A third of states have enacted new voter suppression laws since the Republican insurrection: analysis

Last November, a Republican president who oversaw 500,000 unnecessary American deaths and a resulting economic collapse lost his reelection bid. Rather than a begrudging admission that a seemingly delusional compulsive liar with no skills for the job and a record of scandal and chaos was a piss-poor candidate who lost because Americans had lost patience for his bellowing performance art, countless top members of the Republican Party immediately, and at Donald Trump's behest, declared that actually the only reason Republicanism lost at the polls was because the entire world conspired against them to secretly rig the election against Burping Authoritarianism.

As an excuse for a poor performance by a singularly unimpressive buffoon, it would have been merely pathetic. The moment the Republican Party began to act on their own false propaganda, crafting law after law predicated on false "fraud" that all aimed squarely at throwing up new obstacles to voting in communities that voted against them the last time around, it became an attack on democracy itself.

The Brennan Center for Justice now identifies one third of all American states as having passed new laws blocking access to the polls in the months since the last election. That's not laws proposed. That's laws already passed in Republican Party attempts to win future elections by specifically targeting working class, poor, communities of color, and other groups with new restrictions that make voting slightly harder or slightly more complicated.

Because mail-in voting during a deadly pandemic swung sharply against the Republican presidential candidate, mail-in voting is being sharply curtailed by Republican state legislatures. Because early voting and expanded poll hours both have allowed voters a chance to evade hours-long lines on election days—lines which continue to be conspicuously commonplace in neighborhoods of color even as polling places in nearby Republican-leaning communities enjoy more resources and few such delays—Republican legislatures are slashing early voting locations and times so as to force non-Republican leaning voters back into the long lines racist governments had previously engineered.

Other laws have placed new restrictions on providing any help to voters, whether it be help seeking ballots, help returning ballots, or even providing food or water to voters stuck in the hours-long lines that Republican lawmakers have insisted on preserving. New paperwork requirements present new hurdles for working class voters to overcome, hurdles of time, money, or both.

All of it is based on the Big Lie: A Republican Party-backed declaration that the last election was "stolen" from the incompetent Republican candidate, therefore justifying drastic nationwide action to do ... the same sort of vote-suppressing activities that the party has relied on for the last half century.

Federal action is currently being stymied by, of course, the same Republican lawmakers who united to save Trump from impeachment after he goaded violent insurrection with the exact propaganda being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new voter suppression laws now. The conventions of the Senate allow a minority—currently set at 40 senators, after multiple past changes to the number that were each themselves a response to a rump of racist lawmakers blocking past federal action to enforce basic civil rights protections—to block new federal protections giving all communities uniform minimum voting standards.

What's still not getting through the heads of some lawmakers, however, is just how extensive current Republican Party moves to reshape our elections truly are. A third of U.S. states have already seen voters placed under new, suppressive restrictions. Republican Party leaders are continuing to push completely false propaganda asserting that they "won" a presidential election they did not win. House and Senate Republicans continue their attempts to sabotage a probe of the resulting violent insurrection, in large part because any such probe of necessity must document how the party's provably false claims were spread to insurrectionist ears.

Civil rights activists are warning that attempts to "out-organize" new suppressive laws will not necessarily succeed. The point of widespread Republican voter suppression is to knock even the smallest possible fraction of Americans off the voting roles; not every one of the voters affected can be made whole again. Activists are thus beginning to express their frustration with this Democratic dawdling.

There may be a tradition, in the Senate, of using the filibuster to block new civil rights protections so as to allow the efforts of racist state lawmakers to continue unimpeded. There's also a tradition of altering the rules of the filibuster when it is being abused for that purpose.

There may be no more urgent time to protect voting rights than in the aftermath of a violent insurrection premised squarely on overturning an election rather than abide by voters' will. The anti-democratic party that goaded an attempted toppling of government by promoting false claims is using those same false claims to justify new roadblocks between voters and future ballot boxes. Both acts must be rebuffed.

Trump falsely claims Biden may yet be removed from office as Republican lawmakers attack Jan. 6 probes

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring. He doesn't need to shine Donald Trump's boots, or engage in fantastical stories of supposed election fraud. He doesn't need to run interference for a movement that goaded supporters into a frenzy by claiming that even elections themselves were now illegitimate, causing violent believers to launch a direct attack on government to nullify a Trump loss. Anything he is or isn't doing right now he is doing because he wants to.

Right now, Sen. Pat Toomey wants America to stop probing the causes of a violent insurrection. Investigating how it happened is just a ploy by Democrats to hurt Republicans, he says. It is a "constant reminder about a terrible episode in our history."

Aside from that whole sequence being the product of someone who deep down must just be a terrible person, I mean honestly how do you even look at yourself in the bathroom mirror in the morning after a yesterday of making arguments like that, there is a rather fundamental flaw in Toomey's logic. The insurrection attempt isn't "history" yet, because it ain't over. A single day before Pat Toomey went on television to claim that investigations of the attack's origins were merely political gamesmanship, the insurrection's top orchestrator and Republicanism's buffoonish Dear Leader figure was yet again claiming that the election had been rigged, that the people who were looking to nullify it were patriots, and that all of it may yet return him to presidential power, toppling the current sitting president, the Constitution, and our democracy in one fell swoop.

Have you met Donald Trump, Sen. Pat Toomey? I believe you have. Donald Trump doesn't think that the insurrection is over. Donald Trump is still goading on crowds with the precise lies that launched a domestic terrorist assault on the Capitol to begin with.

Do you want to revise your remarks, Pat Toomey?

In a speech to the faithful less than 24 hours before Toomey's appearance, Trump again led a crowd into booing his own vice president, who he continues to attack for not conspiring to nullify election results. He continues to attack the other figures hunted by the mob that day. He continues to claim the election was stolen from him, using the same false claims he, his allies, and a majority of Republican lawmakers themselves used to justify nullifying election results.

And, more importantly still, he continues to insist to his rabid and delusional base that the election may yet be nullified, returning him to power.

The attempt to topple democracy by throwing out the results of an election that did not go the Republican Party's way is not just "history." It is ongoing. Sen. Pat Toomey is himself assisting in it by demanding that the causes of the pro-Trump violence by a pro-Trump mob bent on nullifying an election be left unexamined—that they be ignored, so that his party can better focus on demonizing the Democratic president Trump continues to rail against.

Pat Toomey does not have to do this. He does not have to be a hack. He does not have to ally himself with a fascist movement that continues to push for a return to power by any means necessary. He does not have to do any of this.

And he is doing it anyway. "History" will lump that in with all the rest, presuming Toomey's party does not get its way and democracy does indeed survive this explicitly fascist moment.

Pat Toomey was one of just seven Republican senators who agreed, back in February, that Donald Trump should be impeached for inciting the insurrection that Toomey now says needs no further review. He is not stupid. He is not reflexively a coward. But he still seems more intent on deflecting blame for the violence away from his party's top officials and fellow lawmakers than he does on ensuring that the insurrection truly fails. At the moment, the insurrection has not failed. The man most responsible for it is even now giving new speeches to new crowds in which he claims he may yet be returned to office—if only his allies have the extraconstitutional courage to bring that change about.

Billl Barr dishes on McConnell's cowardice in self-serving version of events

In The Atlantic, journalist Jonathan Karl gives us a short look at Trump attorney general William Barr's last weeks in power according to William Barr himself, who was kind enough to grace Karl with a series of interviews out of the innate goodness of his heart. Oh, and because Barr is now seen by many as the most thoroughly partisan and corrupt attorney general in a generation, which is going to seriously cut down on future speaking fees if he can't figure out how to massage the record back into something vaguely defensible.

The actual news out of it is Not Damn Much, but this is a good opportunity to revisit the First Rule Of News Consumption: Be aware of the source. From the nation's top powerbrokers to man-on-the-street interviewees, anyone talking to a reporter about their own doings is going to tell that reporter the most flattering version of events they think they can get away with. Many of the most important details about what Trump and his core team did in their attempts to overturn a United States election remain murky because those most in the know, like ex-House Republican turned chief of staff Mark Meadows, are clamming up.

What we can learn from the Atlantic story is that according to William Barr, William Barr is great. He's always the bravest and most integrity-filled person in the room, doing the right things despite pressure on all sides and so on and so forth. This isn't exactly news. What might be news is that the put-upon Barr believes the time is right to mete out a bit of punishment on everyone else.

Here's what we learn from Karl's interviews with Barr, then:

First, Barr wants you to know that Sen. Mitch McConnell is a gutless coward. Barr is willing to recount several conversations with McConnell in which McConnell, who in public spent most of the post-election period dodging questions about Trump's increasingly outrageous and dangerous claims claims, pleaded with Barr to be the one who contradicted Trump by telling the world that Trump's election "fraud" claims were utter bullshit.

McConnell told Barr in mid-November that Trump's hoaxes were "damaging" to both the country and to the Republican Party—no guesses on which of those was the more pressing concern, for Mitch—but Republicans "cannot be frontally attacking [Trump] right now," because Mitch and the others were trying to keep on Trump's good side for fear an open declaration of Biden's victory would result in an angry Trump sabotaging Republican election chances in the two Georgia Senate runoff races. Barr was "in a better position to inject some reality" into Trump's claims of election fraud.

Barr replied, according to Barr, that he was "going to do it at the appropriate time." So here we have one slightly interesting tidbit, then: Even in Barr's own accounting, he was urged to combat Trump's "damaging" election hoaxes and could only muster up an assurance that he would be getting right on that ... eventually. After it played out a bit more. In Barr's account, he was bravely using the Department of Justice to gather evidence of which claims might be true or might be false; in the actual news stories of each day, the claims being peddled by Trump's minions were brazenly fraudulent to begin with.

The second tidbit is that William Barr is, along with multiple other people inside Trump's inner circle, perfectly willing to tell Karl that after Barr eventually did publicly nix Trump's claims Trump became quite batshit unhinged, when finally meeting Barr again. Trump had "the eyes and mannerism of a madman," sez a source, which we can probably take to mean "even more than usual," and Barr compared him to the madman brigadier general of Dr. Strangelove.

"You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump," Trump is said to have told Barr, which is a pretty dead-on example of a malignant narcissist in the throes of a decompensating episode. You there, who have asserted that reality is something other than what I have claimed it to be? You must have been plotting against me all along.

Great, super. So again we have a situation in which everyone around Trump was pretty damn certain he had gone off the rails, jumped the trolley, sprung a brain-leak, and had become devoid of marbles but nobody in government, from Secret Service on down, was willing to toss him in a burlap sack, tie it shut, and declare that Mike Pence was taking charge because the sitting president had developed a serious case of bananapants.

The rest is not of note. Barr says Barr acted with integrity, despite everyone else in Trump's orbit pressuring him to help topple the national government. Barr says Mitch was a spineless weasel who wanted someone else to save the country from potential violence so Mitch wouldn't have to. Barr says Trump was an unhinged, raging monster but Barr, having Integrity and stuff, was loyally willing to stay and then two weeks later was forced to resign because of the same Integrity after Trump continued to push the same hoaxes and the likely consequences of those acts began to become more and more concrete.

How do we sum all this up, then, properly taking into account Barr's actual record of assisting Trump in hiding evidence from Congress, in fishing expeditions against Trump's prime political foe, in using the resources of his office to help discredit American intelligence officials and in assisting Trump's government-wide purge of inspector generals, watchdogs, and other whistleblowers—all the petty corruptions William Barr didn't see fit to highlight, in his own interpretation of those last days? It appears that William Barr decided after Donald Trump's loss that no matter what else William Barr was willing to do for conservatism, he wasn't going to go to jail for Trump or get caught up in actual crossfire if Trump succeeded in goading violent revolution.

Not so much "integrity," then, as a decision that he wasn't going to go down with a sinking ship. Self-interest is the usual reason powerful people recount their lives to waiting reporters, and Barr has more damage control to do than most.

Trump's Republican allies wanted to sabotage government. They largely succeeded

A New York Times story on the ongoing effects of Team Trump's spectacular mismanagement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is notable for two reasons. First, because of a seeming unanimity in assigning blame: Everyone involved who is not former HUD Head Ben Carson or speaking on behalf of Carson pins a good chunk of the blame on Carson's incompetence and lack of interest. That left a void eagerly filled by lower-level party apparatchiks who did care what HUD did, in that they wanted HUD to stop doing almost all of it.

And second, because it really hammers home just how effective this Republican sabotage of government has become, now that it's had years of plotting and strategy behind it. HUD as a department was subjected to the same party-devoted incompetence, ideological contempt for expertise, and government-by-retaliation that has defined every other significant conservative initiative from the Iraq War and rebuilding to the Jared Kushner Carnival of Solvin' Things, and the result is a federal agency that is in large part unable to carry out its duties, despite it being extremely important that it carry out those duties during a national health crisis.

A good chunk of that dysfunction was implemented on purpose. A good chunk of it was not so much on purpose as the natural result of leadership that is actively hostile to the notion that government should do anything to help anyone. (The Times singles out Republican ideologue Anna Maria Farías as a key figure in both.)

The end result is now a department that's been gutted of personnel, stripped of career experts, and one that current HUD Head Marcia Fudge is finding it difficult to restaff.

Want to drown government in a bathtub? Cut funding until each department's mission becomes impossible to carry out, send in party-loyal incompetents and witch hunters to ferret out any expert whose knowledge threatens to undermine the crafted party talking points, and wait. So long as you can damage each agency faster than experts can rebuild it, you'll win. Public faith in government will ebb as your enforced incompetence slows agency response and willfully makes public problems worse, upon which you can campaign on further cutting funds and expertise because everybody knows the agency is incompetent, repeat.

None of this, it should be emphasized, was Trump. Demands to underfund the agency and hollow out staffing were and are Republican demands; Trump himself never bothered to learn what each federal agency even did, much less had deep thoughts on their restructuring. Carson may have been utterly incompetent, lacking any relevant knowledge or experience or even interest, but he was also a Republican Party hero with or without Trump and installing ideologues with zero relevant experience is a central tenet of Republicanism itself. Each post is assigned an ideological placeholder whose only mission is to thwart whatever the career staff believes should be done while writing up new documents declaring that actually this could all be solved by [longstanding conservative claim] that never worked before but that's only because all the experts were mean and rude and secretly put gum on the seats all those other times.

The demand that government be defunded, destaffed, broken up, its tasks given to for-profit corporate enterprises and the withheld funds be distributed to the wealthy, has been the Republican demand for, at this point, decades. It is the reason there has never been a serious Republican health care reform proposal, even as the party swore up and down it was inches from having one. It is the reason that Republicans are, as we speak, demanding a continued defunding of national infrastructure, even during crisis. If the roads are paved, citizens will be happy with government. If the United States gets the sort of mass transit options or high-speed internet access that citizens in other nations take for granted, Americans will like it.

A decaying bridge is a signal to all that "government," in whole, is incompetent. Nobody's going to agree to privatize every road and highway in America, putting up toll booths and letting a future Amazon of infrastructure decide where you can go and how much it will cost you to get there, if things are going well.

It's going to take years of effort to restaff HUD, and it may take a decade to cobble together the sort of expertise that Republican saboteurs hunted for and drove out during four short years of incompetent autocratic buffoonery. Even that presumes no further sabotage by Republican leaders, and a glance at current House and Senate Republican leaders and their newest demands puts to rest any hope of that happening.

COVID-19 is on its way to becoming a predominantly Republican disease

Vying for least surprising news of the day are two extremely unsurprising news stories, both about the pandemic. Try to contain your non-surprise, please, no matter how difficult it may get.

The first story is from The Washington Post, and uses data to again confirm the bloomin' obvious: States with high vaccination rates are now seeing fewer COVID-19 cases, while places with lower vaccinates are seeing pandemic infections "holding steady or increasing."

Yep. The vaccines are working—but only among the people that actually, you know, get them. The Post was able to determine that in counties with at least 40% of residents vaccinated, COVID-19 infection rates that were "low" and "going down." In counties with fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated, "not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing."

In the second story, we see the predictable effects of the first. From NBC we learn that people coming into local hospitals with severe COVID-19 symptoms are almost all Americans who haven't been vaccinated, from unvaccinated adults to children too young to be eligible for any of the current vaccines. So-called "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals are both rare and seldom require hospital treatment—except among immunosuppressed patients, for whom vaccines not may generate sufficient or long-lasting immune response.

From this, we can deduce several things. If you're vaccinated, you have very low odds of contracting COVID-19 and very low odds of it becoming severe enough to require emergency medical care. If you're not vaccinated, you're either just as likely or more likely to catch COVID-19 right now as you were through much of the rest of the pandemic.

And if you do get it, you're going to be the vector by which other Americans get sick and possibly die. The virus is spreading among children because children can't get the vaccine yet. The virus is killing immunocompromised patients because people who haven't been vaccinated are spreading it to them.

Once again, then, we're seeing the predicted real-world results from a buffoonish and incompetent Dear Leader figure attempting to pretend his way out of a world health crisis while stoking paranoia about actual health professionals and safety measures. We previously learned that masks have indeed been working quite well at stopping pandemic spread, thus turning Donald Trump's anti-mask fetishes into another way for his party to kill off its own voters.

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting closer and closer to becoming a primarily Republican disease in this country. It can never be a fully Republican disease because the virus does not verify voting status, when traveling from one person's cough to the next person's lungs. But in places with high vaccination rates, herd immunity may soon come close to eradicating the virus by giving it few places to viably spread.

In pockets of vaccine resistance, meanwhile, whether it be Q-styled conspiracists, avid Trump supporters who still believe the pandemic is a hoax, or deplorables whose principle objection to getting vaccinated is that it appears to be what the liberals and book-learners want them to do, Americans are going to continue to die.

There's still good news even in those pockets, however. The good news is that every percentage of vaccinated adults translates to fewer hospital services needed in an area, even in deep-red communities, so local hospitals will be far less susceptible to becoming overwhelmed this fall than during the pandemic's first year. There will be plenty of ventilators and oxygen, and if there is not then there will still be more resources to take patients out from Republican-dominated locales and drive them to places that have the pandemic better under control.

That's assuming a lot, though. A complicating factor here may well be the "delta" virus variant, the virus mutation that first took hold in India and is now threatening to become the dominant strain elsewhere. It seems 10% of all U.S. COVID cases are now of the delta variant, and it is expected to become the majority strain "at some point." Delta appears to be both more contagious and more deadly than other strains, making herd immunity a more challenging bar to reach.

It's these mutations that continue to threaten a full unraveling of all pandemic progress made so far. The longer the virus is allowed to stew inside unvaccinated populations, the more genetic variants will be naturally produced; the more produced, the more likely it becomes that any one of them will be able to evade current vaccines and reinfect even the vaccinated. The virus may this summer be reduced to a predominantly Republican illness, but it's not assured to stay that way.

So we know the vaccines work. We know masks work. We know social distancing works. We know even if the vaccines let an infection through, it will almost never require hospital intervention. And we know that it's unvaccinated people who will be letting the virus spread despite all that.

What's next, then? It's unclear. I still say that if we can convince Republican-leaning communities that "antifa" is trying to keep the vaccine from them, flag-waving patriots will be demanding to be needle stuck ten, twenty, or thirty times. You'll have Greg Abbott supporters hoarding spare vaccine in their cheeks like squirrels.

It's either that plan or darting people from helicopters, and ... oof. You may say that's a dumb idea, but it still beats nine tenths of what the Trump team came up with.

Texas AG spent another 22,000 hours hunting for 'election fraud' — and didn't find a damn thing

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton remains indicted for securities fraud, a status he has held since 2015 as everyone in the state apparently conspires to slow walk his trial into the next millennium. He has evidently been using the time gained to commit other alleged crimes; as attorney general, his own subordinates have accused him of bribery and other criminal acts, and his own attempts to delegitimize the 2020 elections appear to have been motivated at least in part by Paxton fishing for a Trump pardon for those crimes.

He is the perfect model of new Republicanism by way of Trumpism, a man who really likes to bellow about the rule of law and the criminality of his enemies while skirting the law himself. These are the pissant little twits that Trump's party would have rule us, that the Fox News propagandists spend countless hours attempting to prop up, and who would head fascism's home office if the next violent insurrection has more success than his last attempt.

In Texas, however, Paxton is just another member in the statewide Republican attempt to undermine elections under the guise of protecting Texans from a wave of "fraud" that nobody can find, no matter how much money or time Republican racists and conspiracy theorists spend hunting for it.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting the latest numbers from Paxton's aggressive search for "voter fraud" in the state, and the numbers are about what you'd expect for an indicted ultrapartisan casting lines everywhere in search of justifications for his party's attacks on voting rights. Paxton's office logged "more than 22,000 staff hours" working on voter fraud cases in the last year, roughly doubling both the law enforcement officers and prosecutors already assigned to those cases. All 22,000 hours were paid for by Texas voters.

How much fraud did Texas Ahab's team find in those 22,000 hours? Sixteen cases. The team closed out 16 cases, all of them for Houston-area residents who wrote "false addresses" on voter registration forms. None of the 16 went to jail for it. That's in keeping with his department's long-term record, which has never found any organized fraud of the sort Paxton continues to insist exists somewhere, just beyond our visible realms.

Sayeth the Chronicle: "In its 15 years of its existence, the unit has prosecuted a few dozen cases in which offenders received jail time, none of them involving widespread fraud."

The Washington Post's Phillip Bump notes that from 2015 (you know, the year Ken Paxton was first indicted for crimes) to last year, there have been only 197 state-filed complaints of election fraud. That's out of tens of millions of votes, for a total percentage of approximately bupkis. It is not a thing that exists. While Paxton's allies have continued to lie outright about widespread supposed fraud, the number of pending cases involving the 2020 election consists of exactly one. Team Indicted Fascist is simply lying on this one. The Republican governor, the Republican legislators—they're all lying on this one. The case for writing new, tighter voting restrictions into law cannot be made because the "fraud" they look to prevent—and that Paxton has blown tens of thousands of hours looking for last year alone—is either paranoid fantasy or outright anti-democratic propaganda.

The reason for new Republican-pushed laws putting up higher obstacles to voting than already exist is the same in Texas as it is in Georgia. As voting trends shift (and after the two Republican presidencies in most recent memory both ended in national catastrophes), Republican candidates are finding themselves in increasingly close scrapes. The toppling of Georgia's two meritless Republican senators, especially, appears to have driven party leaders into outright panic. Any barricade that can hold Black or Hispanic voters from the polls or that can put a single new hour of delay between a working class voter and the ballot box is being hastily thrown up in an attempt to retake government in the next midterms. The threat is considered existential.

And it's considered existential in large part because Republican propaganda has successfully convinced a large portion of their own base that they are losing elections not because of economic crises, pandemics, scandals, and incompetence, but because not-white not-Republicans are "stealing" them out from under the party. The propaganda that underpinned a violent pro-Trump insurrection and that underpins state Republican laws targeting voting rights are one and the same. It is the same effort. The goals of both are to nullify elections Republicans have lost and replace them with "correct" results that the party itself has determined to be more valid.

It's not new. The violence at its edges isn't new either. This is what the Republican Party morphed into after the losers of the civil rights era coalesced together into one large ball of hate and grudges. Trump's innovation was to scrape off the crust and prove to the party that those grudges were close enough and strong enough to hold the party together all on their own. No policy. No need for success, no penalties for failure, and no need to be bound by either decorum or truth. Just the grudge, screamed at everyone in America who was turning it into a less hateful place than they would prefer.

While Ken Paxton is lying about fraud and the Texas governor is threatening to withhold legislature pay unless Democrats allow Republican-demanded voting restrictions to be written into law, Texas Republicans are trying to dodge accusations of outright racism in crafting their new "fixes" to a fake problem. A specific provision in the Texas bill that limited early voting on the Sunday prior to an election to the period from 1 PM to 9PM appears to aim squarely at "Souls to the Polls" efforts by Black churches to encourage voting after Sunday services. (Southern Republicans have focused on Black church voting initiatives in multiple states with, among other devices, rules that criminalize driving voters to the polls unless you're related to them or have filled out a form with the state. Other rules have banned providing voters with water once they're in line. Anything that might make it easier to vote is being targeted by Republican bills; anything that puts new steps between voters and voting is being embraced in the same bills.)

Texas Republicans now claim that the seems-to-be-racist thing was, ha ha, just a little accident when typing things up. The 1 PM opening time was meant to be 11 AM, you see, and not a single Republican noticed it until after attempting to ram through the vote on the measure, despite the clause being specifically singled out across the national media as an apparently racist act.

Sure, right. "We just now noticed that the thing the country is pointing to as evidence of blatant racist intent on our parts was actually, um, a typo." That'll work.

There's not going to be a Republican reckoning here or a backpedaling from these voter suppression efforts. The party genuinely believes it and only it has a legitimate claim to government power, a "right" that is only ever taken from it when the wrong people vote or when too many people vote. It's not Republicanism that's flawed and needs reformation in party minds. It's the voting.

If the House and Senate cannot impose new minimal standards that allow all Americans the same right to vote without state lawmakers throwing up a barrage of new hurdles, this will continue. It will worsen. New Republican laws are granting new supposed powers to circumvent actual vote totals and determine the "correct" outcome of elections—precisely what Republican seditionists stormed Congress to demand—and state Republicans will not hesitate to test those powers if individual midterm races do not go their way.

That even those screaming about "election fraud" the loudest cannot, even with every state resource at their disposal or with the powers of a presidency behind them, find any of the fraud they are looking for is evidence enough that the claims are intended to be propaganda, not fact. The Republican Party is organized around a propaganda campaign in order to convince their base that our current democracy is no longer legitimate and that it therefore must be altered to better meet Republican needs. It is a fascist attack, it follows the path of historic fascist attacks, and it stands every chance of working.

Rep. Matt Gaetz mocks sex trafficking allegations — but Republican allies may be abandoning him

At this point, the perpetually odious Rep. Matt Gaetz has been confirmed by numerous press-discovered witnesses to, at the very least, have engaged in a pattern of attending illegal drug-fueled sex parties, regularly paid women for sex, paid at least one underage child for sex, and potentially involved himself in other crimes stemming from friend and fellow Florida Republican elected official Joel Greenberg's apparent attempts to commit as many state and federal felonies as possible in his brief in-office tenure. It seems vanishingly unlikely that Gaetz will not be charged with federal crimes, especially now that Greenberg himself has agreed to an ungenerous plea deal that will see him exchange testimony for slightly fewer years in prison than he might otherwise be serving.

Gaetz, however, has settled on the Trumpian approach of simply mocking the allegations against him, inviting his audiences to do the same. During a recent appearance at The Villages, Florida—think of the town as the love child of Branson, Missouri and syphilis—Gaetz joked to his retirement community audience that CNN would report his rally as "Matt Gaetz has wild party surrounded by beautiful women."

He was joined there by QAnon conspiracy promoter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, because of course he was: This is the current state of the party. Both Gaetz's base and his most resilient House allies may have once dabbled in QAnon conspiracy theories about child sex trafficking and other supposed crimes by their enemies, but present them with an actual sex trafficker or other party-loyal criminals and they'll flock to town halls and conventions to give Team Sex Trafficking a standing ovation.

On Saturday, the alleged sex-addicted child-trafficking illegal drug user Gaetz again brushed aside his probable indictment, and his hard-right Republican audience was again eager to hear it. In a keynote speech to the "Ohio Political Summit," a Republican Party shindig, NBC News reported that Gaetz sniffed he was "being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors."

"Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that's the corruption," he continued.

Yes, in Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz's measured estimation of these things, stocking your political speech afterparty with cocaine and sex workers or repeatedly paying a minor to perform sex acts is certainly less of a scandal than pressuring for a new highway to be built in your district. The man may have stumbled on the most condensed essence of new Republicanism, in fact. Crimes are good; governing is bad; let us all band together and protect the extortionists, the seditionists and the child rapists rather than let our enemies allow new bridges to be built.

The man is on fire. Not literally, unfortunately.

NBC News reports that Gaetz received a "standing ovation" from the roughly 400-person Republican crowd after his remarks, which again checks out: The party base continues Republican Party and Republican elected officials' own efforts to elevate, rather than shun, those that commit crooked or violent acts. From assaulting reporters to international extortion to shows of solidarity with those attempting actual insurrection, the party's fascist instincts have coalesced into a blanket defense of corruption and scandal paired with nonsensical rantings about the supposed crimes of outsiders. Rep. Jim Jordan not only survived after multiple accusers identified him as turning a blind eye to the molestation of athletes under his care, as college wrestling coach, but attacked his accusers so sneeringly and aggressively that his colleagues rewarded him with a new congressional omnipresence in any hearing or probe in which any other Republican was being accused of grotesque or criminal behavior.

Gaetz himself made a nod in that direction Saturday, lavishing praise on Jordan and telling the audience that he aspired to becoming "the Robin" to Jordan's "Batman."

The two men do seem to share an implicit bond. Whatever could it be.

There are, however, some signs that Gaetz's party believes he may now be unsalvageable. NBC noted that "several" Republican candidates for office, as well as Gaetz ally and seditionist crackpot Rep. Lauren Boebert, backed out of the Ohio event after organizers added Matt Gaetz as a speaker. Ducking out rather than publicly appearing in the same room as your once-ally is generally a step taken only when there is an expectation that mugshots will be arriving in coming days; given that Gaetz's party continues to slather Trump with praise even after Trump stoked true violent sedition, Boebert and kin must believe Gaetz's legal troubles to both significant and rather … imminent. Not, as Gaetz himself continues to insist, merely a question of paying for "naughty favors."

Just from what we know from published news reports, the dude was soliciting college teens for sex at a hotel room party while snorting lines of cocaine provided by an escort off the bathroom countertop. As a Member of the House.

Yeah, that may pass for "family values" among the loyal Republican base, but it still doesn't here in the heartland of Literally Anywhere Else.

Donald Trump's attempt at a one-man social network is falling very flat

If there is one thing that Donald J. Trump is certain of, it's that the universe and all things within it revolve around Donald J. Trump. Wars, pandemics, mass murders, international terrorism: All are either plots to make Donald Trump personally look bad or are opportunities for Donald Trump to look good. This is what malignant narcissism does to a person. For anyone not born into money, it's a ticket to a rough, angry life; for a sociopathic little twit who can funnel enough of his wealthy father's cash into his own persona to support a lifelong stream of disposable, simpering yes-men, it's a path to lifelong, now-calcified delusions in which all of the above plots against him are not only obvious but "proven."

Again, what is most impressive about Republicanism's new (ongoing) Dear Leader is that the man manages to be a terrible human being in not just most circumstances, but every circumstance. He is the worst person you have ever met, even if you have never met him. There is no "but he likes puppies" or "but he's good to his family" or "but at least he pays his son's Boy Scout $7 membership fee out of his own pocket, rather than ripping off a charity to do it." There's nothing. Ever.

All of that is a long-winded introduction to the unfortunate news that Dear Asshole Probably The Actual Antichrist Leader may have gotten his electoral butt handed to him after killing off a half million Americans through bored and delusional incompetence, but he is determined to remain relevant. This requires subjecting his subjects to his momentary thoughts on all possible subjects. So how's that been going? Not well.

After being permanently banned from Twitter for stoking violent insurrection through provably false hoaxes, and after Facebook begrudgingly and spinelessly decided they would kick a permanent decision on hosting the American fascist leader's violent musings down the road for another half-year—all part of a wider techwide reexamination of priorities in the wake of Trump provoking actual sedition rather than admit an election loss—Trump recently announced he would be forming his own social media platform, one with blackjack, and hoo—I mean, one consisting solely of his own word-burps, the all-important buttons allowing you to express appreciation for his word-burps, and not much else.

Yes, it's the Donald Trump future, and the future consists of a Myspace universe in which Donald Trump is the sole inhabitant, screaming at himself, forever.

Some metrics on Trump's new site are in, and the evidence suggests that Twitter and Facebook and PornHubButForFurries and DogsThatLookLikeChurchill have not a damn thing to worry about when it comes to being supplanted by Typhoid Hitler's Daily Grievance. In the first week the blog "has attracted a little over 212,000 engagements" total "across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit," reports NBC News. Compare that with Trump's previous 88 million followers on just Twitter alone, and you can see that only the most diehard members of Dear Ex-Leader's fascist base are tuning in to hear his thoughts on whether a racehorse is a "junky" or whether Marco Rubio's key-jingling was entertaining enough to calm restless Leader's nerves.

The rest of America don't care. They may have cared enough to bleat approvingly when Donald insulted Ted Cruz or an equally important horse back on Twitter, but it was just one post flitting by in an endlessly spinning maelstrom of similar tacky crap. It's not important enough to them to go seek it out.

Mind you, somebody probably billed Trump an absolute fortune to set up an internet web page in which Trump could post Twitter-like thoughts even after Twitter could no longer stomach him. Trump's never going to pay that person, mind you, but at least in theory you're looking at, what, a quarter million dollars' worth of greasy supplication?

All of this suggests that the absolute drop-dead certainty of party doom among Republican leaders and lawmakers if any one among them pulls a Cheney and refuses to go along with Trump's ranting, delusional insistence that he won his last election no matter how many times officials actually in charge of those elections confidently state he didn't, is … overstated? At best? Trump and the people whose own careers depend on Trump's favor are quite loud in warning lawmakers that "the American people" won't stand for Republicans who don't stand by Trump's every seditionist burp and rant, but the actual American people seem to be moving the f--k on and then some.

You there, reading these words: You're probably mad I'm even bringing him up. You were existing perfectly fine without knowing what Dear Eclipse-Looking Guy's website metrics currently looked like and resent having it wedged into your brain when you could be thinking about other things, things like deciding what your next meal will be or wondering whether Ted Cruz or Rand Paul would win in a fight if the weapons were soggy slices of ham and the reward was just one particularly gullible elderly man's email address. But you're reading anyway, because in your heart of hearts you know that the only way you can think about lunchmeat battles in the first place is if other people are begrudgingly keeping an eye on Typhoid Hitler's whereabouts to make sure he doesn't scuttle back to Munich with a new book to sell. Nobody wants to hear about Seditionist Treasonbag. It's just a thing we have to put up with.

As of the current moment, then, we can report that the vast majority of America appears to give about as much of a shit about Donald Trump as you do. Even among once-supporters, few people are actually seeking him out. This is how politics generally goes after losing an election, or even after retiring in victory. Nobody in the Republican base or leadership is spending even a moment of their day wondering what George W. Bush is currently doing. Is former House Speaker Paul Ryan even still alive? Do we know? Can we prove it? Eh.

Trump is attempting to buck that trend because Trump is a malignant narcissist. He is someone who might literally wither away without his demanded praise and attention; he cannot stomach it. Like Tinkerbell, he must receive constant attention or he will die. So, not quite like Tinkerbell, he is crashing weddings, cheating at golf, opining about the drug habits of sport horses, and making sure that every Republican lawmaker he ever so much as made eye contact with still knows that if they do not shine his shoes in every televised interview and public statement, he will personally devote himself to dragging them into the pits of primary hell. Him and his 200,000 "likes," that is.

The Republican base is moving on, at least so far. They have other heroes, heroes like neo-Nazi talking point machine Tucker Carlson and child sex trafficker Matt Gaetz. Heroes who are still allowed to advocate for crimes on Twitter. The party will not moderate—each of the new would-be heroes are just as hooked into white nationalism, sex crimes, corrupt acts, and "owning the libs" as the Trump clan itself, but it's not a certainty that Trump can retain his position as the party's top fascist dog.

He may yet succumb to the worst of all reality show endings: an audience that has gotten too bored to continue paying attention. Wouldn't that be nice.

White House looks to reassure gasoline panic buyers as Colonial Pipeline works to resume operations

As panic buying empties some East Coast gas stations due to consumer worry over the multi-day closure of the Colonial Pipeline, the Biden administration is feeling compelled to reassure the public that no, this still isn't a situation where you need to fill your kid's wading pool with gasoline and stand guard over it to protect yourself from roving gas gangs. There appears to be a good chunk of America that devotes themselves to finding small problems and turning them into big ones, and the people currently crowding into gas stations to fill red plastic tanks and pile them into their back seats are, unless their livelihood depends on their latest backyard monster truck rally going off without a hitch, probably them.

In a public statement, the White House detailed some of the steps being taken to speed up gas deliveries while Colonial Pipeline technicians restart things after a criminal "ransomware"-styled cyberattack. The Department of Transportation is allowing fuel companies to transport overweight loads on interstate highways in 10 states. The Environmental Protection Agency is granting emergency fuel waivers suspending gasoline blending rules. A move to temporarily waive Jones Act requirements, thus allowing foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed oil tankers to transport fuel from the Gulf Coast to Atlantic states is also being contemplated. Across the affected states, governors are also taking emergency measures—though some moves, like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's order temporarily suspending state gas taxes so as to knock prices back down, are perhaps of less value than others.

Again: It's not supply problems causing the current problems. It's neighborhood panic buying that's draining local gas stations dry in places like Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Your corner gas station gets the gasoline it sells you from scheduled, regular deliveries: If consumers are suddenly making a run on each station so as to beat a perceived future "crisis," there's simply not going to be enough delivery trucks available to keep those tanks full.

As for the cyberattack itself, even the criminal gang responsible for the breach of Colonial's systems seems alarmed and embarrassed by the level of chaos their attack has caused. (This is at least a decent public relations move on the part of the gang, now that they realize that even slightly interfering with the United States of America's domestic fuel supply is something U.S. governments regularly respond to by ordering airstrikes on the attackers and leaving it to others to sort out which bodies are which.) While Colonial wipes and reinstalls computer systems throughout their company to erase the ransomware and get operations back to normal, the episode is a grim warning that an intentional state-sponsored attack on American fuel pipelines, power plants, and other critical infrastructure is both a very real danger and is likely to be devastatingly effective.

The United States has been sluggish, at best, in hardening critical infrastructure to defend against such attacks, and pipeline security is especially lax considering the nationwide chaos that could result from a breach that not just encrypted pipeline systems, but attempted to do real structural damage to the physical pumping operations themselves. Instead, the United States has relied on a generally unstated capability for mutual destruction—while domestic infrastructure can hardly be considered hardened against cyberattacks, the U.S. is equally capable of mounting such international attacks itself.

So far, though, it appears that Colonial may have dropped the security ball on this one, and for the same reason that Texas power generators found themselves frozen up and nonfunctional during that state's power emergency: There's no profit to be had in planning for rare emergency situations, so many companies don't bother unless they are forced by government regulation to do so. There will likely be new regulations written after this requiring pipeline operators to better secure communications and control systems, and those regulations will likely be fought tooth and nail, used as examples of "government overreach" that harms the private sector by stripping companies of their power to decide for themselves whether or not they want their systems held for ransom by one of the most-known criminal cyberattack schemes on the planet. To prepare for that future debate, it might be wise to start hoarding ibuprofen.

It may be time to give up on getting GOP permission for a commission on Republican sedition

During the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Officer Michael Fanone was attacked, beaten, Tased, and suffered a resulting heart attack at the hands of the violent pro-Trump mob. He was one of the hundred officers injured during the mob's attempt to find and capture Trump's vice president and insufficiently loyal lawmakers, part of a Trump-announced, Trump-endorsed scheme to "march" to the Capitol and block the counting of electoral votes confirming Trump's loss. It was a genuine—if incredibly stupid—attempt at overthrowing government. During the attack on Fanone, Fanone reported members of the crowd urged each other to shoot Fanone with his own gun.

In an interview with CNN, Fanone seems to have little patience for Republican figures now trying to "whitewash" the insurrection that nearly killed him. It's "very difficult being elected officials, and other individuals, kind of whitewash the events of that day, or downplay what happened," says Fanone. As for Donald Trump's claims that the violent mob was "zero threat" to officers, he is more direct. "I think it's dangerous," he says.

It's got to be a hell of an experience for Fanone and the other officers attacked by the mob to now see Republican lawmakers near-unanimous in their demands that if Congress dares to mount an investigation into an act of violent, organized sedition, it must be watered down into nothingness by equally considering Republican-claimed threats posed by an invisible "antifa" and by Black Lives Matter protesters.

As for that planned probe into the causes and details of insurrection violence: It continues to go nowhere. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered up more concessions to House Republicans last week, now proposing that the commission to investigate the violence be evenly split by party and requiring majority commission support to issue proposed subpoenas. Even those concessions fell flat as House Republicans, the majority of whom still voted to nullify election results after the violence, continue to insist that an investigation of the violence is unnecessary.

The only battle being waged right now is in fact inside the Republican Party, as Rep. Liz Cheney all but mocks Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's demands that the insurrection commission be watered down. She wants the proposed commission to be "focused" on Jan. 6 and its causes, and (correctly!) notes that if "we minimize" or "appease" the attempt at sedition, it could repeat itself after any future election as well.

McCarthy, as one of the Republicans who glibly promoted the Trump team's fraudulent propaganda claiming the election was "stolen" from him through a broad array of bizarre and implausible conspiracies, most certainly does not want a full accounting of how that Republican-fueled violence came to be. McCarthy has already signaled that he intends to remain at Trump's side no matter how egregiously Trump may have betrayed his oath and country, rather than anger Trump's fascist base; a true investigation of the violence would require McCarthy himself to testify about his own conversation with Trump during the violence—a conversation that offers further evidence Trump both intended the violence and sought to use it to further threaten lawmakers.

At some point, there is going to need to be a commission or other mechanism for dragging the full details of the insurrection plot into the public eye. There does not appear to be any plausible way for Pelosi and Democratic leadership to get House Republican cooperation on any of it, and for much the same reason Osama bin Laden was never invited to weigh in SEAL Team Six deployments after 9/11. The plain truth is that Republican-backed hoaxes riling the base into a paranoid froth with provably false claims of rigged elections were intended from the outset as an attack on American democracy, and it was all but a given that it would rile violence-seeking militants into believing that the party was now inviting them to topple that democracy, institute hard-right rule, and bring in a new era of nationalistic retaliation against conservative enemies. When you claim that a United States election was "stolen" out from under voters, you are specifically wrapping attempts to overturn that election in a mantle of patriotism. It is a given that it will be acted on.

The questions that still need to be answered revolve around the extent to which individual propagandists spreading hoaxes about "stolen" elections intended for their lies to stoke seditious acts. It appears that Trump, for his part, both intended for the crowd he had rallied on Jan. 6 to interfere with the counting of electoral votes and used the resulting violence, as it was happening, to further intimidate lawmakers who were unwilling to overturn the election. It is quite likely that figures such as Rudy Giuliani also acted with full intent to stoke, if not violence, a toppling of the newly elected government.

Of House Republicans, there were at least a few whose comments suggest they, too, fully intended to topple government one way or another. There were others who sought to promote the same hoaxes not as an attempt to topple a Biden administration, but to wound it as severely as possible—despite the near certainty of resulting violence from those that believed the hoaxes. Others, including Republican senators, supported the Trump hoax or remained silent while it was being promoted out of cowardice.

There are a hundred Republican lawmakers whose post-election rhetoric directly led to a violent attack on government itself. Not a one of them is keen on having their statements probed by fact-finders.

There's no compromise that those hundred Republicans can possibly accept. If there is to be any consequence for fomenting an act of violent insurrection, it will have to come from elsewhere. Pelosi should presume that no compromise is coming, those who opposed the insurrection should form their own commission without seditionist input, and we must simply accept that the nation's many fascist voices will bleat in outrage over the resulting examination of the violence. Let them.

It should be the job of the commission to identify these authoritarian voices, publish the extent of their hoaxes and plots, and ensure anyone among the plotters who can be removed from government is removed from government. There is no room for Kevin McCarthy or fascism's other allies in that process. If there are still Republicans more committed to American democracy than Republican power, they are free to help defend it.


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