The Real Problem Isn’t Conspiracy Theories

Josh Marshall has a members only post at Talking Points Memo that warns us not to think of QAnon as a conspiracy theory.

Q is not a “conspiracy theory”. The faked moon landing was a conspiracy theory. Perhaps birtherism was a conspiracy theory, though one with similarities to QAnon because of its strong ideological valence. But Q is not a conspiracy theory. It’s a fascistic political movement which predicts and advocates mass violence against liberals (and everyone else outside its definition of true Americans) in an imminent apocalyptic political reckoning. What we call the ‘conspiracy theories’ are simply the storylines and claims that justify that outcome. They could easily be replaced by others which serve the same purpose.

I think one way to understand this is that the fantastical stories that make up much of the Q phenomenon are not the source of the problem. The problem is that a whole lot of people are alienated and confused and fearful and enraged and, yes, bigoted, and the Q stories are a post-hoc explanation that justifies their feelings. As Josh Marshall says, another set of completely different stories would serve the purpose.

It’s not a misunderstanding. It’s a form of aggression. Things like the Q phenomenon are just this aggression writ large. I say you’re a pedophile because it is itself an act of aggression but also because it dehumanizes you. It’s a storyline that makes hurting you or killing you make more sense and be more exciting.

In the several years now that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written many posts about how the U.S. right wing tends to “think” in symbols, archetypes, and allegories rather than rationally and conceptually. The most recent such post is from November 2020. In this, I quote a friend who points out that if you ask a Trump supporter why they like Trump, they don’t talk about policy or programs, at least not real ones. They talk either about how he makes them feel or who he is going to “own” or “get tough” with (e.g., nonwhites, libs, uppity women, elites, China).* Maybe they’ll claim he built the wall, even though he didn’t, but the only reason they want a wall is to lock out brown people. “While Democrats are calling, texting, trying to persuade—Trumpists just drive around waving his name and snarling,” my friend wrote. “Democrats are talking healthcare and Covid-19–Trumpists are driving around shouting ‘Hunter Biden!’ out their car windows.”

(*I have to note that I observed the same thing to be true of Ronald Reagan supporters in 1980. If you asked them why they were voting for Reagan, the answer was either some variation of how he made them feel, or else “He’s going to kick the bums off welfare!”)

And, of course, the Hunter Biden who lives in their heads is an archetype that represents something; they probably know next to nothing about the actual Hunter Biden. See also Why There Are Trump Trains, also from November 2020.

The social-psychological foundations of all this mess have been with us for a long time. And the Republican Party has been feeding this beast for a long time, because it helps them win elections without having to do anything useful for anybody who isn’t a wealthy capitalist. However, a wise person told me once that anything you feed will grow. Donald Trump didn’t create the beast, but he — on some instinctual level — recognized it and took it over from the party just as it had gotten too big for its cage. And now it’s his.

See also What’s Left Of The ‘Mainstream’ Republican Party Is Looking Around And Getting Nervous by Kate Riga at TPM. Republicans still in office are used to thinking of themselves as the “party of ideas,” even though I doubt they’ve had any new ideas since McKinley. See Lawrence Glickman, Boston Review, December 2020, How Did the GOP Become the Party of Ideas? Glickman writes that the GOP’s celebrated “ideas” from 1970s onward were just warmed-over anti-New Deal talking points. And now that those have run their course as serious governing principles, Republicans have nothing left. But there are a few in the GOP who aspire to be serious policy makers, and they’re looking at Marjorie Taylor Greene and thinking, What the hell happened?

Even if the spell breaks, and his supporters grasp that Trump is not a superhero but just a bumbling con man, I suspect most of them will easily fall behind some other cult leader rather than be restored to sense. The origins of the problem are older than Trump, and bigger than Trump.

Now, let’s move on to How Trump Unleashed a Domestic Terrorism Movement—And What Experts Say Must Be Done to Defeat It by Mark Follman at Mother Jones.

The mob assault on Congress that left five people dead, scores injured, the Capitol building desecrated, and American democracy deeply shaken was the culmination of a campaign of terrorism. It was led by the president of the United States.

The description of Trump as a terrorist leader is neither metaphor nor hyperbole—it is the assessment of veteran national security experts. Trump, those experts say, adopted a method known as stochastic terrorism, a process of incitement where the instigator provokes extremist violence under the guise of plausible deniability. Although the exact location, timing, and source of the violence may not be predictable, its occurrence is all but inevitable. When pressed about the incitement, the instigator typically responds with equivocal denials and muted denunciations of violence, or claims to have been “joking,” as Trump and those speaking on his behalf routinely made.

Do read the article linked in the quote above on stochastic terrorism, a term I just learned. And as Follman writes, addressing this problem, shrinking the beast, is going to take a lot more than law enforcement functions. It’s going to take a whole-government, whole-society approach. And as it’s been festering for a long time, it’s going to take a long time to tone it down.

I also want to call your attention to Movie at the Ellipse: A Study in Fascist Propaganda by Jason Stanley at Just Security. This is an analysis of a slickly produced video shown at the January 5 rally on the Ellipse, before the mob stormed the Capitol. The article begins:

On January 6, Trump supporters gathered at a rally at Washington DC’s Ellipse Park, regaled by various figures from Trump world, including Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani. Directly following Giuliani’s speech, the organizers played a video. To a scholar of fascist propaganda, well-versed in the history of the National Socialist’s pioneering use of videos in political propaganda, it was clear, watching it, what dangers it portended. In it, we see themes and tactics that history warns pose a violent threat to liberal democracy. Given the aims of fascist propaganda – to incite and mobilize – the events that followed were predictable.

Before decoding what the video presents, it is important to take a step back and discuss the structure of fascist ideology and how it can mobilize its most strident supporters to take violent actions.

I’ll let the article speak for itself. It’s very good, and very disturbing.

There’s still a lot about what happened January 6 that needs to be investigated and exposed. I trust the Biden Department of Justice will not drop that ball. But yes, the real problem is that we’ve got a large fascistic political movement on our hands.

A woman holds a QAnon flag as protesters gather outside Governor Kate Brown’s residence in Salem, Ore., on April 25, 2020, calling for novel coronavirus restrictions to be lifted so that people can get back to work. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Has Oil Peaked?

Before any more time goes by, I want to point to this segment from the February 3 Rachel Maddow Show.

Is there a chance the stranglehold of the oil industry on our democracy is getting looser? See also The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem by Michael Patrick F. Smith at the New York Times. He does a magnificent job pointing out how much we are surrounded by petrochemicals, and how much oil industry jobs tend to be short-lived and dangerous. He’s a bit short on solutions, though. I don’t think returning to a hunter-gatherer economy is going to happen right off.

Speeding Ahead on the Covid Package

Yesterday I got a call from the county health department telling me I could have a covid shot if that day at a mass-vaccination clinic, if I could be there in an hour. So I hustled at got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Some advance notice would have been nice, but I’ll take what I can get. They gave me an appointment for the second dose in three weeks.

On to current events. The Senate worked through the night to pass a “budget blueprint” that will allow the covid relief bill to be passed through reconciliation.  The vote was 50-50, with Vice President Kalama Harris breaking the tie at five-something a.m. As I understand it, the blueprint will be used to write the Senate version of the bill.

Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen at Vox explain the next steps. There’s still a lot that needs to be done before the bill becomes law. Dems are aiming to wrap it all up by March 14, when current enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

The bad news is that the provision for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was killed in the blueprint, probably to placate Joe Manchin. I feared that would happen. NY Times:

Proponents of raising the wage believe it can still be included in the final plan, forcing a tough vote for Democrats opposed to the increase but who won’t want to vote against the entire stimulus package.

“We need to end the crisis of starvation wages in Iowa and around the United States,” Mr. Sanders said.

He added that he planned to try to get the phased-in wage increase included in the reconciliation bill, which can be approved on a simple majority vote, circumventing a filibuster which requires 60 votes to overcome. But it is not clear whether the effort will succeed given the strict rules of the process, which mandate that any policy changes directly affect federal revenues.

The increase won’t pass in this Senate outside of reconciliation unless they kill the filibuster. Note that a considerable number of workers in West Virginia earn at or below the minimum wage, and that was before the pandemic. West Virginians would have benefited, big time. Way to go, Sen. Manchin.

However, other than the minimum wage provision, I don’t believe any serious damage has been done to the Biden Administration proposal.

Naturally, Republicans are outraged that Democrats would stoop so low as to pass all this stuff through reconciliation. Note that Republicans’ failed effort to kill Obamacare and successful passage of Trump’s tax cuts used reconciliation.

Greg Sargent:

In the early morning hours on Friday, Senate Democrats passed a measure laying the groundwork to move President Biden’s big economic rescue package via the reconciliation process, by a simple majority. Republicans are already thundering with outrage.

The move does indeed pose a serious challenge to Republicans. But it’s one that runs deeper than merely moving toward passing this one package without them. It also suggests a reset in dealing with GOP bad-faith tactics across the board — and even the beginnings of a response to the Donald Trump era and the ideology loosely described as “Trumpism.”  …

… Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already denouncing this move. The minority leader railed that Democrats have “set the table to ram through their $1.9 trillion rough draft,” adding: “notwithstanding all the talk about bipartisan unity, Democrats are plowing ahead.”

Get used to it, Mitch. Sargent reminds us that McConnell’s use of filibuster rules effectively destroyed bipartisanship in the Senate for several years. And here is the critical point, for Democrats:

Senior Democrats have begun to articulate the idea that the true way to revitalize faith in government — and in democracy — is by successfully delivering on big-ticket items. Achieving bipartisan cooperation for its own sake will do far less to address deep civic division and disillusionment than robust and effective action on behalf of the common good will.

Exactly. And I also want to quote something Sargent wrote last week:

It’s hard to escape the sense that a new consensus is emerging among Democrats of all ideological stripes in Washington, moderates included, one that is finally getting out from under the long shadows of the post-Ronald Reagan neoliberal era.

Prompted by the massive crises of the moment and underscored by President Biden’s unexpectedly progressive approach, this consensus has moved beyond reflexive skittishness about deficit spending and prioritizes bold government action over centrist compromise as a goal unto itself.

As political scientist Stephen Skowronek recently told Michelle Goldberg: “The old Reagan formulas have lost their purchase, there is new urgency in the moment, and the president has an insurgent left at his back.”

The skunk at the picnic is Larry Summers, the centrist economist who was dumped from Biden’s economic team last year. Summers penned an op ed at WaPo saying that Biden is ignoring too many risks. However, President Biden doesn’t care.

Republicans Behaving Badly

I’m sure Marjorie Taylor Greene is blissfully unaware that she’s a bigger detriment to the Right than to the Left. It is significant that Mitch McConnell — evil but not stupid — put the word out Monday night that Greene needs to be kept on a short leash, if not in a padded cell. And tomorrow the House will vote on stripping Greene of her committee assignments.

But that’s not all. House Republicans also plan to debate Wednesday whether to retain Rep. Liz Cheney in her leadership position after her Jan. 13 vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

Plus, some House Republicans, who are basically spoiled six-year-olds, offered an amendment to a House bill that would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from her committee assignments. I understand Rep. Omar is being accused of antisemitism, a charge that an opinion writer for the Forward (“Jewish. Fearless. Since 1897”) says is so much bovine effluvia.

I assume Greene can be removed from her committees by a simple majority vote, in which case she’ll probably be removed. Not that I’m a fan of Liz Cheney, but I do think that if Republicans remove her from her leadership position it would amount to them shooting great big bullets through their own feet. I’m betting Mitch is making some phone calls about that now.

At the Washington Post, Colbert King points to a time when the Republican Party was, relatively, sane, and their problem candidate was David Duke, the neo-Nazi former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. King writes,

At a Nov. 6, 1991, news conference 10 days before Louisianans went to the polls to vote for governor, GOP President George H.W. Bush urged them not to support Duke, the Republican on the ticket. Bush said:

“When someone asserts that the Holocaust never took place, then I don’t believe that person ever deserves one iota of public trust,” Bush said. “And when someone has so recently endorsed Nazism, it is inconceivable that such a person can legitimately aspire to leadership — in a leadership role in a free society. And when someone has a long record, an ugly record, of racism and of bigotry, that record simply cannot be erased by the glib rhetoric of a political campaign.

“So, I believe that David Duke is an insincere charlatan,” Bush continued. “I believe he is attempting to hoodwink the voters of Louisiana, and I believe that he should be rejected for what he is and what he stands for.”

The Democratic candidate, Edwin Edwards, won. And the Republican party of the time seems to have been okay with that.

As recently as 2016, when Duke announced a run for a Senate nomination, no less than human anagram Reince Priebus, then the RNC chair, announced the party would give him no support.

David Duke was bad, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is the distillation of pure, toxic ignorance. And a lot of Republicans in Congress are rallying to her side. See also An ugly truth links Marjorie Taylor Greene to Trump — one the GOP won’t confront by Greg Sargent.

And then we come to the impeachment trial. This will amuse you

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that he has offered to represent Donald Trump in the former president’s second impeachment trial, asserting that he would be willing to resign from his seat in the House of Representatives “if the law requires it.”

Please, oh please …

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Old News: The Insurrection

I’m about halfway through the New York Times’s deep dive report, 77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election. Sorry if it’s behind a firewall for you. If you can’t get to the New York Times even in an incognito window, a good alternative read is the “Off the Rails” series at Axios. They just published a bonus episode, Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency. Hysterical.

But back to 77 Days. One piece of information I did not know involves the Supreme Court suit against the Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin elections filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. According to the NY Times, the suit itself was written by some lawyers aligned with the White House. Kris Kobach, of voter suppression fame, was involved.

Then the suit was “shopped” to Republican state secretaries of state, because only a secretary of state can file a suit in the Supreme Court against a state, apparently.  Paxton was not the Trumpers’s first choice, but he was the one willing to take it on. Note also that Bill Barr refused to have anything to do with it.

The Trumpers also networked through the Republican Attorneys General Association to get other AGs to sign on or file amicus briefs. There was huge pressure applied to state attorneys general offices to get on board. Many refused. Even some of the ones who did join the suit were extremely skeptical of the whole thing.

“The decision whether we join this amicus is more political than it is legal,” James E. Nicolai, North Dakota’s deputy solicitor general, wrote to his boss.

“I still think it is most likely that the Court will deny this in one sentence,” Mr. Nicolai wrote in a follow-up email, which was also sent to the attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem.

Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

Other tidbits: The permit for the January 6 rally was for the elipse only, not a march. The event originally was organized and promoted by a group called Women for America First, but a couple of days before the event the White House took it over and turned it into a White House production. Many in the original lineup of speakers were rescheduled to speak at a smaller rally the day before.

The NY Times also tells us that Mitch McConnell was led to believe Trump was just blustering about the election being stolen. He didn’t want to mess with Trump before the January 5 runoff in Georgia. But he was also being given assurances that Trump wouldn’t really burn down the house, so to speak.

Mr. McConnell had had multiple conversations with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and the senator’s top political adviser, Josh Holmes, had spoken with Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Both West Wing officials had conveyed the same message: They would pursue all potential avenues but recognized that they might come up short. Mr. Trump would eventually bow to reality and accept defeat

I bet Kushner and Meadows knew good and well they were lying.

On to the impeachment trial. Briefs have been filed by both sides.  I have only skimmed them, but note that the Dem brief is 77 pages long, and Trump’s is only 14. Trump’s new lawyers are mostly arguing that the impeachment is unconstitutional, that Trump didn’t incite violence, that he had a right to say whatever he said. They don’t appear to be arguing that the election was actually stolen. (Update: On closer reading, yeah, they did, in a kind of passive-aggressive way.) Axios is reporting that Trump’s first legal team walked because Trump blew up at their $3 million estimate for their services, even though he’d raised $170 million for his defense fund.

Lindsey Graham and Trump’s new head lawyer David Schoen are double daring the Dems to call witnesses.

Former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is set to begin in a week’s time. And judging by a couple of interviews Monday, his side is focused on delivering a not-so-veiled threat: You might want to be careful about calling witnesses.

But the threat, as enunciated, is rather strange and illogical.

Trump’s new lawyer David Schoen and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) both issued such warnings Monday night on Fox News. They suggested that holding a lengthy trial including witnesses could open up “Pandora’s box,” in Graham’s words, because Trump’s team could then call its own.

I’d say Pandora’s Box is already wide open, Senator, and your buddy Trump opened it. What we’re doing now is cleaning up the mess.

Graham wants to call witnesses who would testify that a lot of people who attacked the Capitol had decided to do so before they came to Washington. Therefore, they couldn’t have been incited by Trump’s speech at the rally. However, the Democrats’s brief accuses Trump of inciting people over many weeks with baseless claims of a stolen election. It’s not limited to what he said on January 6. Graham’s witnesses might actually help make the Dems’s case.

Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson along with House Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Blodgett lead the Democratic House impeachment managers as they walk through Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill to deliver to the Senate the article of impeachment alleging incitement of insurrection against former President Donald Trump, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

Not Throwing Away My Shot

There is one issue that could be uniting people across the political spectrum, and that’s covid vaccine distribution. It’s a mess.

I live in Missouri, which recently has had the distinction of the worst vaccine record among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We’re Number 51! I’m also well over 65, am on three waiting lists, and still don’t have an appointment for a first vaccine. The word from everywhere is, Don’t call us. We’ll call you. Yet I’m also hearing of healthy 30-year-olds who don’t work in teaching or health care but who are getting vaccinated already.

To add to the confusion, about every three days the state unveils a new vaccine distribution plan. They unveiled another one today, according to the Idaho Statesman, although the details are not posted on the state covid information site. As near as I can tell from news stories, over the past week the state has diverted vaccines from chain pharmacies to sites run by National Guard, and then from the Guard sites to select hospitals, although I can’t find out which ones. The vaccines are getting around a lot more than I am; whether they’re getting into arms is another matter.

It’s February 1. I’m asking myself how long I should wait before I get on the phone and make a nuisance of myself to get an appointment. I’ll give it a couple more weeks, I guess. I know people in their 90s who haven’t been called yet, either.

We’re learning more and more about how the Trumpers royally screwed up vaccine distribution. See, for example, Trump officials actively lobbied to deny states money for vaccine rollout last fall by Nicholas Florko at Stat.

Top Trump officials actively lobbied Congress to deny state governments any extra funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last fall — despite frantic warnings from state officials that they didn’t have the money they needed to ramp up a massive vaccination operation.

And why not? In September the CDC allocated $200 million to the states and territories for covid preparedness and vaccine distribution, and as of late October most the of states had not yet spent all that money. And that was possibly because there was no vaccine to distribute at the time. Just a guess.

Even I can figure out that $200 million divided among 50 states and 14 territories wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of distribution. But Trump Administration officials were certain that if they gave the states more money they’d just squander it on covering budget shortfalls caused by their frantic efforts to buy PPE and ventilators on the black market last year because of the bleeping Trump Administration’s incompetence.

Speaking of which, the Government Accountability Office recently discovered that Trump spent $200 million to send 8,722 ventilators to other countries during the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The Trump administration spent $200 million to send more than 8,700 ventilators to countries around the world last year, with no clear criteria for determining who should get them and no way to keep track of where many ended up, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The effort, driven by the Trump White House, was an unusual top-down initiative with little decision-making by experts at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which carried out the administration’s orders. President Donald Trump last year boasted about U.S. success in manufacturing the machines and declared the U.S. “the king of ventilators,” promising donations to foreign countries.

This was apparently some kind of public relations effort.

Throughout last year, USAID and White House officials frequently publicized the donations on social media, sharing pictures of large boxes plastered with USAID’s logo ready to be shipped out.

But neither USAID or the State Department appeared to have any input into where these ventilators were going. I take it the decisions were made by somebody in the White House pulling a number out of a hat and throwing darts at a world map.

El Salvador received 600 ventilators when it had 74 new cases a day of COVID-19, while Honduras, which had 161 cases a day or more than twice as much as El Salvador, received 210 ventilators.

It’s also the case that some ventilators went to places where nobody was trained how to use them. And at this point USAID doesn’t know where most of the ventilators are right now. One suspects a lot of them ended up on the black market. Maybe Illinois bought them.  Who knows?

And it’s not clear whether these ventilators were among those that were scooped up by the feds last year and, as far as we know, never seen again. See, for example, The Great Ventilator Flap from March 27;  Are the Trumps Engaged in Profiteering? from April 4; from Talking Points Memo, What’s Up with the Feds Seizing PPE Shipments to States and Hospitals?, also April 4; and Now We Know What “Ours” Meant, April 9. I suspect there will be more interesting revelations out of the GAO over the next few months.

But back to vaccines. The Biden team took over with a 200-page plan for distribution that, as I understand it, turned out to be dead on arrival because of the absolute mess left by the Trumpers.

After a week on the job, Biden’s team is still trying to locate upwards of 20 million vaccine doses that have been sent to states — a mystery that has hampered plans to speed up the national vaccination effort. They’re searching for new ways to boost production of a vaccine stockpile that they’ve discovered is mostly empty. And they’re nervously eyeing a series of new Covid-19 strains that threaten to derail the response.

The “transition” had been little help.

“Nobody had a complete picture,” said Julie Morita, a member of the Biden transition team and executive vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The plans that were being made were being made with the assumption that more information would be available and be revealed once they got into the White House.”

I am hopeful that by March 1 the Biden team will have matters well in hand. However, by then the state of Missouri will be on its thirty-fourth distribution plan, and it will involve trained squirrels.

Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine.

The Temptation of Joe, and Other News

President Joe Biden is facing a test. As Democrats plan openly to pass the new $1.9 billion relief package through reconciliation, Republicans are fearful they really mean it and are asking for a meeting with the President to pitch a counter-proposal. Ten Republican senators say they are willing to help pass a $600 billion package .

The GOP proposal jettisons certain elements that have drawn Republican opposition, such as increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

It would also reduce the size of a new round of checks Biden wants to send to Americans, from $1,400 per individual to $1,000 — while significantly reducing the income limits that determine eligibility for the stimulus payments. …

… The GOP plan would also reduce Biden’s proposal for extending emergency federal unemployment benefits, which are set at $300 a week and will expire in mid-March. The Biden plan would increase those benefits to $400 weekly and extend them through September. The GOP plan would keep the payments at $300 per week and extend them through June, according to three people with knowledge of the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

Obviously there’s a lot of difference between $1.9 billion and $600 million, and I don’t know what else is left out. The ten senators say they will release their entire proposal tomorrow.

Republicans, of course, are screaming bitterly that President Biden had promised to work with them, and if he doesn’t do as they say he’s a poo-poo head. For their part, I suspect Democrats, who see a big victory in sight, will be mightily pissed if Biden throws his support behind the lesser bill. So, the test will be to see what he does.

Of course, I suppose it’s possible Chuck Schumer would allow a vote on the lesser bill, and then go ahead and pass the bigger bill through reconciliation.

In other news, Trump is having a hard time putting together a legal team for his impeachment. The lawyers who agree to work for him keep quitting. He may have to turn to Rudy Giuliani (oh, please, make it so …).


Former President Donald Trump’s five impeachment defense attorneys have left a little more than a week before his trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy. …

…A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

I understand that attorneys can be disbarred if they provide evidence they know to be untrue, which is what the Creature wants them to do. It also seems to me that Trump’s argument — that the riot was justified because the election was stolen from him — amounts to an admission of guilt on his part. Duh, Donnie.

At TPM, Matt Shuham writes that The Federal Case Against The Capitol Insurrectionists Is Becoming Much Clearer. Basically, the initial arrests were of the low-hanging fruit — the Camp Auschwitz guy, the rebel flag guy, the shaman guy, the boots on Pelosi’s desk guy, and the rest of the clowns who left all kinds of clues who they were. Also —

Then there’s the white supremacist from Maryland who convinced his probation officer to let him travel to D.C. to distribute bibles. His court-ordered monitoring device pinged his location as he milled around the Capitol steps.

However, now prosecutors are zeroing in on “violent and pre-planned behavior.” They are looking for the people who assaulted police officers and members of the media. They are looking for people who were organizing before they came to DC to attack the Capitol.

Their go-to example is that of three affiliates of the Oath Keepers militia group. They’re charged with conspiracy against the United States — specifically, an effort to obstruct the counting of Electoral College votes. Text messages allegedly show discussions of logistics details and committing violence on Donald Trump’s behalf for weeks ahead of the actual attack.

The concern is that there is some kind of radical network of violent extremists who might yet commit terrorist acts in the future. And these people were more careful to hide their identity, so identifying them may take more time.

Other stuff to read:

E.J. Dionne, WaPo, Democrats are faced with a choice. Protect the filibuster or protect democracy.

Jonathan Chait, New York, All the Lies They Told Us About the Filibuster

We Need the For the People Act of 2021 (HR 1)

H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, was introduced and referred to House Committees on January 4. It is a bill intended “To expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”

I can’t tell you how much we need this bill to pass.

It’s a huge bill, so I can only provide a few highlights. If my discussion doesn’t include your favorite voting reform idea, that doesn’t mean it isn’t in there, somewhere. And of course the committees are going to tinker with it for awhile, but here is a brief discussion of what’s in this bill’s three divisions — Voting, Campaign Finance, and Ethics.


Here’s a bullet list of the voting section I copied from Common Cause.

  • Automatic voter registration
  • Online voter registration
  • Same day voter registration
  • Make election day a federal holiday
  • Voting rights restoration to people with prior felony convictions
  • Expand early voting and simplify absentee voting
  • Prohibit voter purges that kick eligible voters off the registration rolls
  • Enhance election security with increase support for a paper-based voting system and more oversight over election vendors
  • End partisan gerrymandering by established independent redistricting commissions
  • Prohibit providing false information about the elections process that discourage voting and other deceptive practices

Note the part about ending partisan gerrymandering. That by itself would go a long way toward forcing the GOP to sober up and act like a grown-up political party again, IMO.

One section reaffirms the commitment of Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. I’ll quote this part —

The Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted decades-long Federal pro3 tections for communities of color that face historic and continuing discrimination, emboldening States and local jurisdictions to pass voter suppression laws and implement procedures, such as those requiring photo identification, limiting early voting hours, eliminating same-day registration, purging voters from the rolls, and reducing the number of polling places. Congress is committed to reversing the devastating impact of this decision.

From there, the bill discusses specific examples of discrimination from recent elections. The bill would ensure that federal civil rights laws protect citizens from these discriminations. There are also provisions aimed at protecting access to voting for Native Americans and people with disabilities.

There’s a section calling for D.C. statehood. It also calls for uniform standards in federal elections.

Campaign Finance

Here’s the bullet list for this section:

  • Require secret money organizations that spend money in elections to disclose their donors
  • Upgrade online political spending transparency rules to ensure voters know who is paying for the advertisements they see
  • Create a small donor-focused public financing matching system so candidates for Congress aren’t just reliant on big money donors to fund their campaigns and set their priorities
  • Strengthen oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable
  • Overhaul the Federal Election Commission to enforce campaign finance law
  • Prohibit the use of shell companies to funnel foreign money in U.S. elections
  • Require government contractors to disclose their political spending

There’s a long section that takes direct aim at the Citizen’s United decision that’s worth reading on it’s own. It starts on page 533 on this pdf.

There’s a section dedicated to closing loopholes that allow foreign money into our elections. There’s language prohibiting deepfakes and otherwise deceptively edited audios or videos unless there’s a clear disclaimer, e.g., this video has been manipulated. A candidate who is the subject of deceptively edited audios or videos can sue for damages.


  • Slow the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists
  • Expand conflict of interest law
  • Ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards
  • Require presidents to publicly disclose their tax returns
  • Overhaul the Office of Government Ethics to ensure stronger enforcement of ethics rules
  • Require members of the U.S. Supreme Court abide by a judicial code of ethics

I’m sure you already know where all those provisions are coming from.

The Common Cause page has more information and links to other summaries. See also:

Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats prioritize campaign finance overhaul with ‘For the People Act’

Matt Keller, The Hill, Trump actions illustrate why Congress must pass the For the People Act

Center for American Progress, Momentum Builds for Democracy Reform as Schumer Designates the For the People Act as Senate’s First Bill

This bill is what we need to stop the continued erosion of democracy by right-wing plutocrats and fascists and Trump wannabees, never mind Trump himself  It is absolutely vital to restoring democracy. Without it, I fear we’re going to continue to lurch toward ruin and dictatorship.

But of course, the catch is that there is no way this bill will pass in the Senate unless the Dems kill the filibuster. Ed Kilgore, New York magazine:

To put it bluntly, the lesson many Republicans took away from their former president’s attempted theft of the presidential election is that the voters who defeated him need to be discouraged from returning to the polls in the future. As Ron Brownstein notes, there’s a new frenzy of voter-suppression measures underway in Republican-controlled states that may hold the balance of power in upcoming elections: …

… The urgency of these measures should be obvious, with red states narrowing the path to the ballot box and with the decennial redistricting about to begin. And unlike many other measures facing a filibuster, voting rights and democracy-promotion legislation does not qualify for inclusion in a budget-reconciliation bill that can be enacted with a simple majority. So in many important respects, it’s now or never for voting rights. …

… In any event, Democrats in Congress and the White House and their advocacy-group and grassroots supporters need to come to a quick consensus about how to test the willingness of Democratic filibuster defenders like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and relatively independent Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, to make some new exceptions to the disreputable old institution. Voting rights might offer the most compelling case for limited filibuster reform, and for Democrats, the cause without which all others may ultimately fail.

Kilgore suggests that the foot-draggers might be persuaded to kill the filibuster specifically for voting rights legislation, leaving it intact for other laws. I think that’s a good idea. He also suggests testing the waters by putting the John Lewis Voting Rights Act up for a vote first.

But we absolutely need this bill. I am stick to death of the right-wing nutjobs turning our country into crap. It has to stop.

Reconciliation Can’t Fix Everything

If you missed Rachel Maddow last night, this brief segment is worth a look.

What she’s saying here is that because of a law passed during the Nixon Administration, it is possible to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the filibuster and pass big bills with a 50 percent vote. This can’t be done multiple times a year; it can only be done with bills written as part of the budget. But since Congress didn’t pass a budget last year and hasn’t passed one this year, we’ve can use reconciliation twice this year.

There are limits to what kind of bill can be passed through reconciliation. The Congressional Budget Act permits using reconciliation for legislation that changes spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit, it says here. Senate rules allow senators to block provisions that are not connected directly to spending, revenue, and debt.

Maddow thinks the Democrats could use reconciliation to pass covid relief/stimulus and a jobs/infrastructure bill. But that leaves out other vital reforms we really, really need. Immigration reform and voting/election reform come to mind.

Do see Ron Brownstein, The Decision That Will Define Democrats for a Decade, at The Atlantic.

The party’s immediate political fate in the 2022 and 2024 elections is likely to turn mostly on whether Joe Biden can successfully control the coronavirus outbreak—restarting the economy and returning a sense of normalcy to daily life. But the contours of American politics just over that horizon, through 2030 and beyond, will be determined even more by whether Democrats can establish new national standards for the conduct of elections through a revised Voting Rights Act and sweeping legislation known as H.R. 1, which would set nationwide voting rules, limit “dark money” campaign spending, and ban gerrymandering of congressional districts. With both bills virtually guaranteed to pass the House, as they did in the last Congress, their fate will likely turn on whether Senate Democrats are willing to end the filibuster to approve them over Republican opposition on a simple-majority vote.

Agreed; there’s no way ten Republicans would be persuaded to vote for this.

That decision carries enormous consequences for the future balance of power between the parties: The number of younger and diverse voters participating in future elections will likely be much greater if these laws pass than if they don’t, especially with state-level Republicans already pushing a new round of laws making it tougher to vote based on Donald Trump’s discredited claims of election fraud in 2020. Given those stakes, the Democrats’ voting-rights agenda is quickly becoming a focal point of the pressure from left-leaning activists to end the filibuster. “Our grass roots will not accept the notion that we had good intentions, but we just failed” to pass these laws, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion to H.R. 1, told me.

It could be catastrphic for the Dems if they don’t get election reform passed.

More from Greg Sargent:

Congressional Democrats are coalescing around a package of reforms that would dramatically expand access to voting by requiring states to implement automatic voter registration, extensive early voting and same-day registration. It would restrict voter suppression tactics and hurdles on vote-by-mail.

The reforms would also require nonpartisan redistricting commissions — a strike at the next round of GOP gerrymanders — while restoring protections in the Voting Rights Act and blocking states from disenfranchising felons. The reforms would go far in curtailing Republican counter-majoritarian tactics for years to come.

Sargent and Brownstein both think the future of the U.S. is on the line here. Republicans in many states are gearing up to intensity voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. And the Republicans are getting crazier by the minute. Further, thanks to the court-packing by Trump and McConnell, it’s likely voter suppression efforts will be sustained in court challenges.

I don’t think there’s any way to fix our election problems without eliminating the filibuster. And without fixing our election problems, the nutjob Right will continue to destroy America.

GOP Can’t Quit Trump

A few days ago I proposed that the insider Republican establishment, led by Mitch McConnell, would cut Trump loose from the party. Others disagreed. Now it appears they were right and I was wrong, although Mitch isn’t necessarily happy about it.

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin, The New York Times:

Three times in recent weeks, as Republicans grappled with a deadly attack on the Capitol and their new minority status in Washington, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.

So his decision on Tuesday to join all but five Republican senators in voting to toss out the House’s impeachment case against Mr. Trump as unconstitutional seemed to be less a reversal than a recognition that the critical mass of his party was not ready to join him in cutting loose the former president. Far from repudiating Mr. Trump, as it appeared they might in the days after the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, Republicans have reverted to the posture they adopted when he was in office — unwilling to cross a figure who continues to hold outsize sway in their party.

One thing I want to say about the vote on Tuesday — it’s my understanding that the motion voted on this past Tuesday was not whether Trump could be impeached after he had left office, but whether the Senate could vote on whether Trump could be impeached after he left office. Rand Paul made a motion to hold a vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial. Then Chuck Schumer asked for a vote to table the motion, and that’s what was voted on Tuesday. That may or may not matter going forward, but I do try to be accurate.

Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, WaPo, Republicans back away from confronting Trump and his loyalists after the Capitol insurrection, embracing them instead:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced little more than a week ago that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol had been “provoked” by Donald Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for failing to respond more quickly to the bloody incursion.

But that was then.

The nation’s two most powerful elected Republicans have signaled that they are ready to look past questions of responsibility for the violent effort to overturn the result of the presidential election, an attempt that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead, as they maneuver to avoid a divisive battle within the Republican Party and try to position it to reclaim power in 2022.

The article goes on to say that McCarthy is meeting with Trump in Florida today to “mend relations that were frayed by the Jan. 6 attack.”

As I’ve said already, IMO the Republican Party would be far better off in the long run if they moved away from Trumpism, even though that would put them at a disadvantage in 2022. It hasn’t been that long — four years, I believe — since Republicans were still claiming to be the “party of ideas” and making a show, however fictional, of having policy ideas to address the nation’s problems. In 2020 they didn’t even bother to write a platform, and nobody seemed to care.

If the GOP continues to align itself with nutjobs, terrorists, and Trumpers, IMO the primary effect will be to drive people to the polls to vote for Democrats. But until enough of them get the memo that this ain’t workin’, Republican office holders will continue to do a lot of damage.

Take Marjorie Taylor Greene, who seems to be trying to get herself expelled from the House. Over just the past few hours videos and tweets have surfaced that show Greene calling for the execution of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi; confronting a survivor of the Parkland high school schooting —

— and she is still pushing the lie that the election was stolen from Trump. And for sheer pig-ugly stupid, you can’t do better than the ravings of Ms. Greene, prior to her election, demanding that representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib re-take their oaths of office on the Bible rather than the Q’ran, because “that’s the law.” Um, no, it isn’t.

(Update: Marjorie Taylor Greene penned conspiracy theory that a laser beam from space started deadly 2018 California wildfire at Media Matters.)

Naturally, House Republican leadership decided to assign Rep. Moron to the education committee. Nancy Pelosi is not pleased.

“It is absolutely appalling, and I think that the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard that they have for the death of those children,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Pelosi said it’s “beyond the pale” that GOP leaders would place Greene on the Education panel.

“What could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing?” she asked.

And this takes us to Why Republicans Can’t Win on QAnon-Supporting Marjorie Taylor Greene by Philip Elliott in Time:

To say Marjorie Taylor Greene is a challenge to the Republican brand is a massive understatement. Her colleagues know it, too. …

… It’s clear that every moment spent on this is one not making the case to Americans why a conservative counter to the Democrats’ control of the House, the Senate and the White House matters. Greene is not only wasting GOP leaders’ time, she’s creating a rallying cry for the opposition. For years, Republicans have linked all Democrats to boogeymen like Nancy Pelosi, AOC and Hillary Clinton. And it goes both ways. George W. Bush by the end of his term was toxic. Greene may prove lethal.

But does the leadership marginalize her? No, they put her on the education committee. This is going to be the next two years, folks: One party will be trying to govern and the other will be running the Circus of Deranged Clowns.

Jennifer Rubin notes today that the Biden Administration is moving swiftly ahead with policy plans to address the nation’s problems. But Republicans?

Well, over in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took days to agree on an organizing resolution to get the new session underway. The vast majority of Senate Republicans said they do not want to have a trial to hold the instigator of a violent insurrection accountable. (How typical it is for them to stage a vote to tell us what they do not want to do.) They are stalling on the confirmation of a new homeland security secretary. They have no alternative relief package for covid-19. Most of their time seems to be absorbed whining about “censorship” or claiming Democrats are being “divisive.” They are offering no response to any of the multiple crises we face (e.g., climate change, the economy, health care, racial justice, domestic terrorism). Their “big idea” is to wait and see if the pandemic and economy get worse.

But what could they do? What could they possibly do, without betraying the “principles” (e.g., kneecapping government; exploiting working people; protecting the wealth of the wealthy) that guide them? All they’ve got left is stopping the Democrats from getting anything done.