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30.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A measure of justice Permalink to this item

A year ago yesterday, April 29, my closing post in the monthly edition of the blog was Idaho's Republican rape culture problem, the Idaho House Ethics Committee recommending expulsion of Aaron "von" Ehlinger. He quit before the full House could fire him.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but a Boise jury delivered the verdict yesterday: GUILTY. (That short take in Eye on Boise is safe for work; the full story has graphic content.) Accountability has become so rare, a lot of observers were surprised to see it, especially after testifying about her experience was more than Jane Doe could bear, and she bailed out during direct examination by the prosecutor. The judge told the jury to never mind her appearance; without cross-examination, none of her testimony could be considered. Just, ah, pretend like she was never there. As if a human being could simply erase such a memory.

Nevertheless, there was ample testimony from others that Doe had interacted with after the crime, and enough evidence to convince the jury that Ehlinger's testimony about how it was all consensual, and just a perfectly ordinary first date did not convince anyone. The question of whether or not a gun (aka "foreign object") was involved was left unresolved by Doe's inability to testify in full.

Here's why the accountability stands out, in Rebecca Boone's article from the AP, Lawmaker rape case illustrates survivors' trauma:

"Only about a third of sexual assaults are reported to police, according to to RAINN,the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and only about 5% of assaults result in an arrest. Convictions are even rarer, with only about 2.8% of sexual assaults resulting in felony convictions.

"Put another way, about 972 of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assault will never face a conviction, according to the organization."

April 29, 2022 photo of Capitol Blvd.

Ehlinger got on my radar in late March of last year, because of his assumed name, and for being perhaps the only current legislator who showed up for Idaho's statehouse steps insurrection gaggle on Jan. 6, 2021, delivering a speech and posting the video of it on his Facebook page. In private correspondence I wrote "He's still proud of the speech he gave. It is very rumpian. This person may be genuinely dangerous."

The next day, I came across William Spence's piece in the Lewiston Tribune, from late Jan. 2021: Idaho Rep. Von Ehlinger pardoned for past misdemeanors. He wanted to clean up his record for driving an unregistered motorcycle when he was 14; a 2009 careless driving arrest; a 2011 charge for possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use; and a 2013 reckless driving complaint, and the Commission of Pardons and Paroles granted his wish.

“I am a Christian man and I believe in forgiveness,” he said. “I repent and ask forgiveness for the sins I’ve committed.”

The pardon report said "He stated he is a different person than the one who committed the misdemeanors, and he is a law-abiding citizen and God-fearing man, and would just like to receive a pardon." His different name is mentioned too, taken in 2017 when he was attending college in Alabama, and after he'd served in the Army, in Afghanistan was done for "security reasons," he claimed, leaving it up to others' imagination what security the "von" might have given him.

Meanwhile, the rape culture rolls on. Rep. Priscilla Giddings, then a Major in the Air Force Reserve, was one of the people who doxxed Jane Doe last year, in a perverted and malicious attempt to attack Ehlinger's accuser. The Idaho Female Veterans Network shared their opinion about Giddings last May, with statements from their community:

"The amount of danger she put this alleged victim in is the same danger I fear every single day of my life". Another said, "one of the reasons sexual harassment and rape are STILL so prevalent in the military is because leadership, high ranking officers, find this a problem in protecting officers who behave without compunction". The statements from our women Veteran community go on. "I feel let down", "we deal with enough troubles as women in the military", and "why don't more victims come forward more often we ask?". Retaliation is the norm. 64% of women who reported a sexual assault face retaliation. 66% of retaliation reports alleged that retaliators were in the reporter’s chain of command. A third of victims are discharged after reporting, typically within 7 months of making a report. It is imperative that a soldier can report their assaults without the fear of retaliation and unfortunately, a lot of leaders like Major Giddings have not made that a possibility.

So far, Giddings has been censured by the House Ethics Committee, kicked off one legislative committee, and promoted to Lt. Colonel by the Air Force. She's not particularly chastened, as she runs for Idaho's Lt. Governor, against the current Speaker of the House, Scott Bedke (who seems a lot more likely to win than she does). Grangeville and White Bird will probably support Giddings, anyway. We have seen that we can survive a disaster of a Lt. Governor, if need be. Still, it would be good to have one less embarrassment in statewide office.

It's not just Idaho, of course. The extraordinarily unqualified Herschel Walker is running to oust Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock.

Here’s your reminder that both Trump and McConnell have endorsed Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who has been credibly accused of threatening to kill his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. Police once seized his handgun after he talked about a possible “shoot-out with police.”

— Mark Jacob (@MarkJacob16) April 30, 2022

27.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Proportional representation Permalink to this item

We're told that fully two-thirds of Republicans answer pollsters' question about the Big Lie to say no, they do not believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected as president in 2020. Presumably, the polls don't follow-up by asking "but seriously, you're just saying that to mess with us, right?" Or, "are you aware that no significant evidence has been brought forward to support that nonsense?" Or, "you do know that five dozen court challenges utterly failed, right?"

Image from Tekoa, Washington, April 2022

Here in MAGA flyover country, it stands to unreason that two out of three Republicans running for Secretary of State would stand up and declare themselves True Disbelievers in a public forum. The best part of the worst pair happened after last night's TV show, Betsy Russell reports on her Eye on Boise blog: Rhetorical sparks flew. I didn't quite pick up the "you lie" part, but I did hear the moderator, Melissa Davlin say "The show just ended," after the credits were rolling and the cameras were off the scene. Davlin's a pro, but there might have been a touch of exasperation after the candidates had run off track and over time repeatedly through the course of it. What a scene we didn't see! After Dot "I don't trust the government" Moon's closing statement, Mary Souza insisted "I have to respond to the lie that she just told," and Moon shot back "You voted for it!"

Moderator Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television said, “The show just ended.” And then Souza and Moon got in each other’s faces, fingers pointed, arguing loudly. Rhetorical sparks flew and the aftermath of the debate was much more heated than the debate itself – and that’s saying something, as it was a lively three-way debate between Souza, Moon, and Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, the three GOP candidates vying for the nomination for an open Idaho Secretary of State post.

The sparks were flying over "Facebook money" that Souza brought up to attack the one qualified candidate in the bunch, Phil McGrane, who is in touch with reality, and who is the County Clerk in the state's most populous county of Ada, where more than a quarter of our residents live. He's served with quiet distinction and competence—overseeing dozens of elections here—unlike the other two.

Clark Corbin's full report for the Idaho Capital Sun led with the signature liars' gobsmacker: Two of three Idaho GOP secretary of state candidates deny Biden won 2020 election. And a few paragraphs in, this reminder that this is not actually supposed to be a dark comedy show:

"Secretary of state is an important position in Idaho that oversees elections, voting and campaign finance in Idaho. The office is also responsible for business services, including annual reports and trademarks, as well as maintaining Idaho’s will registry. The secretary of state also serves on the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners."

Corbin's report notes that the purported "Facebook money" was from a Chicago nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, "funded in part by Facebook founder ... Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, [which] said it distributed $350 million in election administration grants in 2020 nationwide."

Mary Souza has been thumping the drum for months, succeeding in pushing legislation to make sure no nonprofit had the temerity to donate more than $750,000 to almost half the counties in Idaho, with the approval of their county commissions, to support election administration during a pandemic, before vaccines are available. The concern is based on introspection, probably. Knowing that she couldn't trust herself with grant money, the mere fact that "no county in Idaho that we reviewed did anything other than proper elections processing with that money" isn't enough. "What kind of influence does this open us up to?" Meanwhile, consider the irony:

"Souza posted to Facebook on Jan. 16 about the “Zuck Bucks” and has spent $1,400 on Facebook ads in recent months on the same subject, according to the Facebook Ad Library."

And somehow, having Facebook's parent Meta build a new data center in little old Kuna, Idaho (also in Ada County) with an investment of $800 million is now a bad thing? The Idaho Department of Commerce and our two Republican US Senators didn't get the memo from Dot. The most amazing thing that didn't happen is mention of George Soros, I guess. For the record, Dorothy Moon did lie about Souza voting for Meta's project; and Souza kept going with her "Facebook money" lie in a l'esprit de l'escalier text, reported by Russell:

In a text later in the evening, Souza wrote, “It passed 9 months BEFORE the 2020 presidential election and it was a full YEAR before we discovered that Facebook money had come into our Idaho elections. By the way, the Data Center bill was one-of-a-kind in the nation because it was worded so that any tax exemptions would offset property taxes for the people of the community. At the time the bill was passed, no one in the Legislature knew about Facebook/Meta.”

In other good news, at least they debated? Tune in for Round Two of the cage match on KTVB Thursday night.

21.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Again with the golf cart Permalink to this item

When you're a thief, it's good to have corrupt friends in high places. Just ask the pardoned felon Steve Bannon, versus his not as well-connected co-conspirators, two of whom are expected to plead guilty in Federal District Court today, admitting to bilking credulous donors for the glorious Border Wall under the former guy. "Hundreds of thousands of donors," the US Attorney said when the charges were announced most of two years ago.

"Prosecutors say they took money from donors to Donald J. Trump’s signature project and spent it on jewelry, plastic surgery and a golf cart."

Also home renovations, a luxury SUV, and boat payments. Here's a fun twist though: a fourth co-conspirator backed out of his plea deal and is scheduled for trial next month. Prosecutors could call Bannon to the stand (or let the defense call him, as they've said they want to do), and post-pardon, Bannon "would not be able to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination." Even better,

"Mr. Bannon remains under a separate investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office for his role in the project, according to 2021 news reports. Mr. Trump’s pardon of Mr. Bannon applied only to federal crimes, not to state offenses."

Easter Monday, 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Choosing sides Permalink to this item

Now that we've dispatched our holy days of redemption and stuff, it'll be back to business as usual. Reading Heather Cox Richardson's April 17 Letter from an American in the context of Easter (which she didn't mention) is some powerful dissonance. A member of Russia's Duma opining upon his side, "embody[ing] the forces of good" in a metaphysical clash "against the forces of absolute evil" called the US and its support for Ukraine "the temple of Satan." This is the absolutism that enables genocide. That has started yet another war in Europe. And that celebrates authoritarianism (with the necessary soupçon of theocracy) as more righteous than democracy. A self-serving "family values" program that Jesus recognized well enough, two millennia ago.

"The American right has embraced this attack on our system. In October 2021, former vice president Mike Pence spoke in Budapest at a forum denouncing immigration and urging traditional social values, where he told the audience he hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon outlaw abortion thanks to the three justices Trump put on the court. Next month, the American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will be held in Budapest, Hungary; Orbán will be the keynote speaker. ...

"But here’s the thing:

"Democracy is a moral position. Defending the right of human beings to control their own lives is a moral position. Treating everyone equally before the law is a moral position. Insisting that everyone has a right to have a say in their government is a moral position.

"This moral position is hardly some newfangled radicalism. It is profoundly conservative. It is the fundamental principle on which our country has been based for almost 250 years."

Imperfectly, to be sure, as she goes on to discuss, but there has been some honest assessment, and we have made some progress. The proposal to throw it all aside to revert to an antebellum vision of privilege is an invitation to unbounded evil.

While reflecting on that, have a look at Politico's exclusive feature on "Washington’s least popular man," Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov. (H/t to Natasha Bertrand for highlighting this.)

"[H]e also admits that Ukraine is a separate country from Russia, with a right to be sovereign, although he’s not sure how long that can or should last. After all, he says, Russia’s goal is much grander than reining in its neighbor. It’s about preventing the domination of the world by any one country.

“It’s a very narrow approach to say the ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine,’” Antonov said. “We are talking about changing the world order that was created by the United States, by NATO countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”

Image of Patriarch Kirill

Then there's that other Vlad, Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, a.k.a. Patriarch Kirill, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, celebrating Putin's leadership as a "religious miracle," and giving costumed cover for the murderous assault on Ukraine.

"During a sermon delivered in Moscow last month, he portrayed the invasion of Ukraine as part of a “metaphysical” struggle against a decadent west – a civilisation deemed to have capitulated to materialism, moral relativism, globalisation and the promotion of homosexuality. Having become a vassal of the sinful west, Ukraine must be saved and restored to “Holy Rus”. This kind of conflation of race, nation and the church, the authors of the “Russian world” declaration point out, has previously been condemned as a heresy by the Orthodox tradition."

16.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Finally, some accountability Permalink to this item

Nathan Rodney Nelson, 46, stole dozens golf carts before he was nabbed. He "admitted to stealing or trying to steal" seven dozen. He had a multistate enterprise going, in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin, until the long arm of the law caught up with him in North Dakota. The "financial troubles" that motivated his career in crime aren't over; two years in prison will makes things worse, even as he has to come up with $220,000 in restitution.

His mobile phone was his unraveling. That and "stray[ing] from his long held moral compass" that one time. He's remorseful now, as people who are caught straying sometimes are.

An old drawing of mine, of a Cushman on a golf cart

I couldn't help but think of how much of our Zeitgeist is woven into this crime story. I mean, golf carts, first of all. Working "mostly at night, going to golf courses and stealing carts in pairs," because he had a two-cart trailer, I guess. Sold them under an alias, using Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. He was arrested at a gym in Florida in March 2021.

Why golf carts? He "was lured by the idea of quick easy cash." Plus it's fun to drive golf carts around, I guess. (I've always enjoyed it.) Our former golfer-in-thief's straying from the straight and narrow beggars Nelson's. Estimates for Big Duffer's four-year golf holiday vary, but reach into 9 figures. That's right, over $100 million fleeced from taxpayers. If those estimates are overstated by a factor of a hundred, that should be good for 10 years in a North Dakota prison, right?

Putting the orange buffoon and his clan into the White House is the grift that keeps on grifting, in spectacular fashion. The scale of their corruption beggars our imagination, even as it plays out in plain sight.

Saudi Arabia's murderous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—with no one to hold him accountable—has chipped in a $2 billion "investment" in Jared Kushner, the "former senior advisor" to his father-in-law who has benefited so profitably from his security-override clearance and back channels. An investment "aim[ed] to form a strategic relationship," don't you know. As the NYT puts it, ever delicately:

"Ethics experts say that such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024."

And Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulled in an "investment" of $1 billion, I'm sure that is totally on the up and up. The Saudi Public Investment Fund has $620 billions they need to do something with, after all. At least Mnuchin knows something about finance? As opposed to

"Mr. Kushner, whose fund has not publicly disclosed a theme or focus, has little experience or track record in private equity. Before working in the White House, he ran his family’s commercial real estate empire, sometimes with disappointing results. His best-known deal was the $1.8 billion purchase of the office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in 2007; the building’s mortgage became a crippling liability when the recession hit the next year."

In 2010, the building was appraised for less than half of what they paid for it. The deal bailing Kushner out on his "666" deal is old news that previously beggared imagination. That one had to do with the Qatari sovereign wealth fund (a mere $250 billion in that). As Just Security outlined it last March, with the Kushners (Jared and his felon father) "strugg[ing] to cover their debt" on the ill-timed purchase,

"just weeks after his father Charles reportedly failed to reach a deal with Qatar’s minister of finance, Jared Kushner, in his capacity as a senior adviser to President Trump, reportedly played a central role in supporting a blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Kushner never disclosed his meeting with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the blockade to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the time. Later, a financial company tied to Qatar brokered an especially valuable deal to rescue the Kushner Companies’ property at 666 Fifth Avenue."

They spell out the timeline, the official statements shown to be false, the shuffling out of top-level Trump administration officials who tried (and failed) to rein in Boy Blunder. My calculator doesn't have enough digits to do the math, but if $220,000 worth of golf cart thieving is 2 years' worth, Jared's grifting should be worth several thousand life sentences. Give or take.

12.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Redlined Permalink to this item

Not much passes through the Idaho legislature with unanimity, but this year's session put through a law allowing Idahoans to remove racially restrictive covenants from property deeds, without any naysayers and without even debating the question in the house. Just weeks before the Washington State Supreme Court said "not so fast." The story quotes Justice G. Helen Whitener (who is Black, go figure) from the unanimous opinion over there:

“We must ensure that future generations have access to these documents because, although the covenants are morally repugnant, they are part of a documented history of disenfranchisement of a people. It is our history.”

Covenants tidied, or not, the underlying problem is not a moot remnant of the distant past. The results of segregation are still with us. Richard Rothstein's 2017 book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America provides a powerful and disturbing factual history of the hundred years that brought us to today. From the Epilogue:

"When Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that if residential segregation "is a product not of state action but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications," he set forth a principle. But the principle supported his conclusion—that government remedies for segregation were impermissibile—only because he assumed an inaccurate factual background: that residential segregation was mostly created by private choices. ...

"Residential segregation was created by state action, making it necessary to invoke the inseprable complement of the Roberts principle: where segregation is the product of state action, it has constitutional implications and requires a remedy.

"Just like Supreme Court justices, we as a nation have avoided contemplating remedies because we've indulged i nthe comfortable delusion that our segregation has not resulted primarily from state action and so, we conclude, there is not much we are required to do about it. Because once entrenched, segregation is difficult to reverse, the easiest course is to ignore it."

8.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Permalink to this item

History was made yesterday, as the US Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The vote was 53-47, far narrower than her experience deserved, but reflective of the near total polarization of our politics, driven by the minority party, enabled by a system of privilege with deep, fetid roots in our Constitution. Three of the losers expressed their contempt for the proceeding by not even showing their faces to vote in person; Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Kentucky's Rand Paul voted from the cloakroom. "Unprincipled poltroons" "who stood in the eye of history on Thursday and threw a bag over their heads," as Charles P. Pierce memorably put it. Idaho's Republican foot soldiers were on the losing side, with Mike Crapo standing up to walk out during the celebration, in the same frame as Mitt Romney applauding the result.

Screenshot from McConnell interview

The current Minority Leader and Kentucky's other shame, Mitch McConnell was called to account for his "ruthless style of politics" by Axios' Jonathan Swan. He gave it that southern style of derision, as if it could not even be a serious question. "Ahm perfectly comfortable with the way ah've conducted my political career," he chortled. Swan game him the "specificity" he asked for, juxtaposing the "extraordinary speech" McConnell gave on the Senate floor last February, identifying the "disgraceful dereliction of duty" of the newly former president, with his two weeks later unequivocal support for his party's derelict, "if he's the Republican nominee in 2024."

McConnell doesn't think it should be a headline that his loyalty to party supersedes his oath to uphold the Constitution. He thinks—or at least acts—as if it's funny. Laughable. Preposterous. "You want to spend some more time on this as well?" he asks, and squeaks out a chuckling laugh.

Marc Johnson describes the larger picture, as disinformation becomes the story of our age. (His closing gives a chill: "Defend democracy. It really is under attack.")

"The disinformation – the lies – have become so prevalent that it is nearly impossible to keep track, and that is another aspect of what one-time Donald Trump “strategist” Steve Bannon infamously called “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the fatigue of confusion. Putin has mastered this, and Trump has long mimicked the man he called a “genius” for invading Ukraine. And it has worked, especially in this deadly moment for Putin who increasingly can count on a pro-Putin wing of the GOP to spread his lies....

"An entire political party has willingly permitted this to ripen and grow rancid. That party, preparing to regain control of Congress this year, has proven beyond any doubt it will use disinformation to not only discredit its opponents, but delegitimize democratic institutions, including courts and elections."

6.Apr.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Highway to hell Permalink to this item

CBS News item teaser on Twitter led with "It's now or never." The headline of the piece is a bit more graphic: World hurtling to climate danger zone, major report warns, as U.N. chief chides leaders for "lying" about efforts. While the underlying IPCC report—"the second part of the Sixth Assessment Report"—is anodyne to the point of soporific: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. There are "headline statements," six under B. Observed and Projected Impacts and Risks, five each under C. Current Adaptation and its Benefits and D. Climate Resilient Development. No "A." They can say with high confidence that

B.1 Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.

And, finally,

D.5 It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. Past and current development trends (past emissions, development and climate change) have not advanced global climate resilient development (very high confidence). Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development (high confidence). Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term (high confidence). These prospects are constrained by past development, emissions and climate change, and enabled by inclusive governance, adequate and appropriate human and technological resources, information, capacities and finance (high confidence).

We'll try to cross that bridge after it gets washed out

— Tom von Alten (@fortboise) April 6, 2022


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007