Books, Libraries

Zealots are Coming for Your Rights …

The venerable New York Public Library – you probably have seen a photo of the library with its two massive marble lions guarding the entrance – hosted an event recently to show support for Salman Rushdie, the British-American writer who narrowly survived an assassination attempt two weeks ago.  

Rushdie became a political target after the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, a work of fiction that features a dream sequence involving the Prophet Muhammad that the supreme leader of Iran at the time declared blasphemous.

New York Public Library support for Salman Rushdie

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader who engineered that nation’s revolution in the late 1970s, never read Rushdie’s book, the journalist Robin Wright confirms. Nevertheless, for largely political reasons, the Ayatollah ordered death for a writer. For years thereafter Rushdie lived a life of isolation, surrounded by bodyguards. Years later he assumed a more public life, and nearly died as a result. 

Wright, who has covered the Middle East for years, recently wrote that “Khomeini often capitalized on issues that distracted public attention from the Revolution’s fissures and failures. He had done the same thing after students took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979. In the months after the Shah was ousted, the revolutionaries split over Iran’s political future, a new constitution, and the powers of the clergy. (They also started killing one another.) The Embassy takeover provided a useful diversion.”

So, too Rushdie’s book. It was all political.

The attack on a writer by a knife wielding assailant is a good a reminder of what political and religious zealots determined to destroy fundamental personal freedoms are capable of. Rushdie nearly died after ten stab wounds that will likely cause him to lose an eye, severed nerves in his arm and damaged his liver.

The attack is an extreme example of the kind of anti-intellectual craziness and free speech denialism that is now running wild in the United States. Threats to personal freedoms, like the freedom to check out a particular book at your local library, a right we once took for granted, are under broad assault.

Librarians, as a class, the nicest, most caring and interesting people in every community, are under attack. School boards are facing down angry, and wildly misguided parents who demand that books be banned.

Some political candidates, ironically the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, J.D. Vance, a best-selling author, are applying ridiculous restrictions on reporters covering their public events.

Before J.D. Vance became a very Trumpy Senate candidate he was a best selling author … now he campaigns with the book banning governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis

Vance held a rally recently with Florida’s book banning governor, Ron DeSantis. Reporters were told they could cover the event only if they agreed to a list of conditions, including not interviewing anyone in attendance.

The editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer called b.s.: “Think about what they were doing here. They were staging an event to rally people to vote for Vance while instituting the kinds of policies you’d see in a fascist regime. A wannabe U.S. Senator, and maybe a wannabe president.” Appropriately Vance and DeSantis got the bad publicity they deserve.

The GOP lieutenant governor of North Carolina wants to go farther. Mark Robinson, a likely candidate for governor in two years, says he’d abolish the state board of education and eliminate science and history education in elementary schools. “In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” Robinson writes. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.”

The religious zealot and free speech deniers are literally everywhere. “For months,” NBC News reports, “a group of conservative Christians have inundated the staff and board of a public library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, with complaints about books they didn’t want to see on the shelves.

“Their list of more than 400 titles predominantly focuses on young adult books with LGBTQ characters, scenes describing sexual activity or invoking the occult.”

Ayatollahs are alive and well in Boundary County, Idaho. None of the 400 books are even in the library. These zealots want to pre-emptively ban books, which you can be certain, like the Ayatollah, they haven’t taken the trouble to read. If they don’t like “young adult books with LGBTQ characters,” they shouldn’t read them. But the zealot’s real aim is to restrict your choice, your freedom of action, to think for you.

And, of course, they seek to intimidate and frighten. The Boundary County librarian, Kimber Glidden, resigned saying, “Nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community.”

At the Keller Independent School District near Fort Worth, Texas, more than 40 books were ordered off the library shelves, including the Bible and an illustrated book based on Anne Frank’s diary, because someone complained.

Seriously? The Bible? Anne Frank?

One Texas parent got to the heart of the matter. Laney Hawes, parent to four children, said she understood that some parents might not approve of some materials for their children, and perhaps for very good reason, but why ban books that another parent might deem appropriate for their child?

“I don’t think that certain materials that you don’t feel like are appropriate for your children should be withheld from my children, too,” she said. Exactly. 

Andrew Solomon, a free-speech activist who spoke at the New York library rally supporting Salman Rushdie, put a fine point on the threats to personal freedom the book banners and free speech tramplers engage in. “We are living at a time when the right of free speech has been under constant assault from both the left and the right,” Solomon said, “when there have been closures of libraries, books removed from schools, when everything that used to be tokens of America’s freedom of speech is under threat.”

Like Khomeini’s death order against Salman Rushdie, the American book banners and thought police are acting on a zealous religious and political agenda. They want to shape how you think, what you read, what you say and what you believe. They don’t trust you to make decisions for yourself.

This is real. Act on these threats, as more than 200 people did recently in Meridian, Idaho when they showed up to support their local library after zealots demanded book bans.

Act. Show up. Pay attention. Don’t let them censor and ban. You won’t know what you’ve lost until its gone.

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Suggestions for further reading:

Trump “Will Be Indicted”

“As the former president faces legal investigations, the author and white-collar-crime scholar Jennifer Taub identifies the probe that’s furthest along, what January 6 Committee graphic was key, and why you can’t get a toupee in federal prison.”

Informed speculation here from Washington Monthly:


The Red-State Governor Who’s Not Afraid to Be ‘Woke’

I found this TIME magazine piece on Utah Governor Spencer Cox to be fascinating.

Utah’s GOP governor is very conservative, but he’s much more

In April 2021, just a few months into his governorship, Cox held a virtual town hall with students across the state. Midway through, a senior from Utah’s rural southwest corner asked what he planned to do about the high rates of suicide and mental illness affecting LGBT youth. The girl identified herself as bisexual and gave her pronouns as ‘she/her/hers.’ In response, Cox said, ‘My preferred pronouns are he/him/his, so thank you for sharing yours.’ Cox had previously chaired a teen-suicide task force and championed hate-crime and nondiscrimination legislation, and he responded to the question by talking about the importance of increasing both mental-health services and societal acceptance. ‘You do belong, you do matter, no matter what you might be feeling,’ he said.”

Read the piece by Molly Ball here:


How Britain Built an Empire of Fraud

How the Brits built a financial haven for oligarchs.

“There is no clearer indication that Britain has lost its way, politically, economically, strategically, and ethically, than the outgoing occupant of 10 Downing Street. We have had good prime ministers and bad prime ministers, but never before a totally unprincipled opportunist and self-seeking mountebank, and it’s fair to say that, until recently, a man of Boris Johnson’s character and conduct could not possibly have become prime minister.”

Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews a new book and also takes the hide off the British ruling class.


The century of climate migration: why we need to plan for the great upheaval

Sorry. This won’t improve your outlook for the weekend. A great upheaval is coming.

“The world already sees twice as many days where temperatures exceed 50C than 30 years ago – this level of heat is deadly for humans, and also hugely problematic for buildings, roads and power stations. It makes an area unliveable. This explosive planetary drama demands a dynamic human response. We need to help people to move from danger and poverty to safety and comfort – to build a more resilient global society for everyone’s benefit.”

A long read from The Guardian. You’ve been warned.


On that happy note – that’s all I got. Be well. Read books. Protect librarians.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Liz Lost, But Spineless Republicans Killed Their Party … 

Forty-eight years ago this month Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and House GOP leader John Rhodes, also an Arizonan, told President Richard Nixon the jig was up. Nixon had to resign. The president’s effort to obstruct justice related to the Watergate burglary was the last straw. If Nixon refused to quit he would surely be impeached and removed from office.

A few days earlier – August 6. 1974 – Goldwater, the party’s 1964 presidential nominee and among the most conservative men in American public life, let go at a meeting of his Republican colleagues. “There are only so many lies you can take,” Goldwater said of the president, “and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House – today!”

Barry Goldwater, center, flanked by Senate GOP leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and Representative John Rhodes after a historic meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House in August 1974.

Nixon resigned on August 9, pushed out of the White House with fellow Republicans holding the door.

That Republican Party is dead, buried and apparently not in the least mourned by the personality cult that is now prepared to “defund the FBI,” putting law enforcement officers at risk, while dismissing very real evidence that their cult leader committed serious crimes.

Ironically, the last shovel full of cultist dirt was thrown on the vanquished remains of the daughter of the man who served as presidential chief of staff to Republican Gerald Ford, the man who helped rescue the Grand Old Party from the stench of Richard Nixon’s corruption.

The vanquished Liz Cheney has done a favor for democracy by reminding us of what a stand on principle looks like, and her defeat at the hands of an outspoken defender of Donald Trump’s Big Lie should finally put the lie to idea that the modern Republican Party is anything more than a grave threat to the future of the country.

In the aftermath of Cheney’s thumping defeat in Wyoming earlier this week some delusional conservatives have argued that her defeat had little to do with Donald Trump, who endorsed her hack opponent and railed against Liz for months and was instead about Cheney failing to represent her constituents – “left them behind and stopped listening” as one revisionist historian put it on Twitter. 

Nonsense.

Cheney lost because she dared to point out the obvious shortcomings of the most corrupt man to ever consume a Big Mac in the Oval Office. Cheney won re-election two years ago with 73% of the Wyoming vote. Tuesday, she received barely 29%.

The difference between those two numbers is simply Trump. Trump and endless lies about the election he lost, about January 6 and about his efforts to corrupt our government, our military and intimidate election officials. A rational political party does not go immediately to the default position that a former president who carried away top secret documents and refused to return them is the victim of some “deep state” plot. You have to work hard at being that delusional.

Yet, that is the party that rendered its judgment in Wyoming this week and did so previously in Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere where embracing the Big Lie has become the only currency needed to stay in the good graces of “the base” and the cult leader.

There is an old saw in politics that holds that you “never blame the voters,” but enough of the cultists have grabbed the GOP steering wheel that you simply can’t explain their fascination with conspiracy and lies without also naming them the responsible parties.

The country didn’t reach the point it finds itself because Donald Trump took Putin’s side against his own government, ginned up fabrications about a fair election, summoned a mob to overturn his defeat and then squirreled away national secrets in a closet in Mar-a-Lago.

No, we are where we are because enough of our fellow citizens actively accepted this palpable nonsense, and even worse continue to encourage more of it.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Liz Cheney said of Trump and January 6. Uttering that uncomfortable truth doomed her, while nearly all her Republican colleagues in Congress either sat on their hands or openly celebrated her defeat.

There was a moment, admittedly in a land light years away from ours, that once-principled Republicans – people like Oklahoma’s Tom Cole and Idaho’s Mike Simpson – would have made a difference by making a stand in favor of genuine conservative principles, including telling the truth to their followers, rather than lending credence to the party leader’s grievance fueled claptrap. But that party is, sadly, as dead as Gerald Ford.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham ran against Donald Trump, called him unqualified, said the GOP would regret nominating him, criticized Trump after January 6 and today is among his biggest defenders

As Mark Leibovich wrote recently in The Atlantic: “Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party, a particularly pathetic one is the terror so many of Cheney’s colleagues appear to have about losing their jobs. Maybe they can’t bear the thought of forfeiting their congressional parking spaces or fancy pins, or maybe they simply lack the stomach to get called bad names by Donald Trump. So they do whatever it takes to pass their tribal loyalty tests and survive their next election. They’re so afraid of being called a ‘former member of Congress’ that they’ll never know what it feels like to be called ‘courageous.’”

The good news for Liz Cheney, unlike a Cole or a Simpson, is she won’t have to pretend to respect Kevin McCarthy, the reptilian House Speaker wannabe who can hardly take a breath without calculating how exhaling will play with Donald Trump. And it seems entirely possible that Cheney will emerge from defeat, unlike the spineess characters who survive to grovel again, stronger and even better positioned to call out the vast shortcomings of the cult leader

“Look, she’s going to go on into eternity, or as long as is necessary” to stop Trump, former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson told Leibovich. “She’s going to keep doing everything she can to bring down this oafish man, who’s filled with revenge and hatred and total disregard for the laws of the United States.”

Where would you rather be – defending democracy and truth or tolerating conspiracies, while sniffing the backside of the Prince of Mar-a-Lago?

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Additional Reading:

Some additional good reading suggestions …

How Bolivia’s ruthless tin baron saved thousands of Jewish refugees

There was more to a cutthroat South American mining titan than anyone knew. From The Guardian.

“In 2004, after five years of sorting through thousands of pages of correspondence with consulates, businesses and international Jewish organisations, the team revealed their astonishing discovery. The papers demonstrated that Moritz Hochschild had helped to rescue as many as 22,000 Jews from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe by bringing them to Bolivia between 1938 and 1940, at a time when much of the continent had shut its doors to fleeing Jews.”

Fascinating story.


Does Preserving Democracy Require Letting Trump Off?

Mona Charon answers that question.

“The world is upside down. It is the Republicans who are completely politicizing the rule of law by declaring that any accountability for their master is ipso facto illegitimate. Hardly a single Republican office holder suggested waiting to see what the evidence was before reaching a conclusion. If they’d investigated for five seconds, they could have learned that the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the Department of Justice engaged in lengthy negotiations with Trump and his representatives to get the stolen documents back.”

From The Bulwark.


No Great Stagnation in Guinness

A really great piece about the famous drink from Ireland.

It’s good for you …

“The key to Guinness’ robustness has been innovation. Through a series of key innovations, Guinness was able to stay on top despite (among other things) a famine, mass emigration, two World Wars, a civil war, and the changeover from British to sovereign rule. Guinness is responsible for changes in workplace relations, several foundational advances in the physics of brewing, and even the famous Student’s t-test in statistics. Indeed, Guinness has been one of the key drivers of innovation in Ireland.”

The author is Will O’Brien.


Why Major League Baseball Tried to Rein in Babe Ruth

“For all his wealth and popularity, Ruth remained an outsider, even in the sport he popularized. In this, he demonstrated the chasm between America’s stated ideals and its nastier realities. His poor background did not win him respect; instead, it made him suspect among baseball elites, who wanted less volatile stars who would mold the game into a middle-class institution.”

Here’s the link.


Thanks much for reading. Keep the faith.

2022 Election, Democracy, GOP

America’s Choice …

On Monday night, February 20, 1939, a huge crowd of nearly 30,000 Americans packed into Madison Square Garden in New York City. Another 20,000 milled around outside, The crowd was orderly, at least for a while, but eventually became resistive, particularly after the main speaker began calling them to action.

On the platform uniformed guards stood watch, while “storm troopers” in the crowd “wore overcoats to conceal their uniforms.” Red and black and white flags were displayed everywhere. A large portrait of George Washington was suspended from the ceiling.

Under the guise of “Americanization” American democracy was under attack.

Police – more than 1,500 officers were on hand – expected trouble and had the Garden under tight lock down. One counter demonstrator was beaten and arrested. Event organizers claimed the principle speaker, a uniform wearing rabble rouser named Fritz Kuhn, was the subject of an assassination plot.

Celebrated reporter William S. White described the scene in newspaper accounts that appeared across the country. “In a Nazi demonstration that filled vast Madison Square Garden leaders of the German-American bund stood last night under the sign of the swastika to denounce ‘international Jewry,’ some members of the Roosevelt cabinet, and any American alliance with European democracies.”

Headline from the New York Daily News, February 20, 1939

Reaction was mixed with many defending the rally on free speech grounds even as the pro-Nazi gathering came at a time when Germany had rearmed, annexed Austria, taken over Czechoslovakia and imprisoned thousands of its “undesirable” citizens, particularly Jews. Oregon Republican Senator Rufus C. Holman, stoking class and race division, actually proposed in response to the gathering an end to immigration “until we can assimilate the discordant elements already here.”

Buffalo Evening News, February 21, 1939

Holman, who had been an officer in the Oregon Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s, would later say during a Senate speech: “I have always deplored Hitler’s ambitions as a conqueror. But he broke the control of these internationalists over the common people of Germany. It would be a good idea if the control of the international bankers over the common people of England was broken, and good if it was broken over the wages and savings of the common people of the United States.”

I thought about Rufus Holman, Fritz Kuhn and “the common people of the United States” while reading about the big confab of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Dallas recently. CPAC once was a rather staid, establishment conservative outfit, with its annual meetings offering up servings of standard rightwing red meat for those Americans who still believe Barry Goldwater was a prophet and Gerald Ford a liberal squish.

Once at the fringe of the conservative movement, CPAC is now, as Texas Monthly described it, offering “a violent blueprint for seizing power.” This is now the conservative mainstream, a neo-fascist movement in thrall to violence and in support of coup plotter.

The principle CPAC speaker was, of course, the man who would be president again. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left socialist lunatic fascists,” Donald Trump declared to rapturous applause. “We have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.” 

With uniformed Proud Boys standing by and Hungarian dictator Viktor Orbán thrilling the radical right multitudes with his anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, pro-Christian nationalist rhetoric, Trump repeated for the ten-thousandth time the Big Lie about his election defeat. He lamented the poor insurrectionists facing jail time for attacking the U.S. Capitol. He pitied his vast legal exposure. The crowd went wild.

Donald Trump and Viktor Orban

“If somebody has doubts whether progressive liberals and communists are the same, just ask us Hungarians,” Orbán earlier told CPAC. “We fought them both, and I can tell you: they are the same.”

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at the non-profit group Right Wing Watch told The Guardian: “Rightwing leaders, and especially the religious right leaders in the US, love Viktor Orbán for the same reasons they love Vladimir Putin. This overt embrace of Christian nationalism, willingness to use strongman tactics and the power of the government to enforce so-called traditional values about family and sexuality.”

The cold civil war in America ratcheted up a big notch with the most prominent conservative conference in the country embracing a thug like Orbán and it went into overdrive when the FBI subsequently served a search warrant on Trump’s Florida compound.

To say we have entered uncharted territory is to understate the peril of the moment. The darkest forces on the fringe right are calling for war and the crowd that yesterday slammed Democrats for wanting to “defund the police” today wants to eliminate the FBI.

Perhaps only one thing seems perfectly clear – the GOP elite, every bit as much at the grassroots, is sticking with the party’s would-be Viktor Orbán.

As Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate: “Having witnessed the bulk of the party harden its commitment to protecting Trump at any cost after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, nobody should be shocked to learn that ranking Republicans – without any information about what was seized, or why – were willing to stake their political careers on the claim that it was a lawless, partisan ‘raid.’ The darkest versions of these claims called for doing away with federal law enforcement altogether.”

Or as David Frum noted in The Atlantic: “In the hours since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s freshest resentments have become the election manifesto of his party, whose leaders are one by one lining up to investigate and punish the Department of Justice for enforcing the law against Donald Trump. Usually, August of an election year is when a party shifts its message from red meat for the true believers to softer themes for the general electorate. Trump is trying to stop that pivot, and after the FBI’s visit, he may succeed.”

We can’t imagine what might happen next for the simple reason we have never been here before. Never before have we had a lawless former president, sponsor of an effort to overturn an election and mired in endless scandal, supported by the most radical elements of one of our major political parties and hoping to reclaim power.

After than big New York event in 1939, the vast majority of Americans rejected the forces of fear and division the rally represented and committed themselves to the preservation of a pluralistic, democratic country, eventually sending sons and daughters to defeat the forces of fascism in a great war that continues to define the modern world.

Today the forces of fascism are again on the march, but they do not march as our would-be dictator claims from the ranks of the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Biden. The pressing threat to American democracy comes from the opposite direction, those who would shred the rule of law, while dividing us at every turn with appeals to hatred and violence.

We haven’t seen the bottom with these deplorables because there is no bottom. There is only democracy if we care enough to save it.

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Additional Reading:

For your consideration my carefully curated weekly selections …

Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen

A stunning investigative piece by the Associated Press. The AP obtained thousands of documents related to allegations of child abuse in Arizona and West Virginia, cases where Mormon Church officials had knowledge of the abuse but did nothing.

“Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”

It’s difficult to read, but one hopes this kind of story leads to reform.


How the FBI knew what to search for at Mar-a-Lago 

Scene of the crime …

Interesting Q-A with an expert on presidential records.

Q. How do the archivists actually know what’s missing? Isn’t that hard to figure out?

A. The archivists probably have a really keen idea of what is and what isn’t missing, based upon things that they’ve gotten out of other offices, like the vice president’s office and things that got deposited from the secretary of state, for example. There are a lot of papers that are referenced and cross-referenced, multiple copies or multiple things going in and out of offices.

Read the entire interview:


The maddening coverage of the Mar-a-Lago search

I’ve been a fan of the Columbia Journalism Review for years. This piece dissects some of the early news coverage of the big story out of Florida and hits hard at some of the shortcomings.

“After facing criticism yesterday, the Post changed its initial headline – ‘Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI raided Trump’s safe’ – at least once. It now reads: ‘FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago lands Merrick Garland in a political firestorm’; on Google, it displays as: ‘For Garland, FBI search of Trump property makes it hard to avoid political fray.’ The updates constitute an improvement in that they don’t implicitly accuse Garland of politicizing the rule of law. But they’re far from perfect, resting on DC clichés—’political firestorm’; ‘political fray’—that are worn and passive, offering no insight into who might have started the fire or frayed democracy. This might seem pedantic, but headlines, and language more broadly, matter.”

Good reading to understand some of why the “media” is constantly under fire in the Age of Trump.


A sage for all seasons

From The Guardian archives a John Updike appreciation for Henry David Thoreau and Walden.

Henry David Thoreau

“Thoreau was 27 when he took up residence in the cabin by Walden Pond; he had graduated from Harvard 19th in his class, tried teaching, helped his father in the family pencil business, did local odd jobs for a dollar a day, lived with the Emersons for two years as handyman and gardener, left Long Island after a brief spell of tutoring and testing the literary market, and, despite Emerson’s sponsorship and a few poems and essays in the Transcendentalist quarterly The Dial, had made no mark. He emerged from the cabin in 1847 as essentially the Thoreau known to literary history.”

You’ll learn something and may be inspired to read the classic again. Here is the link.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

2022 Election, Abortion, Idaho Politics

Famous Litigation …

Bill Hall, the acerbic and very funny one-time editorial page editor of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, once got his dander up about the fact that southern Idaho’s most famous crop – the russet Burbank potato – had come to define the state’s image. For decades Idaho’s license plates have proclaimed the state home to “Famous Potatoes.”

The rest of the state, the mighty rivers, the massive lakes, the Swiss-like snowcapped peaks and waving wheat fields were ignored, while the state’s image became a baked spud smeared with butter. Why not, Bill Hall argued, “Famous Peas and Lentils,” a solid cash crop prevalent north of the Salmon River?

Needless to say, that never caught on. Still, it is time for a refresh of the state’s steadily eroding image. A new proposal: “Idaho: Famous Litigation.”

Idaho is back in the national news cycle with the U.S. Justice Department suing the state – an utterly predictable development – over one of the most misguided pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the country. Idaho finds itself, three decades after then-Governor Cecil Andrus prevented the Famous Potato state from becoming embroiled in high-profile, costly and likely futile litigation over abortion, smack in the middle of a needless, thoughtless fight.

Andrus vetoed a misguided piece of abortion legislation in 1990 that had as its sole purpose an effort to influence the national debate over Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision overturned earlier this year by six Christian nationalists on the current Court. Now, the state’s ultra-conservative leadership has teed up just the kind of fight that Andrus avoided. You’d think a state fighting an image as a haven for white supremacists, anti-Semites and education-hating radicals might have sought to avoid become known for imposing a government mandate denying health care to pregnant women.

But this is Idaho where no crazy idea goes unrealized.

The potato state has become a poster child for performative, shoddy, punishing lawmaking that ignores real-world realities and ends up costing millions to defend, most often unsuccessfully. You can tell how thin the state’s defenses are when it comes to its abortion law by reading the ridiculous statement issued by Governor Brad Little who termed the Justice Department’s action “Biden overreach” and “federal meddling.”

There was no attempt by state officials to counter the federal government contention that Idaho’s law conflicts with federal law and creates the very real prospect that a pregnant woman would be denied an abortion even if her life were in danger. This really happens in a variety of circumstances according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including when the woman is suffering infection or severe bleeding.  

The Idaho law also seeks to criminalize medical professionals, putting them in a legal vice between an oath requiring them to provide necessary care for a patient and the state’s mandate to prevent such care.

“The law places medical professionals in an impossible situation,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said of the Idaho lawsuit. “They must either withhold stabilizing treatment … or risk felony prosecution and license revocation. The law will chill providers’ willingness to perform abortions in emergency situations and will hurt patients by blocking access to medically necessary health care.”

The radical ideologues in Idaho’s rightwing party ignored these real-life consequences when they passed, and Little signed the law they must now try to defend.

The governor must have flinched on Tuesday night as the election results rolled in from ruby red Kansas. Voters there overwhelmingly rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would almost certainly have led to abortion restrictions like those in Idaho. Democratic turnout surged in Kansas, Republican voters said enough and the measure failed in every congressional district, even the two most super-conservative districts.

This is the Kansas Donald Trump carried by nearly 15% in 2020.

New York Times graphic

As Bill Scher noted in Washington Monthly, radical Republicans in Kansas – just like their fellow travelers in Idaho – have made “two big miscalculations.” They assumed all Republicans want to ban abortions and they under-estimate the willingness of Democrats and independents to show up and defend a right that many, many Americans thought was secure but is now severely threatened in many states.

Many elected Republicans do not yet realize – or refuse to consider – that there is no constituency for forcing a woman facing death or severe injury to carry a pregnancy to term. Likewise, they don’t appreciate how odious most Americans feel about criminalizing medical practices. The party known for opposing “mandates” is now the party favoring mandates requiring death and prison for women and medical professionals who don’t have the luxury of viewing the world in stark absolutes.  

This type of reckless, blind ideology, however, has become the defining characteristic of the modern Republican Party. Every fevered notion ever harbored by the John Birchers, the Q-Anon conspiracists, the Trumpy election deniers and, yes, the “let’s outlaw abortion” crowd is now in the party platform. The elected elites of the Grand Old Party find themselves marginalized by a lunatic minority who have taken to manipulating the party’s rules and dominating the party’s primaries. 

The spud state is leading the way.

The Republican Party “elites” have responded to this crisis of legitimacy by cowering in fear of their own supporters. As the conservative writer Jonathan V. Last noted a while back, “If the institutions within the Republican party were strong, they would exert their will … [and] shape popular opinion. Instead, these institutions dare only to assert their will under the cover of darkness, out of sight from their voters.”

That, Last says, is “the definition of weakness.”

A Brad Little, given his weakness and fear of the most pyretic elements – even the clear minority elements – of his own party, can’t buck them, can’t reason with them and certainly can’t lead them any more than a Kevin McCarthy can embrace a real investigation into the crimes of January 6. The fever swamp won’t let them be responsible and they lack the guts to try to be.

Therefore, every defense becomes hackneyed laugh line. In the Idaho governor’s case, a pathetic attempt to label entirely legitimate concerns over critical health care for pregnant women and prison for doctors as “federal meddling” or, in McCarthy’s case, drumming a truth seeker like Liz Cheney from the party.

“A party that is afraid of its voters is not sustainable,” Jonathan Last writes. “Either the voters will leave or the party institutions will transform to their liking.” This is a party that is not sustainable.

Two outcomes seem possible for the one-time party of Lincoln. The GOP will continue to collapse, perhaps bringing the Republic down with it. Or the majority of Americans who reject the utter nonsense that has come to define the Republican Party, like voters this week in Kansas, will finally move on to the bright sunlit uplands of political sanity.

Meanwhile, see ya in court, Idaho.

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Weekend Reading:

The Greatest – Bill Russell

The passing of a great Celtic and a great man.

President Obama presents Bill Russell with the Medal of Freedom

“This truth cannot be debated: Russell and the Celtics owned the NBA like no other team ever has or ever will. He cared only about winning and he did it better than anyone – in any team sport – ever has. He encountered 10 Game 7s and left each one with a victory. How improbable is that? The likelihood of flipping a coin the same way 10 times in a row is 0.098 percent. Russell’s teams were the NBA’s 1 percent. He has as many rings as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson combined. He won eight straight championships during one stretch.”

I grew up watching big number 6 and mourn his passing. This is a great piece on Russell.


Vin Scully Was Los Angeles

If Russell was the greatest winner ever in basketball, Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully was the greatest behind the mic talent in sports history.

The broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Vin Scully, is shown the pressbox of Dodger Stadium before the start of their baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“When Kirk Gibson smashed that home run against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for the Dodgers’ upset of Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully exclaimed: ‘In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!’

“For one minute and eight seconds, he remained silent, allowing the roaring Dodger Stadium crowd to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.”

I’m no Dodger fan, but I sure love Vin. Great piece Scott Miller piece in the New York Times.


The fundamental flaw in ‘Make America Great Again’

Historian Leonard Steinhorn has an excellent take on what is driving the effort to whitewash American history.

“Few Americans want to bring back the worst injustices and excesses of the 1950s. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who want to restore this bygone era — to ‘make America great again’ — would re-create a society that resurrects some version of them. Talk as they may about the prosperity, respect and values of the 1950s, it’s the impact of their policies today that have the potential to reopen the wounds and inequities we have spent the following decades healing.”

From Made by History, a regular feature of the Washington Post.


Keep after it. Citizenship is a full-time job. Thanks for reading.

Journalism, Media

Hating the Press …

It’s hardly news that the news business is in deep, deep trouble. The vast disruptive power of the Internet combined with massive declines in advertising revenue have helped hollow out or kill hundreds of newspapers, put untold numbers of reporters out of work and left an increasing number of American communities “news deserts.”

Cutthroat venture capitalists are buying up newspapers to gut them, bleeding them of resources and shipping what money is left out of the towns that depend on the local fishwrapper for everything from baseball scores to news about whether the local county commissioner secretly engineered paving the road to his house.

The right’s attacks on reporters isn’t new, but it has gotten more wide spread

Opinion polling also tells us that many Americans – and a strong majority of conservatives – just don’t trust traditional news outlets. If I want to get an eye roll from a conservative, I quote the hated New York Times or the Washington Post. You can get a similar rise out of a liberal by mentioning Fox News, although disdain for the fourth estate is considerably stronger on the right than on the left.

It is not a coincidence, therefore, that the decline in confidence or respect for what Richard Nixon was the first to call “the media” has skyrocketed as the modern conservative movement has broadly embraced conflict entrepreneurs like Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon and Alex Jones. All have, to varying degrees, declared war on traditional journalism, while advancing conspiracies, authoritarian agendas and flat-out misinformation.

Donald Trump was hardly the first politician to making hating reporters the centerpiece of his appeal to the political right. Richard Nixon, fixated on reporters he believed were out to get him, became a press hating fanatic. “Never forget,” Nixon told Henry Kissinger, his reporter friendly foreign policy advisor, “the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy … write that on the blackboard 100 times.”

When Nixon ran for re-election in 1972, 93% of the nation’s newspapers endorsed him. But facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good bashing of people who live to ask questions of people in power.

Trump, of course, uses his absurdly self-serving “fake news” mantra to attempt to taint any story that is remotely critical of him. That, too, is a tactic as old as Gutenberg’s press and as common to the authoritarian playbook as when Nixon claimed investigation of Watergate was “a witch hunt.

Yet, Nixon’s hatred of the press – and Joe McCarthy’s and Barry Goldwater’s before – was never as effective as Trump’s has become. “I believe that President Trump is engaged in the most direct sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” former Fox News reporter Chris Wallace said in 2019. “He has done everything he can to undercut the media, to try and delegitimize us, and I think his purpose is clear: to raise doubts, when we report critically about him and his administration, that we can be trusted.”

That explains Trump’s motive, but his effort to delegitimize an independent press goes farther. He’s succeeded in getting an entire political party, and the shameless straphangers who go along for the press bashing ride, to buy into yet another of his countless lies.

Truth be told, few politicians relish dealing with the press. Reporters ask pointed questions. They want to see the backup material. They are trained to harbor a certain level of skepticism. Most good reporters have a well-tuned bull s@*t detector.

But now, as reporter David Freelander wrote recently, “sitting down with the mainstream press has come to be seen by Republican primary voters as consorting with the enemy, and approval by the enemy is the political kiss of death.”

What better way of discounting every criticism than to label it “fake?” What better way to bluster out of an embarrassing exchange than to insult the questioner? What better way to tear apart democracy than to discredit the press? It’s all of a piece to trash vital pieces of a democratic system.

The Republican governor of Florida, to cite just one example, employs a $120,000 a year press secretary, a 31-year-old online troll, whose only job seems to be attacking reporters and spreading disinformation.

“Calling out this long-running, cynical, and ultimately corrosive approach to politics is long overdue,” political analysts Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Ladd wrote before the last election. “Politicians and media personalities can pursue conservative policies without undermining the public’s trust in the media, science, and government agencies. Now more than ever, they should do that.”

This undermining is precisely why shadowy state-based groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, run by a former reporter, and cynical candidates, like the former TV reporter in Arizona who is running for governor, attack the press. It works, at least with a certain number of voters who believe reporters are biased because they have repeatedly been fed that lie by self-interested politicians and contemptible political operatives.

Wayne Hoffman, the ex-reporter pushing Idaho conservatives to the far-right edge of the earth, says it’s the reporters who have changed, not hacks like him. That too is a lie. What has changed is that guys like Hoffman discovered they can make more money than they ever would have as reporters by hurling incendiaries, vilifying the right’s demons and manufacturing controversy.

A new tactic: Refuse to engage, but keep attacking

Talk about cynical. Hoffman’s group, like many on the far right, refuses to engage with reporters. And there is nothing transparent about his support. They know they can’t actually explain what they are doing – destroying public education and spreading public health nonsense behind a cloud of secret money, for example – to questioning, informed journalists, so they attack.

As a general rule, I have found reporters to be skeptical, smart, curious and profoundly decent people. Few go into the work, especially now with future prospects so dicey, anticipating a big payday or the fame of Woodward and Bernstein. Most care deeply about the truth or getting as close to it as possible. They see through charlatans. They’d rather help expose corruption and hypocrisy than make a living off it. Sounds a little like defending democracy when you stop to think about it.

Every industry has it’s cynics, wise guys, even the occasional crank, but reporters aren’t the ones aggressively trying to discredit American democracy. They actually embody the debate that is fundamental to a democratic system. In no system, particularly ours, should people and institutions with power, influence and money be above skepticism and scrutiny.

Sure, question the motives of reporters and news organizations. Hold them to high standards. But when some joker yells “fake news” and attacks the questioner rather than attempt to answer the question, have a look at those motives, too. If you look carefully the reporters will more often than not come out looking better than the jokers.

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Additional Reading:

For your weekend reading …

Three-way race for Oregon governor generating tsunami of campaign cash

I believe Oregon may have the most interesting gubernatorial campaign this year. Three women. Millions and millions of dollars.

From the Oregon Capital Insider.


Kurt Vonnegut | 1973

I’ve always read Playboy for the interviews. No, really.

Here is a classic interview with the great writer.

Kurt Vonnegut

“It’s an interview that plainly lays out Vonnegut’s pessimism and disappointment, both of which are self-admitted defining factors in his life. Neither feels good, but both are endlessly informative.”

Here is the link. Minus the centerfold.


Mike Pence Sold His Soul for Nothing

Mona Charon brings the goods on the former vice president – he was honorable on January 6, but not before or after.

“When Pence traveled to Ireland on an official visit, he didn’t stay in Dublin, but traipsed 140 miles west to stay at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, necessitating a 40 minute flight and hour-long drive each way. Must have been inconvenient, but then, if Trump had asked Pence to crawl both ways, he would doubtless have obliged.”

A soul is a terrible thing to lose. Here’s the link.


Thanks for reading. See you soon.

2022 Election, GOP, Insurrection

The Insurrection Next Door …

“It was going to be an armed revolution. People died that day … There was a gallows that was set up … This could have been the spark that started a new civil war.”

So said Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, who testified under oath recently before the January 6 committee.

The Oath Keepers, for those keeping a domestic terrorist scorecard, claims tens of thousands of members, most of whom seem to be former military or law enforcement personnel. The group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, has been charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in allegedly attempting to stop the peaceful transfer of power during the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes is in jail awaiting trial later this year.

A new civil war. Crazy, right?

Trump insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6, 2021

Not so fast. Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently gathered opinions about political violence from a representative sample of 8,620 Americans. A top line result: one in five Americans believe, at least some of the time, that political violence is justified. Half of those surveyed believe an American civil war is coming and 40% admitted to believing that a strongman leader may be necessary to replace our clunky democracy.

“This is not a study that’s meant to shock,” Rachel Kleinfeld, a political violence expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Science magazine. “But it should be shocking.”

It should be shocking, and we must not ignore the conflict agitators festering in plain sight, some clearly hoping to ignite – and benefit by – the war they desire.

Gun violence has undergone a dramatic increase, with homicide rates in American cities rising 44% between 2019 and 2021. Every day – every hour – brings a new outrage fixed squarely on the ridiculously widespread availability of guns. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that angry people with a grievance see a gun as an answer.

Unhinged political characters are everywhere fanning flames. Dan Cox, an election denying, Trump-endorsed crackpot, was nominated by Maryland Republicans to be their gubernatorial candidate this week. The party previously supported moderately conservative Larry Hogan. Hogan, twice elected in a strong Democratic state, has called the Republican who wants to replace him a “conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job.”

All the major Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin have, as writer Bill Lueders noted recently, “staked out fervently regressive, delusional, and extreme positions.”

Blake Masters, the likely Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, has had to refute an anti-Semitic essay he wrote several years ago in which he both distorted American history and used a “particularly representative and poignant quotation” – his words – from, of all people, Hermann Goering, the second most powerful Nazi who committed suicide rather than face execution for his World War II crimes.

“People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,” Masters quoted Goering as saying, perhaps not realizing that even nitwits can stumble on a telling quote. “That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

And, of course, the 35-year-old venture capitalist has already said if he loses the Republican primary in August voter fraud will be the cause.

In Idaho, the most extreme Republicans, as the Idaho Statesman noted, engaged during their recent convention in a political orgy of “fear, control and cruelty.” The party elected a radical rightwing chair who openly espouses the lunatic theory that Donald Trump won the last election. Dorothy Moon, the new chair, meets the Republican definition of diversity. She’s an election denier, a John Bircher, a defender of anti-government extremists like Ammon Bundy and served as a character witness for a fellow Republican convicted of raping a legislative staffer.

Dorothy Moon came close to being elected Idaho’s secretary of state. She’s now chairing the Idaho GOP

Moon, being unhinged is her default position, told the Republican convention, after easily dispatching an old-line party functionary, “We have to make sure with the Democrats coming at us with full force that we have our barriers up, our guns loaded and ready to keep this state free.” 

She will, of course, say she was speaking metaphorically, but she wasn’t. The gun imagery pointed at a political opponent and tied to “freedom” is part and parcel of the wingnut playbook. Moon’s defenders will say the meaning of her threats have been distorted. She didn’t really mean anything by “our guns are loaded.” Just like her party’s Dear Leader didn’t really egg on his supporters to hang Mike Pence.

Welcome to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.

The writer and former Naval War College instructor Tom Nichols says he remains a conservative, but no longer considers himself a Republican because the GOP has fallen “to a bunch of kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists.” Nichols suggests a critical question.

Where are the conservative adults who possess the character and guts to stand athwart this degradation of decency and reality? No senior elected Idaho Republican, for example, has uttered a word about their party going over a cliff into la la land with a crank at the wheel.

The party elite stir themselves to go after Joe Biden on inflation or “the crisis at the border,” but they can’t bear to look into their own garbage strewn back yard.

What are they waiting for? The civil war?

The modern Republican Party – “kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists” – doesn’t really advocate public policy positions, it enables extremists, while making the party a clear and present danger to American democracy.

The investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol has revealed how close the violent events of that day were to ushering in our civil war moment. Sadly, the violent impulses of so-called “Christian nationalists” were barely tweaked by the real time reality of America turning on itself. If anything, the impulses have grown over the last year and a half. Many Americans believe the worst is yet to come.

It has never been more incumbent on any American who truly loves the country, values the Constitution and the rule of law and abhors violence to drop what they are doing and become urgently engaged in the work of saving our democracy from the radicals who aim to destroy it. Push back against this nonsense in your circle of friends and family. Defend the teachers, librarians, police officers and health care workers who are under assault. Preach the gospel that holds that while our democracy is far from perfect it is demonstrably better than a demagogue in a blue suit.

There are more people of good faith and common sense than there are wannabe insurrectionists. Don’t be complacent. Don’t give in. Celebrate democratic values. Vote the crackpots out. The country you save will be your own.  

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Additional Reading:

Some reading for the weekend …

“I said, Don, it’s time for you to reveal”: 50 years later, the truth behind American Pie

I’m old enough to remember seeing Don McLean perform while I was in college and his most famous song had just been released. Now a new documentary tells the story of that enduring tune.

He was younger then

“The first part of the film covers McLean’s early life, including his time as a paper boy in the suburb of New York City where he grew up. In an extensive interview for the film, McLean talks about delivering the paper that carried news of the crash, something he alludes to towards the start of the song’s lyrics. At the time, Buddy Holly was his musical idol. If his death instigated the song’s words, a more personal loss altered the course of McLean’s life.”

Here’s the link.


An Innocent at Rinkside

William Faulkner and hockey don’t go together … but they do.

The novelist saw his first hockey game in 1955 and wrote about it for Sports Illustrated.

“To the innocent, who had never seen it before, it seemed discorded and inconsequent, bizarre and paradoxical like the frantic darting of the weightless bugs which run on the surface of stagnant pools.”

The link to the S-I vault.


Where Was Kevin McCarthy?

Amanda Carpenter on the certifiably loathsome leader of the House Republicans.

The gentleman from Bakersfield

“Thousands of witnesses have voluntarily complied with the [January 6] committee’s requests for testimony; McCarthy is one of the few who have resisted. The committee asked him for a voluntary interview in January 2022, and after he declined, the committee issued a subpoena seeking his testimony. In response, McCarthy’s lawyer sent the committee an 11-page letter on Friday, questioning the committee’s legality and constitutionality and making other specious arguments previously rejected by the courts.”

Imagine what this guy will do as Speaker of the House.


Be well. See you again soon.

GOP, Johnson, Politics

Everything Old is New Again …

To understand the United States in 2022 you must understand the United States in 1964.

The country has many origin stories, the point from which you might glimpse the country we have become – the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s election in 1860, the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, the Great Depression, the Good War.

All those moments are woven into the fabric of our big, diverse, increasingly contentious and perhaps ungovernable nation. Not many of us would peg 1964 an origin moment. It was.

Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

Consider for a moment this pivotal 365 days, the year the writer Jon Margolis, not altogether cynically, termed in his book of the same name – “The Last Innocent Year.”

 “There was a time,” Margolis wrote, “when the delusion of innocence was easy to believe, when the myth was at least as useful as it was deceiving. That time ended when 1964 did.”

John Kennedy, a deeply flawed but profoundly inspiring president was dead as 1964 dawned, shot down the previous November in Dallas, the epicenter of the radical right in the 1960s. The John Birchers considered Dallas a stronghold and local members organized a demonstration against the United Nations, and particularly UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson, a two-time presidential nominee. Things became so unruly Stevenson was hit in the head with a sign post.

The major newspaper in Dallas was stridently anti-communist, and anti-Kennedy. Ted Dealey, the publisher of the Morning News, famously told Kennedy to his face at a White House luncheon, “we need a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline’s tricycle.”

When Kennedy was gunned down in Dealey Plaza – yes, named for that publisher’s father – not everyone was surprised that Dallas is where it happened. Somehow, in our age of conspiracy, it seems all too fitting that JFK’s murder in the Big D spawned a million crackpot conspiracy theories. It is also no coincidence that Texas with its school room murders, unconcealed cruelty to women and immigrants and divisive ultra-right politicians looms so large in our politics nearly 60 years later.

The Kennedy murder also gave the country a big, often crude, often eloquent Texan as president.

“In retrospect,” Jon Margolis wrote, “we can see that it was the opening days of his presidency that Lyndon Johnson took the steps that would cost him his job four years later; that rioting in city streets first began in 1964; that the anger of middle-class working people, whom Richard Nixon would later call the ‘silent majority,’ revealed itself in the first stirrings of ‘white backlash’ and in the distaste for cultural elites exploited by the Goldwater movement.”

Barry Goldwater doesn’t instantly spring to mind for most Americans as a defining character in the troubled country we now inhabit. But Goldwater is a defining character, and indeed the most consequential loser in American political history. He roared into our history in 1964 and never left.

Barry Goldwater on the campaign trail in 1964

Goldwater lost the presidency in a landslide that year to Lyndon Johnson, but in losing he nailed in place the foundation of the angry, grievance driven, conspiracy embracing modern conservative movement. Goldwater also accomplished what moderate Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican never invoked by today’s Trumpified conservative party, began – the American South’s turn to the GOP.

Goldwater won only six states in 1964, but he defeated Johnson, a southerner, in five states of the old Confederacy. In Mississippi, just to cite the most astounding number from that election, Goldwater won 87% of the vote. This was before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act – that happened in 1965 – and before that law most Black Americans couldn’t register to vote in Mississippi. The white voters who embraced Goldwater knew well that the Arizona senator had voted NO on the Civil Rights Act approved by Congress in the summer of 1964 after the longest filibuster in Senate history. It became his calling card.

That Goldwater opposed civil rights legislation, campaigned to eliminate the Tennessee Valley Authority, decried America’s moral decay and was comfortable among Birchers and Southerners waving Confederate flags recommended him highly to many white Americans. He became the face of opposition to “liberal overreach” across the South and beyond.

If you don’t hear echoes of all this today, you’re not listening.

As Goldwater pressed his campaign against Johnson in 1964, his messages were all about “communist infiltration,” the lying liberal, elitist press, pointy-headed college professors, traitors in high places, the dangers of a runaway federal government hell-bent on destroying American freedoms, the “phony” policies of the Democrats.

A Republican state legislator in Ohio or Idaho or Tennessee could give that speech today, indeed they are giving that speech.

Reporter Richard Rovere wrote about Goldwater’s campaign tour in the fall of 1964 for The New Yorker.

“It has been my lot to attend political gatherings of many sorts for many years, but never until I went South with Goldwater had I heard any large number of Americans boo and hoot at the mention of the name of the President of the United States. In Alabama and Louisiana, there were thunderous, stadium-filling boos, all of them cued by a United States senator.”

Contemporary conservative rhetoric is always derivative. Goldwater owed much to Joe McCarthy. Nixon refined the right’s appeal to middle America, dog whistling to the silent, angry majority and appropriating the rest of the South. Reagan proved to be a smoother, more likable version of Goldwater, while hitting the same notes.

Trump, the malicious narcissist, cares not at all for history, but he thinks he knows what works: the meanness of a McCarthy, the white grievance appeal of a Goldwater, the “law and order” and the enemies lists of a Nixon and the Big Top showmanship of a president from Hollywood.

But Barry is his true godfather.

“I have never seen as grim and uncomprehending a group of politicians as those West Virginia Republicans who sat on the platform with Goldwater in Charleston,” Rovere wrote in 1964. “They joined in two bursts of applause – once when he mentioned the Ten Commandments, and again when he said, ‘We will not convert the heathen by losing our own souls.’”

It has always been about a fight for the soul of America. It is who we are, and 1964 helped create what we are living with.

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Additional Reading:

For your consideration …

There Are 11 Types of Donald Trump Enablers. Which One Are You?

Tim Miller, a one-time consultant to conservative politicians and causes turned Never Trumper, has published what is sure to become a wildly popular new book.

Miller writes very well and he isn’t pulling a punch. He suggests there are 11 types of Trump rear end sniffers … you won’t be disappointed.

Miller divide them into these buckets:

• Messiahs and Junior Messiahs
• Demonizers
• LOL Nothing Matters Republicans
• Tribalist Trolls
• Strivers
• Little Mixes
• Peter Principle Disprovers
• Nerd Revengers
• The Inert Team Players
• The Compartmentalizers
• Cartel Cashers

As Miller says, “Here’s a field guide, my taxonomy of enablers, so you can identify them in the wild.”

Here is the link.


Dangerous as the Plague

From the Baffler.

“For those of us who grew up in the gauzy days of ‘Love Wins,’ recent months have been profoundly unsettling. For the first time in our lives, history seems to be running in reverse. Yet while this rhetoric may seem frighteningly new, it has a long, miserable history that stretches back to the nineteenth century and the very origins of LGBTQ rights.”

As my piece this week suggests all that you are seeing has been with us before.


‘A massive betrayal’: how London’s Olympic legacy was sold out

The rich get richer … the massive fail of the London games.

“Ten years on from the patriotic pageant that brought the nation together to bask in director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, with its pastoral vision of merrie England and cavorting NHS nurses, just 13,000 homes have been built on and around the Olympic site. Of these, only 11% are genuinely affordable to people on average local incomes. Meanwhile, in the four boroughs the site straddles – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest – there are almost 75,000 households on the waiting list for council housing, many living in desperate poverty. Thousands of former residents have also been rehoused outside the area since the Olympics took place.”

The Guardian with the gory details of the shoddy legacy of a big, big money event.


Boris Johnson resigns: Five things that led to the PM’s downfall

The most odious man ever in British public life? Boris is in the running

The British PM is out after lies, fines for violating his own Covid rules, more lies and a few lies.

The BBC has an analysis of the why now? I feel compelled to add that nothing Johnson did, as bad as it was, comes close to matching the four years of Donald Trump. Nothing.

And as many have pointed out he didn’t ask his supporters to sack Westminster.

From the BBC.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

GOP, Idaho Politics, Insurrection, Trump

Political Survival …

Note: Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, reminded us – again – this week that Republican senators had a chance in February 2021 to convict Donald Trump and guarantee that he would never again hold public office.

Most Senate Republicans twisted themselves into political pretzels to avoid hold Trump accountable for the Capitol attack on January 6, even though no one attempted to defend his actions.

As Serwer wrote: “Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.”

Which brings us to very Republican Idaho …


Idaho congressman Russ Fulcher was one of 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election for the winner, Joe Biden.

Idaho congressman Mike Simpson has called the House committee investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “a witch hunt.” Simpson’s dismissal of the investigation as a purely partisan exercise ignores the fact that a string of Republican witnesses – the former attorney general, several Trump White House staffers, the Georgia secretary of state and the Arizona speaker of the house – have provided unrefuted testimony under oath. Some witch hunt. 

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher posted this photo on social media. He’s signing a document on January 6 objecting to the presidential election

Idaho senator Mike Crapo, while accepting the endorsement of the former president of the United States has had almost nothing to say about that president’s increasingly well-documented efforts to overturn the election and prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to count electoral votes.

Idaho senator James Risch, like Crapo, opposed creation of an independent panel to investigate the Capitol insurrection and what caused it. Risch remains mum as more testimony implicates the former president in what a federal judge has called “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Idaho attorney general candidate Raul Labrador, we know from text messages assembled by the congressional committee, implored then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6, as Labrador put it, to “get Trump to say something to calm down the people.” Labrador, who supported a bogus legal strategy aimed at overturning state elections, also said to Meadows: “I believed in Trump and I would probably object to the certification today.”

This is the top leadership of the Idaho Republican Party systematically ignoring a Constitutional and political crisis that makes Watergate look like a family picnic. And all in the name of party solidarity.

The Idaho Republican party once included the principled leadership of conservatives like Phil Batt, Jim McClure, Jim Jones and Dirk Kempthorne. The party’s elected leaders today seem as far from principled as Bonners Ferry is from Malad. To steal a line from the late columnist and commentator Mark Shields, these Idaho politicians make Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” 

In commentary in Idaho newspapers recently, former newspaper reporter and one-time GOP publicist Chuck Malloy suggests he knows what Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch are up to – I include Labrador, as well – with their not so artful dodge of the political issue of our time. The Idaho Republicans are, Malloy wrote, “political survivors,” and “political survivors” know “better than to cross” Donald Trump.

Idaho’s “political survivors”

“Political survivors” don’t “buck leadership” because survivors – guys like Crapo in Malloy’s telling – get ahead by making a “political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans.”

I’m certain my old friend Chuck wrote that to explain – and excuse perhaps – the motivations behind a lack of character on the part of these political leaders. Perhaps inadvertently Chuck also hints at an even bigger truism. Idaho Republican leaders are scared – scared of Trump, scared of the most radical elements in their own party, scared of losing office and power, scared of the mob coming for them. They’re like Mafia capos, the middlemen in the crime syndicate, who aren’t directly in charge of the wrongdoing, but know about it and condone, afraid to cross the Big Boss.

“Republican lawmakers fear that confronting Trump, or even saying in public how they actually feel about him, amounts to signing their political death warrant,” Jonathan Martin, journalist and author of This Will Not Pass said recently. “For most of them, it’s not more complicated than that.”

Survival at all cost no matter the price. 

Rusty Bowers, the very conservative Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified recently before the January 6 committee, is a living, breathing example of the chaos and danger that has been unleashed by the Trumpian Big Lie about the election. After telling the committee that he told Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he would not violate his oath to defend the law and the Constitution to further the former president’s lies about the election, Bower related what happened to him and his family.

Pro-Trump supporters used bullhorns as they protested outside Bower’s Mesa home. Protesters filmed Bower’s house and at least one man showed up with a gun and threatened a neighbor. A recall effort was mounted against the devout Mormon and BYU grad. He was accused of corruption and pedophilia. His friends attacked him. Trump lied about him.

All this happened, while Bower’s daughter lay dying inside his home under siege. All this happened because a conservative Republican told the truth about Donald Trump and pushed back on the stolen election lies. Election workers in Georgia and elsewhere have similarly been threatened and intimidated.

It may well be that Idaho’s Republican leaders are merely pragmatically invested in continuing to be, as Chuck says, “political survivors,” toeing the line and tending to tribal loyalties, but what if they won’t tell the truth because they are merely political cowards rather than survivors? Considering the threats and intimidation raining down on who have dared to tell the truth – Rusty Bowers and this week former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson among them – who can really blame these small, timid and quiet men from Idaho?  

Yet, like Bowers, like the Georgia secretary of state, like young Ms. Hutchinson, like the Capitol Police officers who fought – and some died – to protect Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch on January 6, these Idaho Republicans also took an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

That oath, as we heard from Speaker Bowers, is a solemn, honorable commitment. It doesn’t apply only when things are easy or convenient. There is no escape clause. You can’t suspend it when the politics get ugly, when Trump demands it, when the mob comes calling, or when too many of your constituents embrace nonsensical conspiracy theories. There is simply no oath that offers an “opt out” for “political survivors.”

Malloy suggests Idaho Republicans believe political courage is for losers. And they may be right. If that be so then we are all losers, and our democracy is the biggest loser of all.

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Additional Reading:

A few other carefully curated items for your consideration …

Punchbowl and power in Washington, DC

I’m admittedly pretty “old school.” My sense of journalism in rooted in the memory of Walter Cronkite, David Broder and Ben Bradley. Oh, I look at all the “new” stuff out there – the newsletters, Substack posts, and even Punchbowl, a strange name for a news organization, but OK …

If you care. He’s a dive into what is driving political news out of Washington, D.C. these days.

From the Columbia Journalism Review.


Mystery of Waterloo’s dead soldiers to be re-examined by academics

Waterloo …

“Writing in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Prof Tony Pollard, director of the centre for battlefield archaeology at the University of Glasgow, has collated vivid descriptions and images from those who visited Waterloo in the aftermath of the 1815 battle, which pitted Napoleon’s forces against a British-led coalition and a Prussian-led one.”

The image is, well, a bit grisly. From The Guardian.


The Early Life of the Renowned Leader of the Lakotas, Sitting Bull

Growing up in South Dakota I’ve always been fascinated by the great Sitting Bull. There is a new book.

“There was no such thing as emptiness in the world,” one Lakota remembered from his childhood. “Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life.”

Here is an excerpt.


Liz Cheney at Reagan Library

Another tumultuous week in American politics and history. I’ll leave you with encouragement to listen to Liz Cheney’s speech this week at the Reagan Library.

“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said.

Here’s a link to C-Span’s coverage.


Thanks, as always, for following along. Stay in touch. And stay informed. These are perilous times.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Character Test …

We all knew that the Age of Trump was going to end up being a character test for Republican officeholders.

Way back in 2015 – remember those simpler days – most of these politicians knew the guy who bankrupted casinos, swindled contractors and cheated on his several wives was devoid of that central element of personal and political leadership: character.

But they were tribal, they wanted to win, and, after all, their supporters wanted to send a big message to the libs and the elites, so the GOP’s own elites tucked their reservations in a vest pocket and got on the Trump Train.

When he attacked John McCain, a decorated war hero, as a loser they bit their tongues. He is crude and mean and boorish, but the base loves him. When he slandered a Hispanic judge or the Gold Star parents of a Muslim solider, they looked away. When he praised Putin, they decided no big deal. When he attempted to extort the Ukrainian president in order to manufacture dirt on his political opponent, they let it slide.

When Trump attacked McCain … it was mostly crickets from GOP politicians

When he surrounded himself with cranks and grifters and fellow con men, and when the few with any character left or were fired, it was just business as usual. They got a tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires, after all. When he pardoned the sloppy, seditious Steve Bannon and repugnant, reprehensible Roger Stone, as well as a host of others, ensuring their silence, the characterless were busy elsewhere.

When he began, without a scintilla of evidence, to sow doubt about the election, always suggesting that unless he won the whole deal was rigged, they took their own election victories in stride. They knew it was a joke. But, hey, nothing to see here.

When he summoned the mob, incited the mob and embraced the fiction of a stolen election many Republican officeholders actually helped advance the Big Lie. They are still lying. They know it, you know it, but in for a penny, in for a pound after all.

Impeach and disqualify him from ever polluting the White House again? Not on your life. It’s all just “politics.”

But there is a funny thing about squandering the notion that character in public life really does matter. The smell of it sticks like stink on you know what. And it really stinks when someone from your own ideological tribe exhibits real character.

We saw it this week in the form of a conservative Republican, a Mormon graduate of BYU, and the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Rusty Bowers might have been called from central casting for his role before the January 6 investigation, that is, before the Malice from Mar a Lago made character as completely fungible as a degree from Trump University.

“Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it,” Bowers told Rudy Giuliani, the shameless Trump lackey who was pressing a fellow Republican to create fake electors in order to pervert a presidential election.

“I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona,” Bowers told Rudy. “You’re asking me to do something against my oath. And I will not break my oath.”

The Republican speaker of the Arizona House told the truth about Trump

“What makes a conservative Republican resist Trump and his deranged and fact-free election conspiracies?” Walter Shapiro asked recently in The New Republic. “Where do political figures like Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger [another witness before the congressional committee] find their courage while the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham become spineless Trump toadies?”

The answer is character, and character is what you do when you care more about the country than your tribe, or the next election or your own power.

Donald Trump pressured Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, “to find 11,780 votes” to reverse the electoral will of the state’s voters. It was shakedown full of Mafia boss-like threats and bluster. Raffensperger refused. Since then he’s been subjected to death threats and some loser broke into the home of his widowed daughter-in-law apparently seeking to intimidate him. He resisted.

We are living through the greatest peril of American democracy since the Civil War. Like southern Democrats in 1860, most in today’s Republican Party are willing to tolerate the threats, intimidation and corruption because they have rejected the notion that character counts.

There was a massive Trump directed conspiracy to overturn the last presidential election. Only an American living in a Fox News bubble or trolling the dark corners of Facebook can deny what happened. Republican after Republican witness is telling us. The witnesses of character are speaking to both the threats we face and to our better angels.

“Obviously Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and the rest of the Kracken lunatics are incapable of shame,” writes Never Trump conservative Sarah Longwell. “As are some of the 147 Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 election. But I’ve got to believe that there are many Republicans who – despite claiming they’re not paying attention to the hearings—are watching the testimony of people like [Georgia election worker Shaye] Moss, Brad Raffensperger, and Rusty Bowers with a gnawing sense of dread. Aware, perhaps with renewed clarity, that by carrying water for Trump’s lies, they had a meaningful hand in unleashing devastation on many people’s lives. Including Rusty Bowers daughter, who, we learned yesterday, was dying of a terminal illness while her family was attacked because Bowers refused to betray his oath. I hope those realizations keep them up at night.”

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” said the conservative congresswoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, speaking to the boneless wonders of the modern GOP. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

That’s the thing about surrendering any principle and squandering any sense that character matters – you have to find a way to live with yourself.

That stain is permanent; the stink never goes away.

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Additional Reading:

A few more suggestions …

Watergate’s Ironic Legacy

Amidst the January 6 hearings, the fiftieth anniversary of Nixon’s scandal reminds us that it has only gotten harder to hold presidents accountable.

“On June 22, 1972, a few days after the Watergate break-in, President Nixon met with H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff. ‘It sounds like a comic opera,’ Nixon said, so poorly executed that no one would think ‘we could have done it.’ Haldeman agreed, picturing well-dressed men installing wiretaps with rubber gloves, ‘their hands up and shouting ‘Don’t shoot’ when the police come in.’ Yet the arrests raised concerns at the White House. With less than five months before Election Day, Nixon and his advisers worried that the FBI investigation of the break-in might reveal other illegal activities.”

A good piece by Stuart Streichler in Boston Review.


How to Decolonize the Capitol

Art historians, legislators, and activists have long decried themes of White supremacy in the art collection of the U.S. Capitol. Can this place be decolonized?

The U.S. Capitol rotunda: scene of insurrection and lots of art

“Ever since John Trumbull was commissioned to paint four monumental history paintings for the Rotunda in 1817, Congressmen have used the Capitol Art Collection to tell a simple and seductive story — indeed, given its location, the official story — about America. Like all forms of government propaganda, this artwork was designed to justify and to persuade, laundering ideological positions into ‘history.’ But as the federal government diversifies, this story will likely be challenged more forcefully than it has been in the past. Nearly a quarter of the 117th Congress, which came into office in 2022, comprises lawmakers who identify as racial and/or ethnic minorities, making this Congress the most diverse in history.”

You’ll find this piece on a terrific architecture, landscape and urban design website – Places. Check it out.


‘I changed kids’ perspectives’: Muggsy Bogues, the 5ft 3in star who broke NBA norms

A wonderful little story about the shortest player in NBA history.

“This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the most striking picks in the NBA draft’s long history. In 1987, the Washington Bullets picked Muggsy Bogues – all 5ft 3in of him – with the 12th overall pick.”

From The Guardian.


Thanks for following along. All the best. Stay safe.

Civil Rights, Civil War, Human Rights

Conflict Entrepreneurs … 

“It is clear to us based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession and in the U-Haul with them, along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,” said Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White.

It’s not every day you see a Pacific Northwest law enforcement official make such a statement. Get used to it. You’ll see something similar again soon, likely many similar things.

The 31 members of the white supremacist group calling itself Patriot Front who were arrested last week at a northern Idaho Pride Day celebration may seem, at least at first blush, to be little more than a handful of neo-Nazi losers and cranks, white men who hate the idea that the United States is a nation of ethnic and religious diversity. But it would be a mistake to dismiss these dangerous men as anything less than what they are: domestic terrorists.

Patriot Front members arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Patriot Front’s “manifesto” states the group’s aspirations in language that would please the old Aryan Nation’s bigot, Richard Butler. “A nation within a nation is our goal. Our people face complete annihilation as our culture and heritage are attacked from all sides.”

The leader of the group – its membership is estimated at a few hundred young men spread across the country – is a Texan named Thomas Ryan Rousseau. Rousseau first came to prominence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 when some of his followers participated in the infamous “Unite the Right” rally.

Not long after that shameful racist gathering – then-President Donald Trump excused the violence as a protest against removal of Confederate monuments even as one life was lost as torch bearing marchers chanted anti-Semitic slogans – Rousseau said: “America our nation stands before an existential threat. The lives of your children, and your children’s children, and your prosperity beyond that, dangle above a den of vipers. A corrupt, rootless, global, and tyrannical elite has usurped your democracy and turned it into a weapon, first to enslave and then to replace you.”

Charlotteville 2017

Trump’s comment that at Charlottesville there were “some very bad people … but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides” was widely condemned, but also entirely excused by most Republican politicians. Since Charlottesville, Patriot Front and similar groups – the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, for example, who led the January 6 attack on the Capitol – have grown more aggressive and more violent.

These radical, rightwing groups have become, as political scientist Barbara F. Walters has written, “conflict entrepreneurs,” who exist to create the kind of confrontation, provocative and potentially violent, that was barely avoided in Coeur d’Alene.

Walters, in her recent book How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them, writes alarmingly of the United States nearing the point where radical right groups engage in sustained violence, often marked by assassination attempts, ambushes and attacks on police or the military. They seek chaos, Walters believes, in order to destabilize a fractious and already troubled democratic system.

Author Barbara F. Walters and her new book – a strong warning to the U.S.

Walters and other scholars have documented the rise of such groups and their tactics around the world and contend the U.S. is entering a period of sustained rightwing violence, something the FBI has issued warnings about for years. Think of the sectarian “troubles” in Northern Ireland that fractured that divided land for a generation, or the tribal violence in Rwanda, or the still raging civil war in Syria.

Only a failure of imagination based on a clear-eyed understanding of what rightwing terrorism is capable of prevents most Americans from understanding the depth of this threat.

Patriot Front has demonstrated in Philadelphia, leafleted in Vermont and the campus of the University of West Virginia and led anti-immigrant protests in California. In Brooklyn a year ago, members vandalized a George Floyd statue and defaced a mural in Richmond commemorating Black tennis great Arthur Ashe. Patriot Front members have been involved in anti-abortion rallies, as well.

The group’s national reach and level or coordination is obvious given that those arrested in northern Idaho came from at least 11 states and just happened to show up packed into a rented U-Haul truck wearing hoods and carrying shields and apparently some weapons. The objective was clearly to provoke a confrontation, create chaos, grab headlines and then slink out of town.

So, what should Idaho officials be doing about these dangerous radicals? First: take them seriously – absolutely seriously. No longer ignore them. Do not fail to name what they are doing or denounce what they profess to stand for. This demands a full-on mobilization of state and local law enforcement and aggressive prosecution.

Instead, Idaho Governor Brad Little issued a mealy-mouthed statement extolling everyone’s right to peaceful protest and praised the police response. Little did not deplore the white supremacist agenda of Patriot Pride. The governor did not link the radicals to a growing national movement to disparage members of the LGBTQ community. And Little did not summon the courage to be outraged by members of his own party cheering on white supremacists and hate spreaders.

As Rebecca Boone of the Associated Press reported, “a lawmaker from the northernmost region of the state, Republican Rep. Heather Scott, told an audience that drag queens and other LGBTQ supporters are waging ‘a war of perversion against our children.’” That is an outrageous, untrue and dangerous accusation that deserves only censure.

The non-response by Idaho conservatives is a big tell. Brad Little and most Republicans are afraid of the radical right because they realize they constitute the growing racist and hateful wing of the GOP. They will come to rue their inaction because inaction will foster more hate.

Consider this: One of those arrested in Coeur d’Alene came all the way from Alabama. Doug Jones, a former Alabama senator and one-time prosecutor who finally brought to justice the racist Klan murderers of four little Black girls in a Birmingham church in 1963, issued a stern warning during an interview with the Idaho Capital Sun.

“There’s a reason they felt like they could do this. There’s a reason that a guy from Alabama went all the way out there,” Jones said. “There are gay pride events going on all over the country. Why did they pick Idaho? It’s because of a conservative government that they felt like they could do it and they would be part of the community as opposed to being an outlier. And … I believe all people in Alabama and Idaho are much better than that, and they believe in decency, civility and giving everybody equal opportunities.”

Maybe. We should hope so. But it’s equally possible the opposite is true. It was once said that “Idaho is too great for hate,” but hate now seems to be the state’s brand and Republican elected officials are empowering the hate.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items I came across this week that may be of interest …

How the Crazy Plays in Wisconsin

A scathing piece here from the Wisconsin Examiner about the crazy “election fraud” investigation of a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, Michael Gableman. For months now Gableman has engaged in an expensive, nonsensical exercise to show that there was fraud in Wisconsin’s handling of the 2020 presidential election. The Big Lie has turned into a Big Con, as Gableman has spent hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to only ensnarl himself in litigation, controversy and, as seems increasingly likely, legal contempt for not responding to demands for records.

Reporter Ruth Conniff:

“What is Gableman hiding? Keystone Kops-style incompetence, wasting money and coming up with nothing are the hallmarks of his ridiculous probe, which he and [Wisconsin House Speaker Robin] Vos justify as an effort to increase ‘transparency’ and public confidence in Wisconsin elections. We already know Gableman used the taxpayers’ funds to attend a conspiracy theory conference hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and to visit Arizona to inspect its discredited audit.”

Clowns will clown. Here is the link.


Steve Bannon and the Politics of Bullshit

And speaking of bull excrement – Steve Bannon!

Damon Linker on the full-time provocateur and danger to the Republic.

“Bannon knows what he hates. Liberals. Progressives. The left. China. But what’s the alternative? It can’t be anything that resembles the Republican Party of the past, because he hates that, too. What then? He can’t really say. In place of a vision of a better world, he offers only negation. His ‘ideal’ future is one of leveling destruction—like the skyscrapers collapsing, one after another, in the final scene of the movie Fight Club. What comes after the skyline has been reduced to rubble, Bannon hasn’t a clue. All he knows is that he wants to be the one to place and detonate the TNT.”

Discount him as a crank, a grifter, an unmade bed of radical, neo-fascist garbage, but don’t think he is not one dangerous SOB. As Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark once said of Bannon: “A clown with a flamethrower still has a flamethrower.”

Link to Linker.


Trump’s useful thugs: how the Republican party offered a home to the Proud Boys

I stumbled across this excellent piece from 2021 in researching this week’s column.

Armed and violent

“Dwindling enthusiasm for the militias and Patriot movement during the Bush era was transformed by the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the development of the Tea Party, which according to the journalist David Neiwert, became ‘a wholesale conduit for a revival of the Patriot movement and its militias.’ This convergence proved fertile ideological ground: the radical libertarianism of the Tea Partiers intermingling with the chauvinism of the militias and their white nationalist allies, bonded with the conspiracy theories of Alex Jones, Fox News propaganda and what the historian Greg Grandin once described as ‘an almost psychotropic hatred of Barack Obama.’

“Many members of these groups would go on to become staunch Donald Trump supporters, and while the Republican party has traditionally sought to maintain a certain plausible deniability in its relationship with the fringe right, the Trump campaign threw open Pandora’s box, welcoming the avowed white supremacists, antisemites and fascists who stalked the ideological fringes of US politics.”

This Guardian story will help you understand the growing radical base of the modern GOP.


The January 6 Committee’s Fatal Connections

Garrett Epps in the Washington Monthly outlines why the January 6 hearings really, really matter.

“If I am right about this narrative strategy, future public hearings will show us a desperate, unmoored Trump reaching out for violent helpers—a through line between the president and the two neofascist street gangs, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who were the most aggressive and organized part of the mob that sacked the Capitol on January 6. On the one hand, we have the fascist leaders conferring in a parking deck; on the other, we have a president who seems to know that something big is about to go down.”

I do hope people are paying attention. Here’s the link.


Buchwald in Paris: Letters from Steinbeck, and an Invite to the Most Famous Wedding in the World

I’ve forever been a fan of the legendary humor and political columnist Art Buchwald.

Didn’t he LOOK like a columnist?

For a long time I had a Buchwald quote on my desk: “Lunch is the power meal in Washington, D.C.,” he once wrote. “It’s over lunch that the taxpayer gets screwed.”

I can’t wait to read this new biography of the man called Funny Business. This excerpt deals with the years Buchwald and his wife lived in Paris while he writing for the International Herald Tribune.

“They mingled with Ingrid Bergman; Audrey Hepburn; Lena Horne; Mike Todd and his beautiful young wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor; and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Ann and Art spent one bizarre evening with the Windsors when the Duke played recordings of ‘patriotic German songs’ and sang along with great delight. ‘He was a dimwitted man,’ Buchwald later wrote, ‘and I always believed England [owed] Wallis [Simpson] . . . for making him give up the crown.'”

Good stuff. The author is Michael Hill.


Back next week – God willing and the creek don’t rise. Be well. Thanks for reading.