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Cover image of Fiona Hill's book
Next read; link to the publisher's site. Listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview, from Oct. 6.

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30.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"...but so what? We won." Permalink to this item

That could be the motto of the Smash and Grab party, pulled out of Heather Cox Richardson's latest daily, chronicling the attempted (and ongoing) devolution of our democratic republic. She quotes W. Bush campaign operative Brad Blakeman, in regard to the successful theft of the 2000 election, abetted by Roger Stone, John G Roberts Jr, Brett "I like beer" Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barret, among others.

Before that, there's mention of a book that Peter Navarro's put out, trying to whitewash his own role, paint the former guy, Steve Bannon and himself as modern heros, with a nonviolent, "legal" plan to stay in power despite losing the 2020 election.

"Although Navarro’s story is iffy, it does identify an important pattern. Since the 1990s, Republicans have used violence and the news coverage it gets to gain through pressure what they could not gain through votes."

How like the sub-I-alone-can-fix-it bootlicker to turn this debacle into a book deal. And meanwhile, FG's legal team is trying to cover his tracks by arguing before the Supreme Court (with a third of its members mentioned above, what a coincidence) that the House committee has gone beyond its ambit with criminal referrals to the DOJ, "not engaged in the process of writing new legislation, and thus it is exceeding its powers and has no legitimate reason to see the documents Trump is trying to shield."

Well. The nut of the contest is in the question from the committee's vice-chair (and weirdly, the daughter of W's Veep, reaching the pinnacle of his career thanks to that 2000 election), Rep. Liz Cheney:

“Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceedings to count electoral votes?”

Of course he did. We all saw his inaction for 3+ hours on January 6, long after the election had been fairly decided, and five dozen "legal" challenges had been laughed out of court.

The worst, and most corrupt president in U.S. history is also the most criminal, a fact that was evident during the 2016 campaign, but which the "so what? We won" crowd chose to ignore. Fast forward past two open-and-shut impeachments with nearly all of the quisling Republicans in the Senate rendering a "so what?" verdict on blatant high crimes and misdemeanors, and he might, someday, get what's coming to him, or he may continue to grease his way out of jams. Said greasing may come through more corruption of our electoral system, which is why, yes, "new legislation" is at the very heart of the matter.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which, in another amazing coincidence, John G. Roberts Jr. was instrumental in gutting, in 2013) is of the essence. As is the For the People Act, already passed by the House.

If the Republicans take control of the House by gerrymandering and voter suppression in 2022, and/or tip the precarious edge of the Senate, the former guy (and Bannon, and Navarro, etc.) may yet succeed in stealing an election of their own.

And they won't need Stephen Miller to write an inauguration speech; Brad Blakeman already has it covered.

Four years ago this month, AlterNet published Martin Mycielski's 15-point guide to surviving authoritarianism, originally "Year 1 Under an Authoritarian Regime," subtitled "What To Expect?" and written at the very start of the Trump administration. Mycielski wrote from his experience in Poland, and Kali Holloway introduced the piece. Read it and reflect on the predictability of the pattern we're in.

"9. They will try to take control of the judiciary. They will assault your highest court. They need to remove the checks and balances to be able to push through unconstitutional legislation. Controlling the judiciary they can also threat anyone that defies them with prosecution, including the press (see point 3).

"Preserve the independence of your courts at all cost; they are your safety valve, the safeguard of the rule of law and the democratic system. ...

"13. They will try to rewrite history to suit their needs and use the education system to support their agenda. ..."

Donald Trump is no longer an American politician, he's an existential threat to American democracy

— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 29, 2021

Boxing Day, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The sequel Permalink to this item

We watched the (very) well-dressed one, Downton Abbey last night, in the same venue where we'd watched all the other episodes, cozy at home, no added cost. I'm surprised to see it's more than two years old, fresh before we knew we were in a pandemic. The general public generally loved it, it made a ton of money, and some of the critics were grumpy, as is their wont. Plot too predictable? Too many sub-plots? We didn't care about whatever the shortcomings, it was a gala reunion with old "friends."

Photo from home

And it was a palliative for our Christmas dinner that wasn't, after one member of the clan "tested positive" as we say these days, others were "exposed," and we had the bittersweet protection of "regrets," while making arrangements for a later exchange of gifts and treats, today.

It's so good to be together once in a while; the memory of adventuring up north last weekend to be with family is still warm, and my photo of Jeanette with her loaf of Finnish fruit bread ready for the oven two days ago—showing off one of the wonderful aprons my sister made for us in a Christmas past—has collected likes and loves from our family and friends in our neighborhood, and around the world, from Australia to Boston, Transylvania to Buhl, Portland to Chicago, California to Canada.

The shared thing that I was looking to track down turns out to be the work of Andy Singer, and his "NO EXIT" cartooning, a jolly branch of the genre's evolutionary tree that my brother also inhabits. "Siddharta Claus is Coming to Town," a comic homage to J. Fred Coots Sr.'s best-seller, and indirectly to that first cross-country trip in a van, with Junior, and his grandson.

Christmas, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Launch day Permalink to this item

Globe view, from Google Maps

I didn't make the 5:20 MST call, but the replay of today's show is on YouTube. The sound starts just past 2 min. in, with Carl Sagan's voiceover, and then a wonderful multilingual introduction, and a generous explainer.

Who knew it was going out of French Guiana? That's where the primary launch site for the European Space Agency, "and the home for all Ariane launches."

All systems "go" for launch at 75 minutes to go, and it's already light there. Where is this French Guiana, anyway? Ah, South America, just a few degrees above the equator (to maximize the "free" rotational velocity), and 52.6°W longitude. GFT is UCT-3h, two hours earlier than eastern. FG is about equally distant from France, and Idaho, I see.

The James Webb Space Telescope has been around, with more than 10,000 people from around the world touching it on the way. Drove to LA, shipped through the Panama Canal to French Guiana, up the elevator to the top of the rocket, rolled out to the launch pad on rails, and now... it's on its way to Lagrange Point #2, scheduled to arrive in about a month. It will be "slightly off the true balance point, in a gentle orbit around L2," not quite a million miles away. It won't be the first ambassador from Earth to arrive: "There are already several satellites in the L2 orbit, including the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, and the Herschel and Planck space observatories."

Lagrange points diagram from NASA

Christmas Eve 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A good day to count (and share) one's blessings Permalink to this item

Dec. 2020 photo

Fresh snow and lots of people on holiday made our morning very, very quiet. When the sun peeked into our yard, the adornment of the kale encouraged me to put on my boots and take my camera outside. I edited a few of the resulting images into a Facebook album, and then spent time sharing holiday greetings with friends and family, looking over grandbabies (and great-grandbabies) and kitchens and pies and lovely blue sky and redwood trees and a remarkable capture of the Turneresque sunset over Boise yesterday.

It was bright afternoon when I came around to Marc Johnson's blog post, All the Shining Gifts... with its bounty of favorite holiday items, and closing with a discursion about artificial, and other trees. We have two Christmas trees inside, and two outside; the former artificial, the latter well-rooted and fully alive.

They are 20", 50", 48", and 75 ft. tall, each suited to its place. The interior ones get decorated, and maybe one of these years we'll do something outside, too. The four foot Dwarf Alberta Spruce would look good with some ornaments, and the 75 ft. fir could be adorned with one of those new-fangled tree projector lights to good effect.

The big one came with the yard (back when it was only medium). The Peter Pan spruce was a gift from my mother (so it's at least 30 years old now), who knew I didn't like cutting down a live tree for temporary décor that much. (Still, it is jolly to go up in the mountains and find one that needs culling.) Shaded by our big oak most of its life, it has refused to outgrow its spot so well, I wish some of our other trees would take a hint.

23.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's the economy, or how stupid are we? Permalink to this item

HCR's Dec. 22d Letter is quite the read this morning, starting with the amazing rebound of the US economy this year. Growth in the last quarter outstripping China's, more new jobs (4.1 million) than in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined, really?! Statistics can be tricky, but Wikipedia's tabulation of job creation by presidential terms, sort by "Created" (with Biden shown "pending," less than one year in) has a Hoover-Trump one-two punch. The 1929-1933 disaster of "approximately" 6.4 million jobs lost was nearly a 20% drop. The trumpian/pandemic disaster was only a 2% drop, but 3 million workers. GWB's 8 years eked out a plus sign, just barely.

In other BREAKING news, Joe Biden saved Christmas, too! You've noticed by now that your Christmas packages are arriving on time, right?

And, "there are signs that some Republicans might want to get out from under whatever might be coming." Including Big Liar, himself?! Check this out:

"[I]n a new interview, quite casually, when talking about his border wall rather than about the election itself, Trump himself undercut the Big Lie altogether: “We built almost five hundred miles of wall,” he said, “and had we won the election it would... be completed by now.”

"His" border wall, well. Our barrera México–Estados Unidos was running 649 miles a decade ago, and a whopping 52 more miles (that's not "almost five hundred," btw) were added under our great real estate promoter and humbug, still obsessing about Build. The. Wall. Long after the US Postal Inspection Service caught up with Steve Bannon's wire fraud and money laundering, and the last-minute pardon. (The good news is, state charges are still possible for Bannon, if we don't get him for some other felonies.) Speaking of "the world's single most crossed international boundary," librarian Carlyn Osborn wrote in 2015 that "a billion dollars worth of goods [were] moving between the countries every day." Including some of your Christmas presents, maybe.

Lightly edited https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adams_onis_map.png

Anyway, FG admitting he's a loser was not yesterday's best sound bite. Check out Candace Owens' horrid interview bit, in which her interlocutor seems the voice of reason between interruptions. He got the vaccine, you know, and the booster, and much better medical attention than you're going to. (I know she's moved on, but wouldn't this be great with Sarah Cooper doing the interview, instead of Owens?)

Meanwhile, way out in Idaho, the fastest-growing state in the nation for five years running (percentage-wise), that in-migration seems to be lowering the average level of compassion. Audrey Dutton's piece in the Idaho Capital Sun provides an overview: ‘Who do you believe?’ The answer, for many, is why Idaho lost a battle against COVID. "Legislators spreading false claims. Parents revolting against public health. Crushed hospitals."

It's not just parents; our Central District Health board has a revolting Republican hack, and an anti-vax pathologist making $millions on Covid-19 testing, in its War on Public Health. (For his part, he said his business' net income was “much less than half” of the $10 million the Sun estimated it grossed, and his "personal net income last year was zero." With "a stipend" he gave himself to scrape by. Didn't say how much he's made on his misinformation performances.)

Solstice Permanent URL to this day's entry

The roads not taken Permalink to this item

After our first winter driving expedition in nearly countless years, I'm looking up the alternate routes we might have used, and what news there is from the big crash that was well into the recovery and clean-up by the time we arrived, fortunately. My first two "Christmas breaks" after I'd moved to Idaho had car crash stories associated with driving back to the midwest to visit family. The first was a one-car deal, my buddy's Land Cruiser upended after going for a spin on the largest patch of black ice I ever want to see without my ice skates on. We hit the dry pavement leading with an aft quarter, flipped onto the roof and slid to a stop, suspended by our seatbelts over I-80 near Elk Mountain. Second winter, deep snow and snowing on the Great Plains, foomfed into a drift and off the road. The guy behind us had a winch, but no traction to pull us out, and we'd have to wait for morning before the nearest tow driver was up and running. We did get a ride into town, to the all-night café to stay warm and wait, while the next car coming along followed our tracks and center-punched the driver side door, then managed to leave the scene and the pieces for us to pick up. Those two lessons were enough for me to learn not to drive back and forth in winter.

My second dormmate, a south central Idaho boy, taught me the basic rule of north-to-south in Idaho's winter. US 95 and ID 55 if the weather is good enough, US 95 if not so good, and I-84 through the Blue Mountains in bad weather. (Staying home wasn't an option that I recall.) For our trip, it looked like there might be a conveniently timed "window" in the storms for our trip up north, and the return. "Might" doesn't make right though, and the weather didn't match that long-term estimate. The day before our planned departure, while I was gauging how much snow was landing, and how much might be cleared off by the time we got there, I saw that I-84 was CLOSED from Ontario to Pendleton, the full 167 miles through the Blues. We might be leaving a day later? But it was reopened by morning, and in spite of a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and it snowing here in Boise, we set off on our adventure, on schedule.

We were out of the snow well before the state line, and by the time we were up and out of Ontario, there was sun breaking through to warm and dry the road even with the temperature in the high 20s. The worst we had in the Blues was snow flurries at the second pass, a cheery scene for our in-car lunch break at Deadman Pass, and then clear sailing down and out to the Columbia plateau. Astounding!

Thursday drive

Some hours later, we were at the Sprague Lake rest stop, learning how to use our Binax rapid antigen tests as the sky thickened and lowered, and it started to snow a bit. The last 48 miles ended up taking us 2 hours, as wet pavement and snow changed to icy pavement and snow, and crawling traffic into and through town. Only saw one slideoff on the way, but it felt like it could have clustered in an instant. A low-speed cluster, probably, but still. In Spokane Valley, the surface streets were fully ice-coated, and even stopping and restarting at traffic lights was an adventure for everyone, snow tires or no. (That one situation where studded tires are what you want.) We made it unblemished though, and parked our car for the next three days.

Monday morning, forecasts and road reports iffy in various ways, we considered a delivery in Colfax, decided against it, came back mostly the same way we'd gone up. I-90 west out of Spokane was kind of a mess, but not as bad as Thursday night had been. Dry pavement in both lanes for a while, then at least the right lane, with snow and slush in the left. 60 mph seemed about right for conditions with light traffic and big following distance, but of course some folks wanted to go 70. As we got higher and the air colder, that passing lane got more and more dodgy.

Map image cropped from WSDOT tweet

A few miles before Ritzville, a light show of multiple emergency vehicles ahead, and then flares, and then... a cluster. Two slideoffs way down the right bank. Multiple vehicles into the median, a big rig with its flatbed load of railcar wheel sets scattered, a van with its front-end smashed completely, and another tractor trailer, jack-knifed into the median with its back end blocking our left lane. Half a dozen emergency vehicles, including an ambulance on scene, so we missed the excitement by an hour or more, probably. The WSDOT tweet report might have been useful if we'd been watching Twitter while driving? "Please use caution" is always good advice.

No report of major injuries or death, at least, but I see there have been three fatalities right around there so far this year. Also, 8 years ago to the day, there was a 9 vehicle crash that killed one and hospitalized 6 , and its origin story is likely close enough to the one we saw yesterday:

"It started around 12:45pm in the westbound lanes of I-90 about 7 miles east of Ritzville. Troopers say it began as a two car collision after they passed a pickup truck. One of those two cars then hit two other SUVs. Just after that, there was another crash involving three other SUVs and about 30 seconds later, two semi-trucks and a car collided at the crash site."

Long return story short, it was winter conditions and worthy of caution most of the way down 395 to Pasco, there was thick fog up Cabbage Hill, which turned out to be valley inversion that we cleared just before Deadman Pass, where it was above freezing, and no snow on the road from there to home. Hard rain along the Grande Ronde, a flurry up Ladd Canyon, sunshine and temperatures in the 40s before we made it back to town just as the sun was lighting up Lucky Peak and the Boise front.

This morning, I took a look at alternate routes, to find that we could've gone through Colfax, and Walla Walla to Pendleton for the same 205 miles and maybe no more than an hour longer? With none of that Sprague to Ritzville I-90, or 395. That brought back the memory of stacks of AAA maps for our big family car trips, and the TripTik® planners my dad used to get.

Plenty of virtual maps on hand (and accurate weather reports and forecasts to go with), including AAA's TRIPTIK® app, I see. But I'd used my old school notions of which roads to connect, decided against the extra time and distance on a bad weather day (as best I could tell: we brushed about 3-4" of snow off the car before our 8am PST departure). White Bird? It needed chains the night before, ugh. Colfax and then west on WA 26 seemed a lot longer. But I didn't ask the right question, which turned out to be SV-Colfax-Pendleton, and let Google Maps work the routing to show the way. Not sure I would've taken the hour-longer deal with unknown road conditions ahead, but such an amazing facility, especially for those of us old enough to remember adding up the mileage for town-to-town segments and trying to figure "which way is shorter," while guessing about speed limits, traffic, weather, road conditions.

At any rate, Sprague-to-Ritzville is now posted in my personal annals of winter driving danger. I did let Google Maps find us a nice detour around Kennewick that we used for the way up: US 395 exit at Stanfield, then Edwards Road straight north to connect with US 730 and enjoy the rather scenic south bank of the Columbia, the "back way" up to Pasco, across the mouth of the Snake River. Now wishing I hadn't been quite as time (and daylight) focused, and had found a place to stop and take some pictures. (That was before our spot of sunshine popped, though.)

Update:
I-94 back in Wisconsin said "hold my beer" in freezing rain at at dark-45 Thursday morning (12/23), between US 10 and US 12 near Osseo. At least "dozens" of vehicles in it, and for sure a god-awful mess of trucks, at least one of which caught fire, with two cars underneath.

15.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our democracy is at stake Permalink to this item

Sorry to keep hammering the same old story, but our three existential crises are what stick in the mind, the third most important one incessantly in the daily news. My headline pulled from the middle of Heather Cox Richardson's daily, dated Dec. 14. On the day that the former Chief of Staff, and once upon a time Freedom Caucus back-bencher, Mark Meadows was found to be criminally in contempt of Congress (and went to one of the yawping heads on Fox News to publicly whine about it), what he has coughed up included "one text in particular [that] jumped out":

"A Republican member of the House texted Meadows on November 4, the day after the election, saying: “HERE’S an AGRESSIVE [sic] STRATEGY: Why can t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS[?]”

"That is, a Republican member of Congress wanted Republican-dominated state legislatures not even to wait to see who had won the election—none of those states had been called by November 4—but simply to ignore the will of the voters, choose their own electors, and hope that the Supreme Court would hand the election to Trump as he had been saying for weeks it would."

You know, like SCOTUS abetted the 2000 steal. It's the latest in a long line of conservative racist theories, put into action. "Declare this is BS" and ignore the will of a majority of voters in a whole state. The audacity is breathtaking, criming right out in public and daring our "innocent until proven guilty" system of justice to respond. Calling it "patriotic" as you go, standing for the anthem, and defacing flags.

What's between our resurrected apartheid and a genuinely democratic republic is the minority tool of the filibuster in the Senate, artfully employed, and disemployed to suit the moment. The Republicans gracefully carved out an exception for the debt ceiling, now up to $2.5 trillion on a 50-49 vote. And for ramming anti-abortion Supreme Court Justices through confirmation (after the "black presidents don't get to appoint anybody in their second term" exception).

"We are all watching what is unfolding on the House side,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said today, “and it will be interesting to reveal all of the participants that were involved.”

Yes, won't it be "interesting." It'll be interesting to see whether our system can grind some justice out of this surfeit of guilty parties, and bring down the hammer on the perpetrator in chief. Nobody's been able to hold their breath long enough for that to happen, so far.

From my 2004 photo of the US Capitol dome

Illustrating today's post with an excerpt of a photo I took in 2004, the one and only time I've been inside the US Capitol. It seemed a holy moment to stand under the dome and gaze through its oculus to contemplate "The Apotheosis of Washington" spinning overhead. Looking again, I see there are no people of color depicted. And see that it was painted in 1865. I recommend a visit to that Wikipedia page, and its finer detailed images of the fresco, including unobstructed images of the six perimeter scenes, allegories of War, Science, Marine, Commerce, Mechanics, and Agriculture. Neptune, in his shell chariot at lower left of my excerpt, Washington upper right, with the goddess of Liberty to his right, wearing "a red liberty cap, symbolizing emancipation, from a Roman tradition where slaves being manumitted would be given a felt cap," and a fasces in her right hand.)

14.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Top story Permalink to this item

Same old, same old, pandemic and insurrection, take your pick. (After the headline-grabbers with less staying power, like a tornado running 220 miles on the ground of Kentucky.) In spite of some high-profile contemptibles, and the capo dei capi still on the loose, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is amassing astounding amounts of evidence for what we all saw happen, and a lot of what we didn't see in the Trumpublican attempt to steal the 2020 election. Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, after noting that more than 300 witnesses have testified, and more than 30,000 records collected:

“[W]e have to address the handful of outliers soberly and appropriately. ... The Select Committee’s report referring Mr. Meadows for criminal contempt charges is clear and compelling. As White House chief of staff, Mr. Meadows played a role in or was witness to key events leading up to and including the January 6th assault on the United States Capitol. ...

“Mr. Meadows started by doing the right thing—cooperating. He handed over records that he didn’t try to shield behind some excuse. But in an investigation like ours, that’s just a first step. When the records raise questions—as these most certainly do—you have to come in and answer those questions. And when it’s time for him to follow the law, come in, and testify on those questions, he changed his mind and told us to pound sand. He didn’t even show up.

“Now, this happened the same day his book was published. The same book that goes into detail about matters the Select Committee is reviewing. ... He had also appeared on national television discussing the events of January 6th. ...”

And Vice Chair Liz Cheney:

“The violence was evident to all. It was covered in real time by almost every news channel. But for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act when action by our President was required, essential, and indeed compelled by his oath to our Constitution.

“Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim—imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all knew his duty required. These text messages leave no doubt. The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.”

She quotes the Fox News talking heads begging the president to call of his mob (after they'd been beating the drums to incite them for two months). And most pathetically, Donald Trump Jr., who "texted again and again, urging action by [his father]." With my emphasis added:

“Quote, ‘We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,’ end quote.

“But hours passed without the necessary action by the President.

“These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes. And Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments.”

Spoiler alert: Yes, he did. He very much did corruptly seek to obstruct and impede Congress's official proceeding to count the electoral votes documenting his loser status. He never had that moment when he "became presidential," not signing off on the $trillion tax give-away, not trading love letters with Kim Jong Un, not in the Helsinki debacle capitulating to Putin, not after Charlottesville, not when the pandemic spread to our shores, not when he was impeached for his high crimes and misdemeanors, and the complicit Republicans in the Senate bailed him out.

He does not have "lead" in him. All he has is lie, cheat, steal, delay, manipulate, grab, whine, shout, bully, pout, cry, and stumble down a ramp, drawing out the worst from intimidated quislings. Two tweets from Fernand Amandi boil it down. This morning:

The most important story for today, tomorrow, of the last 60 years and for the years to come, is that a @GOP President and dozens of elected + appointed Republican officials incited a violent coup to overturn American democracy — and they have yet to be brought to justice.

— Fernand Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) December 14, 2021

And the one from November 20, that he has pinned, which could be an epigraph for the Barton Gellman piece I talked about in the previous entry:

Do people actually understand that if we lose our democracy, we are not likely to get it back in our lifetime?

— Fernand Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) November 20, 2021

Oh, and I should have read all the way through the latest Letters from an American. This nugget about Meadows' perfidy: he "conducted business on a personal cell phone and over personal email accounts, as well as over Signal, a secure messaging system that encrypts messages so they cannot be unlocked by anyone but the receiver." And more. Members of Congress who were in on the plot, obviously. That part is still be unraveled.

8.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everybody is a loser now Permalink to this item

On the one hand, in spite of the end of peaceful transitions of power, the actual winner of the 2020 election prevailed, and was inaugurated on January 20 this year. On the other hand, what's coming is beyond chilling, as I read Barton Gellman's feature piece in The Atlantic: Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun; "January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election."

We add "subversion" to our vocabulary of large-scale malefeasance, augmenting sociopathy, psychopathy, perfidy, sedition, insurrection, treason, autogolpe, and plain old coup d'état. No spoiler alert needed at this point: the Majority Staff Report of the Senate Judiciary Committee styled it with octogenarian-sized fonts, two months ago now: Subverting Justice; How the Former President and His Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.

As the RePubLiC NoT A deMoCraCy crowd will be keen to remind us, the states can accomplish what a subverted DOJ could not. What's on our doorstep, in Gellman's description:

"If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

"...People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already. ...

"For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.

"By way of foundation for all the rest, Trump and his party have convinced a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made-up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response."

From my point of view, the groundwork can be seen in three giant steps, starting with the stolen election of 2000, back when the stakes didn't seem nearly as existential (even though they were), and the Democratic winner of the popular vote (and likely actual winner of the electoral vote, had Florida's system not been subverted, with the Supreme Court stepping in to seal the deal) capitulated. In the interest of... comity, was it? Back in the day when having a peaceful transfer of power seemed more important than seizing power, to some.

It can't be repeated enough that three of the important actors in that 2000 episode are now Supreme Court Justices, including the Chief Justice, John Roberts. (Two of Trump's picks, each illegitimate in their own way, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are the others.)

Then in 2016, Trump as candidate and his minions laid the "Stop the Steal" foundation before the election was even started. They expected to lose, expected to focus on subversion, maybe, but for sure the main focus was grifting back then. Mirabile dictu, they won, somehow (maybe), via the Electoral College, but long before it was "official," the Democratic candidate conceded. Substep 2.A was the self-sabotage of the 2016 transition, as Michael Lewis detailed in The Fifth Risk, while we were still giving wrong answers to the question, "how bad could it be, really?"

"None of this is normal."

Step 3 is "what just happened," culminating on January 6, and dribbling through more than 600 prosecutions of low-level participants while the real criminals remain at large, increasingly mired in legal minutiae likely to drag on, pointlessly, for years, still with "dozens, if not hundreds of people who did engage in violence at the Capitol who have not yet been identified and charged, and many of those—including some who were charged—continue to menace communities across the country without law enforcement intervention." And some who have not been charged, but we know who they are. Especially the big guy working the whole thing, for his personal benefit.

The day after, a tech reporter for Quartz was thinking out loud about the exact term to use for the attack on the capitol, and deciding that it was "too chaotic and pointless" to be deemed a "coup." "Technically" and "traditionally" make an appearance. "This is not traditionally what we would think of as a coup," one professor harumphs. "This is a riotous mob aimed at doing damage to the quality of US democracy."

May 2018 photo of the Willard Hotel

It was obvious then, and more particularly obvious now that it was not just a riotous mob, but definitely an inside job, with the guy who watched the riot proceed from his White House bunker large and in charge. The fact that he had—hasa team of toadies willing to do the dirty work is a distinction without a difference. As insurrection goes, there isn't really a "too chaotic." Chaos is exactly the point. By the morning after, we could see that this attempt hadn't succeeded at least, thanks in large part to the unlikeliest of vice presidential heroes, Dan Quayle and Mike Pence.

Which of the subsequent events makes it most obvious that this is not over? Kevin McCarthy's obeisance trip to Mal-a-Lardo? Mitch McConnell's reversion to Party First sabotage and helping quash the second impeachment? Matt "why is this clown still in Congress?" Gaetz talking about making Trump Speaker of the House after the 2022 election, sandwiched between fellow clowns MTG and Gohmert? Gellman's point, now that "Trump has reconquered his party by setting its base on fire":

"What we know already, and could not have known then, is that the chaos wrought on that day was integral to a coherent plan. In retrospect, the insurrection takes on the aspect of rehearsal."

And "a recruitment action," as historian Kathleen Belew put it:

“January 6 wasn’t designed as a mass-casualty attack, but rather as a recruitment action” aimed at mobilizing the general population, she told me. “For radicalized Trump supporters ... I think it was a protest event that became something bigger.”

That something bigger is "a new, politically violent mass movement" according to the analyst who sees an echo of Slobodan Milošević in the GOP's hijacker. "Only" 8% of respondents to a June 2021 poll "agreed that Biden was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That corresponds to 21 million American adults."

Even without a new 1776 (or the better analogy, 1861) there are the legislative machinations deep in process of gerrymandering and converting neutral processes to ones controlled by partisan actors. Having "statehouses fire their voters and hand [the loser their votes] was so far beyond the bounds of normal politics that politicians found it difficult to conceive" a year ago, but now...

"is no longer so hard. There is precedent now for the conversation, the next time it happens, and there are competent lawyers to smooth the path. Most of all, there is the roaring tide of revanchist anger among Trump supporters, rising up against anyone who would thwart his will. Scarcely an elected Republican dares resist them, and many surf exultantly in their wake."

A SOCTUS majority of Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Barrett—two of the 2000 Bush v Gore operatives, and a perjurer among them—could implement a "state legislature takes all" that would make the Electoral College's antidemocratic nature seem quaint by comparison.

"There is a clear and present danger that American democracy will not withstand the destructive forces that are now converging upon it. Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of breaking things that a democracy cannot live without."

4.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Trust, but verify Permalink to this item

Former Idaho and now Tennessee journalist Kimberlee Kruesi retweeted an item about sources and verification and it brought back a 51-year old memory for which the statute of limitations has run, and I can now tell the story. The "fun fact at brunch" was what made the essential connection.

Once upon a time, a business associate of my dad's, with an engaging style, and a son about my age took a shine to me (and sure, figured it would ingratiate him to my dad), and offered to have me join him and his son, driving from St. Louis (where we'd met), back to the Hollywood Hills of southern California. Obviously, I was completely gung ho for this. It must have triggered memories for my dad of his youthful adventuring, and he handed me off. Off we went, cross-country. We chased the narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western RR between Durango and Silverton, and when it was all said and done, he put me on an airplane out of LAX to fly home as an unaccompanied minor.

In between, one morning at breakfast in some busy restaurant in Colorado, I learned that I had a special knack for asking questions. The toast that came with my meal had corners cut off. Not all the corners, but two, across a diagonal. I remember wondering why I didn't get the whole piece of toast, and what the heck they were doing with those cut corners? Holding one piece up like Yorick's skull, I asked "I wonder why they cut these corners off the toast?"

John Coots Jr. photo, 1970

It was apparently one question too many for my loco parentis, or too early in the morning and the coffee hadn't kicked in, or chauffering two teenagers cross-country was wearing thin just a few days out.

"I Want You To Take That and Go Back To the Kitchen Right Now, and Ask the Chef Why They Cut the Corners Off the Toast," in a tone of voice that did not evince desire, nor direct instruction. It's a shame I let his emotional outburst swat me down; it could have been an interesting thing to do. But I'd been brought up with Table Manners and especially Restaurant Manners, and this was a Freeze In Your Seat moment. Nothing for me to do to sit Very Still and Very Wide-eyed to consider this new adult behavior I'd never before imagined, but whose subtext was amply clear. Be seen but not heard, his least shining moment from where I was sitting.

We got over it (he got over it), we moved on, and stayed what sort of friends we could be across time and age and distance. When I reached 18 and went for my own driving adventure out west, my girlfriend and I stopped in to visit him and his family in Reno. When he found out that she'd left home without telling her parents where she was going, he insisted she call them up (on his long-distance dollars) and let them know where she was and that she was OK. And the Grateful Dead were in town same time as us, and we dropped in on the concert in the UNR stadium and it was grand.

3.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The low spark of high-heeled conservative thought Permalink to this item

There's the BSU prof who's grinding a lot of gears using his public university-tenured academic freedom to promote "religious" misogyny and rape culture, which is so old and white and tired I can't even, but I took a look at his new Twitter feed that's lighting up on all cylinders, and see he's retweeted a supporter with a waggish list of "How to be a rebel in America today." A variant of conservative utopia, I guess, one that's driving immigration to Idaho as if it were a redoubt for your poor, old, white huddled masses.

Get married. Have children. Get out of cities. Build a relationship with God. (And thank Him for Joe Biden's infrastructure bill that will get you better broadband out there in the rurals.) Get involved in your kids' education. Build a bond with your community.

First of all, I'm thinking John Prine sang it better, way back in the day, with his Spanish Pipedream. Personally, I find the mythical sky-being a null set, and you know not everyone can (or wants to) get out of cities. You don't have to have children (etc.) to have a good life, but the rest of the list is fine.

Anyway, after prick prof made a big splash at the annual National Conservatism Conference, auditioning for the psychopathy circuit, there has been a lot of backlash. His argument is that women should be dependent on men, in short. When they stray toward independence, "they're more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than [they] need to be," he said.

"Without connections to eternity delivered through their family, such women gain their meaning through their seeming participation in the global project."

They must've lapped that up there at the NCC. I noted the familiar religious trope in the land of Latter Day Saints: ladies who don't please their man do not get pulled up to the promised land. If he were teaching at BYU, I guess that would be de rigeur, but at a public institution (one led by an accomplished woman, it's worth noting), not so much.

Two comments followed mine: "I was thinking it sounded LDS too. Ironically there are more women treated/medicated for depression than most states." "And teen suicide."

A ton of people, men and women, are pointing out the despicable irony of a mediocre academic presuming to dictate what women want, and how they should all stay in their lane.

Update: Not connected to the TikTok thing but here we go, embedded on Twitter, a new (and conclusive) response from @socialistlyawkward to Scott Yenor, after he disingenuously confuses the withering contempt of the clapbacks with "hatred." The end's clipped a l'il bit, so if TikTok works for you, here.

20211202 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Timing is everything Permalink to this item

Monster palindromic date today, so I have to say something. About timing, it should be. There's this Naval Oceanography Portal with astronomical applications I've long relied on for sunrise/sunset/twilight data to accompany the aggregated weather observations of interest to local sailors, and more than two years ago now, they put up a banner announcement:

"This US Naval Observatory Website is undergoing modernization and will be offline starting Thursday, 24 October 2019. The expected completion of work and return of service is estimated as 30 April 2020."

Courtesy of the US Navy

The functioning bits did go offline as scheduled, and they did not come back online at the end of April. Nor did they come back "Fall 2020" as the sidebar says, "subject to change due to potential impacts of COVID-19."

The parent USNO page says "4th quarter 2021," still subject to change. In late 2018, I'd fetched data for 2019, 2020, and 2021, thinking I was working waaay ahead, should be no problem. Little did I know.

Today, with time running out on this year, and my data, I called up the Wayback Machine to see if I could find something functional (nope), or the the equations I could crank up myself (nope), or something. The "something" turned out to be the BRITISH NAVY TO THE RESCUE. One of the FAQ pages had a reference:

Yallop, B. D. 1996. A Simple Algorithm to Calculate Times of Sunrise and Sunset, H.M. Nautical Almanac Office (U. K.) Technical Note 70 contains a simple, compact algorithm for calculating times of sunrise and sunset, which is valid from 1980–2050. For information on its availability, send e-mail to hmnao@ukho.gov.uk.

Even better than an algorithm, follow that hyperlink to Her Majesty's office, and a suite of web forms, much like the USNO used to have, in a bucket they call "Websurf 2.0." It starts with a click-sign declaration, and away we go, to the sunrise, sunset, and nautical twilight boundaries for 2022-2030, lickety split. (The phases of the moon were a little more rumbling, had to fetch those one year at a time, but OK.)

It made me want to break out in song, and I knew just the number. Searching up a recording to tweet about it, I found... something unexpected. "Mr. Worf, do you know Gilbert and Sullivan?"

1.Dec.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Managing disasters Permalink to this item

Not sure how an item from October, 2019 came to land in my too-large collection of retrieved but unread items for last month, but Beacon Press' two part Q&A with Andrew S. Lewis, author of The Drowning of Money Island; "A Forgotten Community’s Fight Against the Rising Seas Forever Changing Coastal America" finally got my attention this morning. Look to the Bayshore’s Environmental Past and Present to See Our Climate Change Future is the invitation.

We're going to be hearing about climate change refugees the rest of our lives, with stories set in once-loved places that are irrevocably changed. And about "managed retreat" from the rising sea, with its "fundamental conundrum":

"As long as the federal government, via the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA disaster relief, continue to rely on traditional cost-benefit equations to determine whether a community should be saved or not, managed retreat is always going to be inequitable and unfair. Lower income communities equate to low hanging fruit—if your mandate, if the funding of your program is predicated on the amount of homes and properties you can acquire and demolish, then you’re going to go for the low hanging fruit and ignore the fact the most at-risk properties, the Jersey Shore properties, cannot be touched for the very simple reason that they have the money and the power to be untouched."

Big ass truck parked on sidewalk

It made me think of my formative years, when "freeways" were being punched through the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, using wholesale condemnation of "lower income communities" for their right-of-way. The process of inequitable sacrifice is embedded in our vocabulary.

OnMilwaukee's 2011 freeway history recounts their conception about the same time as my own, and the "high-water mark" of construction in the 1960s. That was after this bit of Strangelovian design work:

In addition to helping ease gridlock, the plan took into account the growing fears of a nation in the early years of the Cold War. According to the report, the long and straight routes of the major freeways would provide "fire breaks in the event of a bombing."

Still functional for that, and for conventional conflagrations as well. I got my license to ride at the start of the "Enough is enough" decade (and just before the shock of the Arab oil embargo), after "large swaths of land [had been] carved out through some well-established and close-knit neighborhoods, many of which were sliced in half by ribbons of concrete," and people started fighting back, with a new tool mandated by the federal government, the Environmental Impact Study.

Unknown creator, presumably for The Milwaukee Journal, 1958

You can feel the pain of the Milwaukee County Expressway Commission's chair in that bureaucratic body's swan song: after the "pride in the many accomplishments," the "embarrassing 'stub ends.'"

The accompanying photo (badly reproduced from what's in the Milwaukee Journal collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society) of the 1958 I-94 ribbon cutting has two lovely young gals for eye candy among the happy suits. MISS CONCRETE on the left, and MISS BLACK TOP at right, flanking Governor Vernon Thomson with the big scissors. Those two Fords parked the wrong way on the left shoulder bring back an early freeway memory of mine, age 20: that time we were on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway, no less, I-80 near Elk Mountain, Wyoming, in the middle of a clear night with high winds, and saw a tractor-trailer rig parked the wrong way on our left shoulder. Two heartbeats before my buddy's Land Cruiser was on the biggest stretch of black ice we never did see, and some partial spins before we were ass over teakettle on the cold concrete. Just like that.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007