth lab.

But, hey, why let reality get in the way of a fun narrative?

Unfortunately, this bullshit story is so old it should be meeting Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" trope at Perkins every morning to double-fist Sankas and parse the latest Bonanza fanboy theories.

For the nontweeters:

TIM BURCHETT: "4.3 million workers quit their jobs. We need to quit paying folks not to work."

Good gourd, that's ignorant.

The tweet caught the attention of 10th-level Twitter ninja Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has turned down numerous overtures to join me at Perkins for late-night Sanka bacchanals. It's starting to make me feel just a little uncool.

For the nontweeters:

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: "Y'all already did over a month ago despite everyone having data that ending UI doesn't push people back to work. Conservatives love to act like they're 'fiscally savvy' yet remain puzzled as to why people can't work a job whose pay won't even cover the childcare costs to work."

Yup. As many people who aren't members of Congress know, extended federal UI benefits expired in early September, and their removal didn't meaningfully goose hiring rates, even though Republicans were convinced that "free money" was the sand in the gears preventing more robust recovery from the pandemic.

In fact, 26 states stopped those payments early, and it did bupkis.

Slate:

The hiring boom many seemed to expect has yet to materialize. Job growth actually skidded in August, despite the fact that 26 states had already cut off federal aid. Employers added just 235,000 workers to their payrolls, and the leisure and hospitality industry, which had arguably complained loudest about the effect of UI on hiring, tacked on precisely zero. Surveys from Indeed.com suggest that online job searching has yet to meaningfully pick up and Bloomberg reports that applications in the restaurant sector have actually declined in each of the last nine weeks. Meanwhile, employment hasn't grown any faster overall in states that decided to drop out of the UI programs early than in the ones that continued them into September.

Not only did ending enhanced unemployment benefits do little to boost hiring, the states that ended the programs early also damaged their own economies. According to a paper released in August from researchers at Columbia, Harvard, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the University of Toronto, the decision to end benefits early actually resulted in a significant financial hit.

CNBC:

The employment dynamic — a loss of benefits without resulting job income for most people — led households to cut their weekly spending by 20%, according to the paper. As a result, economies of the cutoff states saw a reduction of nearly $2 billion in consumer spending from June through the first week of August.
"They turned down federal transfers and that money didn't come back into the state [from new job income]," University of Toronto assistant professor Michael Stepner said. He also co-authored the paper.
A 20% spending cut amounts to a big reduction in quality of life for these households, which are largely lower-income, Stepner said.

As Ocasio-Cortez notes, people are starting to realize that working a job (or two, or three) that doesn't pay all their bills—or even all the expenses related to getting back into the workforce—is sort of pointless. Without a strong push for human infrastructure—which includes government support for child care—you'll never get some of these people back to work, because they literally can't go.

But since Republicans found a talking point that works for them, they're going to dry-hump it into humiliated mounds of lint. Never mind that it's a total lie. Their die-hard base doesn't know that, after all. All they "know" is that Joe Biden is the next Che Guevara. And they don't want communism—unless, of course, Donald Trump tells them it's okay.

Current and former Blue Origin employees say it's a hellish workplace — like another Bezos company

So remember when multibillionaire e-tailer Jeff Bezos got shot into space and acted like it was something brand new that a monkey hadn’t done seven decades ago? And how he thanked his long-beleaguered Amazon employees for paying for his ride, and did it all while wearing a cowboy hat that made him look like a 6-year-old posing for sepia-toned GlamourShots at a half-occupied mall outside of Boise, Idaho?

Yeah, you remember.

At the time, some of us thought that maybe he should have brought back old-timey pee breaks instead of small-brained-primate space travel, but apparently Bezos was laser-focused on making his Blue Origin employees just as miserable as his Amazon grunts.

At least that’s the takeaway from a new open letter penned by 21 current and former Blue Origin employees, who complained of … well, practically everything.

The Daily Beast:

Twenty-one current and former employees at Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, published an open letter on Thursday, saying they suffered from “dehumanizing” treatment that left some staffers with suicidal thoughts—all while the firm allegedly sacrificed safety measures in favor of speed.

“When Jeff Bezos flew to space this July, we did not share his elation. Instead, many of us watched with an overwhelming sense of unease. Some of us couldn’t bear to watch at all,” the workers said.

Alexandra Abrams, Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications, was the only named signatory on the letter, which outlines a wide range of grievances. She was fired from Blue Origin in 2019 and now works at Oracle. Others opted to remain anonymous, telling Fortune that they had signed non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements and feared retaliation. In the letter, they said that they were “terrified of the potential consequences for speaking out against the wealthiest man on the planet.”

Yes, Bezos is wealthy, but is he really that scary? Sure, he's suing NASA. And he could probably pass for a James Bond villain, if he didn't wear hats large enough for the Duck Dynasty cast to use for a team sponge bath. But is Bezos really so diabolical?

You can judge for yourself. The entire letter, which was written by Abrams and 20 others, can be viewed here.

Here are some of the more jarring excerpts.

All of us joined Blue Origin eager to innovate and to open access to space for the benefit of humanity. We believe exploring the possibilities for human civilization beyond Earth is a necessity. But if this company's culture and work environment are a template for the future Jeff Bezos envisions, we are headed in a direction that reflects the worst of the world we live in now, and sorely needs to change.

Yeesh. That doesn't sound good.

Workforce gender gaps are common in the space industry, but at Blue Origin they also manifest in a particular brand of sexism. Numerous senior leaders have been known to be consistently inappropriate with women. One senior executive in CEO Bob Smith's loyal inner circle was reported multiple times to Human Resources for sexual harassment. Even so, Smith personally made him a member of the hiring committee for filling a senior HR role in 2019.

A male-dominated corporate culture that creates a toxic working environment for women, whose complaints go largely unheeded? Guess Bezos is reinventing the 1950s office climate as well as the 1950s space capsule.

And don't forget the hypocrisy. We got your hypocrisy right here! Red hot!

What are the blind spots of an organization whose stated mission is to enable humanity's better future, yet is rife with sexism? Blue Origin's flaws extend further, unfortunately. The company proclaims it will build a better world because we're well on our way to ruining this one, yet none of us has seen Blue Origin establish any concrete plans to become carbon neutral or significantly reduce its large environmental footprint.

That's pretty bad. And just in case you thought the working environment was only poisonous for women, think again. Just as Amazon is a shitshow for everyone with a urethra, Blue Origin is apparently a sad place for anyone with emotions or a rapidly fraying sense of basic dignity. The letter states that "Memos from senior leadership reveal a desire to push employees to their limits, stating that the company needs to 'get more out of our employees' and that the employees should consider it a 'privilege to be a part of history.' One directive held out SpaceX as a model, in that 'burnout was part of their labor strategy.' Former and current employees have had experiences they could only describe as dehumanizing."

The signatories also claimed that Bezos' rush to beat fellow rich dudes Elon Musk and Richard Branson into space compromised their missions' safety: "At Blue Origin, a common question during high-level meetings was, 'When will Elon or Branson fly?' Competing with other billionaires—and 'making progress for Jeff'—seemed to take precedence over safety concerns that would have slowed down the schedule."

It's interesting—and perhaps not entirely coincidental—that this story broke right as congressional Democrats are wrangling over the size and scope of their Build Back Better infrastructure plan, and the means to pay for it. We used to do these kinds of projects for the sake of pure scientific inquiry, technological advancement, and national pride, not to launch giant dildos into space—or even the penis-shaped rockets that carry them.

Seems like just a portion of Bezos' hulking dragon hoard could be productively applied toward making thousands of kids' dreams come true, instead of just one obscenely well-heeled dork's masturbatory fantasies.

As Abrams and her colleagues conclude in their letter, "At a minimum, Jeff Bezos and the rest of the leadership at Blue Origin must be held to account, and must learn how to run a respectful, responsible company before they can be permitted to arbitrarily use their wealth and resulting power to create a blueprint for humanity's future. But beyond that, all of us should collectively, urgently, be raising this question: Should we as a society allow ego-driven individuals with endless caches of money and very little accountability to be the ones to shape that future?"

No, no, we shouldn't. Actually, the choice could not be more clear now, could it?

Here's the cynical reason Ohio Republicans punted on drawing a new congressional map

In a very strange development, Ohio's Republican-run legislature has ceded control of congressional redistricting to a so-called "backup" commission by missing a Sept. 30 deadline to pass new maps set in the state constitution.

Given how jealously lawmakers everywhere protect their power, it's necessary to ask why Buckeye Republicans have voluntarily relinquished it in this case. And while state Senate President Matt Huffman claimed that staffers had been too preoccupied with legislative remapping to draw up new congressional lines, there's a likelier explanation that's far more cynical.

Under state law, if lawmakers fail to approve a congressional plan, responsibility is handed over to a panel comprising the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and four legislative appointees, one from each chamber's party leader. That commission, which has exclusive jurisdiction over legislative redistricting, has a 5-2 Republican majority, which already passed an extreme set of gerrymanders for the state House and Senate.

So why punt to the backup commission when Republicans are already in charge of the legislature? Under a feeble reform passed in 2018, congressional maps passed by legislators require a three-fifths supermajority and the support of at least half the members of each party. There's a way around this, though. The commission must also muster bipartisan support for any such maps, but if it fails to do so by Oct. 31, the task reverts to lawmakers, who can then pass a map that's good for a full 10 years with the backing of just one-third of Democrats—or they can approve one without any Democratic support that will last for four years.

That final option may be the most desirable. It would allow Republicans to fine-tune their gerrymanders after just two elections. In fact, that's exactly what transpired when the commission drew up legislative maps: The GOP majority failed to win the votes of the two Democratic members, likewise leading to a four-year map under a similar provision of the constitution.

And even if Republicans don't exercise the chance to go it alone, the mere fact that they can gives them leverage over Democrats to pressure them into accepting a slightly more modest but still durable 10-year gerrymander. Whatever winds up happening, it's advisable to be very skeptical of the GOP's motives.

Senator’s unhinged rant on Build Back Better plan shows how desperate GOP is to stop it

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) appeared "exclusively" on Fox Business' Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo this week to weigh in on Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better human infrastructure plan. I guess the interview was "exclusive" because no one else was talking to her at that very moment, other than the tiny right-wing, Harley-riding Jesus who lives in the part of her brain they scooped out to stop her from eating airplane glue.

Anyway, she's not a fan of the 10-year, $3.5 trillion plan—probably because it would help people other than oil company executives and apoplectic ex-presidents. In fact, the individual provisions of the bill—in addition to the bill as a whole—are so popular, the only thing Republicans can do at this point is lie about it. Fortunately for them, they've had lots of practice.

That said, this take is just a rootin’, tootin’, Jethro Tull-flutin’ cornucopia of unhinged crackpotter.


BLACKBURN: “Maria, we know that the Build Back Better agenda has become the Biden Build Back Broke agenda, and the American people have figured out that what they’re trying to do is institutionalize socialism. They’re trying to do a takeover of the country in one vote. They want government control of your kids, they want to look at your bank account for every transaction over $600. Anything that you do on Venmo or PayPal, they want a part of that transaction. They want government control of health care, they want to demoralize the military, close the churches, destroy your faith in the American system, and then here they’re going to come with the socialist program to run your life from cradle to grave, daylight to dark."

BARTIROMO: “Unbelievable ..."

Yes, it is unbelievable, Maria—though more in the literal sense of “that which cannot be believed.” Not sure that the government ensuring reliable and affordable child care so Americans can afford to go back to work is an example of “running your life from cradle to grave,” but we can agree to disagree on some of the particulars.

The point is, the Build Back Better plan—which provides help paying for child care, establishes universal pre-K education, extends the child tax credit, expands Medicare, provides paid family and medical leave, boldly addresses climate change, and much more—is total jazz pants*, and Republicans simply can’t let you know that or the jig is up. (*I’m trying to get “jazz pants” going as a saying/interjection. I’ve wasted most of my life eating expired Funyuns, and I just want to be remembered for something. The other day I got a senior discount at my weed dispensary. I was so depressed I skipped my regular early bird special at Perkins, went home, and nodded off at 7:30 in the middle of my programs. So, please, drop “jazz pants” into your everyday conversations.)

Anyway, Donald Trump campaigned as a populist who would fight on behalf of the forgotten working class, but his one big legislative “victory” was a tax plan that simply larded the coffers of his billionaire friends. And then, of course, he lied about it.

Blackburn and the rest of the GOP are now panicking at the thought that Biden will get a substantial portion of his plan through Congress, and then Americans will actually see the benefits—which would be a disaster for Republicans, who have become accustomed to Democrats going small and nibbling around the edges while Republicans continually swing their arms and break things.

A big Democratic victory here would expose the GOP as the phony populists they are, and Blackburn simply can’t have that—so they need to scaremonger about Venezuela and communist takeovers and widespread church shutdowns as much as possible.

Because they’re simply brimming with bullshit, and more than anyone else, they fucking know it. It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Florida landlord requires new and current tenants to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine

When it comes to Florida making headlines in recent months, it's more often than not because Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow GOP lackeys in the state are leading residents into disarray because of poor pandemic management. COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged in the state on more than one occasion, and we've covered instances of people absolutely losing it over mask requirements. We've also seen how huge theme parks like Disney and Universal have reacted to the pandemic, with varying risk levels and responsibility to patrons and workers.

With all of this said, Santiago Alvarez, a landlord who oversees more than 1,000 apartments in South Florida, has people talking about the state for a different reason, as reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As of August, Alvarez requires his tenants over 18 to be vaccinated against the virus to live on his property. The policy applies to renters who are renewing their leases, as well as any new tenants. The vaccine requirement also extends to his employees. Important context? 80-year-old Alvarez told The Washington Post that twelve of his tenants have already died from the virus, and he has already caught and survived the virus.

One tenant, 28-year-old Jasmine Irby, complained to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to protest Alvarez's new policy, arguing she should be able to renew her lease "without having to disclose my personal health information," The Post reported. Irby, a security guard who does not plan on getting vaccinated, ultimately moved out of her two-bedroom apartment when her lease ended in late August. Irby, who moved in with her brother, told the outlet that "no one wants to live where they are not wanted."

Of Alvarez's 70 employees, he says only two refused to get vaccinated and decided instead to walk away from the job. Alvarez, who owns eight apartment buildings, has said he's willing to make exemptions for people who have medical and religious barriers to getting the vaccine.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, argued that this policy violates the state's ban on requiring "vaccine passports." Pushaw said business owners—including landlords—can't require "vaccine passports" as a requirement of entry and that each violation of the law can result in a $5,000 fine. She argued that vaccine passports are "unscientific" and won't result in a drop in cases.

Juan C. Zorrilla, an attorney representing Alvarez, told The Post that his client is, technically, not violating the governor's order because tenants are not "customers or patrons," as Alvarez isn't providing a service. His attorney also argues that Alvarez isn't violating any other county or state laws or ordinances.

Kevin McCarthy is terrified that the truth will come out about his Jan. 6 phone call to Trump

The best solution to investigating the events related to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol would have been a nonpartisan outside commission, which was used several times to examine critical issues and key events. But Republicans shot that effort down in the Senate, using the filibuster to defeat the proposal. With an independent commission off the table, Democrats in the House turned to the next best option: a select committee that would have the authority to reach beyond the limitations of standard committees to collect the evidence necessary to understand the events that led up to a vicious mob of paramilitary white supremacists creeping through the halls of Congress hunting for political opponents to hang.

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi formed the House Select Committee investigating the insurgency, Republicans had another chance to cooperate. Instead, minority leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to sabotage the committee by planting it with people who were not only dedicated to seeing the effort derailed but representatives who are extremely likely to end up as witnesses testifying before that committee.

And now that the committee—the bipartisan committee, which includes two Republicans who defied McCarthy to join in finding the truth—has requested electronic records on Jan. 6 to discover who was communicating with Trump and with the insurgents, McCarthy has stepped in again. Only this time, he's not trying to threaten Pelosi or break the committee. That ship has sailed. This time, McCarthy is threatening telecommunications companies and social media companies, telling them that if they cooperate with the investigation, they will be punished when and if the Republicans return to power.

It's a desperate, ugly ploy—that only shows exactly how terrified Kevin McCarthy is of the truth coming out.

As CNN reports, McCarthy has issued a statement claiming that if the companies turn over information in response to a congressional subpoena, they would be "in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States." However, when asked about what last the companies would be violating, McCarthy had no reply. Instead, he just ended with the ominous threat that "a Republican majority will not forget."

The problem for McCarthy is that federal law lies with the committee, which is fully within its rights to issue subpoenas for records connected to the topic of the investigation. And in fact, the committee hasn't yet asked for telecom records from anyone. Despite McCarthy's blunt attempt to bully companies into noncompliance, all that the committee requests is that telecom companies preserve these records in case they are needed.

Even so, just edging around these requests has already promoted Jim Jordan to get nervous enough to admit that he talked to Donald Trump multiple times on Jan. 6. It now appears that Jordan, along with Matt Gaetz, called Trump while huddled in the House "safe room" and begged him to call off the insurgents.

But the real call that McCarthy doesn't want to talk about is the one he made to Trump on Jan. 6. As NBC News reported in February, McCarthy and Trump engaged in an "expletive-filled" call in which McCarthy got pissed off after Trump breezily claimed that it was Antifa ransacking the Capitol. "Who the f—k do you think you are talking to?" McCarthy is reported to have said. But when it came down to getting Trump to halt his followers before they got their hands on a Representative or two, Trump just replied. "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

For a few days following these events, McCarthy maintained his concern about the potential fall of democracy, or at least the potential stretching of his own neck. But within a few weeks, he was at Mar-a-Lago, apologizing to Trump for having the temerity to allow something as unimportance as the continuation of representative democracy to get in the way of Trump's fun.

In response to reporters' questions about that day, McCarthy has given answers like "my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president," which sounds like McCarthy is claiming executive privilege—except he can't. Executive privilege does not extend to conversations held with members of the legislative branch.

The truth is, if the select committee asks telecoms to turn over McCarthy's phone records for that day, they are legally obligated to provide them. Chairman Bennie Thompson has made it clear that the contents of that conversation between Trump and McCarthy are of interest to the committee. At an absolute bare minimum, calls like the one McCarthy and Jordan made show that: 1) Republicans understood that the people attacking the building were not Antifa and were Trump supporters, 2) those Republican representatives believed the insurgents were acting at Trump's request and could be halted by Trump.

If McCarthy is called to testify before the committee, he has two options: testify or claim the right not to testify under the Fifth Amendment. Of course, that second claim would be an admission that McCarthy believes he might be charged with some crime in connection with the events, which would in itself be … not the best look.

Even so, it's a better look than threatening U.S. companies with destruction because they obeyed a legal request. Seems like the best thing these companies, and every other company concerned about the rule of law, can do is to help make sure there never is another Republican majority.

What’s this Texas Republican’s answer to the climate crisis? 'Turn the damn air conditioner up'

Whether you believe it is branded better as climate change or global warming, one thing is clear: Human-driven environmental disasters are a very real thing, and it is only going to get worse. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a truly disastrous report at the beginning of August. In it scientists explain, irrefutably, how our planet's atmosphere is hotter now than it was before humans figured out how to burn everything up in the name of progress. It lays out the dire need for our civilization to move faster toward green energy, even as we have run out of time.

The Texas railroad commissioner's job includes overseeing oil and gas drilling and transportation in the Lone Star State, and Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian has some ideas on how to solve this conundrum. According to Bloomberg, here's what Commissioner Christian told an audience at the NAPE Summit in Houston, an energy industry extravaganza: "Rather than $78 trillion dollars in spending, shutting down the industries around the world, keeping third-world countries from having coal-generated electric power and all kinds of things—turn the damn air conditioner up. It's that simple."

That's a real cynical and dark thing to come out of the mouth of a 70-year-old man. It isn't surprising, mind you, as Christian has been a climate denier for some time now. But what is arguably the most shocking aspect of this all is the fact that after years of denying the science of climate change and humankind's hand in accelerating the warming of the globe, he's in essence now just saying we are fucked, so why stop now since that would be hard and we couldn't make our money the way we make it now.

Christian is running for reelection this year, after a handful of extreme environmental events exposed how terrible and corrupt he and other conservative lawmakers have been for Texas. But getting your conservative bonafides in order has always been more important to Christians like Christian, which is why he has been vocal of late, lying about the financial risks of President Biden rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. In 2018, Christian argued that the only problems with fossil fuels was that millennials didn't understand the fossil fuel industry because they are all woke, which has led to "the acceptance of the politically-correct-driven environmental anti-oil and gas science."

Republican Wayne Christian has been involved in Texas politics for a long time. He started out as a gospel singer in the 1970s and 1980s with The Singing Christians and then the Mercy River Boys. From there Mr. Christian moved into classic right-wing conservative Bible politics, which argue no one should have access to birth control and women shouldn't be allowed to do anything that a good Christian man—maybe even a man with the last name of "Christian"—doesn't sign off on first.

Bloomberg points out that air conditioning use around the world has "tripled" since 1990.

Anti-vaxxers are now freaking out about blood donations from the vaccinated

Assuming we don't all die of the Omega! Omega! Omega! COVID-19 strain sometime before the year 2050, it's easy enough to imagine future archeologists rooting through our scattered, bleached bones seeking explanations for why TruckNutz suddenly disappeared from the fossil record in 2040 or so. Eventually, they'll discover that the Americanicus dumbfuckerus branch of the great apes' evolutionary tree suddenly shriveled up, died, and was employed for a time as God's go-to backscratcher before He noticed it gave Him a really gross rash.

Sometimes I wonder how Charles Darwin, the inventor of evil-ution, would have reacted to what's going on these days in Florida and other boggy redoubts. After all, there's a certain piquant irony to the fact that the very people who don't believe in natural selection are eagerly proving its validity every day.

The latest? Well, it's not enough that anti-vaxxers kill themselves with their scientifically ignorant rejection of vaccines. They've upped the ante by making non-COVID-19-related procedures and emergencies problematic, too.

The Daily Beast:

With nearly 60% of the eligible U.S. population fully vaccinated, most of the nation's blood supply is now coming from donors who have been inoculated, experts said. That's led some patients who are skeptical of the shots to demand transfusions only from the unvaccinated, an option blood centers insist is neither medically sound nor operationally feasible.
"We are definitely aware of patients who have refused blood products from vaccinated donors," said Dr. Julie Katz Karp, who directs the blood bank and transfusion medicine program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia.

Sheesh. I may have to hire an assistant to face-palm me every 10 to 15 minutes so that I don't have to stop typing.

It's no exaggeration to say that anti-vaxxers are literally destroying this country right now, in that they're endangering and killing its citizens—both the vaxxed and un-vaxxed. One of these pestilent pod people has infiltrated my own family. I'd pray for her, but 1) I don't believe in God, per se, and 2) if God does exist, He's obviously made preventing COVID-19 a low priority, somewhere behind sopping up every last bit of moisture in the American West and killing off enough organ donors to allow Dick Cheney to install a new heart every time he changes the smoke detector batteries in his bunker.

You might think, all things being equal, that you'd want blood with COVID-19 antibodies in it. But some people are apparently more worried about getting vaccine "components" mixed in with their pure alpha-man blood than dying on an operating table. And according to Dr. Michael Busch, director of the Vitalant Research Institute, approximately 90% of the blood available for transfusions currently has COVID-19 antibodies in it, either because donors were vaccinated or they previously had COVID-19.

As a result, these requests are impossible to honor. But that hasn't stopped people from pressing their concerns.

Many patients expressing concerns have been influenced by rampant misinformation about vaccines and the blood supply, said [Dr. Geeta] Paranjape, [medical director at Carter BloodCare]. "A lot of people think there's some kind of microchip or they're going to be cloned," she said. Other patients have balked at getting blood from people previously infected with COVID, even though federal guidance greenlights donations two weeks after a positive test or the last symptom fades.

They're afraid they're going to be cloned? Cloned?

Are we sure that's not already happening? It seems to me there are lots of people in this country who were clearly gestated in bathtubs full of homemade gin. And they're afraid of the vaccine because they think it has computer chips in it.

I can't even with these people. It may be too late to reach many of them, but here's an idea: Can we at least make sure we teach our kids what science is? Because most Americans' knowledge of the subject appears to have been drawn from Spider-Man movies.

That's all I ask. Until then, Darwin will be tucking into hot, steamy Jiffy Pop on his tricked-out La-Z-Boy for the foreseeable future.

July 2021 was the single hottest month in the entire history of mankind—for now

It's easy to break records when you just keep going faster. Put the foot on the accelerator and now you're going faster, and now you're going faster, and now you're going faster. Every moment is a new "record" until something gives out. This works whether you're headed down the highway, or directly off a cliff.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the regularity of "the hottest [insert time period here] ever" has become almost monotonous. That's not hard when last year tied for the hottest year on record. And when the year it tied with came just four years earlier. Or when, as NASA reports, the last seven years are the seven hottest years. For seven years in a row, every July has been both the hottest July on record, and also the coolest July going forward. It. Just. Keeps. Getting. Hotter.

So, NPR's reporting of the latest data from NOAA should hit no one as a great surprise—this July set records again. But this July didn't just edge past every other July, it outpaced every other month to capture a new crown: The hottest month in human history. Or at least, it was the hottest month in the 142 years that NOAA has kept records. And while right wing think tanks have been pushing a line that "most of the last 10,000 years" have been warmer than the past century … it will surprise no one that those claims are simply wrong. As NASA's Earth Observatory makes clear, temperatures now are easily warmer than at any time in the last 1,000 years, and there are good reasons to think that record extends back much longer—perhaps longer than human beings have been carving symbols into stone or pressing them into clay tablets.

And we know exactly why. Because in June, the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory recorded a level of 419 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. That's the highest level ever observed. The highest level since at least the middle of the Pliocene epoch, some 4.1 million years ago.

The information that NASA and NOAA had already released going into 2021 should have been more than enough to make anyone sit up and realize that the climate crisis is a genuine existential threat, one that demands immediate, massive, and urgent action.

Temperature changes since 1880

But the news of July's record-shattering temperatures comes just days after the results of the Sixth Assessment Report on the status and effects of the climate crisis. As Reuters reported, that report signals a "code red for humanity." It's not just that the temperatures are now hotter than ever. It's not that they're edging upwards every year. It's that the continued pouring of carbon into the atmosphere is threating to send the climate into a "death spiral" that drives temperatures rapidly upward and causes "deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes and other weather extremes" to become even more frequent and severe.

As it turns out, the NASA chart is really underselling the full impact of what's happened already, because the last century of human-driving climate change is so unusual, that it's hard to put it into context.

On a longer scale, the severity of this change becomes clear

Not only is the change over the last century severe, the when looked at over a longer term, the unprecedented speed of this change becomes clear. There really is absolutely no doubt that this change is triggered by human activity, and only a change in human activity can address it.

NPR sums up this report in three quick points:

  • Humans are causing rapid and widespread warming
  • Extreme weather is on the rise and will keep getting worse
  • If humans cut emissions, the worst impacts are avoidable

This news also comes right on the heels of a report showing that the Gulf Stream—the ocean current responsible for shifting heat around the Atlantic and which controls weather over a large slice of the planet—is on the brink of collapse. It's long been understood that this was possible, and the failure of the Gulf Stream has been one of the most feared possible effects of melting polar ice and warming seas. Without this redistribution of heat, extreme weather events could become far, far more extreme. Climate could radically shift across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Both rainfall patterns and temperatures could be shifted around the world in ways that destroy agricultural areas, turn forests into deserts, and generate millions of climate refugees.

As The Guardian reported on August 5, the new research found ""an almost complete loss of stability." It confirms that the movement of the Stream is already the weakest in 1,600 years and suggests that a collapse of the system could come in the next decades. Scientists involved in the study indicated that they were surprised by how close the system is to failure. And that they were scared.

They're scared in part because the failure of the Gulf Stream is just one of several major tipping points that are happening, not at some distant time in the future, but right now. That includes the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the end of the Amazon rain forest as a mechanism for carbon capture, and the increasing release of methane from arctic sources. If it seems like we're being battered constantly by drought, fires, storms, and radical shifts in weather, it's because we are. The cost of these aren't just already higher than what it would take to address the climate crisis, those costs have already included hundreds of lives in the United States in just the last year.

The assessment of the IPCC study is that the best outcome looking forward is a 3.1° F increase in temperature. That's a change that will generate significant, lasting impact, including producing rising sea levels and lasting droughts that could make cities currently home to millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, unlivable. But at the other end of the scale, the possibility is a world that's 7° warmer in just the next few decades. That's a path to an Earth that's genuinely unrecognizable—and to a future where water, food, and other resources won't just generate refugees, but major conflicts.

As has been said before, there's no question that we can afford the cost of addressing the climate crisis, because we definitely can't afford the cost if we don't.

'Governor who?' Democrats continue to marginalize a radicalized GOP

Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy really doesn't want to talk about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. When Florida journalist Grant Stern dared to ask McCarthy this week why he opposed the Jan. 6 commission, he was quickly and forcibly removed from McCarthy's press conference in Hialeah Gardens, Florida.

McCarthy had been decrying the "the oppression of people being picked up" in Cuba's streets by its police officers. "That's not America. That's not what we stand for," he said.

But faced with an insurrection question moments later, several police officers descended on Stern in a nanosecond to drag him off, saving McCarthy from having to respond.

Republicans' two biggest political liabilities right now are their Jan. 6 denialism and their gross negligence on the pandemic. Indeed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has picked up on this in their battleground district polling and is now encouraging Democratic candidates to highlight GOP disinformation about both vaccines and the insurrection. (The polling also showed Democrats aren't connecting enough with voters on the economy and touting Biden's agenda.)

When it comes to the insurrection, congressional Republicans are in a real bind. There's just no way for them to say anything that satisfies Trump's cultists without alienating swingy suburban voters who don't spend all their days freebasing right-wing sludge from outlets like Fox News and social media. At this point, as many as 80% of GOP voters believe the Big Lie, just 5% of them deem Trump mostly responsible for the Capitol attack, and GOP support for punishing the attackers has dropped considerably since January.

To make matters worse, McCarthy and several of his closes allies, such as Rep. Jim Jordan, could also be called testify in the congressional investigation of the siege, making the topic both personally and politically dicey. Unfortunately for him, ejecting reporters from press conferences and claiming blanket ignorance about the select committee's proceedings are short-term solutions to a long-term problem that only worsens as more information about Trump's attempted coup emerges.

But for now, every time congressional Republicans in swing states and districts get a Jan. 6-related question, expect to see "Danger! Danger!" expressions sweep across their faces. The only reality-based House Republicans who don't live in fear of those questions are the two sitting on the panel: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

The other issue dogging congressional Republicans and some GOP governors is the rapid rise in COVID-19 infections ripping through red America. For months, Republicans had the luxury of being part of the pandemic problem while Democrats labored to offer real-word solutions such as financial relief and a nationwide vaccination program.

But now that vaccinated Americans—roughly 70% of U.S. adults—have grown exasperated with the unvaccinated Republicans driving most of the delta variant surge, GOP lawmakers have switched into overdrive to escape culpability.

As a rule, Republicans never promote public health for the sake of public health. So when right-wing Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana turns his belated July vaccination into a photo-op and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky spends campaign funds to promote vaccines, it's definitely a hair-on-fire moment for Republicans.

The urgency is two-fold. First, voters are ticked off about the delta setback and looking for answers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the states driving the bulk of the new infections and conclude that Republican lawmakers and their voters are the problem. Second, if Republicans can gaslight enough people into believing GOP lawmakers reasonably backed vaccinations, then they can blame President Biden for failing to get the pandemic under control.

To be clear, failing to regain control of the pandemic does pose a political risk to Biden since it's the No. 1 job voters hired him to do. And even though it's Republican governors in GOP-dominant states that are undermining Biden's efforts right now, voters aren't always rational when it comes to accountability.

But it's still Republicans who have the bigger hill to climb here since anyone with a grip on reality knows who's at fault for stoking vaccine hesitancy and imposing heavy-handed bans on pandemic mitigation efforts.

The bigger task for most congressional Republicans right now is convincing Americans that they aren't a party of extremists. That is proving exceedingly difficult after they gifted their party to Donald Trump and must now cater to its fringes while attempting to appear palatable enough to earn the votes of anti-Trump conservatives.

Democrats seem to understand the enormity of the political bind Republicans are in on the pandemic and Jan. 6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been publicly marginalizing House Republicans as a party too "moronic" to be worthy of her time.

President Biden adopted a similar posture on the pandemic this week, telling GOP governors, "Please help. But if you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way."

Biden's earnest plea came in the context of the life-and-death dilemma he is facing as president to protect the health of Americans and save lives. But his blunt remarks were certain to draw the ire of a blowhard like Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is presently presiding over the worst outbreak in the nation.

DeSantis predictably fired back at Biden. "Why don't you do your job? Why don't you get this border secure?" DeSantis said, trying to turn the state's dire public health crisis into an immigration issue. Apparently, DeSantis wants Biden to secure Florida's border to the north with Alabama and Georgia since his state is surrounded by water in every other direction.

When Biden was later asked about DeSantis' fiery response, he merely quipped, "Governor who?" before breaking into a grin.

Like Pelosi, Biden simply doesn't have time to waste on unserious people like Ron DeSantis, who is eagerly wagering the lives of his constituents on his chances in the GOP's 2024 presidential sweepstakes.

Biden does need to turn the tide on delta surge. But dismissing Republicans as the radicals they are is a worthy political endeavor in and of itself. Anything they say in response only serves to further define the GOP as a party of extremists.

Trump still isn't paying 'close to broke' Rudy despite huge fundraising haul

Donald Trump doesn't pay his bills, and he isn't loyal to anyone. This is like saying the sky is blue and the sun sets in the west. It's as plain as the pug nose on Trump's jowly ape scrotum of a face, and if you end up getting burned by this universal MAGA maxim, you need to load up on aloe and simply take your lumps and/or blisters.

I mean, even Satan lives up to his obligations when, say, he loses fiddle contests. Trump can't even admit losing to Joe Biden. He's as good as his word—so long as that word is "knobcheese."

So I'm not sure what Rudy Giuliani was thinking while traversing the country in the wake of Donald Trump's election defeat, spritzing his enchanted brain effluent out the sides of his shrunken apple head in order to bewitch we common plebs into thinking Trump was the legitimate president-elect.

Sure, Rudy did a terrible job. Trump would have gotten better legal advice by waterboarding Jeanine Pirro with a few slop buckets full of Stoli, but Rudy really did stick his neck out for Trump. Sure, he might have been hanging out at that Philly dildo store anyway, but without Trump's electoral obstinance, at most two or three middle-aged men would have been gawking at him during his shambolic jerk-off session … instead of the whole world.

So, naturally, this short tweet thread from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is as pathetic as it is predictable:


For the nontweeters:

Giuliani allies are looking at the Trump $ - even if it isn't $82 million - and are aghast that Trump isn't helping Giuliani with legal fees. Giuliani's friends say he is saying he is close to broke, and his interview w @MelissaRusso4NY makes clear he knows he's in legal jeopardy
Trump aides have been clear they see no mechanism for paying Giuliani's legal bills that isn't problematic for Trump, and they think Giuliani took actions a lawyer should have known were problematic, even if the client wanted it.

But this is of note in the context of Trump having had a previous lawyer who pleaded guilty and then cooperated with an investigation into Trump.

They see no mechanism for paying Giuliani's legal bills? How about Venmo? Personal checks also work. As do Spanish doubloons. Or Bitcoin. Any form of currency, really. I mean, at the very least, Trump could send Grampa Fiddle-Pants whatever's in his wallet right now, even if it's just a half-stamped Subway Club card and a few random shekels.

Trump has reportedly built a political war chest in excess of $100 million, but Giuliani has about as much chance of seeing even a small portion of it as he does of securing Ivanka's betrothal.

As for Haberman's ominous final tweet? Yes, please! What could be more entertaining than Rudy Giuliani flipping on Donald Trump? Other than Michael Cohen flipping, that is.

Rudy's already professionally and morally bankrupt. Does he have to be financially bankrupt, too? Well, apparently Donald Trump thinks so. And he calls the shots for all these clowns.

CA secretary of state candidate says she knows Trump won state because she's an empath who can 'feel the vibe of places'

You know, if we're just going to go with our hunches about political races and assume they mean something, then I must insist that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election by a final score of 154 million to, I don't know, 8. Total votes, that is. Because I simply can't fathom why anyone not named Trump would ever vote for anyone who is named Trump. It would be like putting up a big, star-spangled yard sign to let your neighbors know you have chlamydia. Only far more embarrassing.

Unfortunately, my visceral hunches are worthless, as evidenced by my warehouse full of unsold Michael Dukakis tank-helmet action figures. Luckily, though, I don't rely on hunches, astrological charts, chicken entrails, Dick Morris, or any other wildly unreliable yardstick to determine who wins elections. I rely on counted and certified votes. Yes, I know. Quaint.

Rachel Hamm, a "children's ministries director at a large evangelical church," is nevertheless attempting to use something akin to witchcraft to ascertain the true winner of California's 2020 electoral votes. She's also a candidate for California secretary of state who's been endorsed both by Pillow Man Mike Lindell and Roger Stone, so you know she's legit.

On the July 28 edition of Steve Bannon Molts His Larval Alien Husk Before Your Astonished Eyes, Hamm was asked how she knew Donald Trump won California. (Narrator: He didn't.)

It went a little like this:

Here's why Jim Jordan is about to get legally dragged over whether he colluded with Trump to subvert 2020

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio really wasn't interested in answering questions about the conversation he had with Donald Trump on Jan. 6. When Fox News' Bret Baier first asked Tuesday whether he had spoken to Trump that day, Jordan's mouth started firing off like a Gatling gun.

He had talked to Trump "umpteen times ... thousands... countless times ... numerous times," Jordan said before Baier interrupted him.

"No, I mean on Jan. 6, Congressman," Baier clarified.

"Yes," Jordan finally said, adding that he couldn't even recall the many times he's spoken to Trump.

The next day, Jordan more readily admitted that Jan. 6 call. But asked by Spectrum News reporter Taylor Popielarz whether he spoke with Trump before, during, or after the Capitol attack, Jordan was again overtaken by memory issues.

"I spoke with him that day, after? I think after," Jordan offered. "I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know … I don't know when those conversations happened." Those are the type of memory issues that can sometimes be cleared up under oath, and this week Jordan became a prime subpoena candidate in the Jan. 6 inquiry.

For starters, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a key member of the Jan. 6 select committee, told ABC's Good Morning America Tuesday that "Congressman Jordan may well be a material witness" in the investigation.

"He's somebody who was involved in a number of meetings in the lead-up to what happened on Jan. 6, involved in planning for Jan. 6, certainly for the objections that day as he said publicly," Cheney added.

In the same appearance, Cheney also declined to shoot down an account in a new book about Trump, I Alone Can Fix It, in which Jordan tried to help her on Jan. 6 and she reportedly shot back, "Get away from me, you fucking did this."

It's worth remembering that, even though Cheney was ousted from her Republican caucus leadership post in May, at the time of the insurrection and the immediate aftermath, she was not entirely on the outs yet. At that point, the battle lines had yet to be clearly drawn, as Republican leaders briefly flirted with cutting Trump loose. So Cheney, who's immediate life mission is to make sure everyone who contributed to Jan. 6 is held to account, was privy to a lot of critical information. Insofar as the GOP caucus is concerned, it's fair to think of her as a somewhat unconventional insider-turned-outsider, and that makes her very dangerous.

Cheney is also fixated on documenting every moment of what happened at the White House on Jan. 6—an effort she emphasized in her opening statement at Tuesday's first select committee hearing, and then mentioned again during the ABC interview.

"The American people, as I said, deserve to know what happened every minute of that day," Cheney reiterated. "They deserve to know about every phone call that was made in and out of the White House, every meeting, every discussion that was had that day in the White House as the Capitol building was under attack."

Jordan may want to start checking his phone logs sooner rather than later. On top of Cheney's clear-eyed focus, he's also not going to get any cover from claiming his conversations with Trump were privileged. In other big Jan. 6 news this week, the Justice Department has reportedly informed Trump administration officials that the department does not support an executive privilege exemption from being compelled to testify about Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

As Just Security writes, "This is a significant development that will clear the way for witnesses to provide evidence to the committees investigating post-election conduct, including the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol."

That news preceded the disclosure of notes taken by a top Trump-era Justice Department official, of phone calls in which Trump repeatedly tried to pressure the acting attorney general into claiming the election was marred by fraud. Specifically, in a call on Dec. 27, the official's notes depict Trump telling then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to "Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."

Though Trump didn't explicitly name those congressmen, according to the notes, at other points in the conversation he praised Jordan as a "fighter," mentioned Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and claimed Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was "getting to the bottom of things," according to reporting from The New York Times.

The revelation spurred Jordan's spokesperson to issue a statement saying the congressman "did not, has not, and would not pressure anyone at the Justice Department about the 2020 election."

It's a pretty narrow denial. Everyone can apparently breathe easy now, knowing that Jordan didn't personally call up DOJ officials and harangue them about overturning the 2020 election. Because, frankly, only Trump would be brazenly stupid enough to do that.

On Jan. 11, just five days after the insurrection, Trump awarded Jordan with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in a private ceremony. At the time, Trump was holed up at the White House and hadn't made a public appearance since the fiery insurrection-day speech in which he had directed thousands of attendees to march down to the Capitol and "fight like hell."

At the time Trump, who was seemingly running out of options to retain the presidency, was in the midst of rewarding his staunchest loyalists with everything from symbolic sycophancy awards to some pretty consequential pardons.

Jordan, who must have felt pretty smug about his achievement, is about to find out that medal isn't worth a hill of beans legally. And while Jordan's level of participation in the planning of Jan. 6 remains unclear, the effort to uncover the extent of his collusion with Trump is going to prove pretty uncomfortable. Liz Cheney is going to see to that.


The Hill serves up what may just be the most absurd headline in media history

The "just wait, he's gonna turn presidential any moment now" crowd is still at it, months after Donald John Trump skulked away from the White House with his schwanz between his atrophied, KFC-bucket-balancin' gams.

For more than five years after his rambling, racist campaign launch speech, Trump has had every opportunity to prove there was more to him than meets the eye. There isn't. I've looked. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Trump's are more like splotchy peepholes into John Wayne Gacy's crawlspace. There's nothing there but rank evil, soul-crushing emptiness, and half-slurped McNugget sauces.

Sure, it's possible Trump could still see the light, renounce his numerous past outrages, and embrace Western liberal democracy. It's also possible I'll suddenly improve upon my 4-inch vertical and join the Milwaukee Bucks roster just in time to snag an NBA championship ring. (Go Bucks! As a native Wisconsinite, I need something to distract me from Ron Johnson's perpetual awfulness.)

That said, Trump's legion of apologists is keeping the faith. The guy was president for four years, after all. He must have learned something along the way about fair and effective governance. (Narrator: He didn't.)

Witness one Conrad Black, the author of A President Like No Other: Donald J. Trump and the Restoring of America. Black apparently thinks there's still something salvageable in this tire fire of a human being, and he's decided to die on this Hill.

Buckle up, folks. This will get weird, starting with the headline. Unless you want to spray your beverage halfway to Alpha Centauri, make sure you're not drinking anything when you read this. You've been warned.

"How Trump can win again: Become the calm, moderate candidate," Black posits. It just gets goofier from there.

First, the lede:

The political scene is evolving so quickly that I presume to offer some advice to President Trump: He can now win in 2024 by being the potential candidate of calm and moderation.

Sure, Trump can do that. Or he can suggest nuking hurricanes, try to overturn a free and fair election, incite a deadly riot, lobby for putting alligator-filled moats at the southern border, promote unapproved drugs, act like a freshly gelded howler monkey when asked anodyne questions by the media, and generally behave like a marginally less grounded Randy Quaid.

The uncharacteristically incautious comments of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that, in effect, the dreadful Trump specter had passed and they could all go back to being the good-natured losers of the Bush-McCain-Romney eras was effectively retracted within a few days. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has disgraced herself by joining the Trump-hate operation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and, in Republican terms, is sinking without a ripple as a consequence.

Hmm, the Bushes won three out of four of the elections they competed in after becoming their party's nominees. John McCain and Mitt Romney lost just as many elections as Trump. And George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush both won the popular vote at least once, whereas Trump never did. What on Gaia's green globule is this fucknut talking about?

Black rambles on for a half dozen anti-Democrat paragraphs before arriving at the pièce de résistance.

Now, as time passes, the public irritation with Trump's bombastic behavior, of his being in the nation's face day and night for four years, will recede and gradually be replaced by the spectacle of a comatose Biden administration, floundering and dissembling, fecklessly struggling with the various crises it has created. There will be, soon enough, nostalgia for Trump instead — and if he is wise, he can become a winning figure of comparative Olympian serenity.

Nostalgia for Trump? Uh, no. The guy is seared into our memories, I'll give you that. But "nostalgia" implies fond memories. I have nostalgia for eating Cracker Jack on a picnic bench during the summer of '76. I don't have nostalgia for the raucous pink belly I received from my reprobate siblings 10 minutes later.

But this. This! "… if he is wise, he can become a winning figure of comparative Olympian serenity."

Trump isn't wise, and never will be. (See also: nearly every news story from the past half-decade.)

Trump's a loser. Full stop.

A "figure of comparative Olympian serenity?" Next to Trump, Crispin Glover circa 1987 was a figure of comparative Olympian serenity. But Trump himself never, ever will be.

It's normal for historians and especially partisans to want to rehabilitate a former president's image and reputation, but Trump's rep is trashed. He might as well have smeared those feces on the inner walls of the U.S. Capitol himself. There's no forgetting Jan. 6—or any of the other 1,460 days he cosplayed as president.

And no amount of gaslighting after the fact can possibly make us forget, no matter how much devotees like Conrad Black try.

Trump reportedly 'shocked' his former chief of staff with refusal to stop praising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler

Back in 2017, the inventor of Godwin's Law made it clear that comparing someone to a Nazi, when they are literally praising the Nazis, was completely fair. That came during the sequence of events at Charlottesville, where violent white supremacists marched to Nazi slogans and one deliberately killed peaceful protester Heather Heyer by driving over her with a car. Trump responded by a statement that there were "very fine people" on both sides of the events, then he doubled-down on that statement with a claim that he was only supporting the Nazis in their praise for a Confederate traitor.

In 2018, Trump explicitly declared "I'm a nationalist," in a speech ostensibly supporting Ted Cruz. "You know, they have a word," said Trump. "It sort of became old-fashioned. It's called a nationalist. And I say really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I am a nationalist. Use that word."

So when The Guardian published an account on Wednesday morning that Trump defended Hitler while on a tour of military cemeteries … is anyone really surprised?

"Hitler," said Trump, "did a lot of good things."

The pro-Hitler conversation is from a book titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by Wall Street Journal reported Michael Bender which is slated for publication next week.

On a 2018 trip to Europe in which Trump was supposed to go to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to visit the graves of 2,300 Americans who were killed in World War I. Instead, Trump skipped out on the visit, claiming it was too wet, while actually telling his advisers that he had no interest in visiting soldiers who were "losers" and "suckers."

During that visit, it was already known that then chief of staff John Kelly tried to explain the circumstances of both World Wars, to explain how the actions taken after World War I contributed to the rise of the Nazis, and how that led to World War II. Trump responded by saying that he "didn't understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies."

But the new book goes further. It explains how Trump "stunned" Kelly by his direct support of Hitler. Kelly reputedly told Trump that he was wrong to support the murderous dictator, "but Trump was undeterred." Instead, Trump kept pointing to how Hitler supposedly pulled Germany out of its economic slump in the 1930s.

Kelly grew explicit in his response, telling Trump, "you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can't."

Even then, Trump continued to praise Hitler. Kelly was reportedly disgusted, as were other unnamed senior officials who described Trump's "understanding of slavery, Jim Crow, or the Black experience in general post-civil war as vague to nonexistent."

Trump has, according to Kelly, a "stunning disregard for history." But then, why should anyone expect anything else? Trump has been rewarded for ignoring history. He lost no support among Republicans for attacking veterans, prisoners of war, or Gold Star families. He lost no support for his embrace of the term nationalist, or for his often-expressed love for modern-day dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Rodrigo Duterte. Trump actively gained support in the party for white supremacist positions that insist that white people are the real victims of racism, and that Blacks and immigrants are not real Americans. The Republican Party is marching ahead with those principles in every state, making rolling back voting rights and villainizing immigrants the cornerstone of their 2022 effort.

Don't expect to see any criticism from Republicans over Trump's statement. Instead, expect them to first claim that it's all made up—then to embrace it.

Trouble in GOP paradise: The Trump-DeSantis alliance frays

Ever since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis edged out Donald Trump for the top spot in a presidential straw poll last month, it seemed inevitable that tensions between the once-chummy camps of both men would flare. Indeed, that appears to be the case in the latest squabbling over who told whom to do what regarding Trump's Sarasota rally last weekend.

After DeSantis reportedly begged Trump last week to delay his campaign-style rally out of respect for the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts in the Surfside condominium collapse, things started getting murky in terms of which Florida Man flipped off the other one first.

Had DeSantis snubbed Trump by saying he would not attend the rally, or had Trump stiff-armed DeSantis into keeping his distance? That depends on whom you ask. In the world according to Trump, he was the one who told DeSantis not to attend the rally, which was being held some 200 miles away from the site of the Surfside tragedy.

"We mutually agreed. He is working very hard. He is doing a very good job. He should be there," Trump told Newsmax. "I told him: 'You should stay there, this is not that important for you.' He of all people should be there."

But DeSantis aides told the New York Times it was the Florida governor who made the call. "He spoke with President Trump, who agreed that it was the right decision, because the governor's duty is to be in Surfside," said DeSantis press secretary, Christina Pushaw, who also denied any effort by the governor to delay the rally.

Whatever the case, Trump held the rally, DeSantis did not attend, and somehow Trump shockingly forgot to give DeSantis even a single mention in his 90-minute stemwinder—despite thanking other local GOP officials in Florida.

What Trump did manage to work in was a teaser about his own potential 2024 presidential bid. "We are looking at the election, more than looking at it," Trump said to an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

Some allies of both men have been trying to downplay talk of tensions between the two. But the Times' Annie Karni confirms what we all know to be true—Trump's tragically tiny ego simply cannot tolerate the notion of anyone cutting into his limelight.

People close to Mr. Trump said he had become mildly suspicious of a supposed ally. He has grilled multiple advisers and friends, asking "what's Ron doing," after hearing rumors at Mar-a-Lago that Mr. DeSantis had been courting donors for a potential presidential run of his own. He has asked aides their opinion of a Western Conservative Summit presidential straw poll for 2024 Republican presidential candidates, an unscientific online poll that showed Mr. DeSantis beating Mr. Trump.
In case you didn't get your fill of fireworks over the 4th, don't fret! There's sure to be an epic display over the coming months courtesy of the GOP's elite force of Florida Men

Engineer found collapsed Florida condo had 'major structural damage': 2018 report

At least 159 people remain unaccounted for in the Champlain Towers South condo collapse, with four reported dead as of this writing. As hope dwindles, and first responders navigate dangerous conditions as they search for survivors, those personally affected are searching for an answer to one simple question: "Why?" Why did this happen? Could it have been prevented?

Though it will take time to gain certainty about cause of the deadly building collapse, answers are starting to emerge. The town of Surfside, Fla. released a nearly three-year-old inspection report for the collapsed Champlain Towers South high-rise condominium on Friday night. Conducted in October 2018 by Morabito Consulting, the assessment uncovered the need for significant repairs to the building, and identified "systemic" design flaws that were leading to "major structural damage" to the 13-story building.

An attorney for the Chaplain Towers South condo board, which is led by residents of the building, told The New York Times that multi-million-dollar repairs were just about to begin.

Before anyone could put on their hardhat, the building collapsed in the earliest hours of Thursday morning, while most of the community slept.

Champlain Towers South is a beachfront property in the tiny town of Surfside, near Miami. Built in 1981, the building has endured decades of hurricanes and climate change, but according to the newly released 2018 report by Morabito Consultants, the worst and most significant damage to the building was due to "a major error" in the design of the pool deck.

(T)he waterproofing below the Pool Deck & Entrance Drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond [its] useful life and therefore all must be completely removed and replaced. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extenft of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.

[...]
The main issue with this building structure is that the entrance drive/pool deck/planter waterproofing is laid on a flat structure. Since the reinforced concrete slab is not sloped to drain, the water sits on the waterproofing until it evaporates. This is a major error in the development of the original contract documents ...

The report also notes that replacing the existing pool deck waterproofing would be "extremely expensive" and "create a major disturbance to the occupants" of Champlain Towers South.

Surfside's Mayor told The New York Times that he was unaware of the nine-page Morabito report, and wanted to review it before making comment. However, the owners of the building were aware.

Kenneth S. Direktor, a lawyer who represents the resident-led association that operates the building, said this week that the repairs had been set to commence, based on extensive plans drawn up this year.
"They were just about to get started on it," he said in an interview, adding that the process would have been handled much differently if owners had any indication that the corrosion and crumbling — mild instances of which are relatively common in many coastal buildings — were a serious threat.
Eliana Salzhauer, a Surfside commissioner, said that while the cause of the collapse was unknown, it appeared to her that the problems identified by the engineer in the 2018 report could have contributed to the structural failure.
"It's upsetting to see these documents because the condo board was clearly made aware that there were issues," Ms. Salzhauer said. "And it seems from the documents that the issues were not addressed."

As those with loved ones trapped in the rubble begin to let go of their dreams of miracle rescues, the focus on the whys of this tragedy has crept in.

Sergio Lazano, who lived a block away in another Champlain Towers building, told The Daily Beast that "there's no hope" for his parents, and he's moved on to trying to convince himself that they died instantly, in their sleep. He, along with another resident who didn't care to be named, told The Daily Beast that the building had long exhibited signs of damage—signs that were reportedly ignored.

According to them, steel reinforcing bars were protruding from the walls, cracks were forming on supporting beams, chunks of concrete were falling from one balcony to another, and the condo's pool was starting to leak into the parking garage below—evidenced by the white stains on cars left by dripping water that had mixed with concrete powder.
[...]
However, one person told The Daily Beast that years of attempts to have the building's condo board take on expensive repairs was met with stiff resistance from unit owners who were reluctant to spend the funds.
It's still unclear what caused the sudden splintering of the structure, and it could be months before any determination is made. But at least one witness account that the condo's pool had disappeared into a sinkhole is generating theories that the building was pulled down into disintegrating limestone, a natural occurrence that has long plagued Florida.

Here's the sinkhole account, given to The Miami Herald:

Early Thursday morning, Mike Stratton awoke to the sound of his cellphone ringing. It was his wife, Cassie Stratton, on the other end, speaking frantically about their condo building shaking. She told him she saw a sinkhole where the pool out her window used to be. Then the line went dead.
"It was 1:30 a.m., I'll never, never forget that," he said.

Stratton last saw his wife on Monday, just before he left for a business trip in Washington, D.C. They'd lived in the high-rise for about four years.

The wreckage of a partially collapsed building in Surfside north of Miami Beach, Florida on June 25, 2021. - Four people are now known to have died in the collapse of an oceanfront apartment building near Miami Beach, officials said Friday, while the number of unaccounted for has risen to 159 -- fueling fears of a much higher death toll. (Photo by Gianrigo MARLETTA / AFP) (Photo by GIANRIGO MARLETTA/AFP via Getty Images)

At least one lawsuit related to the collapse has been filed; it's a class action in the name of the victims and survivors, and asserts that

[Champlain Towers South Condominium Association Inc.]"failed to adequately secure the building, placing the lives and property of its occupants and visitors ... at risk resulting in the collapse of the building."

Further, the lawsuit declares that

"At all relevant times, defendant was aware, or reasonably should have been aware that the plaintiff's and the class's lives and property were at risk due to the lack of precautions taken at Champlain Towers South."

An attorney for the condo association was quick to dismiss the lawsuit.

Donna Berger, another attorney with Becker Lawyers, told NBC News that it was "disappointing" for a lawsuit "to be the focus right now of any owner in Champlain Towers South, when almost 100 of their neighbors are still unaccounted for."
[...]
"I feel as a culture we've become so accustomed from moving from one tragic event to another, and there's often a rush to judgment," she said. "This was a community that was functioning well and doing the right things and just struck with a freak tragedy."
[...]
"How in the span of less than a day could an attorney file a lawsuit alleging anything? Every expert on the site doesn't know what happened, yet some attorney has decided that he has figured this all out," Berger added. "Certainly, if there's culpable parties, they should be held accountable, but first and foremost our focus is on the search and rescue efforts."

Berger also implied that nearby construction of another condo may have been to blame.

It will take weeks, if not months, before a final verdict on the cause of the collapse will come down from teams of investigators and engineers, providing some sort of closure for those who've lost loved ones and their homes in the collapse. Then, perhaps, that question of "why" will finally be answered for those left behind to ask.

DeSantis beats Trump in presidential straw poll

Want to nip Ron DeSantis' likely 2024 presidential bid in the bud? Tell the kaiser of GQP-land there's another rooster in the henhouse. If there's one thing a cult leader won't abide it's a threat to his authority.

It's way too early to determine which malodorous heap of seething white grievance and unworkable ideas will rocket to the head of the Republican pack in 2024, but at least one straw poll indicates Donald Trump's vise-like grip on the party's pendulous, purpling nads could be loosening in favor of one of the big man's most loyal surrender-generals in his non-fight against COVID.

Ron DeSantis, who did more than any other governor to spread freedom phlegm throughout the lower 48, was the winner of a recent straw poll asking conservatives about their 2024 presidential preferences.

The Week:

On Saturday ... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) edged Trump in a straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. In-person and online attendees were asked to vote for all the potential candidates they approve of out of a 31-person field. Trump and DeSantis were neck-and-neck at the top, but there was some hefty distance between them and the third-place finisher, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Former Vice President Mike Pence finished 10th.
Obviously, at this stage, a straw poll could simply be a mirage, but DeSantis has looked like a contender elsewhere, finishing second to Trump in the 2024 straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Trump has also said, if he does make another bid for the White House, he'd consider the controversial, but popular governor as a potential running mate.



Up until now, DeSantis has been a loyal Trump acolyte, but knowing Trump, this has already gotten underneath his skin. DeSantis can expect a severed manatee head on his pillow any day now.

Interestingly, Mike Pence, the man who perfected the art of assembling IKEA furniture inside Donald Trump's sigmoid colon, was way down the list in 10th place—probably for the same reason he got heckled at an ultra-conservative Faith & Freedom convention last week. His political career turned a whiter shade of pale as soon as he refused to overturn the 2020 election in his own favor—a show of insolence that enraged his master. And now he's milquetoast. (Or more so, anyway.)

Even Donald Trump Jr., who's more amphetamine than man at this point (maybe; people are saying; many, many people), edged out Pence.

But Donald Trump can only screw over one potential rival at a time, and for the moment, that appears to be DeSantis.

Do your thing, baby-man. Cut DeSantis off at the knees. You know you want to.

BRAND NEW STORIES