GOP, Trump, Ukraine

A Matter of Character …

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic speech to a joint session of Congress properly received a great deal of attention this week. The former comedian turned international leader reminds us not only of the stakes in a country under siege, but that courage and character in the face of great adversity is the very essence of political leadership.

Zelensky’s incredible performance, literally under fire, has summoned comparisons to Winston Churchill’s leadership in 1940. As the Financial Times noted, Zelensky “never aspired to be a war leader. Yet it is precisely his empathy and communication skills, teamed with exceptional guts, that have turned him into the voice of his people and their resistance, and a symbol of modern Ukrainian identity.”

Ukrainian president Zelensky with some of his soldiers

A remarkable gesture by the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia received less attention, but the dangerous rail journey to Kiev undertaken by the eastern European leaders not only demonstrated solidarity with Zelensky but was also noteworthy for the courage and character the leaders displayed. Both moments will live in history.

If only we could count on a bit more character and courage in our own politics.

Yet, having said that I detected something genuinely encouraging amid all the usual partisan brawling and useless backbiting. Some courage and character broke out.

Utah senator Mitt Romney spoke again, as he has in the past, in support of American democracy, and specifically in support of courage and character. At a fundraising event for embattled Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, Romney received a standing ovation when he said, “People of character and courage have stood up for right at times when others want to look away. Such a person is Liz Cheney.”

Cheney, of course, is under assault from the fact-free Trumpian alt right and the former president for having the gumption to stand up to our own home-grown anti-Zelensky. Cheney seems determined to get the full story of the January 6 Capitol insurrection no matter where the truth leads.

Here at home, Romney said, “what has kept us from falling in with the same kind of authoritarian leader as Vladimir Putin are the strengths of our institutions, the rule of law, our courts, Congress, and so forth.” That so forth includes character and courage.

Another prominent western Republican had much the same message this week. Writing in the Washington Post, two-term Montana governor and former Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot said: “Rarely stopping to inventory the essential qualities in human character, we all know them when we see them: decency, honesty, humility, honor and faithfulness.”

Racicot said his purpose in speaking out about the unfitness of the “leader” of the Republican Party “was to urge all Americans of good sense and honest purpose to confront, define and vindicate the truth. Sometimes that truth has sharp edges, but nonetheless, it is still the truth. This is one of those times.

“And so it must be said again: Donald Trump does not possess the essential qualities of character to lead this nation, most especially in a time of crisis.”

Racicot, typically a measured, quiet man not given to overstatement, was scathing and specific in denouncing Trump’s truly disgusting comments about Putin’s war on Ukraine. “If the former president’s recent remarks about Ukraine had amounted to just another ration of narcissistic self-indulgence, it would have been briefly noted, but not thoroughly examined. Such patent nonsense has become, after all, predictable and expected.”

The former Republican chairman went on: “The vicious actions of the Russian president have been universally condemned by decent people everywhere. But not by Trump. To the contrary, the former president could express only his admiration of the Russian president’s tactics — describing them as ‘savvy,’ ‘smart’ and ‘genius.’

“There is no record of anybody else, other than Trump, anywhere, at any time during this Russian massacre, who has described Vladimir Putin’s actions as ‘savvy,’ ‘smart’ and ‘genius.’”

Racicot said the former president’s remarks display a shocking “lack of maturity and morality” as Putin’s artillery and missiles rain down death on hospitals and schools in Ukraine.

The conclusion of Racicot’s piece in the Post spoke directly to those politicians who duck and cover rather than confront the character and courage issues that confront their party and our county.

Putin: not savvy, but he does have really long tables

 “Those who, during this painful moment in human history, find any redeeming value or humor in the former president’s remarks; or who continue to ignore his profound lack of knowledge or intellectual curiosity; or who excuse his lack of regard for the truth; or who consciously or unconsciously modify the priorities of their own character or moral imperatives to secure his favor, or the favor of his disciples, might do well to remember the words of author J.M. Smith: ‘If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.’”

Donald Trump did not create the deep fissures that have contributed an America that is more divided, less civil, more mean and less committed to truth. Those attributes, sadly, have long been features of a sprawling, diverse nation that has too rarely confronted its own contradictions.

But Trump, his willing accomplices and those afraid to speak truth about him have exploited division and distrust for the basest of reasons – power and punishment. Maybe the Trumpian fever is about to break – we can hope – since Trump endorsed candidates in several states are floundering.

Still, hoping the stench goes away naturally does not absolve Republicans in Congress, statehouses and city councils from the moral decisions they have made to tolerate this intolerable man and the damage he has done to American democracy. By lack of courage, they have made lack of character acceptable in the highest office of the land.

We cannot predict the future of the brave people of Ukraine or that of their determined president. The future may well hold much more death and destruction with implications far beyond eastern Europe. There is little reason for optimism, but at this historic moment Volodymyr Zelensky and the country he leads reminds us of what truly matters – courage and character.

Celebrate that. Embrace that. Demand that of our leaders.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items that may be of interest …

MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement fails to address players’ biggest grievances

I’m eager for baseball, but really frustrated by the owner’s lockout and the agreement that – finally – emerged. A good explainer here from Victor Matheson, a sports economist at Holy Cross.

Spring training finally got going this week

“Baseball junkies will notice several cosmetic changes to the game right away: an expanded postseason, sponsor advertisements on jerseys and a designated hitter in the National League. The agreement also opens the door for rule changes in 2023 that include larger bases, limits on defensive shifts and a pitch clock. Other than some real improvements to the salaries for the league’s lowest-paid players, however, the economics of baseball’s underlying labor model remains as flawed as ever.”

Read the whole thing:


“I can help them” – one man’s journey from Portland to Ukraine’s frontlines

A Portland man heads home to fight for Ukraine.

“Sergey is one of about 66,000 Ukrainians returning home to help fight the Russian invasion following President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for Ukrainians abroad return to the homeland to fight the Russians. Korenev, whose family is Jewish, is one Ukrainian in the US answering the call.”

From The Guardian:


How the North Beat the South, Morally and Economically

A very interesting new book on dueling economies during the Civil War.

“The South was bountiful but impervious to change. In the decade before the war, cotton production jumped from 2.8 million bales to more than 4 million, and the value of its four million slaves doubled. This industry was centered in four hundred mostly contiguous counties of loamy soil that was essentially a monoculture. In the North, farmers sought to improve varieties of wheat and corn. They invested in farm and machinery. Southern planters felt no need to innovate. There was scarcely any patent activity in cotton and little investment in machines. They scarcely invested in capital goods. It was cheaper to breed Negroes.”

The book is Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War by Roger Lowenstein.

Here is the link to an excerpt:


Cooking with Dorothy Sayers

Miss Dorothy L. Sayers, the famous author, whose radio play introducing Christ as a character has caused widespread controversy, is seen here Feb 6, 1942 in London signing a visitors’ book where she addressed the lunch- time service congregation at St. Martin’s-In-The-Fields. (AP Photo)

Loved this piece from The Paris Review.

“Dorothy Sayers was said to enjoy both food and drink in great quantities. And her characters do as well.”

The link:


That’s it for this week. Thanks for following alone. Stay well and be in touch.

GOP, Trump, Ukraine

The Ukraine Memory Hole …

“We have the evidence to prove President Trump ordered the aid withheld, he did so to force Ukraine to help his re-election campaign … we can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the investigation into his conduct.”

California Congressman Adam Schiff during the Trump impeachment trial concerning Ukraine


Military analysts, and most famously the Prussian Carl von Clausewitz, have long referenced the “fog,” or uncertainty that always surrounds war. Given the best planning and skilled execution, battles never unfold the way they are envisioned on a map in a secure location.

Wars become a blur. Information is unreliable. People make mistakes. Supplies get destroyed or sidetracked. Leaders and followers stumble around in the dark amid death, destruction and dread.

A fog of war descends.  

One suspects Vladimir Putin has lived in this state for two weeks now. The war crimes this “small, feral-eyed” man – that’s Senator Mitt Romney correctly describing Putin – has perpetrated in Ukraine will live in infamy. The heinous crimes are visible to all. The former KGB man is doomed. The only questions are how long it will take to be rid of him and how many innocents will die while the world waits.

Putin’s War on Ukraine involves bombing hospitals (NBC photo)

Yet, while we wait and contemplate what Putin has done to a mostly peaceful post-war Europe, at least a Europe where NATO never seriously faced off against a nuclear armed Russian, and before Americans become consumed with gas prices rather than crimes against humanity, we should confront some hard truths about our own Ukraine back story.

Tribal politics have done much to damage the United States. Good faith in our civic life has become as rare as $2 regular at the pump. Lies and misinformation dominate seemingly every debate. The work is underway, therefore, to rewrite the Ukraine narrative in the interest of sparing many conservative politicians of any accounting for how cavalierly they treated issues in eastern Europe when their guy was running the show.

As good a place to start to plug the memory hole is Paul Manafort, the Republican political operative and lobbyist who lived a high life and made millions, as NBC reported in 2017, “working for a corrupt pro-Russian political party that repeatedly disparaged America’s most important military alliance” – that would be NATO.

Just to jog your memory, Manafort “volunteered” for no salary to work on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign even though he was reportedly in dire need of cash.

[Personal observation: political consultants are some of the most money conscious people in our system. They are always afraid the political client will run out of money and they won’t get paid. To work for the pleasure of being associated closely with a world-class narcissist is, to say the least, unusual.]

Manafort did several things during his time with Trump. He engineered a remarkable change in the Republican platform. As the Washington Post reported in July 2016: “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

One Republican who opposed the platform sight of hand was Diana Denman, a Texas delegate to the 2016 convention. Her comments in 2016 read in the context of Putin’s war today are little short of stunning. “The Ukrainian people are trying to come out of the past and stay free,” Denman said. “We owe to those who are fighting for freedom still to give them a helping hand.”

“I’m very passionate and supportive of the Reagan foreign policy of peace through strength,” Denman said.

Since there are no coincidences in politics it’s not a stretch to believe the GOP platform switch was orchestrated to please Manafort’s once and potentially future Russian clients. The change in longstanding Republican policy was simply a very cheap gift to Vladimir Putin, who Trump made no secret – then or now – of admiring, indeed emulating.

Paul Manafort, arrested, charged, convicted … pardoned by Trump

We also know, despite ongoing efforts to whitewash the truth, that Manafort gave sensitive Trump campaign polling information to one of his Russian contacts at the very time Putin was engaged in a massive social media disinformation campaign designed to influence the presidential election, and sow division in the American electorate.

[Another reminder: a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed the Russian interference. It was no hoax.]

Trump and his cult now claim he was tough with Putin. It’s a lie. Trump essentially endorsed Putin’s annexation – steal – of Crimea. Trump sided with Putin rather than U.S. intelligence agencies on the matter of Russian election interference, infamously saying in Helsinki in July 2018, “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump embraced the fiction that Ukraine had meddled in the election, a move he made after Ukrainian records implicated Manafort in a financial scandal that led to his conviction. Manafort was, of course, pardoned by Trump.

Then came the “perfect call” between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation that was so imperfect as to warrant Trump’s first impeachment. To again plug the memory hole: Trump tried to shake down Zelensky by withholding military assistance from the newly elected president in exchange for a storyline that Ukraine was investigating Joe Biden.

At a time when Ukraine needed building up, Trump did Putin’s bidding.

[Another reminder: remember the Portland hotelier Gordon Sondland? He was U.S. ambassador to the European Union and was in the middle of the Trump shakedown. He testified to the truth of a central fact in Trump’s impeachment. Watch it again and wonder how history might have changed had Republicans senators done their duty.]

Republicans, like Idaho’s Jim Risch and Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who minimized and excused Trump’s “drug deal” approach to Ukraine in 2019 are now shamelessly acting like all this history never happened. They had a chance to rid themselves of this cancer on conservatism by convicting Trump of abuse of power. They punted.

“Trump didn’t care about the people of Ukraine—their lives or their democracy,” Amanda Carpenter wrote recently in The Bulwark. “He simply understood that he had power over them and could abuse this power to help his re-election. And his fellow Republicans, almost to a person, either helped him with this blackmail or defended it once it came to light.”

Biden’s handling of Putin’s war has hardly been perfect. He, too, suffers in the fog or war, but Biden has succeeded, at least so far, in uniting and re-invigorating NATO and the European Union, the one really big thing Putin sought, with Trump’s help, to destroy.

The endgame of this crisis, as serious as any in Europe since the 1930’s, is far from clear. What is clear is that one political party, a party once with a tradition of hardheaded national security policy, willingly enabled the dangerous impulses of a failed real estate developer who has never made a secret of his admiration for a dangerous dictator.

While we pray for the people of Ukraine we should remember how far into deceit and depravity that party was willing to take the country – and the world.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest …

Our local-news situation is even worse than we think

A sobering serious from the Columbia Journalism Review.

“As reporting staffs have shrunk, the American population has grown. Since 2004, the number of newspaper newsroom staff per 100,000 people—a measure we might call “coverage density”—has dropped by a staggering 62 percent. This shows statistically what we knew anecdotally: reporters are spread far thinner than they used to be. It also helps explain the rise in ‘ghost newspapers,’ more than 1,000 publications that have lost more than half of their staff in recent years.”

Link to the series


Charter school program favored by Tennessee governor rewrites civil rights history

Good example here of why local news coverage is so darn important.

“If Governor Bill Lee gets his way, Tennessee will become a major player in a network of taxpayer-funded charter schools set up by a Michigan college with close ties to former President Donald Trump.

“Lee calls Hillsdale College’s approach to teaching civics ‘informed patriotism.'”

Some conservatives are worried about kids being “indoctrinated,” and that is exactly what they really want to do. It’s not history, but “informed patriotism.”

Good reporting from Nashville’s NewChannel 5:


Billionaire-backed group promotes hunt for voter fraud, uses discredited techniques

The big lie continues, perhaps even picks up steam in Wisconsin.

“Ever since Trump failed to convince the world that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud, like-minded people across the country have been taking up the same rallying cry, revisiting that vote with an eye toward what will happen in 2022.

“Now, a new group is stepping into a more conspicuous role in that world by providing easily accessible tools for people in Wisconsin, other Midwest battleground states and, eventually, the entire country to forge ahead with a quest to prove election irregularities.”

The money is coming from the hard right Wisconsin industrial family, the Uihleins, part of a network of deep pocketed activists who are keeping the big lie alive. Great reporting from Pro Publica and the Wisconsin Examiner.


Pulitzer winner Walter Mears dies, AP’s ‘Boy on the Bus’

A great tribute to a remarkable political reporter.

Jimmy Carter and the AP’s Walter Mears

“Walter’s impact at the AP, and in the journalism industry as a whole, is hard to overstate,” said Julie Pace, AP executive editor and senior vice president. “He was a champion for a free and fair press, a dogged reporter, an elegant chronicler of history and an inspiration to countless journalists, including myself.”

Read the obit for a glimpse into Walter Mears’ ability to “nail the lead.”


That’s all I got. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

Russia, Supreme Court, Weekend Potpourri

What to read this weekend …

Friends:

I’m on a two week hiatus from my Friday column. I’ll be back in your inbox the week of March 7.

Meanwhile, there is plenty going on in the world. I’m hoping some of these pieces will be of interest. I found them all valuable.

All the best.

Understanding the Ukraine Crisis: A Comprehensive Reading List

An extensive list of titles to help you make sense of the senselessness Russian invasion of Ukraine.

From Lit Hub. Here is the link.

One book on the list – Red Famine – by the superb historian and analyst of Eastern Europe Anne Applebaum. The Economist rated the book one of the best of the year when it was published in 2018.

Read anything by Anne Applebaum

“From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag and the National Book Award finalist Iron Curtain, a revelatory history of one of Stalin’s greatest crimes–the consequences of which still resonate todayIn 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization–in effect a second Russian revolution–which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.”


Ghosts of Ukraine

I’ve known the author of this piece, Dean Bakopoulos, for a long time. Dean is a novelist, screenwriter and teacher and once directed the Wisconsin Humanities Council. His recent essay about his Ukrainian grandparents is both profoundly sad and important in a totally relevant and uplifting way.

“I thought of them both this week, of course, my Dido and Baba, as Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine. I’d known this day was coming—Ukrainians knew it in their bones—but I did not expect that I would burst into tears, or that I would cry off and on all night and most of the next day, unable to sleep, or work, or eat. Instead, I scrolled through Twitter and watched the situation get worse and worse until it began to resemble how Stalin’s genocidal campaign began in the 1930s and ’40s. It appeared to be the same kind of darkness, the same reckless evil, and the same violent hatred that my grandparents had fled. The only thing that had changed was the name of the despot.”

Please read and share.


The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas

A remarkable piece of reporting here from the New York Times.

“The Thomases have long posed a unique quandary in Washington. Because Supreme Court justices do not want to be perceived as partisan, they tend to avoid political events and entanglements, and their spouses often keep low profiles. But the Thomases have defied such norms. Since the founding of the nation, no spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice has been as overt a political activist as Ginni Thomas. In addition to her perch at the Council for National Policy, she founded a group called Groundswell with the support of Stephen K. Bannon, the hard-line nationalist and former Trump adviser. It holds a weekly meeting of influential conservatives, many of whom work directly on issues that have come before the court.”

I know it’s an old fashioned notion, but Supreme Court justices – at least in the last 60 years or so – have not been so blatantly political as Justice Thomas and his wife. If nothing else, the story puts the lie to notion that only “liberal” Supreme Court justices are political activists.

And, yes, it is high time for enforceable ethics rules for members of the Supreme Court.

Here is the link.


Jack Palance Vs. Vladimir Putin

I confess to being astounded that there are significant numbers of Americans on the political right – like Donald Trump – who have actually offered praise for Putin or found ways to justify his unjustifiable actions in Ukraine.

Such behavior should be disqualifying for any politician, but here we are.

That makes this remarkable story by critic Sonny Bunch about the actor Jack Palance even more telling.

Jack Palance in Batman with Jack Nicholson

“Jack Palance was not born Jack Palance; like so many movie stars, he changed his name to something a bit more palatable to the ticket-buying public (though the ticket-buying public was buying tickets to see him box at that time). And that’s how Volodymyr Palahniuk became Jack Palance.

“My point: his parents were Ukrainian immigrants and Palance remained proud of his heritage to the end of his life. In 2004, he was asked to accept an award at an event sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture. When he was introduced to accept the award, he took the stage and said: “I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine: I’m Ukrainian. I’m not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don’t belong here. It’s best if we leave.”

“And then he walked out.”

Whoo…great piece.


Making the simple impossible: We don’t want to admit the real worker shortage problem

Absolutely great journalism is being done in many states by non-profit outlets like The Daily Montanan. I can’t recommend enough the work of these folks.

Here is Daily Montanan editor Darrell Ehrlick on a story hiding in plain sight.

“The workforce shortage issue is being framed as an economic problem – employers can’t find enough workers and wages don’t seem to entice them.

“Yet, maybe there are drivers of this wave of joblessness that we all know, but don’t really want to tackle. Maybe we just don’t like what the workforce shortage is telling us, and so we search for other more complex, nuanced interpretations.

“As an observer and reporter, I think maybe the answer to the workforce shortage is a combination of time and fatigue.”

Here’s a link to Darrell’s piece:


Thanks for following along. Stay strong. Pray for the good people of Ukraine.

GOP, Militias

The GOP’s Militia Problem …

Across the vast expanse of the American West the Republican Party has a militia problem. Most Republican elected officials are either in denial that a real problem exists or they are quietly hoping it somehow goes away.

It isn’t going away, and its existence should worry everyone who cares about the future of our democracy.

Journalist Heath Druzin has been reporting on anti-government militia groups in the West for years. He knows and frequently speaks with the leaders and members of groups like The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Druzin keeps tabs on Ammon Bundy, the rancher turned politician who led the armed takeover of an eastern Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016 and who was until this week a Republican candidate for governor of Idaho. Bundy now says he’ll run as an independent.

Heath Druzin’s podcast – “Extremely American” – is a first-class primer on the militia movement

Druzin’s current NPR podcast – “Extremely American” – focuses on what he calls “the ascendent patriot movement,” a collection of “militia members and far-right activists who are simultaneously preparing to fight the government and become part of it.”

Druzin’s reporting, and ample evidence on the ground in Idaho, Montana, Washington and elsewhere, demonstrate the increasing connections between the so called “militia movement” and the Republican Party.

“More and more I started seeing these guys in the Statehouse not out in the mountains shooting guns,” Druzin told me recently. “They were walking into a representative or senator’s office – that is different. They are extremely distrustful of the government, but now they are trying to be part of it.”

The evidence is impossible to ignore.

While Bundy runs for governor in Idaho, Eric Parker, founder of a group he calls “Real 3%ers Idaho,” is a Republican candidate for a state senate seat. Parker’s polished campaign website features a photo of the candidate with Idaho lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin, who has close ties to various militia groups and leaders and is running against incumbent governor Brad Little. Parker has endorsed McGeachin.

Parker’s website has the obligatory bio and statements about his positions. He will base his legislative votes, Parker says, on the Constitution, and he pledges to “work to address all constitutional breakdowns and to re-establish checks-and-balances to our State government.” Parker claims his group helped expand gun rights in Idaho and he wants more state control over public lands and more school choice.

Parker has repeatedly insisted his group – he says it has 2,500 members – is not a militia, and his political rhetoric, laced with references to the Constitution and demanding absolutist rights for gun owners, represents a typical issue mix for a very conservative western Republican. But missing, not surprisingly, from Parker’s bio is any mention of his guilty plea for obstructing a court order related to his involvement with another Bundy family standoff in Nevada in 2014. A widely circulated photo of Parker during the encounter shows him aiming his rifle at federal agents from behind a barricade.

Parker ran for the legislature in 2020. He lost but still gathered nearly 44% of the votes in his south-central Idaho district that ironically includes the liberal enclave of Sun Valley, the tony ski and summer resort. The legislative district’s boundaries were recently redrawn and a credible, establishment Republican is also running for what will be an open seat, so it remains to be seen if Parker has a real path to the state senate.

Representative Chad Christensen, a Republican representing a district in extreme southeastern Idaho, found his political path in 2018. Christensen proudly lists his membership in the John Birch Society and the Oath Keepers on his legislative website and says he’s serving in the legislature “to protect the God-given rights and freedom of people. It doesn’t matter who the foe might be, foreign enemies, groups against liberty, or our very own government.”

Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keeper’s leader, is charged with seditious conspiracy

The Oath Keepers have been a major focus of the Justice Department’s investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes a former paratrooper with a Yale law degree, was arrested in January and charged with seditious conspiracy for what has been described as a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol to stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election.

“We aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” Rhodes wrote on the encrypted chat app Signal that was included as evidence for his indictment. “Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.” Small wonder the FBI describes the Oath Keepers as a “paramilitary organization,” a definition the Southern Poverty Law Center expands to include “promoting their own form of vigilante justice.”

Javed Ali, a former senior director of the National Security Council and a counterterrorism official at the FBI, told CBS’s 60 Minutes in June 2021, that among the loosely connected militia groups the Oath Keepers is the most troubling.

“I think what makes the Oath Keepers unique and challenging,” Ali said, “beyond the fact that they are a formal group with chapters all over the country, is that a large percentage have tactical training and operational experience in either the military or law enforcement. That at least gives them a capability that a lot of other people in this far right space don’t have.”

The group also has friends in high Republican places ranging from Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is frequently accompanied by armed Oath Keeper members, to Montana far right Congressman Matt Rosendale. Rosendale spoke at an Oath Keepers’ event in 2014 before he was elected to Congress, but now dismisses any connection with the group. “Didn’t see it, doesn’t impact me,” Rosendale said when asked about the charges against Rhodes.

Matt Rosendale, now a Montana congressman, at an Oath Keepers rally in Kalispell in 2014

The Republican Party Chairman in Wyoming, William “Frank” Eathorne, is both an outspoken opponent of his state’s GOP congresswoman Liz Cheney and, according to leaked Oath Keepers documents, a member of the group. Eathorne hasn’t addressed publicly his affiliation, but he been busy undercutting the congressional investigation, including leading the charge to formally condemn Cheney and Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger due to their role investigating the January 6 attack.

The leaked Oath Keepers documents identified at least 28 Republican elected officials as members. Two of them – state representatives Mark Finchem of Arizona and David Eastman of Alaska – were part of the January 6 protest, although neither has been charged as a result.

Once upon a time identifying as a Bircher or being a member of gun-toting groups advocating violent political action would have gotten you ostracized by the Republican Party. Now leaders of the party – governors, senators, state legislators – have chosen silence over repudiation even as evidence of political violence grows daily.

In Idaho, Governor Little has even endorsed legislation that would repeal the state’s 95-year-old ban on private militias.

Republicans who should know better have made a dangerous calculation. By adopting a strategy of appeasing the radicals they have made it even more likely the militant fringe will ultimately prevail in taking over the party.

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Additional Reading:

Some other items you may find of interest…

How Thatcher and Murdoch made their secret deal

Before Rupert Murdoch, the Fox News impresario – some would say a principle in the downfall of modern media – became a huge force in American politics, he was pioneering his ruthless style in the U.K. This story was originally published in 2015, but it’s worth a fresh read.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch in 1981

“Successive governments of both parties, scared when they could have been stalwart, have done no better in dealing with Murdoch. Parliament expresses its determination to protect free speech and plurality but it appears that ministers try hard to live up to Murdoch’s classification of politicians as invertebrates.”

The author is Harold Evans, a legendary name in British journalism. Here is the link.


How Democrats Can Win in White Working-Class Districts

Some Democrats, it seems, aren’t interested in the question of how to appeal again to white, working class voters. If the party doesn’t figure it out – and pretty quickly – it’s in for a world of hurt. From Washington Monthly:

“As Sasha Issenberg pointed out in his book The Victory Lab, George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 conducted ‘search and rescue’ operations to find Republican voters in strong Democratic communities like Duluth, Minnesota. Democrats should do the same, and start by investing in training local volunteers in canvassing and phone techniques. Research has shown that local volunteers are more effective than people brought in from the outside, but they need to be properly trained. And as this magazine has documented, even in the reddest districts there are cadres of loyal Democrats eager to help, if only someone would ask.”

Good piece on the practical nuts and bolt of politics.


American Literature is a History of the Nation’s Libraries

I believe more than ever that our libraries are a bedrock institution of democracy.

Here is what the great Kurt Vonnegut wrote:

“I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”

A superb little essay on the public library.


Thanks for following along here. Be well. Thanks for reading.

Education, Idaho Politics

Entrepreneurial Hypocrisy …

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation, officially a public charity under federal tax law, has become a force in Idaho politics. The group is similar to several dozen like-minded libertarian-leaning political actors that for a decade or more have been trying to influence education and other policies in every state. These groups get their money from secret sources, but you can make an educated guess as to who funds their pernicious, frequently fact-free advocacy. The Idaho edition of this template is particularly odious.

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In 2020, the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), a libertarian “think tank” funded by dark money, deep pocket donors, did something wholly inconsistent with its self-proclaimed mission of “exposing, defeating, and replacing the state’s socialist public policies.”

The IFF took help from the government, namely a $130,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan – since forgiven – that was part of the Trump Administration’s plan to stave off economic collapse due to the Covid pandemic.

These free-market gurus, who lobby like crazy while enjoying IRS status as a non-profit, public welfare “charity” organization, have become a force in Idaho conservative politics by helping drive the state’s Republican Party into a ditch of crazy conspiracy, medical misinformation and hatred of public education. Former Republican attorney general and Supreme Court chief justice Jim Jones has correctly called IFF an “extremist political outfit.”

But apparently extremism in the defense of hypocrisy is no vice. When IFF received its taxpayer money back in 2020, Wayne Hoffman, the lobbying group’s president was indignant that anyone would point out the irony – or was it the hypocrisy – of his anti-government, low tax group putting its Milton Friedman-like snout in the federal government trough.

IFF was, by the way, getting taxpayer cash at the same time it was working overtime to deprive health care for thousands of Idahoans, limit rent relief during the pandemic and make it harder for citizens to put an issue on the ballot. Freedom is clearly a one-way street.

When called on the PPP hypocrisy, Hoffman railed “fake news,” and insisted the government made him do it.

“The government shut down Idaho’s economy,” Hoffman said, “Idaho business, and therefore the donors who we depend on to generously support our work.”

Let us linger over those words: “the donors who we depend on …”

That statement baldly suggests the free marketers were in the same boat as millions of other Americans. A world-wide pandemic that has now claimed more than 900,000 American lives – IFF has militantly opposed public health efforts to contain the disease – was going to hurt the “think tank’s” bottom line. The PPP loan was a lifeline. A poor little free market charity was just being prudent in taking the government “handout” in violation of all of its stated beliefs since, well, they needed to make payroll. And lest we forget, five board members of IFF also received PPP loans.

But wait, there’s more.

Posted on the IFF’s website is a copy of the organization’s most recent Form 990, the annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service. And right there on page one, just below Hoffman’s name, is an accounting of the group’s prior year and current year “contributions and grants.”

In 2019, IFF pocketed over $708,000, but in 2020 – the year of the PPP loan when “donors who we depend on” were “shut down” – IFF reported more than $967,000 in contributions and grants, including the PPP loan.

In other words, the Freedom Foundation free marketers not only didn’t need your taxpayer dollars to match their previous year level of contributions, they actually exceeded their prior year take even without the forgiven taxpayer loan.

Like with so much else that attaches to the IFF – University of Idaho president Scott Green recently termed the group “conflict entrepreneurs” – Hoffman’s explanation for his PPP loan is a lie. Turns out Wayne’s conflict spreaders aren’t merely a public charity, but a charity case.

But before dismissing the lies and this hypocrisy – after all, what would conservative politics be these days without both – recall the real mission of Hoffman and his grifting team. They aim to destroy public education in Idaho, a state that already funds schools worse than any other state and that last year let IFF craft, as the U of I’s Green told legislative budget writers last month, “a false narrative” about higher education that cost the state’s institutions of higher learning $2.5 million last year – $1.5 million hit to Boise State University and a half million each to Idaho State and at Idaho’s land grant school, the University of Idaho.

University of Idaho president Scott Green recently called IFF “conflict entrepreneurs”

Hoffman and a loyal group of his trained seals in the legislature have been pushing a fake narrative about “social justice” education, alleging that the impressionable minds of Idaho students are being “indoctrinated” with dangerous notions about equality and history. Green dismissed it as a lie, which it is.

“In short, the entire social justice narrative on which the University of Idaho was penalized $500,000 was a false narrative created by conflict entrepreneurs who make their living sowing fear and doubt with legislators and voters,” Green said, in what must count as one of the most straightforward and honest putdowns of Hoffman’s brand of grievance-based conspiracy politics ever uttered by a senior Idaho official.

Standing up to bullies and shysters who specialize in conflict requires guts, a commodity that is in dangerously short supply among Idaho elected officials. Many of them know that Hoffman’s grift – he pays himself $139,000 a year – is as phony as his PPP loan explanation. Yet, most conservatives – there are some growing exceptions – treat this dark money cesspool as though it were something legitimate. It’s not.

IFF is part of a network of more than 60 similar hard right and libertarian “think tanks” in every state, part of a web of influence peddlers called “The State Policy Network.” In Montana they fly under the “Frontier Institute” banner. In Oregon it’s the “Cascade Policy Institute.” In Wyoming they call themselves the “Wyoming Liberty Group.” The groups are all about demanding transparency for everyone other than themselves. Where their high six figure or larger budgets come from is a well-guarded secret.

The Guardian newspaper got its hands on grant applications in 2013 from more than 30 of these state-level “think tanks,” not Idaho’s, however. The paper reported that “the documents … cast light on the nexus of funding arrangements behind radical rightwing campaigns. The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual war chest of $83 million drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.”

Add to that list “the American taxpayer” who helped pay Wayne Hoffman’s salary in 2020 so he could work full time spreading lies about education and educators. It’s a pretty clever con, but it’s still a con.

After reviewing those grant applications, The Guardian concluded the state-level “think tanks” were involved in a “coordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment.”

Idaho policymakers are too often a little slow on the uptake, but these “conflict entrepreneurs” have once again exposed themselves for what they are: dishonest dividers with a nasty and ultimately destructive agenda for Idaho and every other state where they peddle their lies.

It’s way past time to give Hoffman and his cronies all the respect they deserve, which is zero.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few things I stumbled across this week…

‘A deranged pyroscape’: how fires across the world have grown weirder

Coming to a neighborhood near you.

“Australians call the event Black Saturday – a scorched hole in the national diary. There, it contends with Red Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Black Thursday, Black Friday and Black Sunday on Australia’s calendar of conflagration. But recently it has been surpassed – they all have – by the Black Summer, the cataclysmic 2019-20 fire season that killed hundreds with its smoke and burned an area the size of Ireland. A study estimated that the bushfires destroyed or displaced 3 billion animals; its stunned lead author couldn’t think of any fire worldwide that had killed nearly so many.”

A frightening straight up take on climate change and fire from The Guardian:


What is ‘legitimate political discourse,’ and does it include the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol?

Quite the moment in American political history when the national Republican Party proclaimed the January 6 insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol “legitimate political discourse.”

“Legitimate political discourse…”

Here is a good backgrounder.

“Persuasion, even in its most vigorous and aggressive form, is an invitation. When a person seeks to persuade someone else to agree with their viewpoint or values, or to recall or ignore history in a particular way, the recipient may choose to go along, or not.

“Coercion, on the other hand, is a kind of force – a command, not an invitation. Coercion denies others the freedom to choose for themselves whether to agree or disagree. Coercion and violence are anti-democratic because they deny others their ability to consent. Violence and coercion are the very opposite of legitimate political discourse.”

From The Conversation:


What Will It Take to Resuscitate American Democracy?

Regular readers know that I worry a lot – a lot – about this.

“The alarm has been rung, and often enough. Any American who can read knows that democracy is in crisis. The US government increasingly struggles to fulfill its most basic tasks, like guaranteeing the debt, passing budgets or confirming the diplomatic corps. Meanwhile armed groups of insurrectionists, like the one that stormed the US Capitol just over a year ago, spread incoherence. Think tanks on the right and universities on the left still debate policies like the tax rate or parental leave but they’re playacting by this point, whether they know it or not. They distract themselves with antiquities while the temple collapses around their shoulders. The questions have become much more basic than abstruse policy. Will democracy survive? How to keep America’s institutions alive?”

Worth your time from Stephen Marche:


That’s it for this week. I’ll sit back and with for the attacks from the Idaho Freedom Foundation. In politics – or writing about politics – you are known by your enemies, as they say. Stay well. All the best.

Democracy, Trump

The Coming Reckoning . . .

Brace yourself.

In the next few months, perhaps even weeks, a former president of the United States is going to be indicted, charged with serious crimes that almost certainly will shake the fragile foundations of American democracy.

To date speculation about charges against Donald J. Trump, the 45th American president, have been largely taking place among legal and Constitutional scholars who watch every development as it unfolds amid the long threads of Trump’s legal exposure. But now the reality of what is likely to happen is increasingly in plain view. The man’s own words – Trump never hides what he’s really thinking or worried about – betray the peril he faces.

Former US President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a “Save America” rally in Conroe, Texas on January 29, 2022. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Trump is committing a type of obstruction in public. During a typically rambling, grievance laced performance in Texas recently, the former president was clear about two things. He read these lines straight off the teleprompter.

“If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had … in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt.”

And this: “If I run and I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly,” Trump said, and then underscoring his intentions “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”

Will Bunch, a practiced Trump watcher who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, called it one of the “most incendiary and most dangerous speeches in America’s 246-year history.” He is not wrong.

In a few words, Trump was signaling again that those not cooperating with investigations into his incitement of an insurrectionist mob on January 6, people like former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, should hang tough. He’ll pardon them when he’s back in power. And that promise has particular influence. Trump’s done it before.

Even more astounding – and more dangerous – Trump is broadcasting to his most committed followers that any effort to hold him to account will be met by protests, and likely violence. There is simply no parallel in American history for a former president to behave in such a reckless, lawless fashion. This is not normal.

As Harry Litman, a former top Justice Department official and now a law professor, wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Under Justice Department prosecution standards, just the publicly available evidence is sufficient to bring an indictment against Trump for the federal crime of obstruction or impeding an official proceeding – in this case, Congress’ certification of a presidential election.”

Prosecutors in Georgia examining Trump’s efforts to intimidate that state’s election officials into “finding” the votes he needed to defeat Joe Biden immediately asked the FBI to assess the risks prosecutors face after Trump’s threat.  

Litman goes on: “The guideline for federal prosecutors specify that prosecutors ‘should’ generally commence prosecution if two circumstances exist: first, the person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense – i.e. the prosecutor has determined that the defendant really is guilty and the prosecution is righteous – and second, the admissible evidence will ‘probably be sufficient’ to convict.”

We also know from extensive reporting, including on the record interviews, that Trump was actively involved in not only the events of January 6, but efforts before the Capitol attack to change the outcome of the election. And that word “change” is important because Trump and his defenders have peddled the fiction that he was just buying time to “investigate” alleged election irregularities. The trouble for Trump is there are no irregularities. Sixty unsuccessful lawsuits drive that point home conclusively.

Still, he sought to “change” the outcome. Trump tried to find a rationale to seize voting machines in several states, even going so far as to flirt with the idea of using the U.S. military to do the deed. He failed only because subordinates refused to follow through.

Former attorney general William Barr, long-time a Trump enabler, acknowledged to ABC’s Jonathan Karl that he eventually reached even his breaking point and quit. “My attitude was:” Barr told Karl for his book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show. “It was put-up or shut-up time. If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”

Former attorney general William Barr calls Trump allegations of election fraud “bullshit”

Meanwhile, New York state officials are continuing a separate and long-running investigation into the Trump family’s business activities. Who knows what else is yet to come?

Brace yourself.

When the indictments come, when the charges are filed, the former president has already indicated what he will do. He’ll rally his troops, including the various militia groups that provided the organizational and physical muscle for January 6. He will insist that he is above any accountability, that the American judicial process is “rigged” against him and that his most armed, angry and grievance driven supporters – his brown shirts – must save the country.

The most committed Trumpists are clearly aware of what is unfolding. It is hardly a secret. The vast majority of Americans however, content to feast on insignificance like Tom Brady’s retirement or the host of Jeopardy, seem unaware of the danger ahead. The big lies about the election, Trump’s bluster and an endless pandemic have numbed us and exhausted us. Jeffrey Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, says it well.

“I actually think the American public is dramatically underplaying how significant and dangerous this is,” Engel told the New York Times recently, “because we cannot process the basic truth of what we are learning about President Trump’s efforts – which is we’ve never had a president before who fundamentally placed his own personal interests above the nation’s.”

Trump has secured absolutely the leadership of the Republican Party. His most violent prone true believers are locked and loaded. The Vichy-like enablers who have refused at every step to denounce and isolate the cancer at the heart of their party won’t save us. They have had many, many chances. They lack the courage to defend democracy, let alone the rule of law.

Brace yourself.

The real Constitutional crisis is coming. To look on the bright side we will never before have seen what is going to happen. It is wholly unique. The dark side of this uniqueness is more difficult to comprehend.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

You may find these items of interest…

Liz Cheney, the GOP’s Unshakeable Gadfly

Fellow Wyoming Republicans have declared she is out of their party and the national party has moved to censure her, but the not-so-gentlewoman from the Cowboy State continues to display real grit and enormous political courage. Books will be written about Ms. Cheney. Whatever you think of her policy positions, she is a profile in courage.

From Washington Monthly: “Like many gadflies who have come before her, Cheney has a knack for calling out the failings of her peers. At times, she seems to relish her newfound role. In a recent interview, she said of [Republican leader Kevin] McCarthy, ‘I wish that he were a brave and honorable man.'”

Read the full piece:


The Marine Who Turned Against U.S. Empire

A good deal of buzz about Jonathan Katz’s new book – Gangsters of Capitalism – a biography, and more, of a mostly forgotten Marine Corps general with the near perfect name – Smedley Butler.

The new book by Jonathan M. Katz

Gangsters of Capitalism is not only a biography of Butler. The long-dead Marine also serves as Katz’s Virgil, leading him on a journey around the world and through the inferno of empire’s afterlife. Katz himself learned about Butler as a reporter for the Associated Press in Haiti. Based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince during the earthquake in 2010, Katz reported on the disaster, which killed at least 100,000 people; he escaped from the house that served as the AP bureau not long before it collapsed. Haiti’s poverty—the starkest in the hemisphere—unquestionably compounded the natural disaster of the earthquake into a human tragedy. (Chile had a higher magnitude quake the same year, and the deaths numbered in the hundreds.)”

Good read here:


The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up

By the time you read this Texas may be in the middle of another failure of its electric grid. A severe winter storm is forecast for the state. When that happened last year, Senator Ted Cruz went to Cancun (briefly), while lots

of Texans shivered in the dark. It almost certainly will happen again.

“Nobody yet knew just how widespread the blackouts would become—that they would spread across almost the entire state, leave an unprecedented 11 million Texans freezing in the dark for as long as three days, and result in as many as seven hundred deaths. But neither could the governor, legislators, and regulators who are supposed to oversee the state’s electric grid claim to be surprised. They had been warned repeatedly, by experts and by previous calamities—including a major blackout in 2011—that the grid was uniquely vulnerable to cold weather.”

From Texas Monthly.


Dear Mr Joyce: an essay by Edna O’Brien

I celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses by the great Irish writer James Joyce by taking down my copy and looking at it. I’ve never gotten far reading it. I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, enjoy this essay about Joyce, and maybe sip a cocktail in the old boy’s honor. I’m told his favorite (Michael Collins, too) was brandy and orange liqueur.

“In his youth [Joyce] was suspicious, contemptuous, unaccommodating. He saw his countrymen as being made up of yahoos, adulterous priests and sly deceitful women. He classed it as ‘the venereal condition of the Irish.’ Like the wild geese he had a mind to go elsewhere. He wanted to be continentalised. He liked the vineyards. He had a dream of Paris, and a craze for languages. In literature his heroes were Cardinal Newman and Henrik Ibsen.”

Enjoy. From The Guardian:


Be well. Be generous. All the best and thanks for reading.

Andrus, Conservation, Idaho

The Natural…

When a former gypo logger from Clearwater County, Idaho was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior 45 years ago this week, history was made. Cecil Andrus was the first Idahoan ever in the Cabinet, a singular accomplishment for a guy who never completed college, but who, with grace and grit, distinguished himself as one of the great conservationists of the 20th Century.

For obvious reasons – I worked for Andrus for nine years and enjoyed an association with him for nearly 25 more years – I infrequently invoke his story. I am certainly not an objective analyst of the man who served longer as Idaho governor than any other, even as the basics of his career, without need for embellishment, speak to a giant of the state’s and nation’s politics.

The occasion of Andrus’s arrival in the Cabinet on January 23, 1977, does seem worth remembering, if only because there are so few like him any longer, a statement thousands of his former constituents would readily make without fear of contradiction.

President Jimmy Carter with Cecil Andrus, the only person he considered to run Interior

“Your policies leave an indelible mark on our state,” John Evans said of the man he replaced as governor. “Your style and warmth have brought a new dimension to the governor’s office.” Indeed, that was a true statement.

President Jimmy Carter said of all his Cabinet selections, Andrus, whose tenure as governor overlapped with Carter’s time as governor of Georgia, “was closest to me in the past, the only Cabinet member I never had to hesitate on.” 

The list of Andrus gubernatorial accomplishments is long, and arguably not matched by any successor, including: the creation of kindergartens, the state land use planning law, successful opposition to indefinite nuclear waste disposal in Idaho, champion of salmon recovery, cheerleader for a diverse and robust economy and a decently funded education system. Andrus signed the bill creating Boise State University, appointed the first women to the state’s highest courts and famously – and uncomfortably for his press secretary – dubbed the National Rifle Association “the guns nuts of the world.”

Andrus was tough. He remembered an insult and an enemy but also had a big soft spot for the underdog and the under-represented. I distinctly remember a meeting in a Moscow, Idaho hotel room with north Idaho bigwig Duane Hagadone who sought to float a golf green out on the surface of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The meeting didn’t last long, but the message was clear – the people of Idaho owned that lake, not some rich hotel developer.

The guy could deliver a zinger with a smile. When Washington Democratic congressman Norm Dicks objected to an Andrus nuclear waste embargo – spent nuclear fuel was accumulating in Dicks’ district as a result – Andrus quipped that the congressman, a former University of Washington football player, “had played too many games without a helmet.”

When people asked about the Andrus victory in 1970 over incumbent Republican governor Don Samuelson, a guy who could mangle the simplest sentence, Andrus would quickly stop any negative comment about Big Don. “Don’t say anything bad about Don Samuelson,” Andrus would say. “If there hadn’t been a Samuelson there never would have been an Andrus.”

Despite his disdain for the gun lobby – the NRA had given Andrus a failing grade in 1986 because he saw no need for armor piercing ammunition or assault rifles – he was likely the most committed hunter who ever served in public office in Idaho. After retiring from public life, Andrus came into my office one afternoon carrying a new shotgun. “I need to stash this with you for a while,” he said. “I can’t take it home while Carol is in the house, or she’ll know I bought a new gun.”

Many who remember Andrus remember his recall for names, as well as his sense of humor. After riding horseback in the big, raucous fair parade in eastern Idaho, I noted that the reception afforded the governor was pretty good. He smiled and said, “Yeah, some of those guys were waving with all five fingers.”

Joe Biden caused an unnecessary two-day distraction recently when he – correctly – labeled a Fox News reporter “a dumb SOB.” Andrus would have shared the sentiment but would have handled the reporter much differently. I know. I saw him do it many times. He would have fixed his gaze on the silly questioner and said something like: “You know, I’ve heard some stupid questions in my time and that is just the latest.”

Andrus frequently said being governor was his dream job in politics, a bully pulpit from which to set public expectations and above all solve problems. He saw himself, as he often said, “as a glorified problem solver.” He took the same attitude to Washington where he skillfully managed the sprawling Interior Department for four years. Knowing that his time in that office was limited, and with many problems sure to compete for attention, Andrus made a list of priority items. He kept that limited list, only about a half dozen items, on a yellow legal pad in his top desk drawer.

High on the list was resolution of the years-old fight over what lands to protect in Alaska, the nation’s “last frontier.” Andrus worked the issue with relentless precision, using all his skill as a strategist and negotiator to finally produce – during a lame duck session of Congress in 1980 – the greatest piece of conservation legislation in American history. The national parks, recreation areas, monuments and wildlife preserves in Alaska are his legacy to generations unborn.

It’s all too apparent that Idaho’s Andrus was a product of a different political era, a time when character and accomplishment counted for more than party or puffery. Andrus was a stickler for the rules of politics but reduced the rules for those who worked for him to a short list: no surprises, don’t cheat – on an expense account or in a political campaign – don’t drink at lunch, be on time, or better yet be ten minutes early, and remember that you work for the public.   

When Andrus was sworn in for his third term in 1987, his Republican lieutenant governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, later governor in his own right, described the guy pretty well. “His focus has been on working together to solve problems,” Otter said.

Not a bad legacy.

—–0—–

Additional Reads:

My recommendations for the weekend…

How to kill a god: the myth of Captain Cook shows how the heroes of empire will fall

I’ve long been fascinated by the Cook story. This piece from The Guardian is terrific – myths, history, colonialism…Hawaii.

The British explorer Captain Cook

“On 17 January, the Resolution cast anchor at last in a black-sand bay and a crowd of 10,000 gathered to await it. Five hundred canoes, laden with sugar cane, breadfruit and pigs, glided up to the ship. Histories narrate that for the people of Hawaii, the arrival of Cook was no less than an epiphany. ‘The men hurried to the ship to see the god with their own eyes,’ wrote the 19th-century Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau. “There they saw a fair man with bright eyes, a high-bridged nose, light hair and handsome features. Good-looking gods they were!” An elderly, emaciated priest went on board the Resolution and led the deities ashore. Thousands fell to their knees as Cook passed by. The priest led the captain to a thatched temple, wrapped Cook in a red cloth and sacrificed a small pig to him, as the people recited lines from the Hawaii epic Kumulipo, a creation myth.”

Read the whole thing here:


Why most NFL head coaches are white – behind the NFL’s abysmal record on diversity

If you are looking ahead to the Super Bowl you might want to reflect on this story, and why the numbers are so clearly out of whack.

“Given the impact of systemic racism across all elements of society, it is hardly surprising that NFL coachesanalysts and scholars – including those in media studiessport studiessociologysport management, and behavioral science – point to systemic racism as a reason for the lack of Black coaches in the league.”

From The Conversation:


INSIDE JERRY FALWELL JR.’S UNLIKELY RISE AND PRECIPITOUS FALL AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair on the sleazy, fascinating and I would say ultimately disgusting story of Jerry Falwell, Jr.

“Jerry not only endorsed Trump, he lavished him with cringeworthy praise. ‘Trump reminds me so much of my father,’ Jerry told Fox News in December 2015. ‘In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught,’ Jerry said when he introduced Trump onstage at Liberty shortly before the Iowa caucuses. (Trump then mangled a Bible verse, citing ‘Two Corinthians’ instead of ‘Second Corinthians.’) Jerry even defended Trump when almost no one else would. After the Access Hollywood tape leaked, in October 2016, Jerry told a radio interviewer: ‘We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot.’ It provided cover for evangelicals to excuse Trump’s utter lack of decency or morals. ‘After that, Steve Bannon called me and said, ‘You won the election for us,’  Jerry recalled.”

The corruption and rot is deep.


That’s it. That’s the post this week. Be well. Be kind. Eat your peas.

Civil Rights, Voting Rights

The More Things Change…

When in the late spring of 1964 the United States Senate defeated the longest filibuster in Senate history and passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, the Senate’s majority leader Mike Mansfield called the matter of insuring fundamental rights to all Americans – the right to fair treatment in accommodations and employment, for example – “the most divisive issue in our history.”

Montana’s Mansfield, a westerner of few words who always chose them well, called passage of the legislation over the committed opposition of southern segregationists and a few very conservative Republicans an “exceptional accomplishment.” It had been the work of both political parties. The bill, years in the making, passed with a large bipartisan majority.

Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who rallied Republicans to the cause of civil rights, hailed the historic accomplishment as “an idea whose time has come.” One holdout who refused to follow Dirksen’s lead was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who became the GOP presidential candidate later in 1964. Goldwater’s refusal to embrace civil rights legislation – he argued it was an unconstitutional federal power grab – is an attitude that still echoes through the Republican Party nearly 60 years later.

What Mike Mansfield, who played a pivotal role in passage of the Civil Rights Act, rarely acknowledged during the often-bitter fight around the legislation was the depth of opposition to the measure from his own voters, not to mention the misguided vehemence of arguments opponents fielded in defense of discrimination.

An anti-civil right bill ad in the Montana Standard, February 1964

A Eureka, Montana constituent wrote Mansfield early in 1964, “It is my firm conviction that the Civil Rights Bill is a radical, unconstitutional and thoroughly unacceptable proposal, in that it will destroy the basic rights of all individuals through federal intervention.”

A Billings couple wrote Mansfield, “Individual freedoms cannot be removed, either collectively or one at a time, without leading us along the road to socialism which will enslave us all, black and white alike.”

In what was clearly a coordinated lobbying effort, several anti-civil rights letters to Mansfield used the same language: “The Civil Rights Bill before the Senate now, is 10% civil rights and 90% take-over of all activities of life.”

Western states in the 1960’s seemed far removed from the civil rights protests and demonstrations in distant Selma or the massive march on Washington in 1963 that helped set the political stage for the legislation that followed.

But the West was, in many ways, a key to passage of both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Idaho’s then-bipartisan Senate delegation – Len Jordan, a very conservative Republican, and Frank Church, a liberal Democrat – voted for both pieces of legislation, even amid a drumbeat of local opposition.

When Jordan, who ran sheep in Hells Canyon during the Great Depression and later became Idaho’s 22nd governor, announced he would vote to end the filibuster that was preventing a Senate vote on a civil rights bill, his comments ran side-by-side in the Idaho Statesman with a story from Baldwin, New York, a community on Long Island. That story reported that the home of a Black family had been defaced with a red swastika and “insulting lettering” that demanded the family “get out now.” Neighbors – all of them white – showed up to repaint the house and signal the community’s “shame” for what had been done.

The article that ran side-by-side with a story about Idaho Republican Len Jordan voting to end a 1964 civil rights filibuster

Senator Jordan indicated his mail was running heavily in favor of support for civil rights, but the sentiment was hardly universal. A doctor in Burley said in a public meeting that he opposed efforts to outlaw racial discrimination because it “would rob doctors and professional men of their rights to refuse service to anyone for any reason.” A John Birch Society sponsored meeting in Boise drew a hundred people who were told a civil rights bill was part of a Communist plot to promote strife. A letter writer to the Twin Falls Times-News said he opposed integration because it was a “stepping stone to mongrelization.”

The John Birch Society claimed the Civil Rights Bill was pushed by Communists

The country is now locked, as it arguably hasn’t been since 1965 when the Voting Rights Act passed, in a battle over who votes and how in America. One party – Democrats – are trying to make it easier for many Americans to vote. The other party – Republicans – are operating at every level of government to make voting more difficult. The bipartisan consensus represented in the 1960’s by Mansfield and Dirksen and Church and Jordan is as unimaginable today as it was enlightened then.

“The ‘bipartisan tradition’ backing voting rights is, in many ways, a mirage,” Princeton history Kevin Kruse wrote recently. “The liberal and moderate Republicans who helped create the [Civil Rights and] Voting Rights Act are long gone, as are the prominent conservatives who saw no conflict between their ideology and democracy and who were confident their party could win elections even if everyone voted. What remains in the Republican ranks is a core that sees voting rights as a clear and present danger to the party.”

Need proof? Republican legislatures in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Georgia have all enacted new restrictions on voting since the last presidential election. One rural county in Georgia is close to deciding to have only one polling place in the entire county. Democrats have been booted off election boards and one newly reconstituted board eliminated Sunday voting during a recent municipal election, a decision aimed squarely at Black churchgoers, a key Democratic constituency.

The Republican rationale for opposing new federal voting rights legislation is remarkably similar to what passed for arguments against civil rights and voting rights in the 1960’s. “Every single proposed change,” former vice president Mike Pence said recently, “serves one goal, and one goal only: to give leftists a permanent, unfair, and unconstitutional advantage in our political system.”

Other Republicans worry about a federal takeover of elections, a specious argument since the Constitution speaks to a clear federal role in how elections are conducted, and a federal role in elections was precisely why Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in the first place.

Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, like so many in the past who tried to limit voting, invoked the old “state’s rights” argument, channeling the segregationist talking points of the 1950’s and 1960’s. You wonder if these guys know anything about the kind of voter suppression that took place in so many places for so long. Or, more likely they just don’t care.

Some conservatives have been more honest with their objections to the idea of more Americans voting. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an architect of the modern conservative movement said in 1980. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

The structure of the American system is under assault and restricting voting is at the heart of the attack. The assault is just as real now as it was in the 1960’s. Bipartisan good faith triumphed then. What now?

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Additional Reading:

Why There’s a Civil War in Idaho — Inside the GOP

A deep and I think pretty accurate dive into Idaho’s increasingly crazy GOP politics.

“So why are Idaho Republicans at each others’ throats? The intraparty divisions center on, and have been fanned by, two polarizing figures: [Janice] McGeachin and Priscilla Giddings, a state legislator who’s been called McGeachin’s ‘de facto running mate.’ Giddings has joined her at campaign events, and co-chaired McGeachin’s ‘Task Force to Examine Indoctrination in Idaho Education.’ The task force failed to find the ‘teachings on social justice, critical race theory, socialism, communism, Marxism’ it sought but did produce a spicy public-records scandal.”

The Idaho Republican Party has always had its nut cases, but now they are increasingly in charge. Here is a link to the Politico story.


Stranded dog saved from rising tide after rescuers attach sausage to drone

OK, we all need a story like this…

“Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog.”

A sausage on a drone did the trick.


Be well. Stay safe. Thanks for reading.

2020 Election, Idaho Politics, Trump

An Obligation of Office…

Idaho’s senior senator Mike Crapo did something unusual. His constituents should find it unsettling, even arrogant.

The Republican announced that he will seek a fifth term in the Senate by issuing a press release. No questions asked or answered, thank you very much.

Crapo, who calls himself an “unwavering conservative,” did serve up a little political red meat in his release – no substance, but plenty of fear. “The threats to our values, our way of life and our Constitution itself are intense, extremely well-funded and well-organized,” Crapo said.

I’d like to hear more but Crapo’s not taking questions.

Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

There once was a tradition – perhaps more an obligation – that when candidates announced for high public office they would tour the state, making a series of appearances at airports or hotel ballrooms and engage journalists on why they were applying for a job. A big part of the deal was to answer questions, or at least act like you were doing so.

Like so many other things we can be bemoan as lost to a better past is the notion that a politician, particularly one asking to be re-elected, has an obligation to answer questions. Crapo, long ago more at home in Washington than in Weiser, doesn’t stoop to answering questions. I know this because I asked him, or more correctly asked his staff, a few questions via email.

The first was: “Do you believe Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 presidential election?”

I also asked: “Why have you not spoken out against the lies and misinformation that have been spread about that election? For example, on January 6 you made no statement at all about the events of a year ago, even while the former president was continuing to repeat lies about the election.”

I wanted to know how Crapo feels about the investigation underway into the events of January 6, 2021, so I asked: “Do you support the House investigation on the events of January 6, 2021?” And “why did you oppose an independent commission (to investigate the Capitol attack) when it was considered by the Senate?”

Knowing that Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican Party and shows every inclination to run for president again in 2024, I asked Crapo: “If Donald Trump were to run again for president in 2024 and win the Republican nomination, would you support him?”

Trump endorsed Crapo long before the senator announced his re-election last week, so I thought it would be interesting to know whether Crapo sought that endorsement and how it came about, so I asked.

Just before the Idaho governor proposed to increase funding for Idaho State Police protection of the State Capitol in Boise – 13 new positions at a cost of $2.8 million – presumably in anticipation of more violent stunts like the militant Ammon Bundy pulled off in 2020, I sought Crapo’s views about the danger of politically motivated violence.

Just to jog your memory, a police officer who testified at Bundy’s trial in 2021 said, “It was chaos,” with six State Police officers “pushed, shoved and battered” by a crowd of protesters. The day before Bundy was arrested, an angry mob stormed into the Idaho House gallery. A door was broken down. Bundy is, of course, seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho.

So, I asked Crapo” “There is growing evidence that many Americans on the political right are willing to engage in violence in the interest of their political positions. Do you view this as a danger to democracy?”

And since the senator has been around for a long time, I posed this question: “Given Idaho’s long history of dealing with various hate groups, including the Aryan Nations, why have you not spoken out against this trend or condemned, for example, groups like The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the rightwing activist Ammon Bundy? There have been anti-Semitic attacks on, for example, the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, but you have made no effort to condemn them. Why?”

At one level, I didn’t expect much from Crapo, the thirteenth most senior member of the Senate. He long ago became a get-along, go-along Republican in lock step with his party’s leadership, voting to convict Bill Clinton and let Trump skate, twice. Crapo rarely utters anything beyond the sterile talking points that GOP political consultants crank out for him.

But frankly I did expect an answer to the question about Biden being legitimately elected. South Dakota’s very conservative Senator Mike Rounds, for example, said recently when asked the same question I put to Crapo: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward — and that’s the way we want to look at this — moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency.”

I thought a question about whether Crapo would support Trump – again – might get a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” type response. Or an invitation to zing Bundy or disavow the radical Proud Boys might actually present an opportunity for a career politician to show a bit of leadership, not to mention backbone.

By the way, I told Crapo’s staff I would publish any response in its entirety.

Here’s the totality of what I got in response to my questions:

“Marc, we have known and worked with you a long time in your various roles. But, these questions indicate a blatant partisan bias. Senator Crapo has repeatedly addressed these questions and people know how he feels about these issues. Moreover, to suggest Senator Crapo has not spoken out against acts of violence or hatred – political or otherwise – is categorically false. He won’t participate in such a thinly-veiled partisan effort intended to distract voters’ attention away from the national debacle unfolding at the hands of Biden/Schumer/Pelosi.”

I guess Crapo could have saved time by simply giving me a two-word answer.

In fact, most of his constituents don’t know where Crapo stands on a lot of these questions and many others, because silence on big issues is a political strategy in the modern GOP. Much safer to invoke a “national debacle.”

But you might ask why a guy who has been in Congress for 30 years won’t answer even a simple question, knowing his entire answer will see print, about whether the last election was honest. Why is a senator who has Trump’s endorsement unwilling to talk about it? And when given an opportunity to condemn political violence or anti-Semitism attacks the premise of the question.

What is Crapo afraid of? What should you be afraid of?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some other items for your consideration…

The Long-Term Care Challenge

My pal, Rob Saldin, a really talented scholar and political analyst, is out with a deep dive into the challenges of “long term care” – LTC. Rob teaches at the University of Montana and heads the Mansfield Center’s ethics and public policy programs at the university.

“LTC is expensive — so expensive that it can deplete a middle-class family’s lifetime of savings in a few short years. Notably, the term ‘middle class’ here includes a vast demographic range, from those just over the poverty line to those maintaining six-figure retirement accounts decades after they leave the workforce. To be sure, once individuals have burned through their assets to the point of impoverishment, Medicaid swoops in to pick up the tab. But this intervention only shifts the burden to state budgets, which crowds out other spending priorities.”

Here is a link to the piece in National Affairs.


‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science

The cast of “Don’t Look Up…”

Perhaps you have seen the film. I enjoyed it, even as it’s a little over the top. Apparently, folks either love it or hate it. Here’s a good piece on how the film explores some myths about science denial.

“The movie is an allegory for climate change, showing how those with the power to do something about global warming willfully avoid taking action and how those with vested interests can mislead the public. But it also reflects science denial more broadly, including what the world has been seeing with COVID-19.”

Link to the piece in The Conversation.


The Last Time We Had an Insurrectionist President

He was the long forgotten John Tyler, who as a former president helped stoke Civil War. Goodness, history can enlighten.

“Whether and how Donald Trump thinks about his legacy is known only to him, but the rise and disgrace of John Tyler, the traitor-president, should serve as a warning about how insurrectionist presidents are remembered—in Tyler’s case, with disgrace at first, and then hardly at all.”

Here’s the story.


Many thanks, friends. Stay safe. Get your booster.

2020 Election, Insurrection, Trump

Who You Gonna Believe…

In the flood of end of 2021 public opinion polling – most of it dire as to the state and future of the country – it’s easy to fixate on the obvious. Lots of our fellow Americans have answered the classic Chico Marx question – “Who you gonna believe me or your own eyes” – by doubting their own eyes.

To cite just two examples in public opinion data assembled recently by Ipsos/NPR:

  • Twenty-two percent of Americans say there was major fraudulent voting in 2020, and it changed the results of the election. This number jumps to a 54% majority among those whose primary news source is Fox News or conservative news media, 52% of Trump voters, and 45% of all Republicans.
  • Nearly one in three Republicans who are regular political news consumers (30%) say the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol a year ago where five died and hundreds have been charged with various crimes was carried out by Antifa/government agents, compared to 7% of Democrats who follow political news closely.

To maintain these beliefs – a stolen election, a riot led by Antifa thugs rather than violent Trump followers – requires a willful disregard for what your eyes reveal.

What we all saw…

Time and again Donald Trump and his supporters were rebuffed in election challenges brought in federal and state courts. Often Trump appointed judges rejected specious claims of election fraud. Trump lost a case at the Supreme Court where he had appointed three justices. Lawyers representing the former president have been sanctioned and fined for frivolous use of the courts to advance lies about the presidential election.

The facts are crystal clear unless you willfully chose to ignore them.

As for that deadly attack on the Capitol a year ago this week, the first-hand accounts of the savagery and mayhem that have emerged over the last several months when laid alongside the pictures we all saw that day paint a shocking, ugly picture of a political movement resorting to violence in an effort to stop the certification of a fair election. Yet, lies that defy our own eyes have clearly gripped many Americans.

A reader took me to task recently saying, “So you buy into the conspiracy that bunch of unarmed not so bright folks who flooded into the capital, many in costume stole one lap top and left litter not destruction behind was some sort of an organized insurrection meant to over throw the government? Well if so it was the most feeble attempt ever seen in the history of the world.”

The comment, heartfelt I’m sure, is also complete and utter nonsense. I don’t know – no one does – what was in the hearts and minds of the attackers, organized or not, but it seems pretty clear they hoped to create enough ruckus to stop the counting of electoral votes, the only action Congress was engaged in. And for a while they did stop the counting, breaking down doors and windows, injuring 140 cops and taking over significant parts of the Capitol.

Trump clearly hoped to use the crowd to intimidate then-vice president Mike Pence – why else would the mob chant “hang Mike Pence” – to disallow votes from several states and thereby disrupt the Constitutional process to affirm the next president. In his warmup act before the attack, Trump mentioned Pence by name several times, including hoping that his own vice president wasn’t listening to “the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

To dismiss the historic and awful events of January 6 as a “feeble attempt,” or as one Republican lawmaker said, “a tourist visit,” is simply delusional, down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole stuff, but it’s where a lot of fellow Americans find themselves. It is where a representative democracy finds itself.

We must acknowledge there is no chance these folks will find the truth. They are, sadly, and tragically for the country, pathologically attached to lies that are daily disproved by their own eyes. To paraphrase Voltaire, these Americans have been fed a steady diet of absurdities and now embrace atrocities.

As the columnist Eugene Robinson asked recently: “How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?”

Surely a partial answer to Robinson’s question is Donald Trump, who lied himself from Barack Obama’s birth certificate into the Oval Office, but Trump has had plenty of help in the dumbing down effort that has us awash in lies.  

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Trump will never change. My critical reader will never change. But what about the vast sweep of the rest of the modern Republican Party? What of the once more-or-less levelheaded western conservatives? It’s a hard reality to swallow, but the actual survival of the kind of American democracy we once protected is increasingly up to them.

Forget about the Kevin McCarthy’s, the Ted Cruz’s and the striving clowns like Idaho’s Russ Fulcher or Washington’s Cathy McMorris-Rogers. They have made their bed on a hill of lies. They care about saving nothing but themselves.

There are some others out there who clearly know better and must in their hearts quake at the thought of what very clearly might have been, and what could be. What of Idaho’s Mike Simpson or former Oregon congressman Greg Walden? Are there not at least a few other conservative truth tellers to join Liz Cheney in the defense of democracy?

It’s worth remembering what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said immediately after January 6 last year.

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

This year McConnell said nothing about Trump, but attacked Democrats.

Make no mistake democracy’s enemies are on the move. They have momentum unincumbered by truth. Before January 6, such an atrocity was unthinkable. A year later, believing it can’t happen again – and succeed next time – is as delusional as the lies that got us to this point.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest..

Rebecca Solnit: When the President of Mediocrity Incites an Insurrection

A piece from a year ago that is worth revisiting.

“The epithet ‘God give me the confidence of a mediocre white man’ has mostly been used for milder circumstances, but the confidence—in their own rightness as they assaulted the symbolic center of the elected government as that government was engaged in the solemn process of confirming the choice of the voters—was stunning. Of course if there was no electoral college—an institution created to amplify the white men who enslaved Black people, Trump would never have become president in 2016, and in 2020, the Biden victory would have been affirmed and unshakeable months ago, but one of the rites of the creaky old process designed for an 18th-century 13-state nation exist was underway when the invasion transpired. You could argue that it’s because Trump won the presidency while losing by three million votes last time that he felt entitled to keep it after losing by seven million votes.”

Always read Rebecca Solnit:


The Plot Against American Democracy That Isn’t Taught in Schools

A great piece here from Rolling Stone.


Wayne Thiebaud, Playful Painter of the Everyday, Dies at 101

Pancake Breakfast by Wayne Thiebaud

“In person he was a classic of the old American West, a slender man of Gary Cooperish charm and dry humor — soft-spoken, modest, layered, self-assured. Often bathed in Pacific sunshine, Mr. Thiebaud’s art looked at first flush radiant and plain as day. But on closer inspection, his pictures of idealized pies, spaghetti entanglements of highways and gumball machines rimmed in blue halos required unpacking. A rustling of unexpected sadness occasionally crept into the paintings after that initial leaping rush of joy — an unsentimental nostalgia for a bygone era or some long lost love.”

A classic New York Times obit of the painter.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe. All the best.