Big Two-Shirted Trial

Big Two-Shirted Trial

The Hill reports that Griftenführer Steve “Two-Shirts” Bannon will stand trial on contempt of Congress charges starting July 18.  The prosecution, which said it would need only one day to present its case, wanted to start the trial in April. (Why not next Tuesday? No idea.) The defense asked for an October trial date. (For obvious reasons.)

As rotten luck would have it, the judge is a Trump appointee. Here’s his rationale for settling on July:

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said during a pretrial hearing that while he was not convinced by federal prosecutors’ efforts to accelerate the schedule, he did not believe that a trial should wait for nearly a year, as Bannon’s defense team had argued.

The judge acknowledged that his trial schedule is “still a long time in the arc of a criminal case” but said it’s necessary to address the legal and constitutional challenges that Bannon’s lawyers have vowed to raise.

Whatever, Judge Jeanine.

But seriously, folks, how long can it take to determine that executive privilege resides with the executive, who is now Joe Biden, and that even if, Odin forbid, Trump were still president, Bannon hadn’t worked in the White House since the summer of 2017 — three years and change before the incident being investigated?

What legal and constitutional challenges could the Bannon clowns possibly raise that would merit a response more complicated than “the fuck you say”? This sounds like one of the scenarios where the law is an ass. Justice delayed in this instance will almost surely be justice denied.

In Bannon’s podcast, which is probably called “Feudalism Now!,” the shuffling, cold sore-encrusted dandruff flake talks big about turning the tables on the January 6th committee and ransacking documents in the Biden White House, bragging “they picked on the wrong guy!” But his con artistry since the White House gig has been decidedly of the “Velvet Elvis” caliber, so I rather doubt the administration is quaking in its wingtips at the likes of him.

Open thread.

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Florida Republicans are destroying the state’s flagship university

Man, and I thought this academic year would be personally notable mostly for my alma mater’s terrible, horrible, no-good football season. A new report from The Tampa Bay Times:

UF researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, faculty report says
Faculty Senate panel alleges more violations of academic freedom. Says staff was told not to contradict state on pandemic issues.

Fear of upsetting state officials is pervasive among faculty at the University of Florida, to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, according to a report released Monday by a Faculty Senate committee.

The six-person panel was convened three weeks ago to investigate academic freedom issues after the university decided to bar three political science professors from testifying in a lawsuit against the state. But its findings go well beyond that episode and were so disturbing — especially regarding COVID-19 research — that the group decided to speed up its work, said Danaya Wright, a constitutional law professor and former Faculty Senate chairperson who served on the committee…

The report further states that UF employees were told “not to criticize the Governor of Florida or UF policies related to COVID-19 in media interactions.” It says they were told not to use their UF titles or affiliation in written commentary or to give oral presentations. And faculty at UF Health expressed concerns over funding being in jeopardy if they did not adopt the state’s stance on pandemic regulations in opinion articles, the report says.

Last month in this space, we discussed how DeSantis and the wingnut supermajority statehouse had cowed the university to the point that it wasn’t allowing professors to testify as experts in legal proceedings about voter suppression laws or the governor’s dumb and destructive crusade against mask mandates in schools.

A week ago, The Independent Florida Alligator (UF student newspaper) reported on a rather broad effect of CRT panic at the university, where you’d think administrators could trust graduate students not to become whitey haters via exposure to a framework for intellectual inquiry, but nah:

A UF professor filed a grievance over UF’s hesitancy to create a concentration that included the words “critical” and “race,” adding to the ongoing challenges to academic freedom at the institution…

Professors attempted to get a concentration titled “Critical Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Education” approved, but UF’s administration denied the proposition.

The grievance stated the faculty was told in a meeting Oct. 18 that the graduate school would not approve any course with the words “critical” and “race” in the title. Administration asked for the course to be changed to something less offensive to the Florida legislature, the grievance read.

This is, or at least should be, an embarrassment to every current and former UF student and faculty member. The spineless president of the university, Kent Fuchs, is dithering around with task forces when he should be publicly telling the governor and legislature to back the fuck up.

Meanwhile, the real power at UF, Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini (coincidentally a DeSantis megadonor), is fuming about all the negative attention, which means the faculty union is doing its job:

“To this I say enough,” Hosseini said. “This behavior is unacceptable. It is disrespectful….This will not stand. It must stop and it will stop. If you allow something to happen, that means you condone it. Let me tell you, our legislators are not going to put up with the wasting of state money and resources, and neither will this board. And we shouldn’t…”

Hosseini also praised Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Senate President Wilton Simpson and Gov. Ron DeSantis for their support of the university. He took issue with the notion that UF’s decisions regarding the three professors were the result of political pressure.

To that I say, bull-fucking-shit. Hosseini is not only a major FL GOP donor, he co-chaired DeSantis’s transition team (along with as yet unindicted pervert Matt Gaetz) and flies the governor’s wife to events on his private jet.

Hosseini also foisted our new kook of a surgeon general on the state and the University of Florida, importing the crackpot from UCLA to spread dumb pandemic conspiracy theories and terrible medical advice for the princely sum of $500K per year. The whole arrangement is corrupt as fuck.

UF recently obtained a top 5 ranking among public universities, and they were damn proud of it. I don’t know how academia works, but I suspect top scholars have already started to avoid a university that is run like the Hazzard County sheriff’s office.

Sadly, there’s no one to step in and clean up this mess because there’s a Republican fox guarding every entry point to the UF henhouse. But I know the faculty union will keep squawking.

Open thread.

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Extra Early Open Thread

Beltway press interest in politicians’ cybersecurity practices waxes and wanes. They regarded Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her term as Secretary of State as a potentially disqualifying scandal and grave national security crisis.

When the nothing-burger Clinton email scandal served its purpose and the Trumps occupied the White House, the corrupt clan’s serial use of unsecured phones and private email and chat services was mostly met with yawns.

Now that the sensitive national intelligence-broadcasting Trumps have been ejected from the White House, it’s time for Beltway gossip rags to become cybersecurity scolds again. But this time, in the opposite direction, as in “why is Vice President Harris so paranoid about Bluetooth?” I shit you not:

While wired headphones have re-emerged as a hip vintage accessory among Gen Z, Harris’ embrace of them is less about fashion than caution. Former aides say that the vice president has long been careful about security and technology — with some describing it as prudent and others suggesting it’s a bit paranoid.

It’s a recurring theme. An aide on her 2016 Senate bid said Harris often preferred texting to email for security reasons. And another former aide when she was attorney general in California said that when a person arrived for a meeting, staff were instructed not to allow them to wait in Harris’ office alone. Instead, the person was asked to wait outside.

Bluetooth probably is a security risk if you’ve got sophisticated state-funded hackers probing for weaknesses 24/7. And it probably is a good idea not to allow visitors unsupervised access to high-ranking officials’ workspaces.

The excerpt above is from Politico, and to be fair, the tone is lighthearted. But damn, the double standard is exhausting sometimes.

Open thread.

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‘Partisans for Democracy’

I think there was some discussion around here a few days back about Dana Milbank’s WaPo column on the media’s “both sides” problem. Here’s an excerpt:

In 2020, Trump presided over a worst-in-world pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths; held a superspreader event at the White House and got covid-19 himself; praised QAnon adherents; embraced violent white supremacists; waged a racist campaign against Black Lives Matter demonstrators; attempted to discredit mail-in voting; and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to the violence of Jan. 6 and causing tens of millions to accept the “big lie,” the worst of more than 30,000 he told in office.

And yet Trump got press coverage as favorable as, or better than, Biden is getting today. Sure, Biden has had his troubles, with the delta variant, Afghanistan and inflation. But the economy is rebounding impressively, he has signed major legislation, and he has restored some measure of decency, calm and respect for democratic institutions.

We need a skeptical, independent press. But how about being partisans for democracy? The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.

Milbank’s column apparently struck a nerve. Some of his critics raised legit questions, such as if the methodology used to parse the tenor of the coverage makes sense. But some of the pushback from horserace Beltway outfits unintentionally proved Milbank’s point. Here’s a representative sample from a protracted slap-fight on Twitter between Milbank and Politico’s Ryan Lizza:

Speaking of partisans for democracy, here’s good (breaking) news, also from WaPo:

Justice Dept. sues Texas over state redistricting maps, citing discrimination against Latinos

The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas for the second time in a month over new voting laws, this time alleging that Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Latinos and other minorities when they approved new congressional and state legislature districts that increased the power of White voters.

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement marked the department’s first major legal action on redistricting at a time when Democrats have warned that GOP-controlled state legislatures are seeking to improperly redraw voting precincts to aid Republican candidates ahead of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.

“This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act,” the Justice Department said in its lawsuit. “In enacting its 2021 Congressional and House plans, the State has again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans.”

I needed to hear that today because a Bart Gellman piece in The Atlantic about the possibility of the Trump cult pulling off a coup in 2024 had me feeling pessimistic. It’s a long piece but worth a read.

We’ll need law enforcement pushback from the feds and action from lawmakers. The press has its role to play too. Milbank is a mixed bag, but we need more epiphanies like his because the danger is real.

Open thread.

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Wee Hours Open Thread

I’ve been wide awake since 4 AM for some reason, so I caught the first news accounts when the cops nabbed America’s Worst MAGA Trash ParentsTM overnight. From the coverage, it sounds like the two really had gone on the lam. They were hiding out in an “industrial building” (possibly with the help of a third party) after withdrawing thousands of dollars from an ATM. JFC.

The TV talking heads discussing the case gave the impression that gunowners are alarmed that parents might be held liable when their kids go on a murder rampage. That’s another sign of how our sick gun culture has warped perspectives. Valued commenter Leto pointed to a comment by Biden’s first ATF nominee, David Chipman:

“If a parent provided their car to an unlicensed teen for a night of drunken joy riding, no one would be shocked if a prosecutor sought to hold the adults accountable.”

Exactly. It should be no different with The Precious.

Here’s a story out of India about a mother who doesn’t suck at her parenting job:

A boy snatched by a leopard is lucky to be alive after the animal let go of him when his mother gave chase.

The unnamed child, believed to be around 5 years old, was sitting in his hut with his mother and siblings when the big cat approached, according to local authorities.

The woman, who has been named locally as Kiran Baiga, jumped up and chased the animal while screaming, according to Y P Singh, field director of the Sanjay-Dubri National Park and Tiger Reserve in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Recounting the episode, which took place on November 30, Singh told CNN: “The lady was sitting in her hut with her children when the leopard came. It took the child and started to run away when the lady chased him, screaming, and more people showed up, so the leopard let go of the child and ran away.”

The boy suffered minor injuries but is now fully recovered, according to Singh.

And she didn’t even need a gun to protect her child. Way to go, mom!

Open thread!

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Pandemic Politics

Those two words should never be in the same phrase, but here we are. And soon, we may find out if the Omicron variant scrambles current pandemic politics. It’s too soon to tell, but new evidence coming out of South Africa seems to suggest that the latest variant is better at evading immunity acquired from previous infections, and that may have political implications. Via CNN:

Researchers in South Africa reported Thursday they have found some evidence that people who had been infected once with coronavirus were more likely to be reinfected with the Omicron variant than with the Beta or Delta variants.

Josh Marshall discusses the potential implications in a subscriber-only article at TPM, but my takeaway is that things could get interesting fast in the U.S. if it turns out that vaccination provides substantially better immunity against Omicron that natural immunity from prior infections. That seems to be a distinct possibility since there’s evidence vaccines provide better protection against prior variants than previous infection alone, which is why people who’ve recovered from COVID should still get vaccinated.

Wingnuts who have used opposition to Biden admin vaccination mandates to appeal to the Trump cult pretend the antibodies produced by an infection are the equivalent of a vaccine. It’s a point Florida Governor Ron DeSantis brings up repeatedly. (He is also asking the legislature for money to assemble as state militia that reports to him, and his administration just got busted again for manipulating CDC data and lying to the public about transmission rates in the state, but I digress…)

The point is, we may be at an inflection point where people who are unvaccinated are exposed to an even more highly transmissible strain than the previous waves with even less protection if they’ve recovered. It’s too early to tell. But at some point, please dog before the Omega variant, the cynical fuckers like DeSantis and Abbott who brought us to this dangerous place need to be held accountable for their recklessness. They’re the Crumbley parents of governors.

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Oxford School Shooter’s Parents Charged

Remember yesterday when we talked about the latest school shooter’s MAGA trash parents? It was worse than we knew. Far worse.

We knew the father bought the murder weapon. Thanks to the mom’s social media feed, we now know they bought it explicitly for their son as an early Christmas present. The prosecutor said the parents failed to respond when school officials told them earlier this week about disturbing drawings and messages their kid wrote involving guns and killing.

When a teacher caught the kid researching ammo online in class and alerted the psycho mom, she sent a text to the boy that said, “LOL, I’m not mad, u just need to learn not to get caught.” That’s not even all; I’ll try to collect the other details and update the post. The big red neon SCHOOL SHOOTER signs these garbage people ignored are just unbelievable.

Updated to insert this clip:

The mom texted the kid “don’t do it” minutes after the shooting started, and the dad called 911 to report the gun “stolen” and say the shooter might be his son.

Now the parents are charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. The prosecutor says that not only are the charges appropriate in this case to get justice for the victims, it’s a message for gun owners nationwide that they have responsibilities and that there will be consequences if they fail to meet them:

It’s about goddamn time. Open thread.

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It’s the stupidity, stupid!

Nobody wants to say it, but maybe the problem isn’t that Democrats suck at messaging or that the media is wired for Republicans. Maybe too many American voters are just…dumbasses.

A New York Times interview with a Democratic pollster who conducted post-election focus groups with suburban Virginia Biden-Youngkin voters got me thinking about this. (A caveat: the pollster, Brian Stryker, was commissioned by Third Way, and they have an agenda.) Some excerpts from the interview:

Q: What is [the Democratic Party’s] branding problem, in a nutshell?

A: People think we’re more focused on social issues than the economy — and the economy is the No. 1 issue right now.

Huh. I’m not in Virginia, but I saw a Youngkin ad featuring a weepy white mom talking about how McAuliffe let Toni Morrison hate-crime her son. Not seeing the economic angle there, and actually, the economy is pretty damn good.

That said, we know there is a disconnect between perceptions and reality. Stryker says his focus group participants were fixated on the cost of gas and groceries. He also said this:

Voters don’t think that in general a lot of Democrats felt really bad about closing the schools or felt like it was really a negative on people. I think showing some empathy on that could go a long ways in terms of: Yes, closing schools was hard on kids and hard on parents.

Grownups shouldn’t require that level of hand-holding, but okay, there’s probably some truth to that. Biden ran on reopening schools safely, but some people probably just heard local squabbling about it, saw their kids regressing and understandably got pissed off. It costs nothing to acknowledge the difficulty. It’s real.

Here’s the part that made me want to fill a half-empty, two-liter bottle of Coke with a pint of bourbon, drop in a handful of Mentos and chug the resulting geyser:

Q: One of the things you also said in the memo was that McAuliffe’s strategy of linking Mr. Youngkin to former President Donald Trump was ineffective. What in the conversations with your groups made that clear?

A: The respondents kind of laughed at that approach. They said, “Oh, these silly ads that compared Youngkin to Trump — he just doesn’t seem like that guy.” The thing that these people disliked about Trump was that they didn’t like Donald Trump the person; it wasn’t Donald Trump the constellation of policies…

Q: How much does Mr. Biden himself take the blame with these voters? Is his name invoked?

A: It’s Biden, Democrats — they all come together.

Q: But it’s not like with Trump, where voters single him out?

A: No…

Got that? Almost without exception, Republicans behave like servile worms, propping up the most unpopular president in American history as he bungled a deadly pandemic, presided over an economic collapse, lost the presidency, House and Senate and then tried to overthrow the government to cling to power. None of that sticks to them. Democrats hold power during an unprecedented jobs boom, but gas and chicken part-pack prices go up. It sticks to every single one of them. WTF?

Open thread.

 

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Apples, trees, etc.

Authorities in Michigan say they may charge the parents of the 15-year-old who perpetrated the latest school shooting. Good. That should happen more often but usually doesn’t, perhaps because some states don’t have laws requiring adults to keep The Precious away from minors. Here’s hoping Michigan does.

The latest school shooter’s parents seem like lovely people. The Daily Beast uncovered an open letter to Donald Trump that the mother posted on Facebook in November 2016:

“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” the letter continued. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”

She complained about parents at other schools where the “kids come from illegal immigrant parents” and “don’t care about learning.”

It was signed, “A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy.”

The father replied, “My wife can be spot on. Sometimes.” Funny, I can’t think of a single school shooting incident involving “kids com[ing] from illegal immigrant parents.”

There’s an awful video that I won’t share taken by a student during the shooting. There’s no violence depicted, just the fear those kids and a teacher experienced while huddled behind desks in a dark classroom as someone pounded on the door. Was it a sheriff or a shooter? They weren’t about to open the door to find out. It’s haunting.

We choose to live this way. We choose to subject our children to this madness. Not all of us, of course. But enough of us think this is okay, so we all have to live this way, with active shooter drills and real-life tests of them a routine part of American life. It’s shameful. That’s all I have to say about that.

Open thread.

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Sure, it could work…

A CNN legal analyst asks a question:

John Roberts has a plan that would gut — yet save — Roe v. Wade. Can it work?

The answer is yes. We know because Roberts has done this before, “saving” the Voting Rights Act while extracting its teeth. An excerpt from the article:

By his questions during the intense session that ran nearly two hours, Roberts suggested the high court reverse a significant part of Roe v. Wade but preserve some constitutional right to abortion. Roberts would end the existing protection for a woman’s abortion decision before viability — that is when the fetus can survive outside the womb — at about 23 weeks. He suggested he would let states ban abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, as Mississippi has done in the case before the justices, but that he would not go further to completely ban abortion.

This is exactly how a reactionary “institutionalist” would approach it — strip away well-established rights and deliver a solid victory to the fanatics while leaving a fig leaf in place. The other five “conservatives” — including the three appointed by the twice-impeached, two-time popular vote loser who tried to overthrow the government — seem less inclined toward such fig leaves. But maybe they’ll come around.

Roberts should point out to them that “soft” autocracies like Orbán’s in Hungary (so admired by Fox News personalities) are generally less risky to those in power. They still have elections, and they generally maintain the trappings of democracy while concentrating real power in a single party’s hands. The question is, will Roberts’ more fanatical colleagues be able to resist spiking the ball. We’ll see.

Open thread.

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