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The Moscow Times
You could just light a $billion in hundreds on fire and be more of a business genius than Melon Usk. The New York Times' angle is "what's gone." A data center here and there. Janitors. Toilet paper. No, seriously.
"With people packed into more confined spaces, the smell of leftover takeout food and body odor has lingered on the floors, according to four current and former employees. Bathrooms have grown dirty, these people said. And because janitorial services have largely been ended, some workers have resorted to bringing their own rolls of toilet paper from home."
They're saving money on recruiting probably, too. Who needs layoffs when you can drive attrition that well?
As we come to the close of another year many of us are eager to put behind us, we're still unraveling the events from two years gone by, when Covid-19 was reaching its highest peak (so far), a vaccine was imminent but not widely available, and the outgoing administration was devoting all its attention to staying in power despite losing the 2020 election by a wide margin.
H/t to Heather Cox Richardson's daily for news of still more deposition transcripts from the Jan. 6 committee. Lindsay Graham trying to dig up "five dead voters" or "an example of illegals [sic] voting" that he could "champion," for example. Mark Meadows buring documents in his office fireplace, like it was Saigon in 1975.
Former White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Griffin's "interview," they're calling it, is in the tranche released yesterday. The committee's PDF isn't text-searchable, but someone fixed that in this Document Cloud version, bless them. 145 pages of transcript. Among other gems, Mediaite reports that in April, 2020, Griffin Says She Tried to Stop Trump’s Infamous ‘Injecting Bleach’ Briefing — But Meadows Overruled Her.
In November, after everyone—including Trump—knew they'd well and truly lost the election, Griffin said "people just weren't coming in. The West Wing was a ghost town." She admitted, "and I'm not proud of it, but I was really going in for probably like 4 hours a day. I would do my morning COVID meetings, make sure I touched base with the Cabinet communicators, and then would leave."
"I mean, you wouldn't see people, like, people were just not even coming into work at that point. Meadows think I saw maybe once in that whole period. But then it also was there — this is when some of the characters started showing up, Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn, Mike Lindell, and those folks were brought into meetings during that period. ... It was just ike an unstaffed West Wing. And Jared was out of the country for a lot of it. So it was just a very odd time."
That would have been when Jared was working on his $2 billion sinecure from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, eh. But I digress. Let's get to Boy Blunder's most chilling part.
Q And that started upon the declaration of the networks that Biden had won?
A Yes. And, actually, just a notable moment yeah. So Biden had won. I was – it was the first COVID, like, morning meeting that Jared led after that had been announced. And Dr. Birk raised, she said, "Well, should we be looping the Biden transition into these conversations?" And Jared just said, "Absolutely not."
There is of course much, much more. Take (a deep breath and) your pick of transcripts released today (Patrick Byrne, Ken Cuccinelli, Steven Engel, Mark Finchem, Rudy Giuliani, Donnell Harvin, Eric Herschmann, Cassidy Hutchinson , Jared Kushner, Nicholas Luna, Derek Lyons, Douglas Macgregor, Jason Miller, Cleta Mitchell, Mick Mulvaney, Timothy Murtaugh, Anthony Ornato, BJ Pak, Matthew Pottinger, Kelly SoRelle , Virginia Thomas);
yesterday (Christina Bobb, David Bowdich, Muriel Bowser, Taylor Budowich, Robert Contee, Ray Epps, Ruby Freeman, Stephanie Grisham, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Chris Hodgson, Doug Mastriano, Ryan McCarthy, Christopher Miller, Stephen Miller, Wandrea Arshaye Moss, Mark Robinson, Steven Sund, Donald Trump, Jr);
Tuesday (Ali Alexander, Judson P. Deere, Jamie Fleet, Cassidy Hutchinson , Bernard Kerik, Amy Kremer, Kylie Kremer, John McEntee, Max Miller, Steven Mnuchin, Nick Quested, Brad Raffensperger, Eugene Scalia, Michael Shirkey, William Walker , Caroline Wren);
last Friday (Pasquale Anthony “Pat” Cipollone, Kayleigh McEnany, Elaine Chao, William Barr, Alex Cannon , Mark Robinson, Justin Clark, William (Bill) Stepien, Caroline Elizabeth Edwards, Sidney Powell, Richard Peter Donoghue, Jeffrey A. Rosen, Hope Hicks, Paul Irving, Greg Jacob, Marc Short, Ivanka Trump, Julie Radford, Chad Wolf, Ken Klukowski, Benjamin Williamson, Michael Pompeo, Keith Kellogg, Jr., Robert O’Brien, Brandon Straka, Janet West Buhler, Carla Krzywicki, James Rahm, III, Thomas Paul Conover, Jr., Zac Martin, Eric Barber, Daniel J. Herendeen, Lawrence Stackhouse, John D. Wright, Jean Lavin, Greg Rubenacker, Ryan Kelley, Jeremy Bertino, Lewis Easton Cantwell, Frank J. Scavo III, Francis Connor, George Amos Tenney, Samuel Armes, Landon Bentley, Nicholas DeCarlo, Duston Thompson); and
last Thursday (Chris Krebs, Stephen Ayres , Mark Esper, Ken Klukowski, Sarah Matthews, and two more—for a total of six—from Cassidy Hutchinson).
Oh wait; here are the transcripts from 33 more witnesses (and/or participants), released a week ago Wednesday: Christopher Barcenas, Kathy Berden, Alexander Bruesewitz, Patrick Casey, Dion Cini, Jeffrey Clark , Jim DeGraffenreid, Enrique De La Torre, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Kimberly Fletcher, Michael Flynn, Nick Fuentes, Julie Fancelli, Bianca Gracia, Alex Jones, Ryan Kelley, Charlie Kirk, David Scott Kuntz, Antonio LaMotta, Philip Luelsdorff, Robert Patrick Lewis, Joshua Macias, Shawna Martin, John Matze, Michael McDonald, Stewart Rhodes, Mayra Rodriguez, Michael Roman, Roger Stone, Enrique Tarrio, Phil Waldron, Kelli Ward, Garrett Ziegler.
Listing all the names for search posterity. I note among them one I overlooked in the final business meeting of the committee, wondering why the Secretary of Labor's appearance made the closing video final cut: Eugene Scalia, son of Nino, who has been kicking around D.C. since his dad was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Some cascade of right-wing mailing list trading has me getting a spam daily from The Epoch Times, which is a hell of a thing. Today's lede is "Ivermectin Is Safe and Effective: The Evidence," which no, I'm not looking for medical or drug advice from a quack book flogger. What else is in the "dedicat[ion] to reviving core values of truth and tradition by returning journalism to its roots"?
Mr. Rump "Makes Announcement on Whether Jared Kushner, Ivanka Joining 2024 Campaign," "Kari Lake Appeals Judge's Ruling on Arizona Election Lawsuit," "Why—and How—You Should Preserve Your Family Recipes, Starting Now," and how in the world did Vicky's poet laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson get mixed up with these droogs?
Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die? Their strength is as the strength of ten, because their hearts are pure? [Sorry, facts not in evidence.] Nope, it's "A New Year’s Hope for Our Troubled Times": Ring Out, Wild Bells, with them in the starring roles of Truth, Redress, and "fuller minstrel," I suppose. And Christ. Christ Almighty.
It was part of Tennyson's elegy to his sister's fiancé who died at the untimely age of 22, 172 years ago. Here the closing part of the part:
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Timothy Snyder provides a "very brief summary of the factual part of the [Jan. 6 Select Committee] report, in fifteen quick points," "deliberately understating here; the evidence, in the Final Report itself, permits much broader conclusions."
"It is very easy, when a long report is released, to underplay its basic findings. There is a temptation to act as if something is not shocking if we have heard part of it before, as though this were a mark of political sophistication. The American tendency to normalize threats to democracy is also present in retrospect.
"What is described in palpable and convincing detail in the Final Report is indeed profoundly shocking: a planned and coordinated attempt by the president of the United States and his allies to carry out regime change in the United States of America on the basis of a Big Lie."
The shape of the premeditated plan, and its attempted execution are indeed well-known, and have been largely well-known, as they were carried out in public, or were soon publicized. ("I just want to find 11,780 votes," for example.) One of Snyder's 15:
"5. In the full knowledge that he had lost the election and that his claims of fraud were false, Trump made several deliberate efforts to overturn the election results and thus American democracy."
ICYMI, Snyder had been predicting "something like this could happen in the United States" since his compact book, On Tyranny was published in 2017. And then predicting it more specifically in 2020, including on the eve of the election.
"It is unusual for a plan for a coup d’état to be broadcast so clearly. Yet there is a political logic here, one with deep moral implications. By telling Americans in advance that he intends to stay in power regardless of the vote count, Trump is implicating his supporters in the action as it unfolds. He is giving them notice that they are siding with someone who intends to work hard to see that votes are not counted. He is making them understand that they are participants in the unravelling of American democracy....
"It is no victory to vote for never voting again, to beg for voicelessness. It is submission."
In a more specific extraction from the Jan. 6 Committee report, MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas takes us inside chapter 6, between 6.13 “TRUMP IS SUPPOSED TO ORDER US TO THE CAPITOL” and 6.15 “POTUS…LIKES THE CRAZIES.”, to pages 533-4, 6.14 “WELL, I SHOULD WALK WITH THE PEOPLE.” It seems the 10,000 National Guard troops who were most definitely not mustered ahead of the day's festivities, but that the former president claimed had been made ready, had nothing to do with protecting the Capitol or the Congress. It was about Trump's notion to have a military procession to accompany him as he and his Freedom Caucus stooges in the Congress completed their coup. One of his advisors managed to kibosh the idea, but the speech on the Ellipse had a massive tell. If you've heard it once or twice, you will remember the moment he blurted out "to the Capitol," sounding like Professor Frink on The Simpsons, or a Tourette's sufferer.
It was dark comedy, to be sure. The Mussolini moment that didn't happen, because the Secret Service (a) knew Trump would poop out if he actually had to walk that far, (b) refused to drive him into the middle of a riot in process, and (c) no one had lined up a division of the National Guard for that military parade he'd been wanting ever since he saw what the French did for Bastille Day.
Almost two years later, some of the still-roused domestic terrorists haven't got the memo that the war is over, and are trying to accelerate the collapse of more than just democracy. Three electrical substations in the Tacoma, Washington area were attacked before sunrise on Christmas Day. "A fourth substation was damaged, and set on fire later that same day," KUOW reported.
Three weeks ago, OPB reported that there were "at least six" attacks in Oregon and western Washington since mid-November, with "at least two of the incidents bear[ing] similarities to the attacks on substations in North Carolina on [Dec. 3] that left thousands of people without electricity for days."
The good old opera plots are no secret. Word is, Shakespeare mined his own Zeitgeist for what became his greatest hits. As we approach Act IV of Julius Seizer, no one is going to be caught by surprise by the Grand Finale from the Jan. 6 Committee, in report form. Even with hundreds of pages sandwiched between 176 pages of cover, spine, introductions, notes and appendices. Even with it dated December 00, 2022 on the cover, and December X, 2022 on the inside. The brief Foreward from the Speaker of the House has the Congressional oath of office for an epigraph.
"The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack has succeeded in bringing clarity and demonstrating with painstaking detail the fragility of our Democracy. Above all, the work of the Select Committee underscores that our democratic institutions are only as strong as the commitment of those who are entrusted with their care....
"Let us always honor our oath to, as Abraham Lincoln said, “nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” So help us God."
And from Chairman Bennie Thompson's 6-page forward, which you should read, "[T]he best way to prevent another January 6th is to ensure accountability for January 6th. Accountability at all levels."
"We can never surrender to democracy’s enemies. We can never allow America to be defined by forces of division and hatred. We can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots. We can never and will never relent in our pursuit of a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for all Americans."
The committee's Vice Chair, Liz Cheney, delivered some of her Foreward in the final meeting on Dec. 19, but not all 4 pages. You should read those, too, and add your own emphasis to the punch line:
"Donald Trump’s own campaign officials told him early on that his claims of fraud were false. Donald Trump’s senior Justice Department officials—each appointed by Donald Trump himself—investigated the allegations and told him repeatedly that his fraud claims were false. Donald Trump’s White House lawyers also told him his fraud claims were false. From the beginning, Donald Trump’s fraud allegations were concocted nonsense, designed to prey upon the patriotism of millions of men and women who love our country. ...
"Among the most shameful findings from our hearings was this: President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television. For hours, he would not issue a public statement instructing his supporters to disperse and leave the Capitol, despite urgent pleas from his White House staff and dozens of others to do so. Members of his family, his White House lawyers, virtually all those around him knew that this simple act was critical. For hours, he would not do it. During this time, law enforcement agents were attacked and seriously injured, the Capitol was invaded, the electoral count was halted and the lives of those in the Capitol were put at risk. In addition to being unlawful, as described in this report, this was an utter moral failure—and a clear dereliction of duty. Evidence of this can be seen in the testimony of his White House Counsel and several other White House witnesses. No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office."
I see the Executive Summary and each of the 8 chapters of the main narrative have their own endnotes. 762 after the 134 page summary. 317 for Chapter 1. Lots of hyperlinks in those, starting with the transcript of Trump's election night speech in the wee hours of November 4, 2020. Page 194 starts the main, detailed narrative, with a full-page, full-bleed portrait of Mr. I Alone Can Fix It, at the mic, with a barrage of flags behind him, 2 in the morning on November 4th. The Big Liar illustrating his Big Lie. It was pure Roger Stone, without the F-bombs, if you don't count the Big Tell, "frankly":
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” President Trump said. “We were getting ready to win this election,” the President continued. “Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election.” Trump claimed, without offering any evidence, that a “major fraud” was occurring “in our nation.”
That bit was nearly seven and a half minutes into his rambling and nearly incoherent stream of consciousness word salad about so many big numbers. The Big Plan leaked out near the top, "we were getting ready for a big celebration," but then, no.
"We want the law to be used in a proper manner," he continued. "So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting [sic] to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. Okay? It’s a very sad moment. To me this is a very sad moment and we will win this. And as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it."
Mike Pence was there and given the chance to say a few closing words, what a shame he didn't just offer a prayer. Instead, in his perfectly anodyne and performative Pencian style, he blew puffery for the Man Who Could Never Get Enough. He "really believe[d] with all of [his] heart," "truly," "that we are on the road to victory and we will make America great again, again."
Talk about your unlikely heroes.
T.J. Kirkpatrick's image atop the NYT gobsmacker (I.R.S. Routinely Audited Obama and Biden, Raising Questions Over Delays for Trump) is of jut-jawed Charles P. Rettig, "during his confirmation hearing to become IRS commissioner in 2018." Rettig and all his predecessors never flew above my political radar, but how about this second sentence from the caption?
"In 2016, Mr. Rettig, then a tax lawyer, defended President Donald J. Trump’s decision not to release his taxes."
It was just a norm, after all, not a law that a president(ial candidate) had to disclose them. And just a rule, the story says, that “the individual tax returns for the president and the vice president are subject to mandatory review.” I guess you can be "subject to" review, but not get it? Why not, exactly? is the $6.4 million question. Was the lapse due to "general dysfunction," or "special treatment"?
"Reports issued by the [House] Ways and Means Committee, which obtained Mr. Trump’s tax data last month after a yearslong legal battle, said the I.R.S. had initiated its first audit of one of his filings as president in April 2019, the same day that Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the committee’s chairman, had inquired about the matter.
"The I.R.S. has yet to complete that audit, the report added, and the agency started auditing filings covering Mr. Trump’s income while president only after he left office. Even after the agency belatedly started looking, it assigned only a single agent to examine Mr. Trump’s returns, going up against a large team of lawyers and accountants who objected when the I.R.S. added two more people to help."
One agent. Forty-two months. More than 400 pass-through entities, designed (we can only imagine) to avoid taxes by hook or by crook. Rettig, now two months out of office said he had no awareness of anything special. He knew nothing, as Seargent Schultz would say.
“Further, at no time did I make, nor am I aware that anyone else made, any decision to somehow limit resources available to conduct examinations under the mandatory examination process.”
Only one agent assinged to the case of a man steeped in multi-generational, litigious tax fraud, was not a "decision," it just sorta happened. The last appointed head from the previous administration, John Koskinen, "said that his only involvement in Mr. Trump’s tax returns was working to ensure that they were kept in a secure location." No small feat, it seems to me, and Mission Accomplished!
The story goes on to quote Rettig imagining that Trump's returns "might actually be somewhat unremarkable," who knows? Pigs might be pulling Santa's sleigh across the sky come Christmas Eve.
"In fact, the few glimpses of Mr. Trump’s taxes have shown much to talk about. The Trump Organization was convicted of a tax fraud scheme this month. The New York attorney general has sued Mr. Trump and three of his children, accusing them of fraudulently overvaluing his assets."
It's not exactly breaking news that Trump's tax returns are a likely wretched hive of scum and villainy; as the main story yesterday reminds us, the Times "detailed tax-return data extending over more than two decades" of Trump's reticulated organization, their record telling "a story fundamentally different from the one he had sold to the American public." Among others. Hello, Deutsche Bank!
The story he has long sold to the IRS is that he's a chronic loser (who, like a blind squirrel, may occasionally stumble upon a winning nut). Except maybe for a couple Vornado properties he has no management role in, that seem to keep him in walking around money, along with the credulous MAGA that donate their small bills and lunch money whenever they can, come fraud or high water.
Might as well be polite, there's no stopping it. A warm day surprised us, Jeanette heard water running in the gutters before I did, above freezing before sun up. High in the mid-30s sounds cold much of the time, but after Boise's December-to-date, it was nigh-on balmy. Not so warm to dispatch all the snow and ice around the edges, the bike lanes are still a despicable hazard. (And yes, cyclists are still out and about. I rode 6 miles for errands yesterday, using cleared sidewalks some of the way, and avoiding arterials as much as possible. This evening, driving home from the Solstice service at our church, the eye-catching duo spin of spoke reflectors from one caught the eye, crossing the road a comfortable distance in front of our car. As we passed where he'd been, a second rider, sans reflectors, all in dark clothing, made a surprise! semi-appearance.)
In the warm(ish) middle of the day, I did some snow and ice clearing, chop and shovel, encouraging snow to slide down a metal roof slightly ahead of schedule. The cold snap came later, in the dark. Not as snappy as Cheyenne, Wyoming, though. They set a new record for rate of change: At 12:53 pm, Warren AFB recorded 42°F; the next hourly reading was 2°. And then it kept going. -19° by midnight. -25° before Thursday sunrise. Forecast high for Thursday is -4. Oh, and then 41° again on Saturday, 46° for Christmas. Ho ho ho.
From 1:06 to 2:15 pm EST, today brought some of the most riveting, must-see TV of the political rise and fall of Donald J. Trump, as the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol held its final business meeting. Chairman Bennie Thompson:
"[Donald Trump] lost the 2020 election, and knew it, but he chose to try to stay in office through a multipart scheme to overturn the results and block the transfer of power. In the end, he summoned a mob to Washington D.C., and knowing they were armed, and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to 'fight like hell.' There's no doubt about this....
"If we are to survive as a nation of laws and democracy, this can never happen again."
Vice-chair Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, starts by talking about her great-great-grandfather answering Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers for the Union Army in 1861, to join the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. "He fought for all 4 years of the Civil War, from Chickamauga, to Stones River, to Atlanta." Not to pull rank on all the members of today's Republican Party who have not shown a fraction of the integrity that she has, or anything.
"At the heart of our Republic is the guarantee of the peaceful transfer of power," she said, and hearkened back to 1793, when General George Washington resigned his commission and handed back control of the Continental Congress back to Congress, thus establishing "the indispensible example of the peaceful transfer of power in our nation."
And to Ronald Reagan, in 1981: "The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4 year ceremony that we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle." Cheney continued:
"Every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority, except one. January 6, 2021, was the first time one American president refused his consitutional duty to transfer power peacefully to the next. ...
"Among the most shameful of this committee's findings was that President Trump sat in the dining room off the Oval Office watching the violent riot at the Capitol on television. For hours, he would not issue a public statement instructing his supporters to disperse, and leave the Capitol. Despite urgent pleas from his White House staff and dozens of others to do so. Members of his family, his White House lawyers, virtually all those around him knew that this simple act was critical. For hours, he would not do it. During this time, law enforcement officers were attacked and seriously injured, the Capitol was invaded, the electoral count was halted and the lives of those in the Capitol were put at risk.
"In addition to being unlawful, as described in our repoort, this was an utter moral failure and a clear dereliction of duty.... No man who behaved that way in that moment of time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office."
Just before the 30 minute mark in the coverage, Chairman Thompson introduces a video summary of their work. If you've only got 12 minutes, watch that much. Content warning: It starts with screaming, and does downhill from that, examining what happened that day. Roger Stone, under the Trump knew he lost heading: "The key thing is to claim victory," Stone said on camera, two days before the election. "No, we won. Fuck you. Sorry. We won. You're wrong. Fuck you."
That look between White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his lawyer where the contemplate the obvious, and how they won't speak of supposed "privileged" communications. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley vs. another one of Trump's Generals in sworn testimony:
Cheney: General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?
Flynn: The Fifth.
It was December 19th two years ago that Trump tweeted the call to his supporters, "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. will be wild!" From that to 6:01 pm, 18 days later, his final tweet on January 6th, "Remember this day forever!" Rep. Elaine Luria:
"In summary, President Trump lit the flame, he poured gasoline on the fire, and he sat by in the White House dining room, for hours, watching the fire burn. And today, he still continues to fan those flames. That is extreme dereliction of duty."
Jamie Raskin had the last word in opening statements, reporting the recommendations of a subcommitte considering criminal referrals based on evidence gathered. HUNDREDS of individual criminal offenses are already being investigated. But, "ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail, and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass." The recommended referrals, for Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others, are for:
I. Obstruction of an Official Proceeding
II. Conspiracy to Defraud the United States;
Donald Trump and others, for
III. Conspiracy to Make a False Statement;
and Donald Trump, for
IV. Inciting, Assisting, or giving Aid or Comfort in an Insurrection.
Raskin says they have assembled "more than sufficient evidence exists" for these criminal referrals. There are also four members of Congress who refused to voluntarily cooperate, and refused to answer subpoenas from the committee. They're referring those four (including the likely incoming member of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan) to the House Ethics Committee. (That committee's even split will ensure nothing comes of that, unfortunately.) There is unanimous consent for the criminal referrals.
Finally, the motion to "favorably report" the final report to the House. This one gets a roll call vote, and the chairman makes sure he's on the record as well. 9-0. 2:15pm EST, they're done. In a little over an hour.
When we're ready to start, there's a long read ahead of us: the Introductory Material to the Final Report of the Select Committee is up, with just over 100 pages before the listing of the 762 notes, in the PDF version.
Heather Cox Richardson's Dec. 19 Letter provides the historian's view, more deliberately written than my take here. She extols the committee's introduction to its report made available this date:
"At only 104 pages, the report is worth reading: it’s very clear and very fast paced, reading more like a 1940s thriller than a government report. And like an old-time novel, it has in it some eye-popping facts just waiting for more development."
Readers of a certain age will recognize the mnemonic for the taxonomic hierarchy: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. And of my age, with some uncertainty whether what they remember is still au courant. This morning's teaser is below the fold of yesterday's front page: For Planet Earth, This Might Be the Start of a New Age. That's 15 stories down on the Science page online, first in the "Climate and Environment" row, and it starts with a too-fast slip whip of "see what we've already done?" images. (If they were after a "make it stop" feeling, mission accomplished.) In print, the headline was The Next Epoch of Planet Earth Might Be Today. Which is to say, starting 70 years ago. (Coincidentally, just before my start, hmm.)
"Age" is the smallest of the telescoping categories for the geologic timeline, too small to make the cut into the infographic sourced from Syvitski, et al. (2020) (other than a seeming point annotation for the Meghalayan Age, within the Holocene timeline, starting 4,200 years ago as reading the article reveals). Epoch is the shortest sub-unit expanded, then Period, Era, Eon, and finally, the existence of our planet, unnamed. "Earth forms," 4.6 billion years ago, give or take, the beginning of eons, era, periods, and epochs. With all those Es, it's hard to imagine a menmonic out of that quartet. AEPEE. (Or EEPEA, depending which way you look at it.)
When I first started reading the story, I thought I knew the answer that the Epoch-in-Waiting was already official, but no. On Saturday, "A panel of scientists  took a big step toward declaring a new interval of geologic time: the Anthropocene, the age of humans." That would supplant the Holocene, which kicked off "with the end of the last big ice age," 11,700 years ago. However big the step was, it's not the final word, which has knockout rounds after the group stage, as it were.
"The working group’s members on Saturday completed the first in a series of internal votes on details including when exactly they believe the Anthropocene began. Once these votes are finished, which could be by spring, the panel will submit its final proposal to three other committees of geologists whose votes will either make the Anthropocene official or reject it."
At the dawn of the Holocene epoch, we imagine there were 4 million humans kicking around, which sounds like kind of a lot until you graph the time series up to the present, and have to deal with three orders of magnitude, and then some.
Last millennium, when memes spread in the dark of viral email chains rather than advertising algorithm mediated socila media, my deconstruction of "the world as 100 people" breezily rounded the human population to 6 billion, up 149,900% from our end of the Ice Age kinfolk.
The Smithsonian's interactive timeline of human evolution has a longer view, going back 7 million year, to Sahelanthropus tchadensis. ("Climate fluctuations" are overlaid for "8 million years," and the first genus name I've heard of, Australopithecus, goes back 4 million years.) The genus Homo showed up a little over 2 million years ago, and Homo sapiens was the only one of its species left to see out the last ice age.
By the Worldometer tabulation of world population by year, "6 billion" was a good number in 1999, and "8 billion" looks like a good number for today, notwithstanding pandemics, wars, and environmental crises in process. The SI's last "major milestone in human evolution," The Turning Point, 12,000 Years Ago pictures grain, and a rooster, for us finding we "could control the growth and breeding of certain plants and animals," followed by farming and herding, "activities that transformed Earth’s natural landscapes—first locally, then globally. And the most recent, long-view climate fluctuation was Homo sapiens almost becomes extinct, between 90,000 and 70,000 years ago.
"White mudcracks in an old African lake bed indicates severe drought. Due to widespread droughts and climate fluctuation during this time, the human species may have been reduced to no more than 10,000 adults of reproductive age."
It seems appropriate enough that a hierarchy of geologic committees would proceed with their taxonomic business at a glacial pace, but it's easy to imagine them still debating after the hammer of the Anthroocene has already landed. The human transformation of the planet might be a mere "event"? "Events don’t appear on the timeline; no bureaucracy of scientists regulates them. But they have been transformative for the planet." Followed by an image of "Late-Holocene human footprints, at least 2,000 years old, in volcanic ash and mud in Nicaragua." And this:
"The filling of Earth’s skies with oxygen, roughly 2.1 to 2.4 billion years ago — geologists call that the Great Oxidation Event. Mass extinctions are events, as is the burst of diversity in marine life 460 to 485 million years ago."
Nice little sentiment from the Daily Kos:
"The January 6 committee has produced ample evidence that multiple members of Congress aided and abetted violence aimed at overturning our elections. Congress must vote to expel them immediately."
The petition page only lists Andy Biggs (AZ), Mo Brooks (AL), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Scott Perry (PA). I'd like to see all of those with solid evidence against them listed. Start with Talking Points Memo's blockbuster series, Mark Meadows Exchanged Texts With 34 Members Of Congress About Plans To Overturn The 2020 Election. Some of those dozens did manage to tiptoe around outright sedition.
Still, that's the sideshow. The main event is going to be criminal prosecution for the head of the conspiracy. Stay tuned! Or, sign the other petition, to disqualify Former Guy from running for President again, under the Fourteenth Amendment for inciting the insurrection.
I like taking quizzes, but I didn't much care for the NYT interactive, What’s the Best Way to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint? It didn't seem to deliver on the expectation from the title, first of all. The angle from a psychology professor who's "been studying how people think and feel about climate change for over a decade" is a meta-quiz, guaranteed to show that your "practical knowledge about what we can do to counter [climate change] is lacking."
I figured I'd be above average; which I might be, but 7 out of 12 wrong (underestimating 3 items, overestimating 4) is barely better than the random guessing average score. The story is about misinformation, mostly. I doubt the "you're wrong!" buzzer is conducive to learning. At any rate, if you want to try the quiz, do it now, before reading the spoiler information that follows.
The broad measure of broad categories (e.g. "buying fewer things") covers a lot of ground, but thinly. The "share of Americans who got it right" is near or below random for all but 3 of the 12 items. If there's an instructional takeaway, maybe two things?
The quiz caption includes the title of the 2020 paper published in Environmental Research Letters from which the NYT team inferred the three buckets: Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options, using findings from 53 studies in a meta-review, screened from nearly 7,000 records in the Web of Science Core Collections, and Scopus bibliographic databases, for English language papers published since 2011. I found it a worthy read.
The paper's data are presented visually in box-and-whisker plots for annual mitigation potential in the domains of food, transport, housing and other consumption, quantified in tons of CO2 equivalent per capita. From the abstract, for scale: the average per capita carbon footprint of North America and Europe amount to 13.4 and 7.5 tCO2eq, respectively, while that of Africa and the Middle East 1.7 tCO2eq.
The Transport plot, with 16 consumption options shown, has a scale from -4 to +6 tCO2eq/cap, with shift to battery electric vehicles (BEV) and fuel cell (H2) vehicles (FCV) having significant "backfire" potentional, dependent on the source of the electricity, or hydrogen.
"The consumption options with the highest mitigation potential advocate reduction in car and air travel, as well as a shift toward less carbon intensive fuel sources, means and modes of transportation."
Living car-free is estimated good for 2t/yr, on average. If you can't see your way to giving up your car, a BEV powered from a not-bad source of electricity could provide the same mitigation. Also, just one less flight ("long return," which they don't define) in a year could save as much as living car-free. They assume driving 15,000 mi per passenger per year in the US. If you can get by with half that, that would be like half "car-free," right? (Not sure how to deconvolve vehicle-miles and passenger-miles; the former is what emits the CO2, while the latter is needed for per capita comparison.)
The scale of the Food plot (19 items) is about 0-2 tCO2eq/cap, with the best mean effect (vegan diet) just under 1.0 tCO2eq/cap annual mitigation potential. Most of the Housing items fit within the 0-2t range, with "Produce [one's own] renewable electricity" extending out to almost 5t at the extreme. "Renewable electricity" is 2nd, and the omnibus "refurbishment and renovation" third, ahead of "heat pump" and "renewable-based heating."
"Other consumption" (9 items) is mostly in the 0-0.5t range, with the mean for "service/sharing economy" yanked by a 2t outlier, and "No pets" the bad news standout for pet lovers, ranging from 0 to 2.4t estimates, with a mean of about 0.8. Pets = one car?! Figure 7 brings all the options onto a common scale, sorted by medians, from just over 2.0t for "live car-free" to a dozen or more nils. Here's my excerpt of the top 3 dozen. (The original paper on the web has interactive controls, and links to a high-res version.)
Table 3 cuts to the chase: "A summary of the consumption options with the highest mitigation potential and ways to influence the infrastructural, institutional and behavioral carbon lock-ins associated with them."
My first question is, HOW CAN THIS BE REAL? Or, as Seth Myers said, "it turned out to be so much more pathetic than anyone could have possibly imagined." Nothing quite captures the state of the Trump brand quite like this:
"Each card comes with a chance to win amazing prizes, like dinner with me—I don't know if that's an amazing prize, but it's what we have."
I mean, how do you follow the string of greatest hits that includes a bankrupt casino demolition, a non-flying airline, bulk steaks, Fraud U., and a go at being president that would make a banana republican proud?
Something... digital, for sure. Non-fungible. Hold the gum, we've got your $99 a whack TRUMP CARDS right here, With "really incredible artwork." You would for sure want to collect the whole set, the full-tour of Trump's playing card fantasies. He's a welterweight astronaut! (Who stole Joe Biden's sunglasses.) A superhero! A blockhead despoiling the Black Hills! The torch-bearer of liberty! Santa's Little Helper in Melania's fantasy tinsel forest who is also light enough to ride a horse!
If Don the Con is indicted and convicted of one or more of 18 U.S.C. 2383, insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), obstruction of an official proceeding; and 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States government, as a subcommittee of the Jan 6 select committee is said to be about to recommend, these NFTs could be real (virtual) collector's items, hmm?
Something gave me a notion to tidy my email inbox this morning (after I'd checked and emptied my frontline spam bucket, which I hadn't looked at for a long month). Amongst the regular dailies that I don't read, there were a couple unread Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American. Quite the period piece to look back to September 14, 2020 and December 13, 2020. What an amazing two years we've been through.
A couple months before the momentous 2020 election, her lede was "Today’s big story is the growing threat of violence on the part of Trump loyalists in the administration, including the president himself."
"On September 10, Trump's friend and adviser Roger Stone appeared on Infowars, the show run by the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Convicted of lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses before they testified concerning the ties of the 2016 Trump campaign to Russia, Stone publicly asked Trump to commute his sentence and, in exchange, promised to campaign for him.
"Stone was a political operative for Richard Nixon—he famously has a picture of Nixon tattooed on his back—and was a business partner of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, now also a convicted felon. Stone calls himself a “rat-f**ker”—a term used by Nixon insiders to describe electoral fraud and dirty tricks—and was an instigator of the “Brooks Brothers Riot” that shut down the recount of ballots in Florida in 2000.
"In July, Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence, and now, apparently, Stone is holding up his end of the deal...."
Sowing the seeds of doubt, claiming (without any tangible evidence, of course) "that widespread voter fraud meant that the only legitimate result of the election would be a Trump victory." Right-wing extremist talk-show host Mark Levin mentioned the Insurrection Act, just after the police killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl, who did not live past being a suspect, let alone having a trial.
Michael Caputo, then the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, urged viewers of his Facebook video to stock up on ammunition, because Joe Biden would surely stoke violence rather than conceding. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. Props for near-perfect projection, at least.
A month after the election had been clearly decided, and on the verge of the Electoral College making it official, HCR's Dec. 13 post wraps up with a couple faith leaders who had the courage to speak truth to the power-mad:
"[E]vangelical leader Beth Moore, the founder of Living Proof Ministries, a Bible-based women’s group from Houston, Texas, who has almost a million followers on Twitter, tweeted: “I do not believe these days are for mincing words. I’m 63½ years [old] & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.... Fellow leaders, we will be held responsible for remaining passive in this day of seduction to save our own skin while the saints we’ve been entrusted to serve are being seduced, manipulated, USED and stirred up into a lather of zeal devoid of the Holy Spirit for political gain....”
"Moore follows this weekend's statement by evangelical Karen Swallow Prior, who said she was “now embarrassed and ashamed” for voting for local and state Republican candidates (although she had never voted for Trump). “What a bunch of money-grubbing, power-hungry, partisan cowards who care nothing about conservatism,” she tweeted. Conservative journalist David French also wrote this weekend that “the frenzy and fury of the post-election period has laid bare the sheer idolatry and fanaticism of Christian Trumpism.”
I just finished reading a library-borrowed copy of Sarah Posner's May, 2020 book, Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump. The flap blurb cause it a "taut and meticulously reported inquiry" which is a fair statement. She details "the unholy marriage of Trump and the evangelicals, as officiated by the alt-right," with roots going back to the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Penguin Random House's page only lists the Ebook and Audi versions from 2020, and the paperback, which came out a year later, with a new subtitle: "How White Christian Nationalists Powered the Trump Presidency, and the Devastating Legacy They Left Behind." Amazon helpfully informs me that I bought a paperback copy in June, what do you know? It's in the house, somewhere, where someday I might get into its 50+ pages of notes.
The first two chapter titles give a cut-to-the-chase, high-level overview: "The Blueprint for an Assault on Civil Rights," and "God's Strongman." The first paragraph from the latter boils it down (with thanks to Americans United for Separation of Church and State's longer excerpt to save me retyping):
"The facile explanation for the apparently improbable union between the proponents of “faith,” “values,” and “family” and the profoundly impious real estate huckster and serial philanderer is that the Christian right hypocritically sacrificed its principles in exchange for raw political power. But this purely transactional explanation for the Trump-evangelical merger elides the deeper bond between Trump and his devoted flock. Although Trump is illiterate in evangelicals’ lexicon and spent his adult life flagrantly contravening their sexual mores, his evangelical supporters are nonetheless starstruck. He may not be one of them, but they idolize how he loudly and fearlessly articulates their shared grievances – that alien anti-Christian, anti-American ideologies have taken over the government, judiciary, media, education, and even popular culture and forced edicts upon a besieged white Christian majority, cowing them into submission by invoking “political correctness” that aims to censor, silence, and oppress them."
Cory Doctorow's blog is an intense read. I followed his writing way back when when the world wide web was fresh and new, lost track, and am now reconnected, thanks to Mastodon.
Exhibit 2022-12-10.1: Freedom of reach IS freedom of speech. With a ton of embedded links to flesh out the story that's been putting on weight for 2 decades and more.
"It's wild that we're still having this fight. It is literally the first
internet fight! The modern internet was born out of an epic struggled
between 'Bellheads' (who believed centralized powers should decide how
you used networks) and 'Netheads' (who believed that services should be
provided and consumed 'at the edge'):
Said centralized powers monetized everything, extracting monthly rents.
"Remember when Caller ID came in and you had to pay $2.50/month to find out who was calling you before you answered the phone? That's a pure Bellhead play. If we applied this principle to the internet, then you'd have to pay $2.50/month to see the 'from' line on an email before you opened it."
It's not just email and online shopping going to hell in a handbasket, either. "A billionaire dilettante [creating] chokepoints so he can extract payola from his users and meet his debt obligations to the Saudi royal family" is a train wreck in process.
Justice delayed is justice denied, we've been told, so I'm not sure how excited to get about hearing at this late date that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Reform, respectively, have “ongoing investigations into whether former Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner’s financial conflicts of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade, and national security policies for his own financial gain” as Heather Cox Richardson outlines in her Dec. 7 daily. We consider the posthumous spin rate of the Framers if they could see what's been going down lately.
"The letter [to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin] outlines the timing of the 2018 financial bailout of the badly leveraged Kushner property at 666 Fifth Avenue (now known as 660 Fifth Avenue) with more than $1 billion paid in advance from Qatar. Qatar had repeatedly refused to invest in the property, but after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed a blockade on Qatar—after Kushner discussed isolating Qatar with them without informing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—Qatar suddenly threw in the necessary cash. Shortly after that, the Saudi and UAE governments lifted the blockade, with Kushner taking credit for brokering the agreement."
When you put it like that, it looks bad. Worse than Hunter Biden's laptop, even. Is there there anything else? Besides, you know, that we're still finding records Sir Lacks a Lot stole on his way out of the White House (in a "Florida storage unit," no less)? And oh, that guilty verdict for +rumpOrg, seventeen felony counts of tax fraud, falsifying business records, conspiracy and related crimes? (In fairness, the man at the top said he had No Idea So Much Criming was going on, and Allen Weisselberg was the brains of the conspiracy.)
The verdict gives new life to the other big fraud case in New York, the one about the inflated real estate valuations for loan-time that were deflated at tax-time. There's that whole overthrowing the government January 6, 2021 thing still kind of hanging in the air. And terminating the Constitution? As Charlie Sykes put it:
Tuesday: Oath Keepers found guilty of "seditious conspiracy."
Saturday: Trump: "Hold my beer."
Or as the Dude himself said: "UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!" Sykes outlines what happens next "on Earth 2.0 (a rational and totally imaginary world)":
"Prominent Republicans would deliver major speeches rejecting (1) sedition, (2) collaboration with Nazis, and (3) the former president’s call to terminate the Constitution, so he can be be reinstated."
I'm a few days behind. The basic principles of authoritarianism outlined a month ago, with a local angle, proceed apace on the larger stage. To save you a jump they are:
Those came back to mind with David French's piece for The Atlantic, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson Don’t Understand the First Amendment, following Matt Taibbi's "Twitter files" dud. Who knows what they understand, and what they like to pretend. I imagine Carlson is disingenuous, and Musk naive, but that's just my working theory.
Also, Hunter Biden's laptop isn't much of a scandal, you know? Even if it were, it would not be evidence for a prosecution, because it's been randomly handled, by a variety of random people. Qasim Rashid:
"Literally no Democrat cares if Hunter Biden is prosecuted if he committed crimes. He's not elected—we're not a cult. In fact, if he committed a crime, prosecute him! Be our guest!
"We just call it *absurd* that MAGAs—who let Kushner & Ivanka make $640M while 'government employees' and get $2B after leaving the White House, under wildly suspicious means from a murderous dictator—now pretend to care about alleged Biden nepotism."
More to the point of our Zeitgeist, Jim Carroll tooted that reading Hunter's emails isn't where it's at.
"[People] should eager to read his book, and the book by his first wife. Both are honest, naked, heart-wrenching stories of the impact of addiction, the helplessness of the trap that it is, and the massively deep hole of horror that is so difficult to escape from.
"Millions suffer from addiction or are impacted by it. Some find their way out. Many do not. If you want to get out, or want to help someone get out, these are two important books."
Beautiful Things, a Memoir, by Biden; and If We Break: a Memoir of Marriage, Addiction and Healing, by Kathleen Buhle.
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, re Donald J. Trump versus the United States of America, a three judge panel ruled that
"The district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.
Which is to say that they struck down the "special master" that Judge Aileen Cannon appointed to review the stolen documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
"The three judges — two of whom were nominated by Trump — did not back down from that stance in their written opinion Thursday. They said they could not issue an order that “allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant.”
“Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” the Thursday opinion read. “Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”
H/t to Heather Cox Richardson for the link to the appeals court ruling.
With some of the best (and some of the worst!) legislators in Idaho calling it a day, or having moving up the chain of command (or failing), this year's #idleg will have a lot of newbies, and its share of less capable members thrust into new roles. Former Speaker of the House Scott Bedke is the Lt. Gov.-elect, and Mike Moyle, formerly in a supporting leadership role where his partisan hackery was plain enough, but given limited scope, has been elected Speaker of the House. For his first act, he told the super-minority House Democrats he was planning to only let them have ONE seat on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC). So much for the courtesy of conceding his election with a unanimous vote.
"It’s nothing personal," Moyle said, "I’m taking care of my Republican friends."
There are 20 seats on the committee, 10 each from the (35 member) Senate, and (70 member) House. Democrats have 11 House seats, 15.7%, which would be 1.57 seats, and they have a reasonable expectation for rounding up, while Moyle's new math notion is to truncate. "The decision isn’t yet final; the House plans to reconvene [today] to finalize its committee chairmanships and assignments."
Last session, Dems had 12 House seats, 17.1%, and there was no talk of truncating them down to a single seat on JFAC. But Mike Moyle is no Scott Bedke.
As the new speaker, Moyle said he’ll be focused on “learning my new role.”
“I want to unite everybody,” he said. “It’s a big challenge. I think I can do it. I’m going to try.” He said of late, House members have tended to “not only disagree, but be disagreeable. We need to stop that. … I don’t want it to be so contentious.”
I'll go way out on a limb and predict that the House will not be less contentious this session under Moyle's leadership.
Tom von Alten