Abbreviated Pundit Roundup What to do, what to do with Number 45

We begin today with Aaron Blake of The Washington Post writing that more and more Americans view Number 45 as a criminal FPOTUS as opposed to merely an unethical one.

In new polling, Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and his storage of sensitive government documents in his residence at Mar-a-Lago have reached new highs in the percentages of Americans who say Trump broke the law — rather than saying his actions were unethical but not illegal.

On both issues, more Americans say Trump broke the law — 45 percent and 44 percent, respectively — than ever said so during the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the scandal involving Trump’s interaction with the Ukrainian president and other instances in which the question was asked, according to a Washington Post review of polling during Trump’s tenure.

After a presidency marked by Trump repeatedly escaping consequences after controversy and now retaining a fighting chance to win the next election, the data suggests that Trump may find it more difficult to move past these new issues.

At the same time, the political middle remains somewhat mixed in its views on whether Trump’s actions in these instances were illegal or merely unethical. And the polls suggest Trump’s devoted base, which regards him as blameless, continues to constitute as many as 3 in 10 Americans.

Looking at the data laid out in this way, I am reminded of something that MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid said about Trump’s first impeachment.

That is, while there wasn’t a conviction based on the the impeachment charges, the impeachment, itself, does serve as a sanction and renders any successful attempts to run for reelection almost impossible. That was true in Andrew Johnson’s case in the 19th century and Trump’s case in the 21st century. Gerald Ford’s and Al Gore’s attempts to become POTUS also failed.

I always assumed that Trump lost the 2020 election because of his sheer malicious stupidity and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary factor. I still believe that to be the case, for the most part. But maybe that first impeachment over the attempt to extort Ukraine’s President Zelensky had more of an effect than I originally thought.

To indict or not to indict, that is the question. But James D. Zirin writes for Washington Monthly that a third option is available to AG Merrick Garland.

As a former federal prosecutor, I would indict Trump. The facts and the law in Trump’s case are compelling. The rule of law binds us together and is at the core of our democracy. Or, as the Times added, “America is not sustained by a set of principles; it is sustained by resolute action to defend those principles.”

But Garland has a third choice that has received little attention. It could conceivably get him where he wants to go—a “presentment” or report filed by the grand jury with the federal court. Here, prosecutors could lay out the evidence the grand jury has gathered of Trump’s criminality but hold off on an indictment.

The grand jury report is an institution we inherited from the English. It likely dates to 1166 and antedates the grand jury itself. It is mentioned in the Fifth Amendment. The report is presented to the court by the grand jury without any bill of indictment. A presentment may charge individuals with crimes. Meanwhile, the investigation could continue and be followed later by criminal charges in an indictment.

Here’s section 159 of DOJ’s Criminal Resource Manual as well as the text of 18 U.S. Code § 3333.

Matthew Connelly of The Los Angeles Times notes that the nation security classification systems are due for an overhaul.

The security classification system is designed to control information according to its level of sensitivity, ranging from confidential to top secret. Anyone seeking a security clearance to handle these materials must undergo rigorous background checks and training. But being approved for a level of clearance does not automatically give one access to classified information. Only those who already have access to a specific program’s information can grant others with clearance permission to see it, and only if the requestor has an explicit reason for their “need to know.” The system creates the impression that only a select few are permitted to handle carefully defined categories of truly dangerous information.

But these rules do not describe what is actually happening. In 2017 alone, officials told the ISOO that they had stamped something with “confidential,” “secret” or “top secret” more than 49 million times. At the time, this seemed like an improvement. In 2012, similar self-reported data added up to more than 95 million classifications, or three new state secrets per second. Bradley now says that a lot of the data in these earlier reports “was neither accurate nor reliable,” but cannot offer better estimates. And so many Special Access Programs — which may require additional security measures and bear the designation “Sensitive Compartmented Information” — have proliferated across the government that Bradley could not create a complete list. [...]

Trump has claimed that he had a standing order to declassify the records that ended up in Mar-a-Lago — but there is no evidence of such an order and numerous officials have called this claim ludicrous. The fact is, the declassification of even one document involves a page-by-page inspection, and often requires sign-off by multiple departments and agencies. Yet the government employs fewer than 2,000 people to review, redact and determine which of these records can eventually be released.

Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call recalls the midterm elections of 1998 and 2002 in an attempt to note campaign anomalies that may be present for the 2022 midterms.

Today’s GOP is being defined by its most extreme voices, who spend much of their time complaining about how the 2020 election was “stolen.”

Their attacks on democracy and the rule of law — and the increasing visibility of former President Donald Trump on the campaign trail and in legal fights — have transformed a referendum on Biden in November into a choice between Democrats and Republicans.

The Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion; the FBI search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort; and the findings of the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol — combined with falling gas prices, the passage of a gun control bill, and the use of budget reconciliation legislation to pass major initiatives on health care and climate change — have boosted Democratic enthusiasm about the midterms.

Democrats also seem to be overperforming in special elections and primaries, which reflects unusual enthusiasm for the president’s party. That, along with the nomination of extreme Republican nominees for Congress and state offices, suggests that many voters are more worried about Trump and his allies than they are about Biden.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times looks at some indicators that President Joe Biden may be succeeding where Number 45 failed when it comes to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Under the radar, however, some of what Trump wanted but failed to achieve — a return of manufacturing to the United States, for instance — may actually be happening under his successor. A recent Bloomberg review of C.E.O. business presentations finds a huge surge in buzzwords like onshoring, reshoring and nearshoring, all indicators of plans to produce in the United States (or possibly nearby countries) rather than in Asia.

There has also been a flurry of news reports, backed by some flaky data, suggesting that companies really are building new manufacturing facilities in the United States and other high-income countries.

So we may be seeing early indications of a partial retreat from globalization. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, let’s talk about why this may be happening.

The first thing you need to know is that if we see some decline in world trade in the years ahead, it won’t be the first time that’s happened. It’s common to assume that the world is always getting smaller, that rising international interdependence is an ineluctable trend. But history says otherwise.

Makani Themba of The Nation looks at the history behind the Jackson, Mississippi “water crisis”.

...Jackson’s current mayor—Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba—is still battling to reach that “infrastructure frontier.” Months of lobbying to get the state to grant Jackson access to its own special tax funds, decades of divestment and neglect, and the state’s consistent denial of city requests for adequate funding have taken their toll. Now, record flooding has accelerated the sadly inevitable—and preventable—rupture of the city’s crumbling water infrastructure. More than 150,000 residents are without potable water.

Most residents under the age of 50 have no memory of a Jackson without “boil water” notices—the frequent public warnings that the water that comes out of your faucet is not safe to consume in any form without a good, rolling boil. The truth is that the “Jackson Water Crisis”—as the press has dubbed it—has been decades in the making. It’s part and parcel of an infrastructure crisis that is gripping much of the country—but with grossly unequal impact. Its roots are in Jim Crow, the separate that was never equal, where everything from water to parks to food and even air in our communities receives less investment, less protection, and less access. Broken levees in New Orleans. Toxic water in Flint. Crumbling buildings in eastern Kentucky. This is beyond a crisis in infrastructure. It is a crisis in justice.

 Jerusalem Demsas of The Atlantic reports on the significance of the decades-long migration of Black Americans from urban to suburban.

In the U.S., the terms inner city and urban have long been code words for Black areas. They are used to evoke the stereotype of a Black underclass, confined to public-housing units or low-income housing, entrenching the belief that this population is somehow inherently meant for city life while also denigrating city life as dirty, crowded, and utterly undesirable. During the 2016 presidential debates, for instance, then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly referred to African Americans living in “the inner cities.” When asked about the nation’s racial divide or being a president to “all the people in the United States,” he repeatedly evoked the stereotype that Black people largely live in inner cities wracked by crime.

To make this stereotype work in the 21st century requires overlooking one key fact: Black families have been absconding from cities for decades. In a recent paper, the economists Alex Bartik and Evan Mast note that over the past 50 years, the share of the Black population living in the 40 most populous central cities in the U.S. fell from 40 percent to 24 percent. They are not the first to highlight this phenomenon. Demographers and sociologists in particular have been noting this trend for decades. As the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey has documented, from 2000 to 2010, the Black population of the central cities in America’s 100 largest metro areas decreased by 300,000. Detroit, Chicago, and New York (prime destinations during the Great Migration) as well as Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles all saw declines in their Black populations.

What this geographic shift has meant for Black Americans is complicated, and there are many stories to tell—of families moving to opportunity, of inequality replicating itself when they get there, and of the people left behind. In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act and outlawed discrimination in the housing market. This did not eradicate housing inequality, but it did give Black households much more freedom to actualize their preferences of where to live and whom to live among. More than 50 years later, we are still seeing how those preferences shape the nation’s geography of opportunity.

Nektaria Stamouli of POLITICO Europe reports on rising tensions between Turkey and Greece.

Earlier this week, the Greek foreign ministry sent letters to NATO, the United Nations and the EU complaining about comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that it said were “unprovoked, unacceptable and an insult against Greece and the Greek people” and asking the organizations to condemn Ankara’s behavior.

“By not doing so in time or by underestimating the seriousness of the matter, we risk witnessing again a situation similar to that currently unfolding in some other part of our Continent,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias wrote in the letters, dated Monday and Tuesday, alluding to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Erdoğan has stepped up his rhetoric against Greece in recent days, amid what Ankara sees as a growing military buildup on the Greek Aegean islands, close to Turkey’s coastline. In a repeated, thinly veiled threat, he said: “We can come down suddenly one night when the time comes.”

Finally today, Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung of The Diplomat answers the question: why is Russia looking to buy weapons from North Korea.

The ammunitions North Korea reportedly intends to sell to Moscow are likely copies of Soviet-era weapons that can fit Russian launchers. But there are still questions over the quality of the supplies and how much they could actually help the Russian military.

Slapped by international sanctions and export controls, Russia in August bought Iranian-made drones that U.S. officials said had technical problems. For Russia, North Korea is likely another good option for its ammunitions supply, because the North keeps a significant stockpile of shells, many of them copies of Soviet-era ones.

North Korea “may represent the single biggest source of compatible legacy artillery ammunition outside of Russia, including domestic production facilities to further supplies,” said Joseph Dempsey, research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The personal and political

We begin today with Dion Lefler of The Wichita Eagle and his review of the winning campaign in support of abortion rights in Kansas and what it may portend for the future of Kansas politics.

I didn’t cover the Value Them Both election watch. Like almost all serious journalists in the state, I was banned by the campaign from attending.

So all I can tell you about their thinking is that they blamed — you guessed it — the mainstream media.

According to their written statement, the media “propelled the left’s false narrative, contributing to the confusion that misled Kansans about the amendment.”

That’s not what happened at all.

I can only speak for myself, but I never believed their infinitely repeated protestations that they didn’t want to ban abortion, just make reasonable regulations about it.

I didn’t believe it because they didn’t even believe it themselves.

Apparently, about six out of 10 voters didn’t believe them either. 

It was the Value Them Both campaign that attempted to mislead voters and propelled false narratives. One example from Jill Filipovic’s essay for CNN.

The vote was much watched by abortion rights proponents and opponents alike. It also wasn’t exactly a fair fight: One conservative group sent out text messages on Monday, the day of the vote, warning, “Women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights. Voting YES on the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

Voting “yes” on the Amendment was actually a vote against abortion rights. Abortion opponents, though, were clearly worried enough that Kansas voters cared about women’s rights, and so they resorted to playing dirty.

They still lost, which makes this victory even sweeter.

Mitch Smith, Lauren Fox, and Elizabeth Diaz of The New York Times report that the overwhelming victory for abortion rights at the ballot box in Kansas had a very broad coalition which included more rural and, perhaps, even more Republican voters than one would think.

DeAnn Hupe Seib is a fiscally conservative, churchgoing Republican from rural Kansas. When faced with a ballot question about whether abortion rights ought to be removed from her state’s constitution, she voted no. So did her home, Jefferson County, which favored Donald J. Trump by a 32-point margin in 2020.

“I was old enough that I remember stories of women who could not get abortions or had to defy their church in order to get in and get an abortion in order to save their lives,” said Ms. Hupe Seib, 63, a lawyer. “So it’s a very real issue to me, and I know it can be again.”

The sweeping victory for abortion rights in Kansas on Tuesday — the country’s first post-Roe vote on the issue — relied on a broad coalition of voters who turned out in huge numbers and crashed through party and geographic lines to maintain abortion access in the state. The result was an election with a stunning 18-point margin that is shaking up national politics ahead of the midterm elections.

The Dobbs decision engaged women in Kansas to an unprecedented degree. This chart shows the percent of new registrants in the state who were women (as a 7 day average). Note the spike after the Dobbs decision leaked, and huge jump after the Supreme Court handed it down.

— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) August 3, 2022

Amy Davidson Sorkin of The New Yorker wishes that Democratic campaign organizations and consultants would stop interfering in Republican primaries on behalf of election-denying candidates.

But the tactic of manipulating Republicans into nominating proto-authoritarian election deniers is damaging even if it works, in the short term, exactly as intended—that is, even if it helps the Democrats win some seats. For one thing, it habituates Republicans—voters, activists, local officials—in the practice of uniting behind extremists after the primary. It cajoles them into discarding whatever taboos might be left at this point. And making the most conspiratorial voices the loudest changes the tone of the political conversation. Candidates of the sort who might vote to impeach Trump the next time—and it’s all too plausible that there could be a next time—will be driven from politics. (All but four of the ten impeachment-voting Republicans have now either retired or been defeated in primaries, and one of the four, Liz Cheney, is almost certain to lose her primary; notably, the three who survived are in states with nonpartisan “top-two” primaries.) The saddest aspect of Meijer’s comments is how bitter he sounds. “I’m sick and tired of hearing the sanctimonious bullshit about the Democrats being the pro-democracy party,” he told Politico.

Voters may tire of it, too—another risk for Democrats. If, when surveying the strange shape of the G.O.P. field, with its collection of the extreme, the improbable, and the outlandish, Democrats sound gleeful rather than dismayed or alarmed, voters’ faith in their seriousness could be diminished. They could come across as hypocrites and fakes, at a time when voters say they are looking for authenticity. And they could sound like part of a party that doesn’t have faith in its ability to win an election on the strength of its own policies and ideals.[...]

Why have some of the Democratic Party’s most prominent campaign organizations—the D.C.C.C., the D.G.A.—pursued such a terrible approach in these races? The fear for democracy’s future is real. But they or their political consultants may have become too enraptured by the idea of their own cleverness or toughness. Another explanation is that there is just too much money in politics these days chasing too few good ideas. Bad schemes get funded, too. OpenSecrets has documented more than five hundred million dollars in outside spending in the primaries alone, a number that is no doubt incomplete owing to the opacity of many of the organizations that are involved in elections in one way or another (and the primaries aren’t over yet); it doesn’t include spending by the campaigns themselves.

Keep playing with fire like that and you’re liable to get burned.

Heather Cox Richardson writes for her Letters for an American Substack about the significance of Alex Jones emails and texts, especially in light of the Rolling Stone exclusive reporting that those texts and emails will be subpoenaed by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’s attorney accidentally shared a digital copy of two years’ worth of the texts and emails on Jones’s phone and, when alerted to the error, didn’t declare it privileged. Thus Bankston is reviewing the material and has said that Jones lied under oath. This material includes both texts and financial reports that Jones apparently said didn’t exist.

This is a big deal for the trial, of course—perjury is a crime—and it is a bigger deal for those who have believed InfoWars, since it reveals how profitable the lies have been. Bankston revealed that for all of Jones’s claims of low income, in 2018 InfoWars made between $100,000 and $200,000 a day, and some days they made $800,000. But there is more. People calculating the math will note that if indeed there are two years of records on that phone, the messages will include the weeks around the events of January 6, 2021.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post  writes that even though activists for military families won a victory in getting the PACT Act passed in the Senate, the utter contempt and disrespect for those activists by some of the nation’s lawmakers was on full display.

On Tuesday, the veterans, military family members and their supporters were on their sixth day outside the Capitol. They were clustered under a few trees in the blessed shade just beyond the Capitol’s east plaza on a morning that was already sweltering. They were there to shame the Senate into passing the PACT Act, which extends health-care benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxins from the enormous pits in which the military regularly disposed of waste. Those burning garbage dumps have been linked to cancers, sleep apnea, and other respiratory and neurological ailments. Indeed, President Biden has noted that his son Beau served overseas near such a site and later died of a brain tumor. And so it was not surprising to see an activist holding a cardboard sign shaped like a tombstone that bore the words, “the troops.” Another sign warned: “vets are dying.”

A lot of Americans come to Capitol Hill to make a case for their interests or to raise awareness about looming emergencies. But these activists faced particularly galling circumstances. The Senate had passed the PACT Act back in June with an 84-14 vote, but it had been changed somewhat in the House; so last week the Senate had to vote again, and the second time around the dizzying carousel that is the legislature, the vote was 55-42. This might still seem like a win for veterans, but basic math isn’t so basic in the Senate because of the filibuster, which requires 60 votes before a bill can turn into a law. The legislation stalled and these determined citizens from Virginia and North Carolina and New York were sweating it out on the grass trying to get senators to give veterans something more tangible than a mere “thanks” for their service.[...]

In our democracy, there’s every reason to be proud of the people’s ability to protest and have their demands met. But in the process of making their voices heard on this subject, there have been constant reminders of just how loathe those in power are to listening to voices other than their own. As the bill — and amendments — were considered on the Senate floor, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), explained how he wanted to pay for the veterans’ health care by calling a 10-year moratorium on foreign aid distributed by USAID. Then he rattled off a list of the aid group’s expenditures that, based on the snarling disgust in his tone, he deemed offensively wasteful: encouraging tourism in Tunisia, teaching Korean students about climate change and encouraging millions of Filipinos to go to school. His colleagues did not approve of Paul’s amendment.

Jonathan Capehart, also of The Washington Post, says that for all of Sen. Josh Hawley’s “concern” about masculinity, what he is really selling is more racial resentment.

But as clownish as Hawley comes across, we dismiss him at our own risk. He is selling a vision of masculinity to White America that has much more to do with prejudice than manliness. It’s an old story — but a successful one, and one that’s poised to catch on. Stopping that from happening will require offering an alternative, with better examples of what being a man really means.

During a recent interview, Jason Kander, an Afghanistan War veteran who in 2018 stepped away from rising success in the Democratic Party to tend to his mental health, broke down his fellow Missourian’s plan. Hawley, he said, “is positioning himself, and therefore his movement — his far-right, White-guy movement — as, ‘If you’re a man, then you believe in these things.’” These things, you could probably guess, are archconservative values such as the patriarchy, opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, support exclusively for heterosexual marriage, an aversion to labor organizing. In other words, as Kander told me via email later, Hawley is “making manhood synonymous with conservatism.”

The pitch holds natural appeal for older White men who already hew to traditional morals. But what about the younger White men who, as Kander says, watch Ultimate Fighting but still like their LGBTQ co-workers and have friends who have had abortions? Hawley figures he can woo them too, so long as they share one potent trait with the older group: racial resentment. This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.

Dave Zirin of The Nation says that Donald Trump is up to his old tired racist tricks again, this time with WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Trump’s one constant has been his racism and bigotry. Even when it seemingly makes no political sense, his unerring instinct moves him toward his happy place: hating others. Never underestimating the racism that lives in this country’s marrow has been his greatest political survival skill, and his survival has never felt more precarious. This is the best way to understand why Trump would look at the political landscape, see Brittney Griner rotting in a Russian prison, and say she should be buried under the cell. Instead of defending a US citizen, an Olympian, and a symbol of wrongful political detentions, Trump piled on. On some godforsaken fascistic podcast that I wouldn’t link to on a dare, Trump called Griner “potentially spoiled” (not sure what that means) and said she deserved to be behind bars.

He described her Kafkaesque situation as follows: “She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they’re very vigilant about drugs. They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out—and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world.”[...]

It has largely been a given that everyone wants Griner to come home and be reunited with her family. But Trump doesn’t see the world in terms of easing human suffering. He sees Griner, and you can imagine the neon-blood-red words flashing in his brain—“Black,” “lesbian,” “WNBA”—and Trump immediately deducing that he can use her as a political piñata to bond himself to a frenzied base. It comes from his Colin Kaepernick playbook: demonize a Black athlete, lie about who they are and what they stand for, and reap the benefits.

Charu Sudan Kasturi of the Guardian writes that the spread of polio remains a global threat.

In June, the WHO reported cases of vaccine-derived polio – where a weakened virus in the vaccine itself spreads in the environment and infects people – in Eritrea, Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Israel, Yemen, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And in July, a patient in a New York City suburb was diagnosed with vaccine-derived polio. Over the past six weeks, traces of this form of the virus have also been found in sewage samples in Kolkata and London.

These seemingly unconnected cases highlight a common threat: globally, polio vaccination levels in 2021 dropped to their lowest in 15 years, according to WHO data, with immunisation initiatives disrupted during Covid. India and Indonesia, two of the world’s most populous nations, have witnessed particularly sharp falls in vaccine coverage.

That makes the recent spate of cases a canary in a coalmine, say experts – warning that the paralysing disease eliminated in most of the world could come back, especially in densely populated regions, unless countries redouble their efforts on vaccinations and surveillance.

With such an overwhelming amount of media attention given to the optics of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, Brian Hioe of The Diplomat takes a look at some of the substantive issues.

Pelosi’s motivations for the visit have been speculated to be anything from securing her political legacy to an attempt to tout the Democrats’ record as tough on China before midterm elections. When Pelosi’s plane touched down in Taiwan around 10:43 p.m., the Washington Post released an op-ed by Pelosi arguing for her visit. In that article, she provided her rationale for the trip: “In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.”

As news reports increasingly suggested that Pelosi would, in fact, be visiting Taiwan, speculation revolved around which day she would arrive. Another open question was the length of her visit – whether she would only stay a few hours in Taiwan, as some sources indicated, or whether she would stay overnight – and then whether her visit would only involve meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen or if it would also involve speaking to the Taiwanese legislature.

In the end, Pelosi’s visit involved stops to the legislature and to meet with Tsai. The House speaker’s comments were similar on both occasions, stressing Taiwan-U.S. cooperation in terms of mutual security interests, economic cooperation, and “shared values of self-governance and self-determination,” a phrase she used during verbal comments in her op-ed. With regards to her points on economic cooperation, Pelosi touted the CHIPS Act as an arena for cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan, a somewhat odd framing considering the CHIPS Act is sometimes understood as aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors.

Hannah Roberts of POLITICO Europe writes that with the hard-right Brothers of Italy party poised to win next month’s Italian snap elections, there is a fear that fascism is creeping into Italy. Again.

The public discourse over the murder of Alika Ogorchukwu, beaten to death in front of bystanders in the coastal town of Civitanova Marche, has laid bare the divisions in society as Italians prepare to vote in a snap election next month.

For some, the killing is the fault of years of hate-stoking anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians on the right, with disturbing echoes of fascism. Others accuse the left of trying to make political capital out of a tragedy.

The bitter dispute matters because, according to current polling, it is the anti-immigration parties on the right of Italian politics that stand to win most support at the election and form the next government.

At the head of them all is Giorgia Meloni, leader of the hard-right Brothers of Italy, who is on track to become the country’s next prime minister after the September 25 vote. It would mark a radical shift in Italian politics, posing potential risks to the country’s economy after a period of stability under outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s steadying influence. There are also fears a right-wing coalition could weaken European unity at a sensitive time.

The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer on the importance of clear and precise grammar even if it is a bit “clunky.”

But what’s a grammarian to do when precise and concise are at odds with each other?

The ways we talk about abortion and gender — particularly in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s downfall — illustrate the problem.

Take, for example, a recent viral exchange between Sen. Josh Hawley, lately known for running away from the same rioting Jan. 6 mob that he’d raised a fist in solidarity with, and Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Hawley objected to Bridges’ use of the phrase “people with a capacity for pregnancy,” which Hawley — ever the studious grammarian — thought should be shortened to just “women.” Bridges replied that Hawley’s questioning was transphobic, as it excluded trans men and nonbinary people who can become pregnant, as well as cisgender women who are unable to become pregnant. [...]

Put aside (for only the briefest moment) the fact that Hawley’s motivation was likely not syntactic concision but the desire to pick a fight and spark a viral moment and a provocative Twitter post (mission accomplished, Senator). A pressing language question still lingers here.[...]

Where does that leave someone just trying to improve the ways they speak and write?

Finally today, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes a wonderful essay on his Substack about his 60-year relationship with Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. (Pushing fair use a bit here to tell the story of a young Lew Alcindor meeting Bill Russell.)

As I wandered into the gym, I saw, sitting casually on the bleacher bench reading The New York Times, Bill Russell. The Secretary of Defense himself. My personal hero.

I also saw my coach, Jack Donahue, chatting with the Celtics coach, Red Auerbach. Being naturally shy and unnaturally polite, I decided to head downstairs to the locker room and wait patiently until they were done. Maybe I could find a copy of the Times to read too.

“Lew, c’mere,” Coach Donahue called to me.

I gulped. Me?

I shuffled over to Coach Donahue, who introduced me to Coach Auerbach. Coach Auerbach gestured at Bill Russell. “Hey, Bill, c’mere. I want you to meet this kid.”

Bill Russell dipped down his newspaper and looked me over with a frown. Then he snorted. “I’m not getting up just to meet some kid.”

I shrank to about six inches tall. I just wanted to run straight home.

Auerbach chuckled. “Don’t let him get to you, kid. Sometimes he can be a real sourpuss.” He grabbed my wrist and walked me over to Russell.

“Bill, be nice. This is the kid who just might be the next you.”

Bill looked at me again, this time taking a little longer. I was already 7’, two inches taller than him.

I stuck out my hand. “How do you do, Mr. Russell. Pleasure to meet you.”

He didn’t smile, but his demeanor had softened, just a little. He shook my hand. “Yeah, yeah, kid.”

That’s how I met my childhood hero.

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The economy

We begin today with Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post writing about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to stave off inflation.

The Fed hiked interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, following a similarly aggressive rate hike in June, even as Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged that the Federal Reserve sees previous hikes as already weighing on housing, business investment and consumer demand.[...]

Inflation has plagued policymakers for months, becoming the economy’s biggest problem and weighing on families nationwide, but especially the most vulnerable lower-income families. Higher prices for milk, gas and clothing have soured people’s sense of how the economy is working for them, dampening consumer sentiment and influencing families to change their own spending behavior, which can worsen inflation.

The glum economic mood has also become a major political problem for the Biden administration going into the midterm elections. Republicans continue to blame Democrats’ stimulus efforts from earlier in the pandemic for supercharging the economy and have resisted more federal spending.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times says that even if the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows a shrinking in real G.D.P. for the second quarter, that does not necessarily mean that the economy is in recession.

There’s a pretty good chance the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which produces the numbers on gross domestic product and other macroeconomic data, will declare on Thursday, preliminarily, that real G.D.P. shrank in the second quarter of 2022. Since it has already announced that real G.D.P. shrank in the first quarter, there will be a lot of breathless commentary to the effect that we’re officially in a recession.

But we won’t be. That’s not how recessions are defined; more important, it’s not how they should be defined. It’s possible that the people who actually decide whether we’re in a recession — more about them in a minute — will eventually declare that a recession began in the United States in the first half of this year, although that’s unlikely given other economic data. But they won’t base their decision solely on whether we’ve had two successive quarters of falling real G.D.P.

To understand why, it helps to know a bit about the history of what is known as business cycle dating.

William Danvers writes for The Hill that the American economy is still going through economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supply and demand, which is fundamental to the cost of goods and services, were affected dramatically by the pandemic. People largely stayed at home. Jobs were lost and businesses were closed. Supply chains were disrupted. The nature of work and education changed. How people viewed their jobs and their future in the workforce was altered.

Lockdowns meant that the home became central to day-to-day lives, which altered patterns of consumption and how the economy functioned. For example, going to movies and restaurants was drastically curtailed, even halted. The restrictions of everyday life during the height of the pandemic had an impact on how people viewed their day-to-day activities. Working from home, another pandemic-related change, affects issues such as office space, public transportation and the functioning of businesses that no longer connect to the pre-pandemic economic reality of going into the office regularly.

Understanding the role that the pandemic has played in determining the present economic state in the U.S. and globally, as well as the economic future, is key to determining responses to present crises. Biden has been criticized for putting too much money into the economy and thereby increasing the likelihood of inflationary pressure with his American Rescue Plan, but the plan was literally a lifeline for millions of Americans — who, in turn, helped stabilize the economy.  

Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO report on the deal that Senator Joe Manchin struck with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a financial package that includes energy and climate spending as well as ACA premiums.

Moreover, Manchin’s announcement came hours after final passage of semiconductor legislation, a bill Republicans threatened to block mere weeks ago in an effort to stop Democrats from pursuing a party-line tax, climate and health care package.

The Manchin-Schumer deal includes roughly $370 billion in energy and climate spending, $300 billion in deficit reduction, three years of subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums, prescription drug reform and significant tax changes. Manchin said the bill was at one point “bigger than that” but that’s where the two Democrats settled.

As part of the agreement announced Wednesday, Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to pass legislation governing energy permits. Manchin said he spoke to Schumer, Pelosi and President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Paul M. Krawzak of Roll Call  lays out the possibilities for the “vote-a-rama” to come.

A full CBO score wasn’t yet available for the not-yet-released Senate substitute text. But under the publicly unveiled parameters of a deal struck between Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., it will contain drug pricing provisions that will reduce “on-budget” deficits — the part that counts toward meeting reconciliation directives — by $277 billion over a decade.

Adding two years of expanded health insurance premium subsidies would be expected to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $40 billion, reducing the net deficit reduction.

Still, that leaves plenty of room for senators to offer amendments, including on things like extending expiring Trump-era tax cuts, provided they don’t go below $1 billion in Finance Committee deficit reduction. GOP senators could offer other amendments, including on energy policy, to try and put Democrats in a tough spot ahead of midterm elections this November.

Alternatively, there’d be room for Democrats to try to expand spending within Finance’s jurisdiction. They could seek to add a paid leave program, expanded child tax credits, funding for home- and community-based care under Medicaid, or Medicare hearing benefits that were in earlier versions — as well as tax increases to pay for it all.

Gabriel R. Sanchez, Keesha Middlemass, and Alla Rodriguez of The Brookings institution look at the effects of misinformation on the American electorate.

One of the drivers of decreased confidence in the political system has been the explosion of misinformation deliberately aimed at disrupting the democratic process. This confuses and overwhelms voters. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Russia’s cyber efforts and online actors were able to influence public perceptions and sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in voting, highlighting alleged irregularities, and accusing the Democratic Party of engaging in voter fraud. The “big lie” reinforced by President Trump about the 2020 election results amplified the Russian efforts and has lasting implications on voters’ trust in election outcomes.

The Collaborative Multi-Racial Political Study reveals that a robust 57% of white Americans believes there was voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, including 26% of whom believe there was definitely fraud in 2020. This survey also reveals that racial and ethnic minorities are highly susceptible to misinformation regarding voter fraud, as 38% of Latinos and 30% of African Americans think there might have been at least some fraud in 2020. Furthermore, in a 2021 survey by Howard University Digital Informers, a slim majority (51.5%) of respondents believe that “Black Americans are targets of fake news”.

In conjunction with the circulation of claims of election fraud and misinformation throughout the country, the public’s trust in our democratic system subsequently declined as well. An ABC NEWS/Washington Post survey found that only 20% feel “very confident” in the integrity of the U.S. election system. Furthermore, 56% of respondents of a recent CNN poll said that they have “little or no confidence” that the elections represent the will of the people. This pessimism is shared by the America youth as well, as 42% of the Harvard Youth Poll participants believe that their vote does not make a difference.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post writes that the deluge from DOJ investigations of Trump and his acolytes for the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the duly elected American government are just beginning.

It might have been hard for jaded Beltway reporters to imagine, but powerful evidence presented dramatically in a easily accessible way — along with steady amplification by the media — may well be draining Trump of his support and encouraging Republicans to look elsewhere for a leader. No wonder the right-wing editorial pages of the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, both Rupert Murdoch publications, have broken sharply with Trump. Trump of all people should understand how the aura of being a “loser” turns people off.

If you feel as though the pace of revelations has picked up, you’re not alone. On Tuesday, the New York Times published another blockbuster report regarding Trump’s phony elector scheme. The Times reviewed emails that show one lawyer involved in the scheme “repeatedly used the word ‘fake’ to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome.” That’s classic “admissions against interest” — the sort of self-incriminating statements that light up prosecutors’ eyes. Plus, with more names popping up in emails, the pool of witnesses grows. The Post’s report also revealed that the Justice Department has the phone logs of senior Trump aides.[...]

The question now is not whether Trump will be exposed to criminal investigations but how far along and how fast they are moving. Meanwhile, the public’s view of his conduct grows ever more negative, with possible consequences for his party. If Trump feels a tad claustrophobic, it’s because the walls are closing in.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe writes that Trump’s base will not abandon him because of white supremacy, not in spite of it.

With a historic 81 million votes Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. But Trump got 74 million votes, 11 million more than he garnered in 2016. That means millions more people heard Trump’s lies, witnessed his racism, and saw him impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and thought, “Yup, I want some of that for four more years.”

Now, even after a second impeachment and an ongoing House investigation revealing Trump’s culpability in the deadly insurrection that defiled the Capitol and wounded our democracy, Republicans have remade themselves in his graven image, their would-be autocrat a half-century in the making. Election deniers who’ve swallowed whole Trump’s Big Lie are vying for seats in the Senate and House, and as governors and secretaries of state who will certify future elections.

Despite not even a scintilla of evidence to the contrary, nearly 70 percent of Republicans do not believe that Biden is the legitimately elected president. More than 60 percent of Republicans say Jan. 6 was not an insurrection, but a “legitimate protest.” Reacting to Trump’s crimes alone is like treating the wound, but not an infection that continues to spread.

Trump’s minions carry their support and what he emboldened not as a millstone, but as a badge of honor. Time won’t change that.

Charles Blow of The New York Times writes that Trump doesn’t care one bit about law and order and neither do the MAGA folks.

This week, Trump returned to Washington for the first time since he left office. And the speech he gave was another law and order speech, returning to the theme of empowering the police, calling for the execution of drug dealers, and describing the country as a “cesspool of crime.”

In all this, he encouraged cities to reinstate racialized stop-and-frisk policies, because “it works,” and called on them to flood the streets with more officers and pull back on accountability for those officers’ actions.

Trump said, “There is no longer respect for the law, and there certainly is no order.”

Clearly, irony escapes the man.

But his remarks underscore another reality, beyond the fact that his support for the police is opportunistic at best, and it is this: In societies that prize grotesque imbalance, you will reap grotesque resistance and violent expressions. And when you add stressors like a pandemic and surging inflation, the problem will only get worse.

Elizabeth Wellington of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that The Sesame Place staff needs are even simpler than DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training; that staff needs basic couth and “home training.”

Real talk: DEI alone won’t solve this problem, because DEI doesn’t teach common decency and manners. A mean person, dressed up as a friendly Sesame Street monster, decided it was OK to behave nastily toward two Black children. Instead of greeting the little girls with outstretched arms — or at the very least offering them high fives — this cretin, disguised as a muppet, shooed them away after giving other children — white children — mad love. And more videos have surfaced of Black children being ignored by Sesame Place characters, demonstrating a pattern of mistreatment. [...]

Let’s be clear: This column isn’t knocking the need for DEI training, so the people whining about being forced to acknowledge Black history as American history can cool their racist heels. Diversity, equity, and inclusion training in workplaces is meant to teach people how to recognize unconscious biases that result in them treating their Black colleagues like servants. DEI also helps institutions raise employees’ awareness of systemic racism that results in unequal housing, pay, education, transportation, and food access.

DEI training doesn’t, however, teach basic manners. It doesn’t instill kindness. It doesn’t cure a bitter heart. Call me crazy, but a person should not need DEI training to know they should treat Black children with the same compassion they treat white children. That’s the job of home training. Sesame Place needs to do a better job making sure they hire employees who have home training. DEI training helps employers spot racists and reject them because racists are not good people.

Aaron Bolton and Ellis Juhlin of Kaiser Health News report that increasing numbers of women may be opting for permanent sterilization in response to the Dobbs decision.

The uncertainty around abortion access in Montana and other states where abortion is now or could become illegal, plus the fear of future legal fights over long-term contraception, has seemingly spurred a rise in the number of people seeking surgical sterilization, according to reports from doctors. That includes Marietti, who is having a salpingectomy, a procedure in which the fallopian tubes are removed instead of tied, as in tubal ligation, which can be reversible.

How many people sought permanent sterilization after the fall of Roe won’t become clear until next year, said Megan Kavanaugh, a researcher for the Guttmacher Institute, which gathers data related to reproductive health care across the U.S. and supports abortion rights.

But anecdotal reports indicate that more people have been undergoing permanent birth control procedures since the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which struck down Roe. Dr. Kavita Arora, who chairs the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ ethics committee, said providers across the country are beginning to see an influx of patients into their operating rooms.

Eric Kutscher and Lala Tomnoy Das write for the Los Angeles Times that discrimination in the medical and public health systems against LGBTQ individuals is key to ending the monkeypox outbreak.

It’s no accident that this virus receiving a weak public health response is one that mostly affects men who have sex with men, many of whom self-identify as gay, bisexual and transgender. In fact, WHO advisers declined to declare a monkeypox emergency in June in part because the disease has not moved out of this primary risk group. With cases rising, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus overruled advisers to make the declaration.

To be clear, nothing about LGBTQ individuals makes them more biologically susceptible to monkeypox. The current outbreak is primarily transmitting via close physical and sexual contact, though it can also spread through respiratory secretions and touching infected materials (such as clothing and linens). The reason this virus continues unchecked among men who have sex with men is that public health authorities have been slow to treat the risk to these individuals as an emergency.

To end monkeypox, we must confront the discrimination in the medical and public health systems that has enabled this preventable crisis. Clearly, having a vaccine for monkeypox is not enough in the face of homophobia that hampers public health response. And the steps it will take to end monkeypox will also enhance access to the comprehensive and patient-centered primary care that largely does not reach LGBTQ individuals.

I’ve heard that song before.

Aydali Campa of InsideClimateNews writes that a number of west side residents in Atlanta fear that an EPA investigation of high levels of lead in the area may lead eventually to gentrification.

In 2018, a graduate student found high levels of lead, a powerful neurotoxin, in a few urban gardens across the west side of Atlanta and alerted the Environmental Protection Agency. Since 2019, the EPA has been testing soil in the study area, but mistrust from residents has slowed that process. Many who live in the two historically Black neighborhoods in the study area view the federal government’s efforts with a jaundiced eye. They suspect the remediation is part of an effort to help gentrification flourish by pushing them off the now-valuable land where Black Atlantans have lived with toxins for a long time.

So far, the agency has been cleaning the site under its emergency response program for short-term cleanups, but the projects under this program have time and funding limits. In March of this year, the EPA added the site that spans 627 acres to the Superfund National Priorities List, making it eligible to receive federal funding for the investigation and long-term cleanup. As a Superfund site, the EPA will oversee remediation and evaluate public health and environmental risk associated with the contamination. Under the current scope, EPA officials say the cleanup will take about four more years, and the site will likely grow by as many as hundreds more properties. They estimate the entire cost of the remediation to be upwards of $49 million.

It will take testing of residents’ soil and blood to understand the extent of the contamination and its harm to residents’ health. Despite not doubting that their homes could be polluted with lead, some residents say that the community’s history of racism and displacement makes them wary of allowing the government into their homes to confirm it.

An eight-reporter team for Der Spiegel writes about the end of globalization (!) and what that means for Germany.

These days, even stoic government leaders seem overwhelmed by the barrage of world crises, tremendous upheavals and changing times. The global financial crisis, the refugee crisis, Brexit, the climate collapse, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have all happened in succession. It's more than enough to make a person dizzy. And yet, all this now simply feels like a preview for the massive change that is only now starting to role in: The age of globalization is coming to an end.[...]

Globalization has never been a purely economic phenomenon. For three decades, it was the defining world order, the guiding principle informing all political decisions. It determined how and where we work and how well we live and even who is a friend and who is a foe.

Linked to this was a clear vision of the further development of humanity: that the world would become ever more prosperous, and thus necessarily ever more modern, ever more liberal, ever more democratic. And that it would constantly become more Western. That economic ties would also create common values. And, more importantly: peace – at least more than ever before.

But all of these supposed certainties have just been steamrolled by Putin's tanks. These days, everybody who is anybody is proclaiming the death of globalization.

Finally today, Andrew Downie of the Guardian writes about the outrage among a group of Brazilian senators because a prosecutor dropped five criminal charges against Brazilian President Jair Bolosonaro related to his mismanagement of COVID.

A congressional inquiry into Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic ended last October with recommendations that the president face a range of charges, but a senior prosecutor, Lindôra Araujo, shelved five of the nine charges, leading senior lawmakers to request her conduct be examined.

Seven senators also asked the supreme court to ignore her decision as they promised not to let Bolsonaro and his supporters off the hook. “Those who want to halt the investigations into those crimes under investigation by the Covid CPI will not be allowed to rest,” said Humberto Costa, one of the seven senators.

The chief prosecutor’s office said evidence initially presented to the Covid inquiry “did not contain the proper individual proofs” required to meet the legal criteria for criminal charges. It also said relevant documents were missing and that evidence to connect the alleged crimes was lacking.

It called Araujo’s ruling strictly “legal”, while classing last year’s Covid inquiry as “political”.

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Defending democracy

We begin today with the Editorial Board of the Boston Globe saying that the nation’s lawmakers don’t have to wait for history (or the Justice Department) to do something about the jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The intended audiences for the Jan. 6 hearings have been clear from the start. The first is American voters, who can finally put an end to Trump’s political career by leaving him behind if he ever runs again. The second audience is much smaller. The House committee can’t hold anyone legally accountable for any crimes they committed, and so the case they made in public added pressure on those who can — officials at the Department of Justice. On multiple occasions, this editorial board has argued that Trump and his cronies who partook in his scheme to usurp American democracy must be put on trial because allowing them to go unpunished would send a dangerous message to future administrations that they can get away with anything.

But there’s a third audience that should be paying close attention to what has come out of the Jan. 6 committee, and that is the people who work in the very chambers where the hearings have been held. So far, Congress has not reinforced a single guardrail, let alone install any new ones, to protect Americans from a repeat of the Trump years. They are trying, as Lincoln might have put it, to escape history. 

Brian Klaas of The Atlantic gives a diagnosis that American democracy is dying.

I’ve spent the past 12 years studying the breakdown of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, in places such as Thailand, Tunisia, Belarus, and Zambia. I’ve shaken hands with many of the world’s democracy killers.

My studies and experiences have taught me that democracies can die in many ways. In the past, most ended in a quick death. Assassinations can snuff out democracy in a split second, coups in an hour or two, and revolutions in a day. But in the 21st century, most democracies die like a chronic but terminal patient. The system weakens as the disease spreads. The agony persists over years. Early intervention increases the rate of survival, but the longer the disease festers, the more that miracles become the only hope.

American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.

Jonathan Swan of Axios presents another installment for Axios’ “Inside Trump 25” series, the horrific look at what’s being planned in the event of a second Trump Administration,

Kash Patel, who is set to play an influential role in a second Trump administration, has described a new approach to ensure Trump does not repeat these mistakes.

"Everybody that gave us the [Attorney General] Bill Barrs of the world, that gave us [FBI director] Chris Wray, that gave us [former Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, that gave us [former CIA director] Gina Haspel ... everybody that said 'these are Trump people' should be put on the list and we're never going to listen to them ever again," Patel said on a conservative podcast, "The Lee Smith Show," in April.

"That's Step 1," Patel said. "Step 2, you listen to guys that have proven themselves to be, I don't want to say loyal to the president but loyal to the democratic process. ... You need guys like [Trump loyalist and former director of national intelligence] Johnny Ratcliffe, Ric Grenell, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, [Rep. Matt] Gaetz … you need folks like that."

Jim Jordan told Axios he thinks it likely Trump will bring back some of the final team who ran the Department of Homeland Security — such as Tom Homan, Mark Morgan and Chad Wolf — "because that was an agency that cleaned it up, did it right, secured the border."

Heather Cox Richardson writes for her Letters to an American blog about the efforts of President Joe Biden to defend democracies worldwide.

When he took office, Democratic president Joe Biden recognized that his role in this moment was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government.  

Rising autocrats have declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to respond to the rapid pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s focus on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and ethnic or racial similarities. Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports so enthusiastically that he is speaking on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which will explicitly not treat everyone equally and will rest power in a single political party.  

Biden has defended democracy across the globe, accomplishing more in foreign diplomacy than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less than a year after the former president threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken pulled together the NATO countries, as well as allies around the world, to stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The new strength of NATO prompted Sweden and Finland to join the organization, and earlier this month, NATO ambassadors signed protocols for their admission. This is the most significant expansion of NATO in 30 years.  

That strength helped to hammer out a deal between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations yesterday to enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to developing countries that were facing famine because of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. An advisor to the Ukrainian government called the agreement “a major win for Ukraine.” When a Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa today put that agreement under threat, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink called the attack “outrageous.”

Jon Allsop of Columbia Journalism Review evaluates the first “season” of the Jan. 6 Committee hearings.

Still, with the committee’s scheduled run now over, it’s worth reflecting on how it succeeded, not only substantively but also at what amounted, effectively, to an exercise in media production. In terms of format, any future hearings will be unlikely to deviate too much from what we’ve seen so far—indeed, the format has remained disciplined and consistent since the committee aired its first televised hearing, also in prime time, last month. As I wrote then, it’s a format that has innovated without being totally revolutionary, which I mean in a positive sense; each individual hearing has dispensed with the worst aspects of the genre—partisan mudslinging, preposterous grandstanding, a bloated running time—while retaining others, remaining recognizable as a Congressional hearing and thus retaining a basic aesthetic of institutional gravitas. (Not everyone will welcome this, but it makes sense for the committee given that its work is aimed at preserving institutions.) And the hearings arguably have been revolutionary when taken as a whole—radically reshaping the idea of what a long-running Congressional probe can look like.

I likened the first prime-time hearing to a long-form magazine article, in the sense that it synthesized things that were, for the most part, already public knowledge in a way that added fresh perspective and emotional depth. Since then, it’s been more common for media critics to compare the hearings to a prestige TV miniseries. Last night, that metaphor kicked into overdrive, with talk of a “finale” hearing and a possible “second-season pickup” (a reference to the prospect of future hearings). The structure of the final hearing, in fairness, invited such comparisons. It even featured a final-episode blooper reel of Trump struggling through a video message to supporters after January 6—though of course, what he said was scary, not funny.[...]

As I (and others) have written before, none of this is a bad thing, even though talking about deadly serious events through the prism of television techniques instinctively sounds trivial; as James Poniewozik, the Times’s great TV critic, put it after the committee’s first hearing, “storytelling is a tool for engagement, not just distraction.” Ultimately, that’s what the committee has done these past few weeks: tell a story. What matters above all, in real-life storytelling, is that the story is true—and this one demonstrably has been. As I see it, the committee has laid down a blueprint for how Congress might rethink future hearings and investigations to better engage the public on all manner of questions of public concern. It has also shown that TV can still be a useful vehicle for that type of engagement. “Many analysts have downplayed its importance with the rise of the Internet and social media,” CNN’s David Zurawik noted last night. “But these hearings have shown the enduring political and cultural power of the medium.” (Not that this is an either/or question: the committee has proven adept at viral clip-making, too.)

Natalia Contreras of the Texas Tribune reports that a group of conservative volunteers have begun examining the votes of the 2020 election in Tarrant County, TX.

Volunteers with the group, the Tarrant County Citizens for Election Integrity, told Votebeat Friday that their goal is to ensure the results of the election were accurate. Members are specifically counting votes in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, in which Sen. John Cornyn won with 73% of the vote in Tarrant County over his closest challenger, who won 13% of the county’s votes. The group also alleges a range of fraudulent activities related to the 2020 November general election in Tarrant and other counties across the state but has offered no evidence to support the allegations.

“We’re not here as Republicans or Democrats,” said John Raymond, a volunteer with the group. “A lot of people don’t have faith in our elections, so we’re just here counting, making sure that what the secretary of state’s numbers say are right.”

“There's nothing wrong with the election,” Tarrant County Election Administrator Heider Garcia said. “But the ballots are now public and it's their right [to inspect them], and we will do everything that we have to do to make sure they can exercise their right to inspect public records.”

The group’s tallying of ballots — spurred by unsupported claims of voter fraud and of flawed election audits in Texas — began more than a week ago. In contrast with high-profile reviews of ballots elsewhere in the country, such as the 2021 review ordered in Maricopa County by the Arizona state Senate, the Tarrant ballot inspection has until now attracted almost no notice. In fact, even the secretary of state’s office said it had previously been unaware of Citizens for Election Integrity’s ballot review. But it’s unlikely to be the last such effort.

The examination of ballots in Tarrant County might have something to do with the fact that Joe Biden was the first Democrat to win Tarrant County in a presidential election since Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Katy Swordfisk writes for about a study that shows that overconfidence bolsters anti-scientific views.

"Our research suggests that there may be a problem of overconfidence getting in the way of learning, because if people think they know a lot, they have minimal motivation to learn more," Light said. "People with more extreme anti-scientific attitudes might first need to learn about their relative ignorance on the issues before being taught specifics of established scientific knowledge."

The paper examined attitudes about eight issues with scientific consensus on which anti-consensus views persist: climate change, nuclear power, genetically modified foods, the big bang, evolution, vaccination, homeopathic medicine and COVID-19. Light said they found that in general, as people's attitudes on an issue get further from scientific consensus, their assessments of their own knowledge of that issue increases, but their actual knowledge decreases. Take COVID-19 vaccines, for example. The less an individual agrees with the COVID-19 vaccine, the more they believe they know about it, but their factual knowledge is more likely to be lower.

"Essentially, the people who are most extreme in their opposition to the consensus are the most overconfident in their knowledge," Light said. "Our findings suggest that this pattern is fairly general. However, we did not find them for climate change, evolution, or the big bang theory."

The degree to which attitudes on an issue are tied up with political or religious identities could affect whether this pattern exists for that issue, Light added.

Helen Branswell of STATnews reports on the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a worldwide public health emergency.

In an unusual move, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the declaration even though a committee of experts he had convened to study the issue did not advise him to do so, having failed to reach a consensus. The same committee met just one month ago and declined to declare a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.

Though the committee does not formally vote, a survey of the members revealed that nine thought a PHEIC should not be declared and six supported a declaration. When the group met in June, the breakdown was 11 against and three for. [...]

Monkeypox is endemic only in about a dozen countries in Central and Western Africa. But in May, public health officials in London reported six cases in people who had not traveled to endemic countries. Four of the six were in men who have sex with men.

The number of cases internationally has ballooned in the ensuing weeks, now reaching more than 16,000 in over 75 countries throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new parts of Africa, South Asia, and Australia. The United States has recorded nearly 2,900 cases.

The recent outbreaks of monkeypox, polio and Marburg show why we better learn the lessons of Covid. Unless we make significant investments in global health and strengthen systems to quickly find and stop new disease threats, we and our children will face the consequences.

— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) July 23, 2022

Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, writing for Der Spiegel, were the two journalists that were first contacted by a whistleblower about the Panama Papers story. Here, the journalists conduct the first-ever interview with the still anonymous whistleblower.

DER SPIEGEL: Tax havens seem to be of crucial importance for strongmen in autocratic regimes.

Doe: Putin is more of a threat to the United States than Hitler ever was, and shell companies are his best friend. Shell companies funding the Russian military are what kill innocent civilians in Ukraine as Putin's missiles target shopping centers. Shell companies masking Chinese conglomerates are what kill underage cobalt miners in the Congo. Shell companies make these horrors and more possible by removing accountability from society. But without accountability, society cannot function. [...]

DER SPIEGEL: Do you fear Russia might seek revenge?

Doe: It's a risk that I live with, given that the Russian government has expressed the fact that it wants me dead. Before Russia Today's media presence was curtailed due to Russia's attack against Ukraine, it aired a two-part Panama Papers docudrama featuring a "John Doe" character who suffered a torture-induced head injury during the opening credits, after which a cartoon boat sailed through the pool of his blood, as though it were the Panama Canal. However bizarre and tacky, it was not subtle. We have seen others with connections to offshore accounts and tax justice resort to murder, as with the tragedies involving Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak. Their deaths affected me deeply, and I call upon the European Union to deliver justice for Daphne and Ján and their families. And to deliver rule of law in Malta, one of Mossack Fonseca's former jurisdictions.

Vince Chadwick of Devex has an exclusive that an internal EU document shows that the European Union is recalibrating their diplomatic approach to the African continent over the war in Ukraine.

On the one hand, the report calls for “understanding and empathy for African challenges, and willingness to help find concrete solutions.”

But it also underlines that Europe is “the main indirect victim of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of aggression,” citing “dramatic consequences in all aspects (security, economic, financial, social, migration - 7 million refugees, unemployment).” And it opens the possibility of calibrating foreign aid from Europe according to Africa’s stance.

“Becoming more transactional in our approach, we should be clear about the fact that the willingness of Europeans (governments and taxpayers) to maintain higher levels of financial engagement in African countries will depend on working based on common values and a joint vision,” the report reads.

Despite billions of euros pledged to Ukraine, EU officials have so far said publicly that African countries will get the same amount of development assistance from the EU institutions as that initially agreed in their 2021-2027 country plans. However, the latest report points out that “it is clear that the longer the war will last, the less resources there will be.”

This will also impact on #globalhealth - losing Africa over Ukraine #geopolitics

— Ilona Kickbusch (@IlonaKickbusch) July 23, 2022

Joseph Steib of War on the Rocks details the failure of interventionist narratives and practices in the Global War on Terror and its effects on U.S. policy in Ukraine.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, neoconservative and liberal narratives built bipartisan support for a highly interventionist response. Despite their differences, these narratives converged in concluding that the solution to terrorism was transforming the countries from which it emerged, specifically through the application of U.S. military power in the Middle East. But when the war in Iraq turned into a violent quagmire, anti-interventionist critics from the nationalist right and progressive left got a new hearing for their ideas. Both sets of critics rejected the idea of transforming foreign societies, and were more skeptical of military intervention in general.

Indeed, the larger crisis of the U.S. political establishment is linked to the failure of the interventionist visions of the Global War on Terror. Support for the Iraq War became a political liability, as figures like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush discovered in the 2016 primaries. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both gained political momentum from their once-marginal critiques of an elite that had misconceived and misled the response to terrorism while neglecting domestic problems. Former interventionist intellectuals now focus on defending liberal democracy against assaults from within and without rather than on efforts to democratize the world.

In short, the constituency for post-9/11 dreams of global transformation has collapsed. In response, the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all sought to limit U.S. interventions. Now, as President Biden seeks to rally political support for his policy in Ukraine, it remains to be seen just how much the Global War on Terror and its backlash have transformed debates over U.S. foreign policy.

The independent Russian media agency Meduza received the permission of St. Petersburg media outlet Bemuga to publish the inspirational story of an opposition politician in St. Petersburg who came out as gay last month.

On June 24, in an interview with the LGBT+ health website Parni Plus (“Guys Plus”), Troshin came out as gay. While some may see his timing as imprudent— after all, the Russian government is currently both waging a war of aggression against Ukraine and preparing legislation that would further demonize LGBT+ people — Troshin saw coming out as both an important move towards a more progressive Russia and an important step in his personal journey.

“No matter what time you choose, there will always be someone who says it’s the wrong time,” Troshin said. “[But] all coming-out announcements, especially those of public figures, help to reduce homophobia and move society closer to living up to European values. The government is trying to lead the country in a completely different direction right now, of course, but I’m confident that progress can’t be stopped.” [...]
There’s no question that LGBT+ people have become a scapegoat for the Russian government as it seeks to justify increasingly illiberal policies as necessary measures against an attack on “traditional values” from the West. Troshin recognizes that while still maintaining his belief that equality will prevail in Russia. “I don’t think you can stop progress,” he said. “And that means that the LGBT rights situation will inevitably improve. I’m confident that it won’t be long before there are gay parades on Nevsky Prospekt and rainbow flags on government buildings, including Smolny, on pride week.”

Finally today, Michelle Young of The Wilson Quarterly writes about the efforts to preserve Ukraine’s artwork and cultural heritage.

In Lyiv, local volunteers worked rapidly to protect historical monuments in the old town, one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ukraine. The effort, according to Lilia Onyshchenko, who serves as the head of historical preservation for the city and spoke to the Los Angeles Times, involved using “whatever materials they could find—ideally fireproof.” She told them, “They built scaffolding around iconic structures, hoisted cranes to affix plywood to protect delicate stained-glass windows, stowed away gold-lacquered panels from the churches in basements and hallways and cached foam-wrapped artwork in bunkers.”

Marc Young, an experienced disaster relief operator, who assisted in bringing in vehicles for rescue efforts in Ukraine says, "Almost all cultural heritage sites, churches, and government buildings had some level of protection initially. Obviously it took some time after the bombing started to fortify them [with] sandbagging around foundations and boarding or corrugated metal covering of windows. This lasted for a short term at some sites in the West and Kyiv, as some had been removed during my three months. The 'protection' for the most part would have been from incidental contact. In my opinion a missile strike in close proximity would have rendered most of the efforts worthless. In Bucha and Irpin I did see indiscriminate damage that included churches and sites of historical importance."

Cities in eastern Ukraine did not have as much time as the ones further west. Kyiv and Kharkiv were hard hit, and artworks there could not be moved in time. The Washington Post reported that “the windows of Kharkiv’s main art museum have been blown out, subjecting the 25,000 artworks inside to freezing temperatures and snow for weeks. . . . Twenty-five works by one of Ukraine’s most celebrated painters, Maria Prymachenko, famed for her colorful representation of Ukrainian folklore and rural life, were burned when Russians bombed the museum housing them in a town outside Kyiv. Other museums in the capital are boarded up, their works still inside because those who would have evacuated them have fled.”

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Jan. 6 Committee Hearing wrap up

We start today with Ambassador P. Michael McKinley writing for Just Security that, at the very least, even the so-called “Team Normal” set of Donald Trump’s advisors should be held politically accountable for the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

These senior officials with a public trust should not be treated as heroes or concerned citizens because they had reservations at the time about the efforts to overturn the election results and to select new state electors. They did not act – not on Jan. 6, not in the weeks before the insurrection, and not in the aftermath as the enormity of what had occurred sank in. Some, like former Attorney General William Barr, who authorized the Department of Justice to look into “vote tabulation irregularities” – over the objections of the head of the Election Crimes Branch who resigned instead – cooperated in the early stages of the attempt to discredit election results. They are being given an accountability pass.

Their actions may or may not be prosecutable, but political accountability should be about more than building court cases and establishing criminal liability. Not all situations lend themselves to such an outcome. The evidence trail in the Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals did allow for convictions of political figures; the path forward has been less clear for the events of Jan. 6 but evidence is emerging that points in the same direction, and as the Department of Justice prosecutes hundreds of individuals involved in the assault on the Capitol.

Ambassador McKinley’s essay is especially — but fairly— harsh on former Vice President Mike Pence.

There was a very brief mention here of Andrew Weissman’s “hub and spoke conspiracy” essay in The New York Times by TheBradBlog. It deserves more eyes, so I am posting it here.

Before the hearings, federal agents and prosecutors were performing a classic “bottom up” criminal investigation of the Jan. 6 rioters, which means prosecuting the lowest-ranking members of a conspiracy, flipping people as it proceeds and following the evidence as high as it goes. It was what I did at the Justice Department for investigations of the Genovese and Colombo crime families, Enron and Volkswagen as well as for my part in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led by the special counsel Robert Mueller.

But that is actually the wrong approach for investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. That approach sees the attack on the Capitol as a single event — an isolated riot, separate from other efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election.

The hearings should inspire the Justice Department to rethink its approach: A myopic focus on the Jan. 6 riot is not the way to proceed if you are trying to follow the facts where they lead and to hold people “at any level” criminally accountable, as Attorney General Merrick Garland promised.

Bob Bauer and Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare note that the revelations of the Jan. 6 committee also show that Donald Trump and his lawyers lied their as*es off during the second impeachment trial.

These hearings show that Trump, through his lawyers, lied to Congress about the events of Jan. 6 in his second impeachment trial in denying that the then-president had meant to spark violence. In so doing, he undermined the constitutional process of impeachment—as well as the peaceful transition of power.

In determining whether to bring charges, prosecutors have to assess not merely the quality of the evidence against Trump but also the national interest in a prosecution of the former president. Trump’s lies in the impeachment process should properly figure into prosecutors’ deliberations on this point. After all, this was the constitutional proceeding by which he was supposed to be held accountable, and a conviction would have included a Senate judgment of his ineligibility to ever again seek office.  Corrupting the trial compounded the underlying conduct that prompted the impeachment by helping to sap the adjudication of its value—thus making prosecution arguably a more important mechanism for holding the president accountable.

What’s more, the hearings should prompt long overdue consideration of the processes by which Congress exercises its power to impeach and try presidents. Since 1974, it has been reluctant to conduct independent fact-finding. In the process affecting Bill Clinton, the House conducted virtually no independent factual inquiry, relying fatally on the independent counsel record compiled by Kenneth Starr. The Senate then did the minimum in the trial, conducting only three depositions. While the House conducted a substantial investigation in the first Trump impeachment trial, the Senate relied solely on House evidence and, though significant questions remained unanswered, passed on conducting any factual inquiry of its own.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post reviews the testimony of the two witness at last Tuesday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, Stephen Michael Ayers and Jason Van Tatenhove.

Ayres described himself as a “family man” who’d worked at a cabinet company in northeastern Ohio for 20 years. He’s a guy who speaks in short, gravelly voiced sentences, sometimes mere fragments. He’s a regular guy, whatever that might mean, who enjoys camping and playing basketball. He arrived at his place at the witness table because he was also a man who spent a great deal of time on social media absorbing the lies of former president Donald Trump about a stolen election. Ayres wasn’t part of a club or an organization when he went to Washington with his friends. He was a citizen borne forward on anger, patriotism and the assurance of like-minded pals that he was doing the right thing.[...]

Ayres has pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol and awaits sentencing; he was turned in by family who saw him bragging about it on social media. He lost his job, Ayres said, and sold his home. “It changed my life — and definitely not for the good.”

He was dressed as though he was trying to disappear, as if he was trying to fade back into a guy that no one notices on the street. He was wearing a gray suit and a blue shirt and a narrow red plaid tie. His hair was clipped short and his glasses were modestly stylish. And when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked him if he still believed the election was stolen, he sounded not so much like an evangelist preaching the gospel of truth but like a man who was just plain exhausted.

I will go into some more detail about the testimony and the “I’m sorry” of Steven Michael Ayers Friday night.

Eleanor Klibanoff of the Texas Tribune profiles Linda Coffee, one of the few remaining survivors involved in the 1973 SCOTUS case Roe v. Wade.

Nearly 50 years later, Coffee, now 79, is one of the only people involved in that legal battle who is still alive. Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney named in the suit, died in 2001, and Norma McCorvey, the pregnant woman identified in the filings as Jane Roe, died in 2017. Weddington died just after Christmas last year.

So Coffee alone has borne the unique burden of watching the U.S. Supreme Court, and its new conservative majority, meticulously pick apart and summarily reject every argument she once used to establish the constitutional protection for abortion.

“It’s a bittersweet thing for me,” she said. “Because I’m glad I got to do what I did, but it bothers me, really, to see how it’s ending up.”

You may also want to read Linda Coffee’s May 4  essay in The New Republic.

Ms. Coffee is an inspiration in many, many ways. And remember, she’s from Texas and still lives in the Lonestar State.

Jerusalem Demsas of The Atlantic is skeptical that there will be a large-scale migration because of the Dobbs decision.

Since Dobbs, speculation about liberals abandoning anti-abortion states hamultiplied on social media. The neuroscientist Bryan William Jones was one of many liberals who declared his intention to leave a red state (in his case, Utah) for one that respects reproductive rights. Such vows aren’t limited to Twitter, however. In a recent Leger/Atlantic poll of 1,001 American adults, 14 percent of respondents said that the end of Roe had them reconsidering where they lived, including 25 percent of people who voted for Joe Biden. Notably, 24 percent of respondents said that the political climate had factored into a previous decision to move.

This would hardly be the first time that political upheaval led Americans to vote with their feet. Black Americans fled racist violence in the Jim Crow South during the Great Migration; intolerance led Mormons to Utah and LGBTQ Americans to havens such as San Francisco and New York City. Crossing national borders is a much larger hurdle, but in the decade after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, The Journal of Negro History notes, 15,000 to 20,000 Black Americans entered Canada. More than a century later, tens of thousands of draft dodgers also entered Canada to avoid conscription in the Vietnam War.

I’m skeptical that abortion will similarly scramble the American urban landscape, however.

Eliza Mackintosh of CNN writes about the continuing surge of Omicron subvariant BA.5 worldwide.

The newest offshoot of Omicron, along with a closely related variant, BA.4, are fueling a global surge in cases — 30% over the past fortnight, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Europe, the Omicron subvariants are powering a spike in cases of about 25%, though Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, has said that number may actually be higher, given the “almost collapse in testing.” BA.5 is on the march in China, ratcheting anxieties that major cities there may soon re-enforce strict lockdown measures that were only recently lifted. And the same variant has become the dominant strain in the United States, where it accounted for 65% of new infections last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We have been watching this virus evolve rapidly. We’ve been planning and preparing for this moment. And the message that I want to get across to the American people is this: BA.5 is something we’re closely monitoring, and most importantly, we know how to manage it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, in a news briefing on Tuesday.

13% jump in #monkeypox cases today in the US, with 41 states + Puerto Rico & the District of Columbia reporting 1053 #hMPXV cases.

— Helen Branswell 🇺🇦 (@HelenBranswell) July 14, 2022


Jon Allsop of Columbia Journalism Review says that in light of the recent U.S. visit of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Biden’s trip to the Middle East, the Biden Administration needs to step it up on “press-freedom issues.”

It’s not uncommon for US leaders to skirt press-freedom issues in choreographed encounters with foreign counterparts with questionable records in that area. But the state of threat facing Mexican journalists is hardly a faraway issue: two of the reporters killed so far this year died in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego; in the past, Mexican journalists killed close to the US border have covered it, or lived and worked on both sides of it. And, more broadly, press freedom is uncommonly front of mind in US foreign affairs right now. Last night, Biden took off for his first presidential trip to the Middle East, where he plans to visit Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia. He plans to focus on regional stability—and oil. But, as a slew of headlines in various countries have noted in recent days, the trip risks being overshadowed by the killings of two journalists, in particular—one recent, the other dating to before Biden’s time in office, both of considerable relevance to his administration and the US.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent journalist for Al Jazeera, was killed in May while reporting on an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. She was a US citizen. After her death, eyewitness accounts and investigations by several major international news organizations and the United Nations concluded that she was shot by an Israeli soldier; CNN even suggested that she had been targeted...Over the July 4 holiday, the State Department said, in a 193-word statement, that officials had overseen an independent forensic analysis of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, which Palestinian officials handed over after initially refusing to do so. That analysis was inconclusive because the bullet was damaged. The State Department said that it had also been granted “full access” to official Israeli and Palestinian investigations. It drew on those to conclude, in strikingly vague and passive language, that while “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” US officials had “no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances” during the Jenin raid.

Yesterday, four Democratic US senators, including Dick Durbin, the majority whip, wrote to Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, criticizing the State Department’s findings, arguing that they do not constitute the “independent, credible investigation” for which Blinken himself called, accusing the Biden administration of a lack of transparency, and laying out thirteen further questions. Meanwhile, various commentators demanded that Biden raise Abu Akleh’s killing on his visit to Israel. Abu Akleh’s family, for their part, wrote Biden a furious letter in which they characterized the US response as “abject” and demanded that Biden meet with them on his trip.

Chris Mason of BBC News reports on the latest in the race to become the next British Prime Minister.

The contest to be our next prime minister is being remoulded once again.

Jeremy Hunt - the man who finished second for the Conservative leadership behind Boris Johnson in 2019 - told me he's now backing Rishi Sunak.

And he hopes plenty of his supporters will too.

Mr Sunak is well out in front and the working assumption is he will get one of the two golden tickets into the run off - the vote of Conservative Party members.

But the fizz and chatter, for now at least, is about Penny Mordaunt, the runner up in round one.

If she were to win this race, she'd be the most little-known prime minister on assuming office of modern times.

The challenge for the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss today, as she launches her campaign, is to prove later on that she is competitive and can grab a slot in the final two.

Annabelle Dickson of POLITICO Europe reports that the race to become British Prime Minister has gotten lowdown and dirty.

Dirty dossiers, claims of backroom stitch-ups, explosively timed Whitehall leaks and bitter behind-the-scenes briefing wars are all adding up to what many observers judge has been the dirtiest Tory leadership contest of recent times.

Such is the rancor that former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued a stark warning shot to colleagues as he was eliminated from the race Wednesday night.

“A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates: smears and attacks may bring short term tactical gain, but always backfire long term,” he tweeted. “The nation is watching, and they’ve had enough of our drama.”

Another failed candidate, Sajid Javid, condemned the “poisonous gossip” being circulated by rival camps. A third, Nadhim Zahawi, said last week he was “clearly being smeared.”

But the key players left in the game show little sign of listening.

Thisanka Siripalan of The Diplomat says that in the aftermath of the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the ruling coalition in Japan’s upper house has expanded their majority.

The upper house election went ahead amid a record-breaking heatwave and fierce debate over national security, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak yen, and the rising cost of living. But it will also go down in history for its connection to Abe’s assassination in the final stages of election campaigning.

The election victory ushers in a fresh mandate for Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. It is his second consecutive victory in a national election after taking office in October last year. But his electoral success will also put his leadership to the test, as Japan faces a mountain of long-term domestic and international issues. [...]

There will be many shifts in the internal dynamics of the LDP, with Abe’s assassination leaving a gaping hole. As an elite and influential member of the LDP, Abe was a symbol of stability and experience.

Finally today, Buffalo native Ishmael Reed writes for The New York Review of Books ($$$) about the past and present of his hometown.

My mother and my stepfather arrived in Buffalo in 1941 from Chattanooga, Tennessee. By then my mother had survived tragedies that would have discouraged many others. Her father had been murdered by a white man in 1934. In his last moments at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital, he told my mother, a teenager, that he heard the doctor say, “Let that nigger die.” When I received the death certificate, it noted that he had died of shock. She was left to tend to her mother, who suffered from schizophrenia. Then, in 1938, she was abandoned by my birth father. She was stabbed during a race riot on a Knoxville bus and received $3,000 in compensation only after her employer, a white woman, demanded it on her behalf.[...]

In her scathing study Power Failure: Politics, Patronage, and the Economic Future of Buffalo, New York (2006), Dillaway describes blunder after blunder wrought by the city’s white leadership, including the “Group of Eighteen” that emerged in the 1970s from the city’s new business elite. That group’s “master plan” for the city, she shows, failed to “include a plan for neighborhood development.” By the 1990s the Group of Eighteen had been replaced by more recent arrivals. Byron Brown, who came from Queens, was sworn in for the first of his four mayoral terms in 2006. In 2008 The Buffalo News reported that he was “refusing to comment on his Police Department’s decision to withhold basic crime information from the public.”

“The city’s racial divide left black professionals, entrepreneurs, and workers to fend for themselves,” Dillaway writes. “Politically, the African American community remained outside the patronage systems of the Italian, Irish, and Polish mayors. Other isolating factors included segregated schools and the inability to move into white neighborhoods.” In the 1960s, in one episode of unity, Blacks and whites joined in an effort to boost Buffalo’s economy by building the University at Buffalo’s promised second campus on the city’s downtown waterfront. In Dillaway’s account, an unnamed banker helped nix the project out of fear that the university would attract “New York radicals and people of color” to the city. The second campus was eventually built in the nearby town of Amherst. I don’t know whether this was the same banker next to whom I sat on a flight from New York to Buffalo; I was going to ask him how he had acquired one of the world’s finest modern art collections, but he downed a double vodka and went to sleep. It was 10 AM.

Have a good day, everyone.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Previews and reviews

We begin today with Hugo Lowell of the Guardian preview of the third hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

The panel will first examine the genesis of Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence to adopt an unconstitutional and unlawful plan to reject certified electors from certain states at the congressional certification in an attempt to give Trump a second presidential term.

The select committee then intends to show how that theory – advanced by external Trump legal adviser John Eastman – was rejected by Pence, his lawyers and the White House counsel’s office, who universally told the former president that the entire scheme was unlawful.

The select committee then intends to show how that theory – advanced by external Trump legal adviser John Eastman – was rejected by Pence, his lawyers and the White House counsel’s office, who universally told the former president that the entire scheme was unlawful.[...}

The select committee will additionally show that Trump’s false public remarks about Pence having the power to refuse to count votes for Biden – Pence had no such power – directly put the vice-president’s life in danger as the mob chanted “hang Mike Pence”.

In this photo, taken minutes after VP Pence was evacuated from the Senate Floor, Karen Pence closes the curtains. A person in the room told me she could see the mob outside and was fearful they would see where Pence was.

— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) June 15, 2022

Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Emma Brown of The Washington Post report exclusively that Ginni Thomas also maintained email contact with Trump lawyer John Eastman.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has obtained email correspondence between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to three people involved in the committee’s investigation.

The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, two of the people said. The three declined to provide details and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The committee’s members and staffers are now discussing whether to spend time during their public hearings exploring Ginni Thomas’s role in the attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, the three people said. The Washington Post previously reported that the committee had not sought an interview with Thomas and was leaning against pursuing her cooperation with its investigation.

Now does Liz Cheney want to investigate that?

Justin Hendrix of JustSecurity tells us about a massive database of tweets about misinformation, disinformation, and rumors” that were spread on Twitter about the 2020 election.

On the same day the Committee laid out evidence that Trump and his associates knew the election was lost even as they cynically pushed the Big Lie, a group of researchers from the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and the Krebs Stamos Group* published a massive dataset of “misinformation, disinformation, and rumors spreading on Twitter about the 2020 U.S. election.” The dataset chronicles the role of key political elites, influencers and supporters of the President in advancing the Big Lie, exploring how key narratives spread on Twitter.

Published in the Journal of Quantitative Description, the paper accompanying the dataset is titled Repeat Spreaders and Election Delegitimization: A Comprehensive Dataset of Misinformation Tweets from the 2020 U.S. Election. The dataset, which the researchers named ElectionMisinfo2020, “is made up of over 49 million tweets connected to 456 distinct misinformation stories spread about the 2020 U.S. election between September 1, 2020 and December 15, 2020,” and it “focuses on false, misleading, exaggerated, or unsubstantiated claims or narratives related to voting, vote counting, and other election procedures.”

“President Trump and other pro-Trump elites in media and politics set an expectation of voter fraud and then eagerly amplified any and every claim about election issues, often with voter fraud framing,” said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public. “But everyday people produced many of those claims.” The new report sheds light on how these claims proliferated from the margins to the nation’s Capitol.

The 5 groups of false election claims the Trump Administration utilized for the 2020 presidential election.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post writes about all the former president’s men and women.

As a candidate and as president, Trump liked to make his hires based on whether folks looked the part; he liked his statesmen and generals and personal representatives to exude “central casting” charisma and looks that are easy on the eye. And now these stars were stuck in videos with as much sheen as community access cable.

In his deposition, former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller is answering questions in muffled tones from behind a face mask while sitting in a stark, characterless room. The man once charged with speaking for the voluble Trump requires subtitles to make his words discernible. Ivanka Trump is positioned against an empty marble-patterned wall in hues of gray, from the color of lint to the color of saliva. Her heavy makeup only emphasizes that no amount of artifice can improve upon the dismal facts.

The elite circle of people who catered to a man who prided himself on his cinematic acumen has lost the power of its props, its costuming and its messaging. For an administration that loved nothing more than to surround itself with American flags by the dozens, there were few flags waving in the background as the pack of former colleagues, advisers and enablers sat through questioning by just-the-facts government lawyers. Instead of being wrapped in the accoutrements of patriotism, they were surrounded by all the trappings of grifters, cheats and con-men stuck in an interrogation room. The crafty pugilists were on the defensive.

Heather Digby Parton of Salon writes about the so-called guardrails of democracy that really weren’t guardrails at all.

The January 6 committee is now looking closely at what happened after that in the period between the election and the Capitol riot. What they have found is that the remaining protectors of the guardrails didn't do much to stop Trump from attempting to overturn the election.

Their reticence to do something other than watch from the sidelines led to Trump empowering Rudy Giuliani and the rogues gallery of misfits and weirdos who helped him spread the Big Lie that led to the insurrection. Some of the anonymous heroes even suggested in the press that Trump just needed to cry it out and then he would bow out gracefully. The Jan 6 committee hearing this week revealed that within the White House during this period they called themselves "Team Normal" apparently because they knew the Big Lie was a big lie and they didn't go out of their way to help Trump spread it. However, some helped Trump lay the groundwork for his claims that the election was being rigged and only balked after the fact when he insisted that it was. Some of them helped him raise hundreds of millions of dollars in a clear-cut scam while others are even currently working for people who are running for office on the Big Lie platform. They all stayed mum about what Trump and his crazy accomplices were up to. It's good they are telling the truth under oath to the committee but it doesn't speak well of them that they didn't step up when it really counted. Their silence led to death and mayhem and an ongoing crisis in our democracy.

The Washington Post reported some new details about the one group in "Team Normal" who did manage to hold Trump back from doing his worst in those final days: the lawyers in the Department of Justice(DOJ) and the White House Counsel's office. While Jared Kushner testified that he dismissed them as a bunch of whiners, it was their threats to quit that kept Trump from firing the Acting Attorney General and replacing him with an obscure toadie named Jeffrey Clark who was somehow persuaded that he could take over the DOJ and use it to help Trump overturn the election.

It occurs to me that Fiona Hill described a similar “two-track” way of working as it pertained to Ukraine during the first impeachment trial although, in that case, the foreign service and national security civil servants weren’t content to “watch from the sidelines.” 

Frida Ghitis of CNN writes about the Trump campaign’s election grift.

The Trump campaign’s alleged grift was well underway long before Election Day. He showed no compunction about tricking his supporters. In one of the most shameless scams, the Trump campaign extracted tens of millions of dollars by setting up the donations page on the campaign website that by default turned every donation into a recurring payment, according to reporting last year by the New York Times.

The scam snagged huge amounts of money. Among those who got caught up in it were Trump supporters – including a cancer patient – who saw their bank accounts drained. Complaints about the scheme overwhelmed fraud lines at credit card companies, according to the Times report. Despite issuing more than $122 million in refunds, campaign spokesman Jason Miller downplayed the controversy, arguing campaign records showed only a small percentage of complaints.

Not content with that shakedown, the campaign added another default setting, a so-called “money bomb” that doubled the donation of Trump supporters they took for suckers.[‘’’]

Trump’s campaign transgressions are in keeping with Trump’s own decades’ long track record of pushing the envelope on financial matters, no matter the consequences for others.

However, EJ Montini of the Arizona Republic says that the grifted, “cultists” that they are, don’t care.

Instead of election challenges, the select committee pointed out that the money solicited by Trump went to “a conservative organization employing former Trump staffers, to the Trump Hotel Collection, to the company that organized the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6” and others.

Amanda Wick, a lawyer for the Jan. 6 committee, said, “The evidence developed by the select committee highlights how the Trump campaign aggressively pushed false election claims to fundraise, telling supporters it would be used to fight voter fraud that did not exist. The emails continued through Jan. 6, even as Trump spoke on the Ellipse. Thirty minutes after the last fundraising email was sent, the Capitol was breached.”

The cultists do not care.

They refuse to believe.

They refuse even to hear the evidence, perhaps out of fear that they might believe, and they do not want to risk that. It’s a mindset that is difficult to imagine.

Charles Blow of The New York Times wonders if the U.S. will survive this period of mass hysteria.

But now, as the Jan. 6 committee is making ever clearer, his impulse to deceive and manipulate has taken on democracy-threatening dimensions.

Millions of people fell under the spell of Trump’s lies and remain convinced of them to this day. His lies have been used to incite an insurrection in which people were injured and some died, to push through a wave of voter suppression bills in counties across the country, and to help his Republican acolytes win elections.

This all raises, to me, a profound and frightening series of questions: Can a lie, in periods like this one, simply be stronger than the truth? I have faith that history will properly diagnose this moment, and that many who now occupy high places will be brought low by it. But, in the present, without the perspective that time and distance can provide, is fantasy more seductive than reality?

Is it, on a base level, more exhilarating to destroy something than to hold it together?

John Cassidy of The New Yorker talks about The Federal Reserve’s biggest interest rate hike in 28 years and wonders will it stem the tide of inflation.

In addition to raising the rate, Powell indicated that another three-quarter-point hike is possible at the Fed’s next meeting, in July. The members of its policymaking committee also raised their predictions for where the federal funds rate will be at the end of this year and next year—to 3.4 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively. “We anticipate that ongoing rate increases will be appropriate,” Powell said. [...]

When inflation began to rise last year, Powell resisted calls from some quarters—yes, that’s you, Larry Summers—for the Fed to hit the monetary brakes, describing the rise in prices as “transitory.” He dropped this term late last year, in time for the economy to be hit by the Omicron variant, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and a fresh lockdown in China—each of which carried a further inflationary shock. In retrospect, the Fed made an error by not starting to raise rates sooner, although, given that inflation is a global problem—it’s running ​​at 8.1 per cent in the eurozone and 7.8 per cent in the United Kingdom—it’s not clear how much of a difference a quicker policy reversal in the U.S. would have made.

In any case, the big question now is whether the Fed can raise rates at a more rapid pace than it previously anticipated, and bring inflation down, without knocking the economy into an outright recession. According to a new survey conducted by the Financial Times and the University of Chicago, which was published on Sunday, more than two-thirds of academic economists think that Powell won’t pull it off: they are predicting that a recession will start next year.

Damian Carrington of the Guardian writes about the enormous rise in temperatures in an area of the Arctic.

The heating is occurring in the North Barents Sea, a region where fast rising temperatures are suspected to trigger increases in extreme weather in North America, Europe and Asia. The researchers said the heating in this region was an “early warning” of what could happen across the rest of the Arctic.

The new figures show annual average temperatures in the area are rising across the year by up to 2.7C a decade, with particularly high rises in the months of autumn of up to 4C a decade. This makes the North Barents Sea and its islands the fastest warming place known on Earth.

Recent years have seen temperatures far above average recorded in the Arctic, with seasoned observers describing the situation as “crazy”, “weird”, and “simply shocking”. Some climate scientists have warned the unprecedented events could signal faster and more abrupt climate breakdown.

It was already known that the climate crisis was driving heating across the Arctic three times faster than the global average, but the new research shows the situation is even more extreme in places.

Steven Erlanger of The New York Times writes about the additional arms that the U.S. and its allies are sending to Ukraine.

The package, detailed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III after a meeting with allies at NATO headquarters in Brussels, includes more long-range artillery, anti-ship missile launchers and more rounds for howitzers and for a sophisticated American rocket system on which Ukrainians are currently being trained. Overall, the United States has now committed about $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

Mr. Biden said in a statement that he had told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine about the new weapons during a 40-minute call Wednesday morning. Mr. Zelensky and his aides have recently ramped up public pressure on the West to supply vastly more of the sophisticated armaments it has already sent, questioning their allies’ commitment to the Ukrainian cause and insisting that nothing else can stop the inexorable, brutal Russian advance in eastern Ukraine.

Western officials and arms experts caution that flooding the battlefield with advanced weapons is far slower and more difficult than it sounds, facing obstacles in manufacturing, delivery, training and compatibility — and in avoiding depletion of Western arsenals.

David M. Herszenhorn, Barbara Moens, Hans von der Burchard, Jacob Hanke Vela, and Maia de La Baume of POLITICO Europe report on the lack of unanimity by European Union members to approve Ukraine’s request for membership.

The European Commission on Friday is expected to recommend formal candidate status for Ukraine and for neighboring Moldova, but the final decision requires unanimity among the 27 EU heads of state and government who will gather for a European Council summit in Brussels next week but still don’t agree on what to do.

Rejecting Ukraine’s request — or even a fudge nodding to future “membership perspective” — would be a devastating blow for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, potentially demoralizing many of his more than 40 million citizens, and especially his military, which continues to take heavy causalities as it fights off Russian invaders who are now occupying large swathes of the south and east of the country.

Such a rejection would also further inflame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fantasies about reclaiming a sphere of influence resembling that of the Soviet Union and its superpower status during the Cold War. Supporters of Ukraine’s membership bid say that anything less than candidate status would encourage Putin to prolong the war.

On the fifth anniversary of the tragedy at the Grenfell Tower in London, Stephen Rand of The Article writes that Grenfell and the UK’s Rwanda “extradition” policy are indicators of a Conservative Party gone wrong.

The Grenfell Tower calamity was so tragic and sobering because, when we saw the faces of the deceased, we saw people who were, in effect, in the care of the state. The people who burned alive or suffocated in that tower block were the vulnerable and voiceless, the very people whom Michael Gove had said the Conservatives needed to support. Those were the people whom the state has let down for decades. To say that the Conservative government of five years ago alone had blood on its hands is to misjudge the scale of the issue. The victims of Grenfell were let down by the whole apparatus of the state for years — by Left and Right alike.

There is an inquiry into the disaster which will report later this year, and it must be allowed to run its course before anyone jumps to conclusions. At the same time, it is wrong to use the inquiry to dodge questions and let the indignation so many felt five years ago splutter into disinterest. It’s already clear that the residents of Grenfell had foreseen and warned of the tragedy before it took place, but were ignored by a system which should have been designed to help them. It ’ s also clear that the inquiry will paint a picture of victims, not only killed in their homes, but neglected through numerous iterations and layers of the state. However, it is a stain on the memory of all those who died that nothing of any real worth has been done to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.[...]

If Grenfell happened because of disinterest and inaction, the Rwanda deportation policy represents the exploitation of the vulnerable and voiceless for political gain. Thanks to ranting from the likes of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Liz Truss need to be seen to be doing something — anything — about people coming over the Channel on dinghies. They seem to think the answer is to be found in the crime and punishment policies of the 18th century. In 1788 the starving were punished for poaching by being transported to Australia. In 2022 asylum seekers are flown to a 21st century penal colony in Rwanda. It’s sickening.

Finally today, José Gomes Temporão, public health minister under former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva writes for AlJazeera that the U.S. should be prioritizing equitable access to COVID vaccines for Latin America.

Comprised of mostly middle-income countries, Latin America’s governments have found themselves truly caught in the middle. They do not have resources comparable to those mobilised by wealthy countries in response to the pandemic. But neither can they benefit from international support programmes often targeted only at low and lower-middle-income countries.

As pharmaceutical companies have prioritised selling doses where they can secure the highest profits and without a shared approach to advance the interests of the region as a whole, accessing COVID-19 vaccines has been an uphill struggle for the continent. As a result, more than 200 million people remain unvaccinated across the region.

A combination of large urban populations, heavy chronic disease burden, weak health systems, and a seriously unequal global vaccine rollout has led some experts to warn that Latin America could be the most vulnerable region in the world to the emergence of a new variant. This is not just a Latin American problem, but a problem for everyone.

Everyone have a good day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: More on the Jan. 6 hearings

We start today with Jon Allsop of Columbia Journalism Review critiquing both the substance and the spectacle of the first of six meetings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

Last night, at 8pm Eastern, the preemptive noise ceased and the hearing began. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chair, immediately started to lay out Trump’s culpability for the events of January 6, calling the attack on the Capitol “the culmination of an attempted coup”; then, Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair, picked up the thread, introducing videos of pretaped testimony that showed people close to Trump—his former attorney general William Barr; his daughter Ivanka—calling his claims of a stolen election “bullshit,” to borrow Barr’s word. There followed a harrowing montage packaging never-before-seen footage of the insurrection, followed by a break, followed by live testimony from two witnesses: Nick Quested, a British documentarian who was embedded with the extremist group the Proud Boys around the time of the insurrection, and Caroline Edwards, a police officer whom the mob knocked violently to the floor and who later slipped in her colleagues’ blood. The hearing concluded with another video montage, this time showing insurrectionists testifying that they had answered Trump’s call. The whole thing was over in a crisp two hours.[...]

Ahead of the first televised hearings in Trump’s 2019 impeachment, I wrote that pundits weren’t totally wrong to focus on optics given that persuading the public to care was the point at this staging post in a much broader political process; the problem, I wrote, was that many pundits have a sensationalized and shallow definition of what makes for good TV… The committee, I would argue, couldn’t deviate too far from the way congressional hearings typically look and sound; if it had done so, the hearing would not recognizably have been a hearing, and could easily have sacrificed its own gravitas and slipped into genreless confusion.

Within these obligatory boundaries, I found the hearing short, sharp, and innovative. Most of the committee’s members were not given the opportunity to grandstand, making it easier for viewers to focus their attention on the evidence and witnesses. Edwards’s testimony was wrenching in an understated way; if a single moment of the hearing stood out to me, it was watching her calm reaction, across a split screen, as she was shown footage of the mob slamming her to the floor. The committee was smart, too, to segue straight from its montage of unseen riot footage to a break, allowing the networks to cut in with commentary. If I had to compare the hearing to a work of journalism, I’d not pick public radio but a comprehensive magazine article: there were newsy scoops in there, but its much greater value came in laying out truths that we already knew with a searing depth, emotional resonance, and fresh perspective.

John Nichols of The Nation applauds Chairman Bennie Thompson’s use of the word “coup” in describing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The message was that the deadly January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump “was not a spontaneous riot.” It was the product of a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and to keep Trump in office as an illegitimate pretender to power. And, the chairman of the January 6 Committee explained, “Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down to the Capitol and subvert American democracy,”[...]

This was not a military coup d’état in which the generals of the armed forces employ their weaponry in order to remove the duly elected president or prime minister of a country. This was a self-coup, another form of coup d’état, in which a leader overrules the other branches of government in order to assume illegitimate and illegal power.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the scholar of fascism and authoritarian leaders who teaches history at New York University, immediately recognized the significance of the committee chair’s statement. “Kudos to Chairman Thompson for calling it a coup,” she said, shortly after Thompson finished his remarks. “Some still call it a riot, which does not capture the larger political design of overturning our democracy.”

Peter Bergen of CNN interviewed British documentary filmmaker Nick Quested about his embedding with the Proud Boys.

BERGEN: So, you reached out to the Proud Boys.

QUESTED: Yeah. We called up the Proud Boys. On November 4, 2020, when President Donald Trump falsely claimed that he won the election before a winner had been declared, we were like, “Oh, here you go.” Because one of the fundamental tenets of America is having a peaceful transfer of power. I called up Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys. He liked the film “Restrepo” that war reporter Tim Hetherington, Sebastian [junger], and I made together. And he just said to come down. So we went down to DC on December 11, 2020 and started working.

BERGEN: When a revolution happens, even the revolutionaries sometimes have no idea what is going to happen. To what extent did the Proud Boys know this was going to happen on January 6?

QUESTED: I don’t know. We did definitely look at the Proud Boys and say, “Well, are Proud Boys Jacobins? Are they Brown Shirts? Or are they football hooligans?” Or is it just Trumpism? Because that was a very unifying factor throughout the Proud Boys. There are no RINOs in the Proud Boys. It is the cult of Trump, and they were the muscle.

Marcela Garcia of The Boston Globe explores how anti-blackness among Latinos can lead to them joining white supremacist organizations.

The go-to explanation is the “Hispanics are not a monolith” mantra, which, while accurate, also feels a tad superficial. Sure, my identity and political views as a Mexican American raised in Mexico but living in Boston for the past two decades are likely to be different from a second-generation Mexican American from McAllen, Texas, or a recently-arrived Venezuelan refugee in Miami. It’s how some of the Proud Boys’ appeal to Latinos in the Miami area has been explained: Cubans and Venezuelans’ fear of communism and socialism made them turn to the Republican Party and, in some cases, drove them to become right-wing activists.[...}

While it may still be shocking for people to learn who the leader of the Proud Boys is — a Latino who, as the Capitol attack unfolded, reportedly took credit for it, writing in an encrypted text, “Make no mistake. We did this” — this isn’t the first time that Latinos have been involved in a self-identified, self-professed white supremacist collective, according to Hernández. Other examples of Latinos linked to white nationalist groups: Juan Cadavid, originally from Colombia, took part in pro-Trump violent clashes in Southern California in 2017; Alex Michael Ramos, a Puerto Rican from Georgia who beat a Black man during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, also in 2017; and Nick Fuentes, the young white nationalist influencer of Mexican American descent.

What drives a non-white person to take part in violence against racial minorities? “What’s the best way to distance yourself from feeling like you’re part of an oppressed group? It’s to align yourself with those who are part of the oppressors,” said Hernández. Additionally, whiteness has been very elastic throughout history, she said. “People who today we think of as white people with Italian American or Irish American ancestry were, at the turn of last century, viewed as non-white. Whiteness sort of expanded to include them.”

Manuel Roig-Fanzia of The Washington Post Magazine discloses that during Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein searched through Attorney General John Mitchell’s home office at the behest of his wife, Martha Mitchell.

On this particular Sunday, Martha was calling Woodward with an invitation. Her husband, recently indicted for a second time in the cascading Watergate scandal, had left her, moving out of their Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan. Would Woodward and his reporting partner, Carl Bernstein — she always pronounced it, incorrectly, as “bern-STINE” ― like to come up and look through her husband’s home office?

Woodward, discussing the episode at length publicly for the first time in an interview at his Georgetown home, said he did not want to miss such a rare opportunity. The sequence of events shows Mitchell at her most swaggering but also offers a glimpse at the reportorial techniques that made Woodward and Bernstein two of the most celebrated journalists of the 20th century. [...]

Satisfied that they were working with a solid source and were on firm legal ground, Woodward and Bernstein headed for the airport and caught the Eastern Air Lines shuttle to New York. When they arrived midafternoon, Martha Mitchell greeted them at the door of her Fifth Avenue apartment. She held a martini in her hand. She was “gracious” and “a little drunk,” Bernstein recalled. Mitchell gave the reporters a tour of the well-appointed space with its floral print sofas. Then, she pointed down a long hallway. John Mitchell’s office.

“Have at it, boys,” she told them. “Please nail himI hope you get the bastard.”

Now that is a dish that was served ice cold, lmbao.

Paul Waldman, also of The Washington Post, wonders about the reasons behind the rampant crime wave in rural America.

So how do we explain this? None of the things conservatives blame for crime — progressive prosecutors, lenient Democratic politicians, police feeling disrespected by racial justice protests, a lack of religious piety — are present in these places.

If — as we’ve all been told again and again — voters are fed up with “soft on crime” Democrats and are ready to “send them a message” in November’s midterm elections, to whom should a message be sent about the rural crime wave? And what should that message be?

The causes of the rural crime wave are as complex as those of urban crime, but at heart they’re about the pandemic. It isolated people from the friends, family and institutions that traditionally provide support. For many it caused sickness and grief. It elevated everyone’s stress level, brought new mental illness, left people feeling angry and powerless. Many took those experiences and tensions out on each other. [...]

My guess is that they wouldn’t say it’s a failure of political leadership. After all, in many if not most of the affected rural areas, every public official — from the sheriff to the mayor to the county council all the way up to the House member, the senators and the governor — is a conservative Republican.

Melissa Gira Grant of The New Republic warns that Pizzagate-like conspiracies are now targeting all LGBTQ people and can take place in any city.

Now, a little more than five years later, 25 percent of Republicans identify as believers of the Pizzagate successor QAnon, and the far right’s capacity for street violence has grown. At the same time, where once most elected Republican officials would at least nominally distance themselves from Pizzagate-pushers out on the fringe, that wall has largely eroded. Across the country, GOP lawmakers have waged a legislative crusade targeting queer and trans kids, smearing opponents as “groomers,” language that rhymes with the “pedophile” claims that inspired the attack on Comet Ping Pong. And where once the targets of these conspiracy theories were largely confined to a select group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies, the fearmongering—amplified by Fox News and prominent conservative social media accounts—is now targeted at all LGBTQ people, from national figures to members of your local community. The stage is set for a Pizzagate in any city.

Ms. Grant was writing about the incident at a Pride event in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas last week but sure enough...

NEW: A U-Haul with masked neo-Nazi white supremacists was pulled over near a Pride event in Idaho— an officer said they were detained en masse on suspicion of conspiracy to riot and had weapons in the truck, per @thedailybeast.

— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) June 11, 2022

I’m currently in Coeur d’Alene where an annual family event called Pride in the Park is projected to come under attack from fascist militias and right-wing / christo-fascist extremists.

— alissa azar (@AlissaAzar) June 11, 2022

Bible-browbeating bigots is nothing new at Pride events; I’ve encountered them. Armed neo-Nazi white supremacists, however, is something rare.

Be careful out there.

Inside Climate News reports on a study that concludes that “divisive” cultural issues and disinformation campaigns is delaying action on climate change.

A team of researchers and environmental advocates are urging governments and Big Tech companies to do far more to stop rampant online disinformation campaigns, which they say aim to delay action on the climate crisis by intentionally dragging the issue into the culture wars now dominating Western politics. Failing to stop such campaigns, the groups warned in a new report, could further splinter unity at November’s climate talks and jeopardize a global effort that has struggled to slash planet-warming emissions.[...]

The report, which analyzed hundreds of thousands of social media posts over the last 18 months, found that despite promises from tech companies in recent years to crack down on the spread of “fake news” on their platforms, posts with misleading or false information about climate change continue to flourish online. It also found that much of the disinformation is coming from a small group of actors who wield a large sphere of influence online and have found success in sowing doubt over the urgency of global warming by tapping into populist sentiments such as distrust in scientific experts and wealthy elites, as well as a nationalistic and isolationist view of global politics.

For example, the analysis found 6,262 Facebook posts and 72,356 tweets where users blamed other countries for climate change while deflecting the responsibility of their own country. Posts from Western countries tended to highlight the shortcomings of China and India, claiming they were not doing enough so there was no point in anyone acting. The study also found 115,830 tweets and 15,443 Facebook posts that called into question—often inaccurately—the viability and effectiveness of renewable energy technologies.

Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon write for Foreign Policy that Russian war crimes in Ukraine are so vast and unprecedented that efforts by various Ukrainian and international organizations to investigate and prosecute cases are becoming chaotic.

“The national legal system, even with an effective prosecutor’s office, couldn’t cope with 15,000 cases,” Oleksandra Matviichuk, a leading Ukrainian human rights lawyer and the head of the Ukraine-based Center for Civil Liberties, told Foreign Policy during a recent visit to Washington. “And remember, we are a country still at war. We have limited resources.”

There are so many alleged Russian war crimes that the investigative response is also unprecedented. The ICC, the premier intergovernmental body tasked with prosecutions of war crimes, has dispatched 42 investigators to probe possible war crimes in Ukraine, its “largest-ever” team of experts to carry out such a task. Other European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Poland, joined Ukraine in setting up a so-called Joint Investigation Team to cooperate on war crimes investigations, while the U.S. government is funding complementary efforts to document war crimes and support Ukrainian organizations dedicated to doing so. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a leading multilateral organization, has also established an expert mission to document human rights abuses. In Ukraine, meanwhile, the prosecutor general’s office has brought forward several war crimes trials against captured Russian soldiers and is investigating thousands more, while civil society groups are training volunteers on how to properly document evidence of possible war crimes, effectively crowdsourcing the early stages of investigations for future cases.

There’s a growing concern among some U.S. officials and Ukrainian activists that all these concurrent efforts could eventually trip over one another and may start doing more harm than good—that is, unless there’s a central hub set up to coordinate all the work. “It’s been a little bit chaotic,” conceded one U.S. official working on supporting efforts to document war crimes in Ukraine, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. (Van Schaack, for her part, insisted that these efforts are “decentralized,” but not chaotic, because each group is in constant contact with one another to coordinate their work.)

Rajeev Agarwal of The Diplomat writes about the efforts of India and Iran to reset their diplomatic relationship.

India and Iran share close historical ties from the times of Persian Empire and Indian kingdoms. Iran is an important nation in India’s neighborhood and in fact, the two countries shared a border until India’s partition and independence in 1947. Iran is also important to India as it provides an alternate route of connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asian republics, in the absence of permission for India to use the land route through Pakistan.

India-Iran relations have, however, witnessed ups and down over the decades, mostly owing to factors that go beyond strictly bilateral issues, like the stoppage of oil imports from Iran after May 2019 owing to U.S. sanctions following the revocation of the Iran nuclear deal, India’s close relations with Israel, and Iran’s ties with China, including signing a 25-year strategic partnership agreement. There are other sticky issues, too, like Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen launching drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and UAE, both close partners to India, or Iran’s statement on the Modi government’s abrogation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution, which gave special status to Kashmir. Iran on its end has not taken kindly to India succumbing to international pressure of sanctions on Iran. However, both countries have tried to keep their engagement above such occurrences and maintain a cordial trajectory of bilateral ties.

Despite the rather subdued engagement with Iran, there are a number of areas of convergence and enhanced engagement for India to consider. Afghanistan presents one such opportunity. The Taliban government has largely been isolated since it took over Kabul in August 2021. Iran was one of the few countries that did not withdraw its embassy from Kabul and has continued to keep its channels of communication open with the Taliban. India, on the other hand, was quick to wind up its embassy in Kabul but has now indicated that it is keen to reopen its embassy in some form shortly. A delegation from India met the Taliban foreign minister in Kabul on June 2. Iran and India have collaborated already in the past on Afghanistan and Iran’s role as a viable direct land route to Afghanistan is undisputable. India and Iran have the potential to forge a common and effective policy of engagement with Afghanistan in the future.

Finally today, Robin Givhan of The Washington Post celebrates the art of photographer Gordon Parks and those that are inspired by him.

Parks died in 2006 at 93, but his artistic impact is as potent as ever. He was a Black man documenting the highs and lows of his people, as well as the broader world. His legacy is expansive, arguably more than any other Black photographer’s. He moved through life wearing cowboy hats, leather bombers and ascots, breaking racial barriers, opening doors for others. His work explored issues of inequality and poverty that still haunt us, launching conversations that continue in art, politics and activism. And most important in 2022, Parks and his foundation help subsequent generations of Black artists see themselves, their communities and their possibilities more clearly. Examining their art, and looking at the ways in which it relates to the work Parks was doing more than 50 years ago, helps us to better understand the impact of history, human nature and systemic racism on our lives today. It also reminds us to pay attention to the simple joys of everyday life.

At a time when the country is spinning in circles trying to make sense of race, ward off inhumanity and define social justice, Parks’s artistic heirs are uniquely positioned to shed light, offer guidance and question the status quo. They’re doing so with heartening audacity and blessed urgency.

“It’s not that I see so much of him in one artist. I see some of him in a lot of artists. I feel Gordon is ubiquitous,” says writer Jelani Cobb, one of the executive producers of a recent documentary on Parks and incoming dean of Columbia Journalism School. “He’s one of those people who may not have the answer, but he helps you understand the right question.”

Everyone have a good day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: War and peace

We begin this morning with Tom Hill of the War on the Rocks blog writing about the monumental difficulties of attaining a negotiated settlement in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Negotiations to end this war, however, are not only a matter for the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators at Antalya, the Pripyat River, and elsewhere. External parties were part of the war’s structural and proximate causes. The war’s course, and how it ends, will have substantial consequences for many states other than Ukraine and Russia, including strategic interests related to national security and nuclear deterrence. The stability of any deal to end the war will also be shaped by external support, pressures, and guarantees — or lack thereof. One way or another, external states will be involved, and in significant ways, in attempts to negotiate an end to this war. [...]

This article is an attempt to chart some of the hypothetical options for securing a de-escalation, through a discussion of four of the core issues of the conflict: Russian military withdrawal, Crimea, the Donbas, and Ukraine’s independence and foreign policy identity. These options are not a prediction of what kind of war-termination deal will transpire, nor are they a proposal of what the parties should or should not accept. Instead, this is an exercise to illuminate the scale of the challenge for negotiators and to highlight the serious preparations (both in terms of policymaking and in terms of public expectations) that these negotiations will require.

As this analysis demonstrates, the incentives against Russia implementing key components of a peace agreement are significant. Tough trade-offs and external support will be needed for a sustainable peace agreement — including preparation of a clear and coordinated Western offer to Russia on sanctions relief in return for Russia’s acceptance and implementation of Ukraine’s most important demands.

Michael D. Shear of The New York Times reports that President Biden plans to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower oil prices that have skyrocketed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden could announce the plan to tap the reserve as soon as Thursday, said the official, who requested anonymity because the plan was not ready to be announced Wednesday night. The idea would be to combat rising prices at the pump.

The president’s public schedule, which was released Wednesday night, said he would deliver remarks Thursday afternoon on the administration’s “actions to reduce the impact of Putin’s price hike on energy prices and lower gas prices at the pump for American families,” a reference to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. [...]

If fully enacted, the president’s plan would release 180 million barrels from the reserve, which is intended to help the United States weather spikes in demand or drops in supply. About 550 million barrels are in the reserve, which has a reported total capacity of about 714 million barrels.

Bashar Deeb writes for POLITICO Europe writes about European double standards when it comes to refugees.

Indeed, bad actors like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have sought to blackmail the European Union with threats of allowing migrants to freely cross over from their countries. But what the response to Ukraine shows is that it’s not migrants who are being weaponized; it’s the EU’s own xenophobia. After all, no one can blackmail you with unarmed colored people unless you are scared of them. Only a Europe that is so fearful of its far right that it ends up adopting its racist agenda can be held hostage by people looking for a better life, a safe environment in which to raise their families.

And it’s not just those fleeing violence who suffer when the EU raises its drawbridges. It’s the EU’s own interests as well. When Europe waves in Ukrainians while leaving others floating at sea on engineless life rafts, or executes brutal pushbacks that leave people robbed and stripped naked at its land borders, it is directly supplying the Kremlin and its other enemies with propaganda.[...]

Some Western commentators have added fuel to that fire, with journalists describing Ukrainians as civilized Europeans with white skin and blue eyes, unaccustomed to the horrors of war. Commentary like that adds nothing to the story, but it does dehumanize the displacement experiences of black and brown people.

When I heard these comments, as a Syrian, I could not help but feel insulted, but because of my work, I can see where the problem lies.

Laura Bronner of FiveThirtyEight writes that, yes, Europe is more tolerant of Ukrainian refugees...for now.

In fact, that trajectory is not uncommon in humanitarian crises: Support for refugees can start relatively high in the immediate aftermath of a disaster to only crater as news cycles change, anecdotal accounts of difficulties emerge and sympathies move on. It’s one reason why support for Ukrainian refugees may ultimately prove to be short-lived, too.

There is one point in the scientific literature on public opinion toward asylum seekers that is quite clear, however: Not all refugees are distinctions between refugees and asylum seekers in some places, the terms are often used interchangeably. In a huge, 18,000-person, 15-country European survey, political scientists Kirk Bansak, Jens Hainmueller and Dominik Hangartner found a number of characteristics ranging from refugees’ religion to their ability to speak the language that made people less — or more — willing to accept them.

In particular, Bansak, Hainmueller and Hangartner found that people were 11 percentage points less likely to say they would accept a Muslim refugee than a Christian one. They also found people were less willing to accept men seeking asylum than women. How “deserving” people thought refugees were also played a role, with refugees seeking asylum for economic opportunity being far less accepted than victims of political, religious or ethnic persecution. Victims of torture were also more likely to be accepted, as were asylum seekers without inconsistencies in their stories…

Yes, a lot of the racism and ethnic resentment that led to Brexit was directed at the migration of Eastern Europeans to the UK, for example. The idea that some European countries may get tired of Ukrainian migrants at some point in the future is not as far-fetched as it might seem now.

Heather Cox Richardson begins her latest post at her Letters From an American blog writing about the hiring of Mike Mulvaney by CBS News as introduction of the need of the political media to take Republican batsh*t seriously because of the enormous stakes.

Here’s what’s at stake: On the one hand, Biden is trying to rebuild the old liberal consensus that used to be shared by people of both parties, instituted by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt to protect workers from the overreach of their employers and expanded under Republican Dwight Eisenhower to protect civil rights. To this, Biden has focused on those previously marginalized and has added a focus on women and children.

Biden’s new budget, released earlier this week, calls for investment in U.S. families, communities, and infrastructure, the same principles on which the economy has boomed for the past year. The budget also promotes fiscal responsibility by rolling back Trump’s tax cuts on the very wealthy. Biden’s signature yesterday on the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, making lynching a federal hate crime in the United States, is the culmination of more than 100 years of work.

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are defending democracy against authoritarianism, working to bring together allies around the globe to resist the aggression of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

On the other hand, the Republican Party is working to get rid of the New Deal government. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to face the midterms without a platform, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the committee responsible for electing Republican senators, has produced an “11-point plan to rescue America.” It dramatically raises taxes on people who earn less than $100,000, and ends Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

With Maine Senator Susan Collins’ “concerns” over the nomination of Judge Ketjani Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court having subsided (at least for the time being), Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post writes that attention has turned to the ever-so thoughtful and contemplative deliberation to be made by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Her vote is being closely watched not only in D.C., where Democrats are eager to put a bipartisan stamp on Jackson’s likely confirmation, but also back home in Alaska, where Murkowski is standing for reelection this year under a newfangled election process in which traditional party primaries have been replaced with an all-comers runoff system that lets voters rank their preferred choices in the four-candidate general election.[...]

Although she backed the vast majority of President Donald Trump’s policy initiatives and nominees, she was among a small number of congressional Republicans who frustrated and ultimately foiled the GOP’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under Biden, she has voted to confirm all of his Cabinet nominees, save for Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, as well as more than 50 of his judicial nominees — a record of cross-aisle comity matched only by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). [...}

Now all eyes are firmly on Murkowski. Collins on Wednesday announced she would back Jackson, saying the judge possessed “the experience, qualifications and integrity” necessary to serve. Graham, meanwhile, has strongly indicated he is likely to oppose Jackson’s ascension to the high court and questioned her aggressively about her sentencing record and other matters during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week.

Study: When white Americans heard about COVID hitting people of color harder, a lot of them mentally peaced out. This is ugly.

— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) March 30, 2022

That much has been obvious ever since the data showing the racial disparities was announced and, in response, The Damn Fool called for the churches to be filled on Easter Sunday 2020. NIce to have the data to back it up.

Thomas Edsall of The New York Times writes about both the gender and partisan gaps over whether the United States has become “too soft and feminine.”

Deckman and Cassese found a large gender gap: “56 percent of men agreed that the United States has grown too soft and feminine, compared to only 34 percent of women.”

But the overall gender gap paled in comparison with the gap between Democratic men and Republican men. Some 41 percent of Democratic men without college degrees agreed that American society had become too soft and feminine compared with 80 percent of Republican men without degrees, a 39-point difference. Among those with college degrees, the spread grew to 64 points: Democratic men at 9 percent, Republican men at 73 percent.

The gap between Democratic and Republican women was very large but less pronounced: 28 percent of Democratic women without degrees agreed that the country had become too soft and feminine compared with 57 percent of non-college Republican women, while 4 percent of Democratic women with degrees agreed, compared with 57 percent of college-educated Republican women.

Russell K. Robinson writes for the San Francisco Chronicle that “Hollywood still has a gay problem.”

With her win for Best Supporting Actress, Afro-Latina Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of color to nab one of the film industry’s most coveted awards in an acting category. But if you think her win, and other pro-LGBTQ speeches during the show, mean Hollywood has fundamentally changed, you’re wrong.

Hollywood still has a gay problem.

For decades, heterosexual and cisgender actors have built or capped their careers by playing LGBTQ characters to great acclaim. Think Tom Hanks bravely agreeing to play a gay man dying of AIDS in “Philadelphia” or Sean Penn subverting his macho reputation as a gay political trailblazer in “Milk.” This career strategy continues to pay off. Benedict Cumberbatch’s two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, including this year for “The Power of the Dog,” were for playing a gay man. Two of Penélope Cruz’s four Academy Award nominations, for her work in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and this year’s nomination for “Parallel Mothers,” were for playing queer women.

But the career boost does not work in reverse. Openly LGBTQ actors generally do not win acclaim for playing heterosexual, cisgender characters. No one is praising DeBose for “acting straight.” Indeed, DeBose is unusual because openly LGBTQ actors are generally not cast in Oscar caliber movies as queer or straight characters.

Finally, today, Jeffrey Barg, The Grammarian writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer that..well, the definition of a “woman’ is a little complicated.

“Can you provide a definition for the word woman?”

Until recently, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn would never have dreamed of asking such a question in a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, as she did last week of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. But in 2022, Blackburn properly deduced that she could score a few right-wing culture-warrior points by leaning into GOP anxieties over gender and shifting popular perceptions of it.

Jackson’s response — “No, I can’t. … Not in this context. I’m not a biologist” — sent many Republicans into predictable fits of apoplexy. [...]

By definition, I’m a definitions guy. Dictionaries are invaluable tools in our inexorable quest to be as precise and concise as possible. But as I’ve written previously, dictionaries are an ideal place to start your search and a terrible place to stop.

The definition of woman, which Blackburn faux-pretended was the easiest question she could ask, is a case in point.

Everyone have a great day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: President Zelensky addresses Congress

We start off today with Robin Wright of The New Yorker and her review of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress yesterday.

In a concise eighteen minutes, Zelensky outlined an ambitious wish list of actions both to help Ukraine and punish Russia. He once again called for the West to create a no-fly zone—to “close the skies” and to limit the ability of Russian warplanes to strike Ukraine’s cities. If a no-fly zone was “too much to ask,” Zelensky appealed for more advanced missile-defense systems and aircraft. “I call on you to do more!” he said. Despite growing pressure from Congress, President Joe Biden has resisted Zelensky’s request for the no-fly zone, and for the transfer of MiG-29 fighter jets that Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly. Washington fears that any direct U.S. intervention could spark a wider conflict. “That’s called World War Three,” Biden said last week. Zelensky also asked the U.S. to sanction every Russian politician and widen the economic dragnet. “I am asking that Russians do not receive a single penny they can use to destroy Ukraine,” he said. He encouraged individual lawmakers to mobilize aid and support for Ukraine from companies in their districts.

Russia’s aggression and its deadly attacks on civilians have spurred a rare moment of unity in Washington. Zelensky received two standing ovations from Republicans and Democrats alike—before he even started speaking. He received a third at the end of his remarks. The charismatic lawyer turned comic turned politician, who took office in 2019, was once a little-known figure in the U.S., whose name came up only in context of the first Trump impeachment. On Wednesday, he joined a short list of foreign leaders who have addressed a joint session of Congress: Winston Churchill, in 1943; Nelson Mandela, in 1990; and Pope Francis, in 2015.

Only one Republican member of Congress voted to impeach or remove Donald Trump from office for withholding military aid that President Zelensky needed for defensive purposes.

Just sayin’.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post asserts that, in part, because of Zelensky’s speech, the United States cannot simply sit on the sidelines when the fate of a democracy is at stake.

There were several new aspects to Zelensky’s message. First, while he asked for a no-fly zone or, as an alternative, aircraft to “protect our sky,” he sought at least the means of shooting down Russian planes: “You know what kind of defense systems we need — S-300 and other similar systems.”

The administration and many lawmakers have opposed a no-fly zone as a dangerous escalation that would inevitably involve military conflict with Russia. Likewise, the administration has resisted pleas for military aircraft as both escalatory and unnecessary. (Ukraine has more than 50 fighter jets.) But air-defense systems might bridge the gap, meeting Ukraine’s needs without raising the risk of World War III.

Second, Zelensky’s concluding appeal for the United States to end its reluctance to provide international leadership might have more impact than any domestic politician, think tank or pundit could. “You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” he said. With that, he demolished any notion that the United States can remain on the sidelines.

I won’t fault President Zelensky for asking for anything at this time; he needs all the help that he can get. And in principle, I agree with Rubin; when a democracy asks for help under these circumstances, the United States, the so-called greatest democracy in the world, should be willing and ready to do what it can

Brian Klass of The Atlantic writes that Russian President Vladimir Putin fell into “the dictator trap.”

Autocrats such as Putin eventually succumb to what may be called the “dictator trap.” The strategies they use to stay in power tend to trigger their eventual downfall. Rather than being long-term planners, many make catastrophic short-term errors—the kinds of errors that would likely have been avoided in democratic systems. They hear only from sycophants, and get bad advice. They misunderstand their population. They don’t see threats coming until it’s too late. And unlike elected leaders who leave office to riches, book tours, and the glitzy lifestyle of a statesman, many dictators who miscalculate leave office in a casket, a possibility that makes them even more likely to double down.

Despots sow the seeds of their own demise early on, when they first face the trade-off between allowing freedom of expression and maintaining an iron grip on power. After arriving in the palace, crushing dissent and jailing opponents is often rational, from the perspective of a dictator: It creates a culture of fear that is useful for establishing and maintaining control. But that culture of fear comes with a cost.

For those of us living in liberal democracies, criticizing the boss is risky, but we’re not going to be shipped off to a gulag or watch our family get tortured. In authoritarian regimes, those all-too-real risks have a way of focusing the mind. Is it ever worthwhile for authoritarian advisers to speak truth to power?

After playing a significant role in the installation of an American president, I honestly believe that Vladimir Putin believed that he was invulnerable.

Mikhail Viktorovich Zygar, a Russian journalist writing for Der Spiegel, points out that the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t the first time that middle-class Russians have sought to leave the country as fast as possible.

The departure of the Russian middle class from the country, which began on Sunday, Feb. 27, has become increasingly infused by panic. That was the day most European countries closed their airspace to Russian aircraft. Many Russians thought that the borders would soon be sealed and that there would be no way out.

The result was an almost tenfold increase in ticket prices from Moscow to Istanbul, Dubai, Yerevan, Baku, Bishkek and even Ulaanbaatar. Russia’s intellectuals flew out in all directions, taking the most bizarre detours. Indeed, the fear of closed borders remains one of the most persistent phobias of all former residents of the Soviet Union.

Over the past 20 years of Putin's presidency, as respect for human rights and freedom of expression has continued to deteriorate, many Russians established a red line for themselves, beyond which they would be willing to emigrate: if the borders were to be closed. Behind this is an historical trauma that Russian society still has not overcome, even though it lies more than one hundred years in the past. In October 1917, the Bolsheviks staged a coup and overthrew the liberal interim government. A few months later, they closed the borders, forbidding travel abroad, much less the export of money and valuables. The Russian nobility, poets of the Silver Age, outstanding avant-garde artists, dancers of the Russian ballet, scientists, writers and journalists were forced to seek ways to escape, abandoning all their possessions.

Andrey Pertsev, writing for the Russian independent news outlet Meduza, interviews a development expert about the effects that sanctions will probably have on ordinary Russians.

According to Zubarevich, it’s city dwellers, not villagers, who will experience the effects of the coming economic downturn most acutely. That’s because they have more to lose.

“Income per capita in Moscow is twice as high as that of Russia as a whole,” Zubarevich told Meduza. “Consumer demand in Moscow will change as the food and beverage industry shrinks. Housing, utility, and transport costs aren’t going anywhere. It’s too early to talk about anything else, because consumption patterns haven’t changed yet, but I will say that Moscow is skewed towards the service sector, and the risks there are quite high.”{...]

Even outside of the cities, where people can grow their own food in a pinch, nobody will be spared completely. “We’re at the beginning of a giant experiment: how will consumption patterns shift? Grocery stores aren’t going away, but everything else is an open question,” said Zubarevich. “But people [in rural areas] have gardens: they’ll plant more potatoes, some will grow cucumbers and tomatoes, some have animals — chickens, pigs. Life in those towns is a lot more closely tied to the land, so their losses will be mainly due to inflation.”

I’ve gotten sick of articles like this and this that seem to be extolling President Zelensky as paving the way for some sort of redefinition of some sort of old school version of manhood. Laszlo Solymar writes for The Article about some important history about the “spoils of war” that Soviet soldiers felt free to take in 1945 in Budapest.

That women can be regarded as spoils of war is not a new thing. When I came across the concept in my early teens I could not understand why, after the victory at Troy, Agamemnon brought Cassandra, quite openly, to his Royal palace in Argos. According to my understanding at the time, men were supposed to keep their wives and mistresses apart. Then it was explained to me that Agamemnon got Priam’s daughter as part of the post-war settlement and Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, should have accepted that. Well, she did not and that led to all kind of deceit and murder and eventually to her own demise.

The above reference to a Greek tragedy intends only to show that the idea of women as spoils of war is not a 20th-century invention. History is full of them, although very few of these women left written testimonies. I know something of the subject because I was in Budapest in January 1945 when the Soviet Army occupied the city. They were supposedly liberating the country. In fact, there was widespread plunder, looting and rape. They did not do it in an organised manner, in contrast to Berlin where rape was institutionalised. In Budapest it was a random, but not infrequent, event, left to the initiative or conscience of the individual soldier.

And there was looting, of course. The Hungarian language was enriched by new words, e.g. zabralni which came from zabirovatj, the Russian word meaning to rob with violence. The combat troops coming first concentrated on watches. The second and third waves were less discriminatory: they took everything: shoes, dresses, coats.

And not to at all diminish what happens when women are treated as “the spoils of war,” some men are treated the same way.

That’s what some people consider to be an “old school version” of manhood in a time of war.

Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review writes about how foreign policy “experts” shape American foreign policy views.

One age-old criticism has been that US networks, in particular, are overly reliant on “expert” pundits with professional and financial ties to the US national-security establishment and defense industry, and rarely give a platform to longstanding anti-war activists. That’s happening again with the Ukraine war. (Just yesterday, CBS News added H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, as a “foreign policy and national security contributor.”) These pundits are (mostly) not apologists for Putin’s invasion—far from it—and they do have expertise relevant to the current moment. Nor do they always agree. But they are not experts in the sense that media people often understand that word—an authority figure who can help put an issue or debate in its proper context—as much as actors often steeped in a particular foreign-policy worldview.

The experts to whom news consumers are exposed influence what they think about the war, and US policy “options” with regard to it. So does the language that they, and we, use. While it is part of our job to convene debates between insightful people, it is not our job to present asymmetrical policies as two equal sides of a coin or to hide the ramifications of those policies behind euphemistic language. As Putin has escalated his war, we’ve heard demands, from US foreign-policy elites but also from Ukrainian leaders, for a NATO “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, sometimes preceded by the adjectives “limited” or “humanitarian”—language that sounds de-escalatory but would actually entail direct military confrontation with a major nuclear power. Since the Biden administration and politicians and analysts from across the political spectrum oppose a no-fly zone as liable to start World War III, this view has gotten plenty of media airtime, and the policy has been characterized in similar ways by some prominent news reporters. But other journalists have too often bandied about the term without adding much context. This is highly consequential. Polls have already shown that public support for a no-fly zone can recede dramatically when it is characterized as an “act of war” or similar.

Moving into domestic politics, Julio Ricardo Varela of NBC News writes about the prevalence of white supremacist views in Latino communities.

Last week’s news that Enrique Tarrio, the former Afro-Cuban leader of the Proud Boys, was arrested on federal charges surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has sparked some interest in an apparently paradoxical reality: nonwhite Latino men worshiping at the altar of American white supremacy and providing cover to ensure that white nationalists stay mainstream.

As a journalist who’s been covering Latino communities for years, I know that this supposed paradox has never existed and that the country’s estimated 62.1 million Latinos have ideologies from one extreme to the other. American whiteness is a prize; it is where the power lies, and people like Tarrio would rather bask in that whiteness than fight against it and appear too “woke,” even it means tearing down democracy.

Non-Latino media have long been obsessed with proving the claim that more and more Latinos are longing to become white, which ignores the fact that being Latino is not just a sole racial construct but more of a messy combination with ethnicity. Voices from within the U.S. Latino community have responded by diving into the complexities of what it is to be Latino in modern-day America. While it is apparent that the country has become more multiethnic and multiracial, the quest for what Cristina Beltrán calls “multiracial whiteness” will always have an appeal in our community.

Igor Derysh of Salon that most of the states with the highest per-capita murder rates are states won by Donald Trump in 2020.

In all, eight of the 10 states with the highest per-capita murder rates in the country voted for Trump in 2020. None of those eight states have been carried by a Democrat since 1996. Mississippi had by far the highest murder rate at 20.5 murders per 100,000 residents, followed by Louisiana at 15.79. Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri all had murder rates higher than 14 per 100,000 compared to a national average of 6.5. The only states that voted for Biden to appear in the top 10 are Georgia — a longtime Republican stronghold that went blue by a tiny margin in 2020 — and New Mexico.

Large blue states that have attracted criticism from Republicans had murder rates significantly below the national average. New York's rate was 4.11 murders per 100,000 residents and California's was 5.59. According to the study, Mississippi's murder rate was 400% higher than New York's and 250% higher than California's.

Republicans and the media have also focused on Democratic-led cities in coastal states, but many Republican-led cities have posted much higher murder rates. Despite intensive media coverage of increasing crime in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district, the murder rate in that city was only half that of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's district in Bakersfield, a Southern California city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted Trump. Jacksonville, Florida, another Republican-led city, had 120 more murders than San Francisco did in 2020 (with only a slightly larger population) but received a tiny fraction of the national news coverage.

Mariel Padilla and Barbara Rodriguez of The 19th News write that hate crimes against the AAPI community continues to rise in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic waning (for now, anyway).

Hate crimes targeting AAPI people made headlines during the pandemic as officials, from President Donald Trump on down, used xenophobic rhetoric linking the virus with the AAPI community. Then, on March 16, 2021, a White gunman opened fire in three spas in the Atlanta area, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent. Those attacks galvanized many officials to speak out against the violence, or accelerate their work to prevent it. Congress passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta to speak with community leaders and state lawmakers.

In some states, including California, Illinois and New Jersey, policymakers are pushing new legislation, including bills to direct transit agencies to combat street harassment and require Asian-American history in schools. Now, one year later, people are worried that momentum has waned and not enough is being done even as the number of reported incidents of hate, particularly towards women, continues to rise dramatically.

In recent months, two women of Asian descent were fatally shot in spas in Albuquerque. New York City has seen a particularly gruesome stream of violence: a 67-year-old woman of Asian descent was punched 125 times, seven AAPI women were assaulted by the same man, one woman was pushed in front of an oncoming train and another was found stabbed to death in her own apartment after being followed. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, tallied nearly 11,000 hate incidents from March 2020 to the end of 2021, according to its latest findings.

Lenny Bernstein and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post write that based on the COVID surge presently in Europe, that Americans need to be prepared for another surge here, as well.

Infectious-disease experts are closely watching the subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, which appears to be more transmissible than the original strain, BA.1, and is fueling the outbreak overseas.

Germany, a nation of 83 million people, saw more than 250,000 new cases and 249 deaths Friday, when Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called the nation’s situation “critical.” The country is allowing most coronavirus restrictions to end Sunday, despite the increase. Britain had a seven-day average of 65,894 cases and 79 deaths as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center. The Netherlands, home to fewer than 18 million people, was averaging more than 60,000 cases the same day.

In all, about a dozen nations are seeing spikes in coronavirus infections caused by BA.2, a cousin of the BA.1 form of the virus that tore through the United States over the past three months.

In the past two years, a widespread outbreak like the one now being seen in Europe has been followed by a similar surge in the United States some weeks later. Many, but not all, experts interviewed for this story predicted that is likely to happen. China and Hong Kong, on the other hand, are experiencing rapid and severe outbreaks, but the strict “zero covid” policies they have enforced make them less similar to the United States than Western Europe.

Finally today, Jeffrey Barg, The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer on the vagueness of verbs in Florida’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” bill and why that vagueness is dangerous.

In the run-up to last week’s passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation — an ignorant assault on LGBTQ Floridians and their families — the bill’s proponents accused its detractors of not having actually read the text. They argued that nowhere does the bill say “don’t say gay,” and that the woke mob was twisting its meaning.

They’re right. The bill doesn’t say “don’t say gay.” But it is a grammatical mess that will make its implementation even more abusive than it appears at first glance.

“Does it say that in the bill? Does it say that in the bill?” Gov. Ron DeSantis upbraided a reporter who asked about “Don’t Say Gay.” “I’m asking you to tell me what’s in the bill because you are pushing false narratives,” DeSantis said.

If you say so, guv. Let’s look at the bill, which reads in part: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Everyone have a great day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: One year later

The thirty-ninth President of the United States and worldwide observer of democratic elections, Jimmy Carter, writes for The New York Times about why he fears for the future of American democracy and proposes steps to halt that downward trajectory.

After I left the White House and founded the Carter Center, we worked to promote free, fair and orderly elections across the globe. I led dozens of election observation missions in Africa, Latin America and Asia, starting with Panama in 1989, where I put a simple question to administrators: “Are you honest officials or thieves?” At each election, my wife, Rosalynn, and I were moved by the courage and commitment of thousands of citizens walking miles and waiting in line from dusk to dawn to cast their first ballots in free elections, renewing hope for themselves and their nations and taking their first steps to self-governance. But I have also seen how new democratic systems — and sometimes even established ones — can fall to military juntas or power-hungry despots. Sudan and Myanmar are two recent examples.

For American democracy to endure, we must demand that our leaders and candidates uphold the ideals of freedom and adhere to high standards of conduct.

First, while citizens can disagree on policies, people of all political stripes must agree on fundamental constitutional principles and norms of fairness, civility and respect for the rule of law. Citizens should be able to participate easily in transparent, safe and secure electoral processes. Claims of election irregularities should be submitted in good faith for adjudication by the courts, with all participants agreeing to accept the findings. And the election process should be conducted peacefully, free of intimidation and violence.

Lynn Schmidt of the St. Louis Post Dispatch asserts that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a big eff’ing deal.

Many on the right suggest that Jan. 6 was no big deal. There were no guns and few lives lost. The U.S. Capitol had been attacked before. Since the building was finished in 1800, there have been several dangerous incidents, including when the British set fire to it in 1814 during the War of 1812.

It is not what physically happened to the Capitol on Jan. 6 or the people working inside it that makes it a big deal in my opinion; it’s the justifications cited by nefarious actors that motivated the insurrection. The emergency comes from the idea that the express will of the people could be completely disregarded.
If a person voted and then that vote was unjustifiably not counted or thrown out, why would the person ever vote again in the future? A core tenet of our democracy is the belief and trust that our votes will be counted. The Trump administration and many in the GOP have injected doubt and cynicism into our electoral process. By subverting the system by which votes are cast and counted, they ensure there can no longer be accountability to voters. That is a very big deal for the survival of American democracy.

“The people working inside” the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was a big deal to me; after all, as I wrote in the pundit round-up of Jan. 7, 2021, I used to be one of those people.

And I’m still “sad and damned angry” about it.

Wes Moore writes for the Washington Post writes that while American democracy is far from perfect, it’s worth taking democratic actions to keep it.

On this first anniversary of what was unquestionably a concerted assault on the very principles that have enabled the Great American Experiment during the course of these past 245 years, we must determine who was ultimately responsible, and how it came to be that our system of government and the processes that are supposed to safeguard its continuance nearly failed — and still might.

Democracy, it’s been said, is not so much a noun as it is a verb. It’s what we do each and every day to make representative government possible and truly reflective of the needs and aspirations of citizens. It depends on adhering to the laws that govern our society broadly and interactions individually. And it means holding accountable anyone who would flout those laws in ways that undermine public confidence in offices and officeholders for self-serving purposes. It’s about safeguarding the pursuit of the common good and the just application of consequences for those who choose not to.

This system of government that we revere has at times failed the very people it promises to protect and defend. As we know and must reckon with, it’s been slow in granting the full measure of rights and privileges to all it claims to represent. It is, as we have seen, also fragile and subject to the darker agendas of those who would subvert its founding principles for personal aims and partisan ends.

Our painful history of failing to live up to the principles of democracy is not, however, an indictment of the principles themselves.

Renée Graham of the Boston Globe reminds us that there were two insurrections on Jan. 6, 2021.

Never let it be forgotten that there were two insurrections on Jan. 6. The first was the violent breaching of the Capitol that left five people dead and injured about 140 police officers. The second came hours later, also in the same hallowed space, when 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election. That, too, was an attempted breach of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.

Republicans could have repudiated the Big Lie; instead, it’s become a GOP version of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” A recent national University of Massachusetts Amherst poll found 71 percent of Republicans still denounce the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. They also blame Democrats, Antifa, and the Capitol Police for the insurrection. And, of course, they want investigations into the lead-up to Jan. 6 to stop. In a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, one third of Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans, said violence against the government is sometimes justifiable.

Meanwhile, the GOP is doing what has happened so often in American history — burying the truth in unmarked graves. That continues with how this planned anti-democratic assault is being discussed as a riot. It was bad enough last May when Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia compared the insurrection to a “normal tourist visit.” But Mike Pence, the former vice president targeted for assassination by those who built a gallows and chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” continues to portray anything about Jan. 6 as some kind of vengeful partisan folly by Democrats.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian announces the creation of a database, The Insurrection Index, that tracks elected officials involved in attempts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

The Insurrection Index seeks to identify all those who supported Trump in his bid to hold on to power despite losing the election, in the hope that they can be held accountable and prevented from inflicting further damage to the democratic infrastructure of the country.

All of the more than 1,000 people recorded on the index have been invested with the public’s trust, having been entrusted with official positions and funded with taxpayer dollars. Many are current or former government employees at federal, state or local levels.

Among them are 213 incumbents in elected office and 29 who are running as candidates for positions of power in upcoming elections. There are also 59 military veterans, 31 current or former law enforcement officials, and seven who sit on local school boards.

When the index goes live on Thursday, it will contain a total of 1,404 records of those who played a role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. In addition to the 1,011 individuals, it lists 393 organizations deemed to have played a part in subverting democracy.

Matt Fuller of the Daily Beast chronicles his memories of a long day at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, most of the media still hasn’t really figured out how to cover Republicans. I’d include myself in that statement. We mostly just pretend Jan. 6 didn’t happen, as if it’s totally normal to let Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pontificate about gas prices or inflation while we ignore the lies he continues to spew about who’s actually responsible for the attack—or the role he played in undermining our democracy and endangering those of us who were at the Capitol that day.

It’s difficult to write a story in which you stop in every paragraph to note whether the particular Republican you’re mentioning returned to their chamber the night of Jan. 6, with blood still drying in the hallways, and voted to overturn the will of the people. But maybe we should.

I certainly look at those Republicans differently. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma—the old John Boehner ally who’d post up in Capitol hallways and deliver colorful quotes about House conservatives—isn’t so funny to me anymore. [...]

Many of these Republicans would have proudly overruled the voters. They are people who not only downplay the violence and the seriousness of the attack but celebrate rioters, who lionize the insurrectionists who paid the ultimate price for believing their lies.

Jean Guerrero of the Los Angeles Times points out that some antecedents to the actions taken on Jan. 6 and since can be found in the run-up to the passage of California’s Proposition 187 in 1994.

What force could make a vast swath of Americans want to hurt others and end our hallmark peaceful transitions of power? The answer is predictable: About 75% of pro-insurrection adults, according to the study, have the delusion that Democrats are importing “Third World” immigrants to “replace” them.

This racist and largely antisemitic conspiracy theory is not relegated to the dark cellars of 8Chan and Telegram. It’s openly promoted by leading conservatives, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson. And it’s a theory that has violence at its core, inspiring white terrorist massacres.

That’s not a new play for Republican leaders. They opened the Pandora’s box of “replacement” paranoia in California in the 1990s with scaremongering about a decline in the state’s white population and an imagined Mexican “reconquista.” Trump’s senior advisor Stephen Miller, for one, grew up in California during that time.

That nativist craze took many forms, including border vigilantism and unfounded voter fraud claims — precursors to Trump’s Big Lie. During the 1988 elections, uniformed guards were hired by local Republicans to patrol mostly Latino neighborhoods, where some held up signs saying “Non-citizens can’t vote.” In 1990, ousted San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock peddled voter fraud hysteria on his talk show.

I’m not rushing to Jan. 6th without first acknowledging the significance of Jan. 5th. The determination, organizing & resilience of Black voters in Georgia resulted in the election of the first Black Senator since Reconstruction & the first Jewish statewide elected official ever.

— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) January 5, 2022

Joan Walsh/The Nation

The anniversary of the landmark January 5 Georgia victories, which elected a Black minister and a Jewish activist to the United States Senate, reminds us that Democrats have the majority of voters on their side, across the whole country—at least when they’re able to vote. The anniversary of January 6 reminds us that the minority has most of the racists, the violent people, and those who want to topple not just Democrats but democracy. Also, and maybe most important: It reminds us, or should remind us, of those who insist that they’re not about any of those things but who defend Trump and his insurrectionists nonetheless. Those people, who include almost all Republican leaders, might be the most culpable of all.

Democratic congressional leaders are planning an array of events to commemorate the January 6 tragedy. But Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is orchestrating the most fitting memorial: He plans to introduce voting rights legislation this week.

“Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness—an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration—they will be the new norm,” Schumer wrote in a letter to senators on Monday, in which he laid out his plans to move on democracy reforms and voting rights.

Gregory D. Stevens of STATnews notes that one difference between the reactions of the United Kingdom and the United States to the appearance of the Omicron variant is the willingness of citizens of the U.K. to “protect the NHS.”

In the U.K., for example, which began seeing the effects of Omicron ahead of the U.S., officials from England’s prime minister to managers of top soccer clubs have called on the public to “protect the NHS.” The NHS, or National Health Service, is the U.K’s taxpayer-funded, government-run health system. Although it is impossible to attribute success to a single message, England has been vaccinating people at a rate three to four times greater than the U.S since mid-December.

That loyalty is what makes a message like “protect the NHS” ring true. The system is nearly universally seen as a public good, and in need of protecting. Most people in the U.K. understand that getting vaccinated benefits the NHS precisely because the public has an equal stake in its success. An unvaccinated person who ends up in the hospital takes resources such as beds, doctors, and nurses away from others.


In the U.S., we like our doctors but are not loyal to the health care system. Many Americans valorize the doctors and nurses working on the frontlines of Covid-19, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who wants to protect the medical groups, HMOs, and other complex insurance convolutions undergirding our system. In fact, just 19% of the public believes the health care system works at least “pretty well,” less than in every other country studied.

I’m not going to argue the merits or demerits of any health care system like single-payer in this space.

I will say that it would take a long time for any system that’s adapted anywhere to become a “national institution” like the U.K.’s National Health Service.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker says that the economy should rebound further in 2022 but beware of the “known unknowns.”

The first known unknown is the virus. Most economic forecasters are assuming that the Omicron wave, like the Delta wave, will recede before too long, leaving behind little lasting damage to the economy. “Omicron could slow economic reopening, but we expect only a modest drag on service spending because domestic virus-control policy and economic activity have become significantly less sensitive to virus spread,” the economic team at Goldman Sachs said, in unveiling its 2022 predictions. That assessment could well turn out to be accurate—let’s hope it is—but it’s too soon to say. Over the weekend, the seven-day average of new covid cases set a record of more than four hundred thousand. Since Christmas Eve, bad weather and Omicron have caused the cancellation of more than fifteen thousand commercial flights. In the last week of December, the number of people eating at restaurants was about thirty per cent below the same period last year, according to data from OpenTable.

Even if the U.S. economy does get through the Omicron wave relatively unscathed, with few or no lockdowns, the new variant could affect production in the Chinese economy, which supplies many components and finished goods to the U.S. China just recorded the largest number of weekly cases since suppressing the initial wave of the pandemic. The spread of Omicron represents the biggest challenge yet to Beijing’s “zero covid” policy. A decision to lock down large parts of China’s economy could exacerbate problems in the supply chain. In a globalized economy, no country—even one as big and powerful as the U.S.—exists in isolation.

Charles Blow of The New York Times writes that “critical race theory” has become the new “Shariah law” of conservatives.

The truth is that critical race theory is generally not taught in grade school, but that was never the point, in the same way that in the 2010s conservative lawmakers were never really concerned about what they called the threat of Shariah law in the United States when they introduced bills to ban it in American courts; what they wanted was to advance a racist, Islamophobic agenda.

As a 2019 report born of a partnership between USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity pointed out, conservative lawmakers had drawn on the same basic rubric for these bills, a model perfected and touted by a network of far-right activists and organizations like the Center for Security Policy, a think tank founded in the 1980s by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official “who pushes conspiracy theories alleging radical Muslims have infiltrated the government.”

The report detailed how “at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law.”

Critical race theory is the new Shariah law, a boogeyman the right can use to activate and harness the racist anti-otherness that is endemic to American conservatism.

Finally today, Jeffrey Barg, The Grammarian writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer about a new and controversial addition to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary has just added cultural Marxism to its records. And that’s a big victory for a lot of people who fearmonger about cultural Marxism but probably don’t even understand what it is. Not because they can now look up the term — rather, the term’s addition to the dictionary means it has gained enough cultural currency that it warrants a definition. People who are worried about cultural Marxism washing over vulnerable, patriotic capitalists talked about it enough that dictionary editors finally took notice.

What is cultural Marxism, and why now, more than 80 years after the term first appeared in print?

The OED’s primary definition is worth reading in full: “Used depreciatively, chiefly among right-wing commentators: a political agenda advocating radical social reform, said to be promoted within western cultural institutions by liberal or left-wing ideologues intent on eroding traditional social values and imposing a dogmatic form of progressivism on society. Later also more generally: a perceived left-wing bias in social or cultural institutions, characterized as doctrinaire and pernicious.”

Those qualifiers speak volumes: “Used depreciatively,” “said to be promoted,” “perceived left-wing bias,” “characterized as.” The OED isn’t saying that cultural Marxism is all of these things, but rather that it’s perceived and presented as such. In other words, the people using this term probably have an agenda, so watch out.

Everyone have a great day!