The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Today’s Primaries and January 6 Hearings Fallout

There are primaries in four states today: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina. See Steven Benen’s analysis of which contests may be significant.

Plus there is a special election in Texas — is there always an election in Texas? — to replace a congressman who resigned earlier this year, and finish out a term. This is Mostly between Democrat Dan Sanchez and Republican Mayra Flores, although there are other Democrats on the ballot, for the privilege of being a Congress critter for a few months. The congressional district they will represent will disappear in the next term, and Flores has already won a primary to run in the general election for the redrawn district. But in November the Democrat running against her will be Vicente Gonzalez Jr., who is currently representing another district that will disappear. And this is very confusing.

On to January 6 hearings —

The January 6 hearing originally scheduled for Wednesday morning will be postponed, and the next hearing will be Thursday morning. The committee members said there was no big deal reason for the schedule change; they just need more time to prepare.

I have been trying to find out of Bill Stepian’s baby has been born. No news. I hope for her sake that Mrs. Stepian hasn’t been in labor all this time, although that’s possible. It’s a first baby; they often are very slow. Some news updates are starting to cite the “alleged” baby.

Trump released a 12-page rebuttal to the hearings so far. According to Brett Samuels at The Hill, the rebuttal consists of Trump’s repeating the same allegations that the hearings have already shot down. He offers no new evidence.

Rudy Giuliani seems to have survived being rolled over by several buses yesterday and is whining to everyone who will listen that he was not intoxicated on election night. He also issued a statement to the Gateway Pundit — to which I do not link — which follows. I have replaced the original links with, um, different links.

“The Jan 6th committee is not trying to seek the truth. Otherwise they would look at what the various states found about election irregularities and illegalities in their states . Watch my latest podcast at RudyGiulianiCS.com to see Antifa’s involvement. As a law abiding citizen my questions are why did Speaker Pelosi refuse National Guard offered by President Trump? Why were some Capitol Officers seen opening doors and inviting people in? What role did the FBI and Antifa play? Did some violent protestors get paid? Why did the committee infer Capitol Officers were killed that day when no officer was killed? Why are they ignoring the murder of unarmed veteran Ashli Babbit? Who is the peaceful protester outside the Capitol who allegedly was beaten by officers? What is going on with the investigation into the pipe bombs left at RNC and DNC?” — Rudy Giuliani statement to Gateway Pundit. 

The alleged peaceful protester allegedly beaten by officers must be a new claim; I can’t find any previous references to it. And it’s widely known that the pipe bomb investigation is at a standstill, which is unfortunate, but standstills happen sometimes.

There’s a guy who has published a book titled COMPLETE LIST OF ANTIFA MEMBERS IN CAPITOL BUILDING RIOT. The preview reveals that it’s just the word “nobody” repeated over and over. (I would have just published blank pages; people could have used it as a dairy.)

Gateway Pundit also claimed that the first hearing last Thursday was a ratings bust (hardly) and that even Rachel Maddow didn’t buy Trump’s involvement in the attack on the Capitol (because the Proud Boys skipped Trump’s speech and went right to the Capitol; yeah, that’s a bit strained). I’ve been cruising around some other right-wing sites; they’re mostly just downplaying the hearings or picking up some small point out of content that they can twist around and refute.

One point Rachel made last night that I thought was interesting is that Trump seems to have put more energy in setting up the Big Lie than in actually winning the election. He kept demonizing mail-in ballots, for example, and advisors kept warning him he may be suppressing his own vote, especially among older people. But he didn’t care. The implication is that he seems to have thought it would be easier to win a second term by cheating than by actually winning the election. Again, this is Trump’s pattern, throughout his business “career.” He doesn’t do anything honestly if he can get what he wants by lies, fraud, or cheating. It’s second nature to him now.

The right-wing sites are very, very carefully not mentioning the charge that after the November 2000 election Trump aggressively solicited donations for the “Official Election Defense Fund,” raising about $250 million from supporters. Yet the “Official Election Defense Fund” doesn’t exist. The donations have been channeled in many directions. Kimberly Guilfoyle received $60,000 for making a two-minute speech at the January 6 rally. One suspects most of that money managed or will manage to find its way into pockets belonging to Trump family members, perhaps after a bit of laundering.

See also: Greg Sargent, WaPo, The ugly truth about the right-wing grift machine has been revealed; and Michael Kranish, WaPo, New details emerge of Oval Office confrontation three days before Jan. 6.

Ousted Blue Dog Kurt Schrader Is Pissed

Turns out that Donald Trump isn’t the only sore loser. Remember the Oregon House primary in which the Democratic incumbent, Kurt Schrader, lost to progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner? Today Schrader is all sour grapes about the Democratic Party.

In his first interview since his defeat, Schrader told a local television station that he believes McLeod-Skinner will lose the race for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District in November.

“The red wave begins in Oregon – Oregon’s 5th district,” he told KATU on Thursday. “That’s unfortunate.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have both pledged their full support for McLeod-Skinner, but Schrader has yet to officially endorse her.

Schrader also revealed in the interview that there is a “significant chance” he will endorse independent centrist Betsy Johnson’s gubernatorial campaign, rather than backing Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, the former speaker of the state’s House of Representatives.

“I think people are exhausted with the extreme, far-right Trumpites. I think they’re very concerned about the socialist drift on the Democrat left,” Schrader said. “So that opens up the middle.”

But what middle? And a look at Schrader’s record suggests the party is better off without him. This article goes on to inform us that Schrader “was one of two House Democrats to vote against a package of stricter gun regulations that included raising the legal eligibility age for purchase of a semi-automatic rifle to 21. Five Republicans voted for the whole package and 10 Republicans voted for the stand-alone bill to raise the eligibility age for purchasing long guns; Schrader did not vote for the latter, either.”

So standing in the way of gun control is “centrist,” now?

Let’s see what else is “centrist” — Last year, Schrader was one of three House Democrats who used their seats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to block a vote on a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. That’s “centrist”?

More recently Ryan Grim wrote at The Intercept,

A super PAC funded by the pharmaceutical industry blew more than a million dollars in an effort to salvage the career of former Blue Dog Coalition Chair Kurt Schrader, the Oregon Democrat who cast the deciding vote against drug pricing reform in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and organized with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., to derail President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. His opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, lambasted him repeatedly as the “Joe Manchin of the House.” Because Oregon votes by mail, and some ballots were blurred and unreadable in areas favorable to Schrader, results may not be known until early next week, but despite a funding disparity of some 10 to 1, the incumbent is on the ropes.

As I wrote last year, Schrader was one of the Dem “centrists” who screwed up the plan to pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. They were blocking the President’s agenda while screaming that it wasn’t them, but the progressives, who were blocking the President’s agenda.

My impression of the shrinking number of Democratic “centrists” is that they sincerely believe the party belongs to them and the progressives are interlopers, even though there are a lot more people in the Progressive Caucus than in the Blue Dog Coalition. It’s that sense of entitlement that used to whiff off of die-hard Clinton supporters. They and only they were “real Democrats.”

The problem with the “centrists” is that they most closely resemble pre-Reagan era Republicans than anything else. If they have a political future, it’s more likely in a Republican party rebuilding after Trumpism collapses. If it does. We need them in the Democratic Party like we need more mosquitoes.

Rep. Kurt Schrader in happier times.

January 6 Hearings Day Two

Feel free to comment before, during, and after today’s hearings.

Update: I understand today’s hearing was on Fox News, although of course this is probably a different audience from those who tune in to the weeknight bobblehead lineup. But somewhere there must be MAGA-heads who caught the testimony in a waiting room or airport, and I’d love to ask them what they thought. Did you donate any money to the election defense to fight the fraud? Did you know that money mostly just went into Donald Trump’s pocket?

The MSNBC bobbleheads talked a lot about intent. Did Trump know he was lying when he continued to push election fraud claims, and if not, does that give him a legal excuse for continuing to push those claims? What I got out of the commentary is that most judges don’t accept willful denial of facts as a defense. If X has been explained to you (by several people whose job it is to know X) and yet you continue to claim Y in order to get something you want, you intended to deceive. Even if you continue to swear up and down that you believe Y to be true.

It’s probably the case that Trump’s understanding of “truth” was warped long ago. “Truth” is an abstraction that is meaningless to him. There is only what he wants, and any way to get to what he wants is legitimate, to him.

As all those people who testified today explained, over and over, that they told Trump clearly that his voter fraud claims were baseless, what I saw was the spoiled kid who was never told no. Trump learned long ago that if he throws a big enough temper tantrum he’ll get what he wants. And now that he’s become, in effect, a cult leader, he can always get his culties to throw his temper tantrums for him. That’s what January 6 was; a temper tantrum to get the grown ups to back down and let him have his way.

Note that the witness who couldn’t come because his wife is in labor, Bill Stepien, is working as an advisor/consultant to the campaign of Wyoming Republican Harriet Hageman. This is the woman running against Liz Cheney in the House primary in Wyoming. This may be why Cheney took a back seat today; it would not have been proper for her to question Stepien, obviously.

The testimony today painted the picture that everyone with Donald Trump on election night, watching the returns come in, told him that it was too early to declare victory and that he could lose. Here is what he did say on election night:

It was an “apparently inebriated” Rudy Giuliani who told Trump to declare victory, and so he more or less did, while calling for “all voting to stop.” “We will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have,” Trump said.

He was told about the “red mirage,” the way early vote counts favor Republicans but the mail-in votes, counted later, are overwhelmingly Democratic. Nope; didn’t register. The facts got in the way of what he wanted.

And, of course, all these administration and campaign officials, especially Bill Barr, who knew the truth and said little in public at the time haven’t exactly crowned themselves in glory. This is true even though Barr did invite Michael Balsamo, a Justice Department beat reporter for the Associated Press, to a private lunch on December 1, 2020, and told him there was no evidence of enough fraud to overturn the election. That was Barr doing his due diligence, I guess. But according to this Atlantic article, Barr only talked to that reporter at the urging of Mitch McConnell, who was frantic to win the Senate runoff elections in Georgia and believed the GOP would have a better shot if it were clear that Joe Biden would be in the White House.

See also Tim Miller at The Bulwark, “No, Bill Stepien, You Weren’t On “Team Normal.” You Were On “Team Coup.” There was a lot of self-delusion going on, and it wasn’t just Trump. The people trying to explain to Trump that he had really, truly lost and tried to guide him toward being a gracious loser were just about as deluded as Trump.

Trump doesn’t do “gracious.” Surely everybody knew that already.

A Tepid Little Bit of Gun Reform, Maybe

With some fanfare, it’s been announced that there is a tentative bipartisan agreement in the Senate on new gun control legislation. As expected, it’s underwhelming. I agree with Betty Cracker that the agreement is “a band-aid on a sucking chest wound.” It’s better than nothing, but not by a whole lot.

Under the tentative deal, a federal grant program would encourage states to implement “red flag” laws that allow authorities to keep guns away from people found by a judge to represent a potential threat to themselves or others, while federal criminal background checks for gun buyers under 21 would include a mandatory search of juvenile justice and mental health records for the first time.

Other provisions would prevent gun sales to domestic violence offenders beyond just spouses, closing what is often called the “boyfriend loophole”; clarify which gun sellers are required to register as federal firearms dealers and, thus, run background checks on their customers; and establish new federal offenses related to gun trafficking….

…Other provisions would funnel billions of new federal dollars into mental health care and school security programs, funding behavioral intervention programs, new campus infrastructure and armed officers. One cornerstone of the deal is legislation sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to establish a nationwide network of “community behavioral health clinics,” though the framework does not yet include an agreed funding level for that program or others.

“Encouraging” states to pass red flag laws is mostly useless, since the states that most need them are the least likely to pass them.

Tighter background checks on buyers under the age of 21 might help a little, but I’d be interested to see how many of our school shooters, from Columbine onward, would have failed a background check. Not many, I don’t think. More background checking is always good, though.

Domestic violence offenders of all sorts should not be allowed to have guns, but in practice this kind of provision isn’t tightly enforced by a lot of local law enforcement officers.

More money for mental health counselors in schools would be a good thing, especially if  those counselors are able to screen and treat young people who seem to be spiraling downward toward violence or suicide. But there’s no way the Republicans will appropriate enough money for such programs. They’ll cough up funds for more “hardening” of schools, of course.

What isn’t in this agreement — no assault weapons ban, of course. No increase in the mnimum wage to buy a firearm. No limits on magazine capacity.

I think if this can pass in the Senate I’d say pass it, but then the Democrats should collectively release a statement saying that this won’t do much, but it’s the best the Republicans would agree to. Don’t expect any big change in gun violence, though.

Also, too: The 31 Patriot Front members arrested in Coeur d’Alene yesterday were all stuffed in a U-Haul. Maybe if they’d been in there a bit longer they would have suffocated. Oh, well.

 

Doors, Radios, and Incompetence at Uvalde

Here’s a thought that keeps rumbling through my head: If Uvalde, Texas, had been in 17th century Japan, Police Chief Pete Arredondo would have been ordered by his daimyo to commit ritual suicide already. And that’s starting to sound like a good idea.

The story is still changing. This is from Lawrence O’Donnell’s show last night; I shaved off about six minutes of it to get right to the part about Ulvalde.

Texas public officials, from Gret Abbott on down, for some reason are protecting Arredondo.

Arredondo told his side of the story to the Texas Tribune a couple of days ago, and among the astonishing things that came out was that he did not consider himself to be the person in charge.

Arredondo assumed that some other officer or official had taken control of the larger response. He took on the role of a front-line responder.

He said he never considered himself the scene’s incident commander and did not give any instruction that police should not attempt to breach the building. DPS officials have described Arredondo as the incident commander and said Arredondo made the call to stand down and treat the incident as a “barricaded suspect,” which halted the attempt to enter the room and take down the shooter. “I didn’t issue any orders,” Arredondo said. “I called for assistance and asked for an extraction tool to open the door.”

Okay, then, who was in charge?

This account says that Arredondo immediately entered the school to look for a way into the classroom, and he didn’t take his radio with him because it would have slowed him down.

He (speaking through his lawyer) also said he would have had to turn the radio off, anyway, so that the shooter did not hear him. He did have a cell phone, however, and at one point he called police dispatch to ask for “a SWAT team, snipers and extrication tools, like a fire hook, to open the door.”

The doors were steel doors that had been intended to keep intruders locked out of the classrooms, but of course in this case the intruder was in the classroom and the police were locked out. They didn’t have a master key. This was the police force dedicated to the school district, remember, not the city police force. They didn’t have master keys?

Experts on active shooting interviewed by the Texas Tribune said that under normal protocols, Arrodondo would have been considered the incident commander. And if Arrodondo was not able to discharge that duty — because he was in a hallway in the school without a radio waiting for someone to figure out how to open a classroom door — then he should have designated someone else to be the incident commander.

Eventually, Border Patrol agents who had come from some distance entered the school, opened the door, and killed the shooter. It’s not clear to me how they got the door opened. They had keys that worked while the local cops didn’t?

According to a New York Times report, dated June 9 —

According to the documents, Chief Arredondo, who had earlier focused on evacuating other classrooms, began to discuss breaching the classrooms where the gunman was holed up about an hour after the gunfire started inside the school at 11:33 a.m. He did so after several shots could be heard inside the classrooms, after a long lull, around 12:21 p.m., video footage showed.

But he wanted to find the keys first.

“We’re ready to breach, but that door is locked,” he said, according to the transcript, around 12:30 p.m.

By that point, officers in and around the school had been growing increasingly impatient, and in some cases had been loudly voicing their concerns. “If there’s kids in there, we need to go in there,” one officer could be heard saying, according to the documents. Another responded, “Whoever is in charge will determine that.”

A team made up of specially trained Border Patrol agents and a sheriff’s deputy finally went in after the gunman and killed him at 12:50 p.m.

The team entered, not over the objections of Chief Arredondo, but apparently not fully aware that he had given the go-ahead after holding officers back for more than an hour, according to a person briefed on the team’s response by a federal agent involved in the tactical effort. Amid the confusion and frustration in the hallway, the agent believed that the team was taking the initiative on its own to go into the classrooms.

And this —

Investigators found that not only did an exterior door — through which the gunman entered — fail to lock, but most of the school’s interior doors, including those on classrooms, could not be immediately locked in the event of an emergency.

Is it possible classroom doors weren’t really locked? All that time? This part of the narrative begins at about 12:30 —

By that time, heavily armed tactical officers had arrived, along with protective shields. Chief Arredondo at that point signaled his support for going into the room, but began asking repeatedly for keys that would work on the door.

It was not clear from the transcript if anyone had tried the door to see if it was locked.

Arrodondo isn’t talking except through a criminal defense attorney. Make of that what you will.

During that time, a large contingent of Border Patrol agents with long guns and shields massed near the door.

According to the transcript of body camera video, Chief Arredondo could be heard speaking into a phone, preparing for a breach and asking for someone to look into the windows of one of the classrooms to see if anything could be seen.

By 12:46 p.m. he gave his approval to enter the room. “If y’all are ready to do it, you do it,” he said, according to the transcript.

Minutes later, the team went in.

It was all over very quickly then.

The school district cops said their radios didn’t work well in the schools. What had been done to correct this? The New York Times article said the Border Patrol radios worked just fine.

The business with the radios reminds me a bit of September 11, when firefighters died in the towers because their radios didn’t work and they didn’t hear the call to evacuate. The problems with thea radios were known before September 11.

Likewise, the small police department answering to the school district had one job to do, protect the schools. They had radios that didn’t work in the schools? They didn’t have master keys to the classrooms?

See also The creator of the FBI mass shooting protocol is ‘shocked’ by Uvalde police response at NPR.

At the very least, we’re looking at gross incompetence here. But all the public officials of Texas appear to be rallying around Pete Arredondo, maybe hoping to protect him until attention is diverted and people stop pushing for answers on the school shooting in Ulvalde. There’s no accountability and no honor.

Tonight’s the Night

I keep trying not to get my hopes up. There is a lot of opinionating in media today that people will tune out the hearings or will see it as a political stunt. People are more interested in gas prices than in the January 6 insurrection. Certainly the hard-core right wing will insist it’s just a political stunt, no matter what.

If the committee is smart, they will have saved some big-deal revelation for tonight that will get enough headlines and buzz that people not terribly interested will hear about it, and at least think, WTF?

We’ve been told to expect to see taped testimony from Ivanka and Jared. It wouldn’t surprise me to see those two throw Daddy at least part way under the bus.

If you want to comment before, during, and after tonight’s presentation, feel free.

Update on the Missouri Senate Primary from Hell

Today’s primaries are in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Here’s a preview from Steve Benen.

Here’s an update on the Missouri Senate Primary from Hell: So far, the various Republican creatures posing as “candidates” have not been spending a lot of money on television ads, or else they aren’t running ads in the St. Louis media market. All of the political ads on television here are for elections in Illinois, which is holding primaries on June 28. The Missouri primary isn’t until August 2, so maybe the Missouri campaigns are holding back until the election is closer. The illinois ads are obnoxious enough, though.

In Illinois, BTW, there are a mess of Republicans running to be nominated for governor to run against incumbent Democrat J. B. Pritzker. All the Republicans are running against CRIME and also promise to do the usual things nobody needs doing, like keeping trans women out of sports and Critical Race Theory out of elementary schools. I’m kind of mildly interested in which one of these bozos actually attracts votes. And I sincerely hope J.B. Pritzker gets another term. I understand he has a primary challenger but haven’t seen any television ads from her.

I understand that former Missouri governor Eric Greitens is the front runner for the  nomination for retiring Roy Blunt’s Senate seat. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt is close behind, and U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler is a close third (all three discussed here and here). It looks like any one of those three has a shot at the nomination right now, and they would all be disasters in the Senate. Polling in single digits are U.S. Rep. Billy Long, state senator Dave Schatz, and Mark McCloskey, who is scraping the bottom of the polls at around 2.5 percent. Billy Long is the fellow who resembles a talking potato and who believes abortion rights are the leading cause of mass shooting. There was talk that Long had received Donald Trump’s endorsement, but that announcement may have been premature. The alleged endorsement doesn’t seem to have moved any needles for him, at any rate.

There are a bunch of declared candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination, but the only ones considered viable at the moment are Lucas Kunce and Trudy Busch Valentine. Valentine is an Anheuser-Busch heiress, a daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., who has worked as a registered nurse but has not run for elected office before. Lucas Kunce is an “antitrust advocate” and former U.S. Marine who also is new to politics but seems to have a knack for campaigning and has had a few guest spots on MSNBC.  Valentine has gotten a lot of endorsements from the state Democratic establishment, but she seems shy about public appearances. Either one would be an acceptable senator, especially in comparison to the freak show the Republicans are running, although neither is quite as liberal/progressive as I would like. I understand Kunce is the current frontrunner.

What’s interesting about state polls is that while Greitens is the front runner for the nomination, he is also the most vulnerable to being beaten by Kunce in head to head polling. But a lot can happen between now and August, never mind November, so I’m not making predictions.

Trump and His Big Lie Lose in Georgia

I’m still processing yesterday’s shooting and am not quite ready to write about it. For now I just want to address the state of the primaries.

This is looking like a weak election year for Blue Dog Democrats. Last year a group of House Democrats called the “unbreakable nine,” or sometimes just The Nine, worked their butts off to water down if not kill the original Build Back Better bill. Note that The Nine are also all members of the Blue Dog Coalition. From the archives, see “Moderate” Troublemakers Still Threaten to Derail Biden Agenda, August 2021; and The House Dem Centrists Hit a Wall, October 2021.

The Nine were known to be working for No Labels, the same group of hedge fund/capital management/equity fund guys that owns Joe Manchin. The original Build Back Better bill proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy and on some corporations and stock buybacks. Obviously, for No Labels, that could not stand.

The original Nine were Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05); Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07; Filemon Vela (TX-34); Jared Golden (ME-02); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15); Ed Case (HI-01); Jim Costa (CA-16); and Kurt Schrader (OR-05). Vela resigned from the House earlier this year and is now working for a Washington lobbying firm. Gottheimer has no primary opponent, I understand. In Texas, Gonzalez won his primary and, if he wins the general election, will be representing redistricted district 34 in the next Congress. But not all of them will be returning.

It’s not yet official, but several news outlets are saying that Kurt Schrader was defeated by his progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. For example, yesterday Dave Seminara wrote How Oregon’s Joe Manchin Lost His Primary in the Wall Streeet Journal. Seminara sniffs disapprovingly about “leftist orthodoxy” but admits McLeod-Skinner won.

Yesterday in Georgia, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lost to Rep. Lucy McBath, both House members who ended up redistricted into the same district. I understand McBath is a Third Way type who got a lot of money from AIPAC, so I’m not sure it will matter. McBath is a staunch supporter of gun control, however, so that’s something.

The Cuellar-Cisneros contest in Texas is still too close to call. With 94 percent of the vote counted, Cuellar is only 177 votes ahead. Even if he eventually prevails, that ought to make him think. But it probably won’t. Cuellar is the AIPAC candidate in this race, btw.

Golden and Costa face primaries in June, and Case’s primary is in August.

Elsewhere — the biggest surprise of yesterday’s primaries, for me, was that Brad Raffensperger won his primary over MAGA Creature Jody Hice by such a large margin. It was supposed to be closer, I thought.

Also, Trump had endorsed some guy named John Gordon for Georgia attorney general. Gordon lost to the incumbent, Chris Carr. Carr won by 73.7 to 26.3 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of the vote counted. Trump’s choice for insurance commissioner (insurance commissioner?), Patrick Witt, got only 17 percent of the vote yesterday and is out. Trump endorsed one House candidate, Vernon Jones for the 10th Congressional District, who came in second. There will be a runoff.

Bottom line, though, Trump’s endorsements didn’t mean squat in Georgia.

There are no primaries next Tuesday, which is the day after Memorial Day. States holding primaries on June 7 are California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Another School Shooting

Fourteen children and a teacher were killed today in a mass shooting in an elementary school in Texas. As of this writing no one is saying how old the children were. The suspected shooter, a teenager, is reported to be dead also. Other children have been hospitalized.

Early reports say the shooter used a handgun but may have had a rifle also.

Less than a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott signed seven gun rights bills into law. One of them, HB 1927, allowed eligible Texans to carry a handgun without a license or without training. Another, SB 550, got rid of a requirement to keep firearms in a shoulder or belt holster.

From June 2021:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed seven bills into law Thursday that will expand gun rights in the state. The signing took place less than a week after a mass shooting in Austin killed one person and injured 14 others.

“Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session. These seven laws will protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and ensure that Texas remains a bastion of freedom,” Abbott said during Thursday’s signing ceremony at the Alamo in San Antonio. …

… “Those who believe and support Second Amendment rights, we support the right of every law-abiding American to have a weapon and defend themselves,” Abbott said. 

Gun rights rally at the Alamo.

 

Southern Baptists Face Replacement

Last year, attendees at the annual Southern Baptist convention voted to commission an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse within the denomination.  (For background into the allegations, see What Lies Beneath, February 2019.) Now a report has been issued, and it documents massive moral rot in SBC leadership. No surprise. The SBC denies what’s in the report, of course.

Theologian Russell Moore was one of the people who pushed for an investigation. When the allegations came out he was serving as president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He resigned and left the SBC entirely in June 2021. I take it this was not entirely voluntary. Moore is religiously and culturally conservative, but he expressed the view that Donald Trump is nothing but a huckster and also was known to have sympathy for immigrants and for sexual abuse victims. This put him at odds with SBC culture. Ministers of individual SBC churches complained about him and began withholding money for missions. So Moore got pushed out and took a job as editor at Christianity Today.

This is from Moore’s response to the report:

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.

In other words, the boys closed ranked to protect the boys being boys.

One of the most damning revelations is that the leadership for many years had maintained a secret database of accusations. This was not done for the purpose of addressing the sexual abuse but to stay ahead of possible bad publicity and legal liability. Sex abuse victims who made too much noise were “ignored, minimized and ‘even vilified’ by top clergy in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination,” it says here.

The SBC has a loose organizational structure that gives local churches considerable autonomy. One of the leadership’s excuses for not acting on accusations of sexual predation in the churches was that the SBC central administration didn’t have the authority to report local clergy to police. The leadership acknowledged that these things happened, but it was up to local congregations to deal with it. However, this same loosely governing body had in the past moved decisively to end the affiliation of churches that became accepting of homosexuality. The SBC governing bylaws ban gay or female pastors from serving in SBC churches but say nothing about sexual predators working in churches.

And, of course, officials in the leadership are among the accused perps in the report.

I warn you, this will be shocking — I got some interesting stuff from Erick Erickson, of all people. Apparently he’s a friend of Russell Moore. “Many of those implicated in the abuse turn out to be the very men who rallied to force Russell Moore out after he began publicly talking with survivors of the abuse,” EE writes. Then he says,

The men in charge were worried about governance issues and litigation more than the sin and victims. In fact, many victims were attacked and maligned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a loose confederation of churches. Governance is at the individual church level. The Convention itself chooses to affiliate with churches that share a common missional purpose and Baptist approach, but the Convention does not hire, fire, or even oversee individual church pastors.

However, over the last few years, many of those implicated in the report have led the charge to sever ties with churches who put women in positions of church leadership or let women speak or preach from pulpits. Many of their allies have vocally attacked prominent women in the Southern Baptist Convention for not knowing their place. Concurrently, these same men were stymying efforts to sever ties with churches that employed documented abusers.

Typical. From there EE goes on to say that keeping women out of pulpits is biblically justified, and that’s true as I remember it, but as I’m not a Christian any more that’s hardly important to me. This is a pure reflection of their true values, not the Bible. The priority is protecting and maintaining the patriarchy, and if they have to break a few Commandments to do that, so be it. Greater good, etc.

These same men have probably marched through their lives thinking of themselves as keepers of the flame of morality and protectors of women and children. They’ve probably declared this out loud on many occasions. I don’t doubt that on some level they believe this to be true. But their real motivations, what really guides their actions and their opinons, have nothing to do with morality or Jesus or anything but the urge buried deep in their psyches to maintain their own privilege, their own Holy White Male status.

We must acknoweledge that institutional complicity in sexual predation is not exclusively a Southern Baptist problem, or a Christian problem, or even an organized religion problem. It’s cultural; it’s social-psychological. It happens everywhere.

Even so, it is notable that the two Christian denominations that are most adamantly opposed to abortion rights, Catholic and Southern Baptists, are the same ones most known for harboring sex predators on a grand scale. This is not a coincidence.

There’s a piece at Five Thirty Eight that says “People who believe in traditional gender roles — and perceive that those roles are increasingly being blurred to men’s disadvantage — are much likelier to oppose abortion than people who don’t hold those beliefs.” Which comes under the heading of “Stuff That’s Blazingly Obvious” to me, but I guess somebody felt a need to gather data on it.  But note the zero sum thinking — blurring of the old order, expanding the parameters for women, must be coming at the expense of men. All that howling about “replacement theory” comes from that same place, whether about race or gender. The social order must be maintained at all costs. Equality terrifies them. Being just themselves terrifies them.They armor themselves in gender and race privilege and lose touch with whatever human beings may be huddled within the armor.

Do read The reinvention of a ‘real man’ by Jose A. Del Real in the Washington Post. It’s about a man in Wyoming who has made it his mission to coax other men out of the armor to be who they are.

Across the United States, men accounted for 79 percent of suicide deaths in 2020, according to a Washington Post analysis of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also shows Wyoming has the highest rate of suicide deaths per capita in the country. A majority of suicide deaths involve firearms, of which there are plenty in Wyoming, and alcohol or drugs are often a factor. Among sociologists, the Mountain West is nicknamed “The Suicide Belt.”

More and more, theories about thegender gap in suicides are focused on the potential pitfalls of masculinity itself.

The data also contains a sociological mystery even the experts are unsure how to explainfully: Ofthe 45,979 people who died by suicide in the United States in 2020, about 70 percent were White men, who are just 30 percent of the country’s overall population. That makes White men the highest-risk group for suicide in the country, especially in middle age, even as they are overrepresented in positions of powerand stature in the United States. The rate that has steadily climbed over the past 20 years.

Some clinical researchers and suicidologists are now asking whether there is something particular about White American masculinity worth interrogating further.The implications are significant: Onaverage, there are more than twice as many deaths by suicide than by homicide each year in the United States.

A lot of these suicides involve guns and alcohol, of course, but I assume everyone has equal access to guns and alcohol in Wyoming.

Bill Hawley, the subject of the article, thinks these men suffer from a big gap between their expectations and their reality. They are also conditioned to be stoic and tough, to be out of touch with their own emotions, to be walled up and defensive. Many have a hard time maintaining marriages or relationships with their adult children. And they are much less llikely to seek help than women, because to admit one needs help is to admit to weakness. So the alternative is booze and a gun. Call it the masculine mystique.

This is what the Southern Baptists are protecting. This is what the “great replacement” crap is about. Some wingnuts are even tying the “great replacement” to forcing White women to carry pregnancies to term. See, for example, At CPAC, “The Great Replacement” Theory Meets Anti-Abortion Nonsense. This lunacy isn’t doing the Holy White Men a damn bit of good, either, but they aren’t able to see that.

See also Josh Hawley’s “Virtuous Men” Should Grow Up from November 2021, which points out that the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the U.S. is homicide. It also points to a Psychology Today article about “precarious manhood,” or about the way traditional male gender roles are fragile and easily lost.

Traditional masculinity, as a form of social status, is “hard-won and easily lost.” A real man cannot simply be: He must repeatedly prove his masculinity.

In the U.S., Knowles and DiMuccio note, masculinity is associated by many with behaviors like “avoiding the appearance of femininity and homosexuality, seeking status and achievement, evincing independence and confidence, taking risks, and being aggressive.”

And threats to (or doubts about) masculinity often motivate hypermasculine behaviors, such as risk-taking and aggression.

Nobody needs this crap, especially not the men who cling to it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Southern Baptists, although that will be interesting to watch.