Know Your Enemy, Especially When It’s Us

The Washington Post is running a fascinating account of how some people involved in national security were hair-on-fire alarmed about violence at the Capitol before January 6, while other people didn’t take the warnings seriously. See Red Flags (no firewall):

While the public may have been surprised by what happened on Jan. 6, the makings of the insurrection had been spotted at every level, from one side of the country to the other. The red flags were everywhere.

One of the most striking flares came when a tipster called the FBI on the afternoon of Dec. 20: Trump supporters were discussing online how to sneak guns into Washington to “overrun” police and arrest members of Congress in January, according to internal bureau documents obtained by The Post. The tipster offered specifics: Those planning violence believed they had “orders from the President,” used code words such as “pickaxe” to describe guns and posted the times and locations of four spots around the country for caravans to meet the day before the joint session. On one site, a poster specifically mentioned Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as a target.

An FBI official who assessed the tip noted that its criminal division had received a “significant number” of alerts about threats to Congress and other government officials. The FBI passed the information to law enforcement agencies in D.C. but did not pursue the matter. “The individual or group identified during the Assessment does not warrant further FBI investigation at this time,” the internal report concluded.

FBI officials can be asleep at the wheel for a lot of reasons. A few weeks ago we learned that when U.S. women gymnasts reported sexual predation by Dr. Larry Nassar to the FBI, agents took the information and decided it wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant their attention. On the surface, this appears to be a similar failure.

This bit has been robustly remarked upon:

Some within the FBI and Justice Department privately conceded the bureau had failed to grasp the scale of the threat. Officials simply didn’t believe that the kind of people showing up to a Trump rally would break the law, let alone act out violently.

“There was a bias,” said one person familiar with the FBI’s work before and after Jan. 6. “The bias was the belief that middle-aged, largely law-abiding people don’t burn, loot or throw things at police officers. We underestimated the desperation, anger and conspiratorial nature of the crowd.”

Atrios issued a correction to that second paragraph:

“There was a bias,” said one person familiar with the FBI’s work before and after Jan. 6. “The bias was the belief that middle-aged, largely white people don’t burn, loot or throw things at police officers. We underestimated the desperation, anger and conspiratorial nature of the crowd.”

Ah-hem. Today in the ongoing freak show that is the United States, we learn of a woman who was an enthusiastic participant in the insurrection and who sincerely believes she cannot do jail time for it because she is white. She has yet to be proven wrong.

I still believe it’s possible that pro-Trump elements in national security positions could have deliberately held back. WaPo has an in-depth look at the insurrection itself and what has happened since, but I have not read these yet. But here’s a handy guide for FBI agents:


More Evidence January 6 Was a Coup Attempt

The Plan gets clearer. Washington Post (no firewall):

As Vice President Mike Pence hid from a marauding mob during the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, an attorney for President Donald Trump emailed a top Pence aide to say that Pence had caused the violence by refusing to block certification of Trump’s election loss.

The attorney, John C. Eastman, also continued to press for Pence to act even after Trump’s supporters had trampled through the Capitol — an attack the Pence aide, Greg Jacob, had described as a “siege” in their email exchange.

“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote to Jacob, referring to Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Eastman sent the email as Pence, who had been presiding in the Senate, was under guard with Jacob and other advisers in a secure area. Rioters were tearing through the Capitol complex, some of them calling for Pence to be executed.

Josh Marshall thinks this is some of the most significant evidence we’ve seen yet that the January 5 insurrection really was part of a coup attempt.

Eastman didn’t recoil when the President’s rally escalated to violence. He clearly saw the inside coup plot and the insurrectionists on the street as part of the same effort. This isn’t surprising to most of us. The insurrectionists were laying siege to Pence in the Capitol because Pence wasn’t going along with the plan. And the answer was to go along with the plan. Eastman recognized the insurrection as the paramilitary wing of the coup plot he was part of and as the Capitol was under siege used it as a cudgel to force Pence’s hand.

Eastman’s infamous memo, which claimed Pence had the constitutional power to refuse to certify the votes of contested states and declare Trump the winner, came to light in the Woodward-Costa book, Peril. Eastman has since explained it away several different ways. But when you put the new information together with the already public record, there’s a very clear picture — Trump was pushing Pence to overturn the election, and the mob was incited and directed to storm the Capitol as part of that effort.

Josh Marshall:

To date the actions of Eastman, the President, his various coconspirators – during the hours of the assault on the Capitol – have largely been a black box even as we’ve learned more and more granular detail of the ransacking of the Capitol itself. We’ve had brief glimpses in reported accounts. There was the notorious phone call between Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump in which McCarthy demanded Trump call off his insurrectionists. Trump notoriously responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

In real time, Trump’s message was the same as Eastman’s. You brought it on yourself and they’re my guys. The way to lift the siege is to do the right thing and support the coup. They both recognized the insurrectionists as their foot soldiers and expressed as much in real time to the members of Congress under siege. And of course they did since they were their foot soldiers.

See also ‘A roadmap for a coup’: inside Trump’s plot to steal the presidency by Ed Pilkington at The Guardian.

Talking Myself Off a Ledge

I really do just want to crawl into a hammock on a tropical beach somewhere and stay there until something is resolved. By something, I mean until Trump is in jail, or until Kyrsten Sinema decides what she wants and the infrastructure bills can pass. Something. 

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “all publicity is good publicity.” Sinema and Manchin are putting that to the test. I honestly didn’t know anything about Kyrsten Sinema, other than her being a Democratic senator from Arizona, until this year. I suspect that’s true of most Democrats around the country. Now I bet she’s about as popular with most Democrats around the country as Mitch McConnell. I’d wish for her to accidently fall into a volcano somewhere, but she’d be replaced by a Republican.

Same thing with Joe Manchin. I knew Manchin was a conservative Demcrat, but until this year I never felt a strong urge to gouge out his eyes with my thumbs.

The recent pattern has been that somebody announces that some part of President Biden’s agenda has become acceptable to Manchin, causing a brief flurry of optimism. The next morning, headlines announce that Manchin says he can’t support whatever that was, after all, leading to a big collective sigh and a “never mind.” And this is followed by editorials that blame progressives for the gridlock.

The talkings heads on MSNBC keep trying to persuade us that the bills Manchin has gutted are still good bills. Maybe, in the sense of being better than nothing. But I don’t want to hear any more about this or that being cut out to get Manchin’s vote. I’m done. Just let me know when it’s all over.

Meanwhile, white Virginia parents have been whipped into a frenzy over threats that their children’s public schools might be teaching children about racism. This could cost Terry McAuliffe the election next week. So stupid.



Sorry About the Hack

I’m just now finding out about the hack. I’ve been so discouraged I didn’t want to write anything. Anyway, I’ve contacted my web host to let them know. I am not deleting the hack posts until the techies at my host provider see them.

How Planned Was January 6? And Who Planned It?

Today’s big whoop-dee-doo is a feature in Rolling Stone headlined Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff. It’s behind a subscription firewall, but there has been enough commentary to get the gist of it. I’ll quote Heather Cox Richardson here:

The story says that two sources who are talking to the January 6th committee about planning the January rallies in Washington, D.C., have talked to Rolling Stone as well. They say they worked with congressional lawmakers and White House officials to plan rallies both in Washington, D.C., and around the country. They deny that they intended to storm the Capitol and imply they got used, which points to the sources being from within Women for America First, the organization that sponsored a bus tour and rallies around the country before heading to Washington for January 6.

They allegedly named Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), as people with whom they planned. They also claim that Gosar promised them a blanket presidential pardon, although they do not say for what.

From the White House team, they singled out then–chief of staff Mark Meadows. “Meadows was 100 percent made aware of what was going on,” one of the sources said.

It appears the feature isn’t necessarily telling us anything new. Josh Marshall:

There are basically three parts of the story that we can distinguish for these purposes. 1) The legal/executive power attempt to overturn the election, 2) the “Stop the Steal” rally aimed at pressuring Congress and then 3) the breach of the Capitol complex which happened when then-President Trump told the rally attendees to march on the Capitol complex. But we’ve known basically from the beginning that these members of Congress were involved in 1 and 2. This has not just come out in reporting since January 6th. It was fairly open at the time. Indeed, most of these members were either present or actually spoke at the rally.

To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing in the report that explicitly ties these members of Congress to the decision to storm the Capitol complex. There are many references to additional information the cooperating sources plan to provide. So perhaps there’s additional, specific information there. But here’s why this is important and important not so much about this report but for understanding the whole situation.

Here’s the important point:

The big plot was to overturn the results of the election. The President and his congressional allies were working on that at the DOJ and in Congress. They also planned a big rally in the Capitol to menace and overawe members of Congress. They got them riled up at the rally and then literally told them to march on the Capitol. They knew there were various rightist paramilitaries in that crowd – Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, etc. They knew they had told them that Congress was stealing the election from Trump and that they should go to Capitol Hill and make them stop. My best guess is that people like Trump and Mark Meadows didn’t want to know all the details of precisely what was going to happen once the mob got to the barricades. But that’s really always how these things work.

As far as the incitement was concerned, there may not be much to know that wasn’t plainly visible. I think the bigger concern is why response to the insurrection was so slow, and whether a police response was deliberately held back.

On the other hand, the Rolling Stone article tells us that before January 6 the extremely twitchy Paul Gosar was offering people “blanket pardons” for whatever they might do to protest the election, which seems rather inflammatory.

Jim Banks’s Active Imagnation

So among the many bits of craziness from last week, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) managed to stand out. He got suspended from Twitter for a bigoted tweet about a transgender general, but that’s not the best part. The best part is that Banks has been sending letters to federal agencies in which he presents himself as the “ranking member” of the January 6 committee.

And, of course, Banks is not on the January 6 committee. He was named for the committee by Kevin McCarthy, but Pelosi nixed him, along with Jim Jordan. From TPM:

Both CNN and Politico obtained copies of one of Banks’ letters, sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. In that letter, Banks claimed to be a ranking member of the Jan. 6 committee and asserted that the “minority party” in Congress should be privy to the same information provided to the majority. He requested that any information Haaland shares with the select committee also be sent to him directly. You can read the short, weird letter here, courtesy of Politico reporter Olivia Beavers.

Did Banks imagine that Secretary Haaland wouldn’t know who is on the January 6 committee? Does Banks imagine that he is on the January 6 committee? Either possibility suggests that Banks is having some, um, psychiatric dysfunctions.

You probably remember that when the committee was being formed, House Republicans were given all kinds of opportunities to be full participants on the committee, short of giving them the power to sabotage it. But no arrangement pleased Kevin McCarthy, who announced that Republicans would boycott it. But now there are two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. I guess Banks is not on speaking terms with those two colleagues.

I also guess that the pro-Trump Republicans are getting nervous about what information the committee is receiving.

Josh Marshall:

The most generous read of this is that it’s yet more Trumper theater. It seems unlikely that any Biden appointee at any relevant department is going to get confused about who’s on the committee. They watch TV too. But it is of a piece with the larger story. We get to try to overthrow the Republic and equal billing on the committee charged with investigating what we did. We also get to stonewall and block the investigation from starting for months. But if you decide to do it without us – because we refused to participate – well, we still get to participate.

Marrshall calls this “Trumper privilege.” Trumpers can’t accept not being in control. Trumpers can’t accept elections they didn’t win. Trumpers can’t accept well-docuented facts that contradict what they want to believe. Marshall continues,

Is this privilege or lack of accountability or is it really simply a politics of power? It is really no different from the authoritarian impulse and hyper-masculinity politics that pervades Trumpism. We should have the power. Because we should. And anything that stands in the way of that is by definition unfair. Because we should have power.

Needless to say, this is no way to run a democracy.

Jordan, left, and Banks


Manchin Wins, for Now

After a lot of meetings yesterday, reportedly including one-on-ones with Manchinema, President Biden told Dems yesterday that the Build Back Better reconciliation bill would have to be cut back to something in the neighborhood of $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion. And then today David Corn reported that Manchin is planning to leave the Democratic party if he doesn’t get his way on the bill. David Corn isn’t always reliable, but the possibility of jumping parties has been the trump card Manchin is presumed to be keeping up his sleeve.

So that’s probably it. Game over, for now.


Police Reform the Hard Way

Mark Joseph Stern explains at Slate that yesterday the SCOTUS ruled on two cases in which police officers were sued for unconstitutional use of force that violated 4th Amendment rights. The officers asked for the suits to be dismissed, citing qualified immunity.

“Surprisingly, the courts of appeals denied the officers’ requests, allowing both cases to go to a jury. These decisions were unusual because the Supreme Court has imposed a stringent requirement on civil rights plaintiffs suing state officials, including police: They must not only prove that an officer infringed on a constitutional right but also that this right was “clearly established” at the time. Unless there is precedent explicitly stating that the officer’s conduct was illegal, the victim cannot even take their case to a jury. Instead, a judge must throw the case out by granting the officers qualified immunity.

“This rule, which the Supreme Court made up out of whole cloth, has wreaked havoc on Fourth Amendment rights, preventing countless victims of police brutality from getting their day in court. Most lower courts apply the doctrine vigorously, granting qualified immunity unless there is a precedent with virtually identical facts. If a victim cannot point to a past decision in which a court found that the exact same conduct was unconstitutional, they lose immediately.”

Stern writes that in recent rulings SCOTUS appeared to back off of qualified immunity, but yesterday they leaned into it. The Court sided with the cops, citing qualified immunity.

I looked up both cases, which began as domestic violence complaints. One involved a white man on meth who was fatally shot because he was brandishing a hammer in a threatening manner and wouldn’t drop it. The other was a man whose race I couldn’t identify, but I take it there was a brief struggle on the ground with an officer who was trying to remove a knife from his pocket. For eight seconds the officer had a knee on the man’s back, which prompted the suit. This guy had been terrorizing his lady friend and her daughters, and he appears to have not been injured in the arrest

I don’t want to get too deeply into the weeds of these two cases, because (assuming the facts presented are reliable) neither was as off-the-charts wrong as what happened to George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. But it does appear we’ve stalled a bit on police reform.

Or maybe police reform will happen another way.

In the past two years, covid has killed more active-duty police officers than all other causes combined. In spite of this, a lot of cops, and police unions, are resisting vaccination. A lot of them are now up against a mandate wall — get the shot, or quit. And a lot of them are quitting. I’ve been cruising around the web reading stories from several major cities, and I’m seeing that 30% or more of some police departments are refusing to vaccinate. This is much lower compliance than among, for example, hospital workers. All over the country cops are begining to turn in their guns and badges rather than submit to vaccination. Several city police unions are urging members to not report their vaccination status.

Here’s the president of the Chicago police union on Fox News this week. The city is making cops report their vaccination status, he says. Having to report vaccination is dictatorship! The teachers don’t have to report their vaccination status! This is confusing, because both cops and teachers in Chicago at the moment have the same option — they must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing to stay on the job. Teachers do have to submit some kind of proof to confirm their status, several news stories say. I honestly have no clue what his issue is about reporting vaccination status and how cops are being picked on but not teachers.

I sincerely hope city authorities don’t cave in and drop the mandates. Yes, it’s going to be hard for these cities, and police departments, until they can staff up. But I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate this may be a good thing in the long run. Because there’s almost certainly a strong correlation between vaccine resistance and Trump support / toxic masculinity / white supremacy among the cops.

Neil Steinburg writes in the Chicago Sun-Times,

So what’s with the vaccine hesitancy? You’ll run into a burning building but won’t get the shots that soon every 5-year-old will need in order to go to school? You let the city tell you what kind of hat to wear, but helping fight the plague that has killed 700,000 Americans is a bridge too far. Why?

OK, I know the answer: Chicago cops don’t want to be told to take the vaccine because they’re Red State white bread Trumpies huddled in their walled enclaves in Blue State multicultural Chicago. Not taking the vaccine is the middle finger to science and authority that, being cops, they just can’t deny themselves.

It’s their William Wallace cry of freedom. COVID denialism is holy writ liturgy established by their fearful leader in early 2020, and it now has become a cargo cult show of loyalty and faith until his triumphant return. …

… Picture that, for a moment, the Fraternal Order of Police said, “Yeah, it’s important we all get vaccinated, to benefit the Chicagoans we serve and protect?” It’s unimaginable, right? That’s because they’ve become this insular knot of self-serving bullies who are their own worst enemies. Literally more of a danger to themselves than gang-bangers are to them. Who only care about public opinion as fresh fuel for their eternal outrage.

It’s certainly possible some of the vacccinated cops are jerks and bullies, also. And it’s possible some of the unvaccinated cops are not bad people but are just ignorant and believe the disinformation about the dangers of vaccines. As I said, I’m going out on a limb here, and it will be a long time before we know if I’m right. But if there is less police brutality in the U.S. going forward, we have have the pandemic to thank.

Joe Manchin Is Killing Our Future

All weekend I kept reading stories about Joe Manchin putting his foot down to stop a key part of President Biden’s climate change policy.

According to the New York Times’s Coral Davenport, who first reported the news on Friday, Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will not support the sweeping clean electricity program widely seen as the centerpiece of the bill’s climate plan.

The $150 billion program — officially known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP — would reward energy suppliers who switch from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to clean power sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power, which already make up about 40 percent of the industry, and fine those who do not.

Experts believe the program is the most effective way to slash US carbon emissions significantly enough to prevent the global temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold which would have drastic consequences for the planet if exceeded.

Have I mentioned that Manchin made a fortune investing in coal? I believe I have. And I’m a bit tired of the excuse that West Virginia is a coal state, so Manchin has to support the coal industry. Coal is old technology. Coal is not coming back. This is not just because “clean coal” is a mirage. Coal energy is more expensive than natural gas or renewable energy. It’s not cost-effective. If Joe Manchin were genuinely concerned about his constituents more than his stock portfolio, he’d be looking into new kinds of enterprises that would bring jobs to West Virginia that don’t involve coal.

According to Greenpeace, the U.S. coal industry gets $20 billion in direct government subsidies every year. Let’s put an end to that and use the $20 billion to pay for the transition to cleaner energy. What do you say, Joe Manchin?

Manchin has another demand, which is that the child tax credit must include a firm work requirement and family income cap in the $60,000 range. (Currently there is no work requirement, and the income caps for the full credit are single, $75,000; head of household, $112,500; married filing jointly, $150,000. For each $1,000 of income above the threshold, the credit is reduced by $50.)

In other words, if a single mother loses her job and can’t get another one because she can’t afford day care, too bad. No $3,600 per toddler for her.

I hate the attitude from lawmakers that workers must be made to suffer so they’ll take whatever jobs they can get. People work or don’t work for a lot of reasons. Remember the way Republican governors were cutting off expanded unemployment benefits early, to force people to take jobs? There is no evidence that worked. Indeed, there’s all kinds of evidence workers are fed up and demanding better pay and working conditions, or no deal. This is encouraging.

But we still have the Joe Manchins and others who see ordinary people as nothing but a cheap resource to be exploited. If our labor isn’t making profits for the stockholders, what good are we? I swear, if conservatives could get away with it they’d reinstitute indentured servitude and sharecropping. If only there were some way to “incentivize” Joe Manchin to get some integrity.

Back now to the climate change policies — Greg Sargent writes,

Manchin’s opposition to the bill’s clean energy program will likely mean it will be jettisoned, according to the New York Times. This policy, which would reward power companies that transition to clean energy sources and penalize those that don’t, is widely seen as critical to securing our decarbonized future.

To satisfy Manchin and fellow spendophobe Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Biden has proposed a reconciliation spending target of around $2 trillion. This has Democrats scrambling to chop down the package from its original $3.5 trillion.

This is necessary because Manchin, who fears deficits and inflation, has drawn a line at $1.5 trillion. But that appears arbitrary: Manchin has even suggested to colleagues that he doesn’t particularly care which progressive priorities get jettisoned; he just wants to see some of them gone.

Sargent thinks better of Manchin than I do. Sargent accuses Manchin of “arbitrary centrism,which is the posture that “any effort to restrain liberal governance is an inherent good, with no serious acknowledgement required of the real-world trade offs it entails.” I think Manchin sees trade-offs just fine. He’s not willing to trade off his annual $500,000 in coal stock dividends. And his buddies on K street don’t want to have to raise wages for the working stiffs, so let’s make ’em hurt so they’ll take whatever or starve. Seems plenty transactional to me.