Saturday Report 7/23/22 - Josh Hawley has broken the internet, as people all over the world are rolling on the floor laughing...
The Best of the Rest of the News
— Unless you’ve been living under a rock or watching Fox “News” you know that the January 6th Committee delved deeply into the 187 minutes during which Trump watched an armed crowd attack the Capitol and kill five people while looking to assassinate the Vice President and Speaker of the House. What’s baffling me, though, is why nobody has explicitly, out-loud, asked the question: “Where was the DC National Guard?” They showed up, after all, in full-body riot gear for peaceful BLM protests, Trump illegally used one of their helicopters against DC protestors, and they were certainly available and many were in a nearby armory. But as members of Congress and their staffs hid from the mob, they didn’t show up. Why? Trump had gone through several Defense Secretaries — the highest authority over the National Guard — before he finally, the week after he lost the election, put Chris Miller in charge of that department (without Senate approval). And, as anybody with a Facebook account could tell you, by January 4th it was no secret that there was a high probability of violence at the Capitol on January 6th. In response to that knowledge, Miller issued the following directive to the DC National Guard (DCNG) explicitly telling them that “from January 5-6” they could NOT interfere with the riot in any way. They could NOT even be issued weapons or protective gear for themselves, couldn’t interact with the protestors, couldn’t use tear gas, couldn’t use their intelligence or helicopter assets, couldn’t search protestors for weapons or arrest people, and could NOT accept Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s offer that came down around 2 pm to have the Maryland National Guard (which was a 10-minute drive away) from showing up. Why has nobody brought this up? If I’m missing something (and I’m pretty sure I’m not) and you know what I’m missing, you can always just hit “reply” to this email and it will come directly to my personal email account (if you’re a full subscriber). Why is the January 6th Committee apparently ignoring this???
— Arguably the most important “stabilizer” of the US government is our Civil Service, made up of around 2 million federal employees. Of these, around 4,000 are “political appointees” (like federal prosecutors, cabinet secretaries, agency heads, etc.) who are subject to replacement when a new administration takes office, and around 50,000 are “senior level” critical staff who basically hold the government together. Those people have Civil Service protections (to insure national stability) so they can’t be fired or removed from their offices by a rogue president. If Russia or another adversary wanted to decapitate the US government, wiping out senior-level intelligence, military, and threat assessment capabilities those 50,000 people would be their target. By eliminating those people — the institutional leadership and “memory” of the US government — they’d have effectively destroyed our government’s ability to function. Just by coincidence, it turns out, the month before the 2020 election Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing him to do exactly that: fire every one of those 50,000 top-level federal government employees. Axios details Trump’s plan here and here, and notes that Biden rescinded the order when he came into office. But the next Republican president, if it’s one of the “Freedom Caucus” guys who tried to keep Trump in office after January 6th, regularly vote against aid to Ukraine, and generally support Putin, this “Schedule F” plot could just as easily put it back into place. It’s too early to tell if DeSantis has been as corrupted by Putin as have multiple members of the House and Senate, but IMHO this is a real future danger to our country that is being understated in the media.
— One in five Americans now says that violence against other Americans to achieve a political goal is acceptable. Kurt Braddock, an expert on the psychology of extremist communication interviewed by Science, said that the first and most important thing to do is to regulate the system that is spreading extremism in the US, particularly social media. Facebook was the target of Russian election influence in 2016 and many experts believe had it not been for that successful exploitation of Facebook Hillary Clinton would have been our president. Now Russian trolls and bots are at it again (along, presumably, with those from Iran, China, and other countries that would like to see the US flip from democracy to authoritarianism): anybody following politics on Facebook and Twitter can tell you about the explosion of hard-right neofascist activity on both platforms, particularly from accounts created in the past six months. These are real threats to social cohesion and governance; hopefully DHS and Congress are paying attention and will act soon.
— Three Republican-controlled counties in Pennsylvania are refusing to certify the recent primary election, in an apparent test of their ability to refuse to count mail-in ballots, which come predominantly from Democrats. Although multiple courts — including the US Supreme Court — have ruled that voters are not required to date their ballots (there’s the postal date stamped on the envelope, and ballots that arrive late aren’t counted anyway), these Republican officials say they want to throw out thousands of mail-in ballots that didn’t have dates hand-written on them. It’s increasingly obvious that Republicans know there’s no way they can win widely across America: the last Republican elected president by the majority of Americans, for example, was George HW Bush in 1988, 34 years ago. Given the widespread antipathy to GOP policies and their crackpot politicians, the party is now reverting to rigging and manipulating elections to try to stay in power.
— Apparently some evangelical Christians have started reading their Bibles. Jesus, of course, lays out the essence of his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Goats and Sheep, both in the New Testament book of Matthew. His message is pretty straightforward: it’s hypocritical to pray in public and display your piety for the benefit of your ego; we must love and care for others as if they were our family; feed the hungry; heal the sick; help those unjustly accused and imprisoned; clothe (and, implicitly, house) those lacking clothing and housing. Which is why, of course, Jesus is often referred to as history’s first liberal. Now evangelicals, after having their churches hijacked for the past 42 years by successive Republican administrations (Reagan started the process, Trump exploited them even more heavily), are leaving the church, exhausted and dispirited. Other evangelical churches are openly rejecting the GOP and its “greed is good” ideology, embracing progressive social and economic positions. America, it appears, is waking up!
— Idaho Republicans say if it’s a choice between a fetus or mom, mom dies and the fetus lives. Seriously. The Idaho Republican Party just added a total abortion ban to their platform for 2022 and 2024, specifically and intentionally eliminating any reference to abortion “to save the life of the mother.” Women: the GOP just isn’t all that into you.
— A handful of rightwing billionaires have put up about half of all the money raised by the two major GOP super PACs that work to elect Republicans to the House and Senate. As Jimmy Carter told me about 7 years ago, the Citizens United decision by 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court has turned America from a democracy into an oligarchy. Overturning Citizens United must be job one if or when Democrats get a large enough majority to pass legislation like the For the People Act to do that over the objections of every single Republican and two disgustingly sold-out Democrats.
— Donald Trump Junior ripped off investors, vendors, employees and customers of a company he started while his dad was in the White House. It’s a truly astonishing and disgusting story, worth a few minutes of your time to read in The New Republic. Trump Jr. claimed he was going to provide affordable housing to the world’s poor in a multi-billion-dollar scheme that turns out to have been almost pure grift. A farmer put up a million dollars, a law firm did hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal work, a factory owner did his own financing so Trump Jr could claim it was his, and a temp-help company provided hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of labor. Trump screwed them all, and when each one tried to get their money back or the money they were owed for the work they did, he fell back on his dad’s old trick: he threatened to sue them, essentially saying, “My pockets are so deep I’ll keep you tied up in court for a decade and bankrupt you from the legal fees.” This is another story that tells us who and what the Trumps really are, and deserves a lot more media attention than it’s getting. This is a family of grifters, from Grandpa Trump who ran a whorehouse in Alaska to Fred Trump who scammed low-income renters to the current crop exploiting, as Liz Cheney pointed out Thursday night, the innate patriotism of most well-intentioned American Republicans.
— The UN’s Secretary General, António Guterres, tells the world that humanity now faces “collective suicide” if we don’t take prompt action to stop climate change. North America and Europe are both baking under an unprecedented heat wave, but even that hasn’t gotten a single high-profile Republican to repudiate their fossil-fuel-baron overlords and acknowledge the climate emergency the world is now facing.
— Geeky Science! Will monarch butterflies soon be extinct? The iconic butterflies, beloved by generations of American kids, have suffered so much damage from pesticides and habitat loss that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has put them on their endangered “red list,” on their way toward formal extinction. Plant some milkweed!
— A special note about Monday. I’m on a book deadline for The Hidden History of American Democracy and taking Monday off from the radio/TV show as well as this newsletter. You’ll get the Sunday Book Excerpt tomorrow, then I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday. Thanks for understanding…
— Crazy Alert! Josh Hawley has broken the internet, as people all over the world are rolling on the floor laughing. Hawley, of course, famously fist-bumped the January 6th traitors and was the first Republican to announce that he was going to defy the Electoral College and vote against certifying Joe Biden’s election, setting off a chain-reaction of “me, too!” responses starting with Ted Cruz. Now that the January 6th Committee has made public security footage showing him fleeing the very mob he helped incite, literally thousands of memes and themes playing off “chicken Hawley” and “gelding Hawley” are making their way around the internet. (When a male horse is castrated, that’s referred to as a “proud cut.” When a castrated horse doesn’t realize he’s castrated and persists in mounting mares, he’s called a “proud boy.” Apparently, the internet says, Hawley can now claim membership to that club.) Mallory Nees on Twitter has put Hawley’s epic run over a series of soundtracks:
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