Sunday, January 31, 2021

Last Call For Retribution Execution, Con't

As CNN polling guru Harry Enten reminds us, the GOP belongs wholly to Donald Trump even after -- and maybe directly because of -- his failed coup attempt in January.  The party is still under his near total control, and the vast majority of Republicans expect Trump to run in 2024 and win.
Donald Trump is no longer president. He no longer has the megaphone of Twitter. 
But make no mistake: This is still Trump's Republican Party. 
You see it in the actions of Republican state and local parties trying to punish those who went against Trump. You see this in a majority of congressional Republicans voting to uphold an objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes for President Joe Biden
And more than that, you see it in the polling, which indicates that Trump's in a historically strong primary position for an ex-president. Indeed, he's polling tremendously well among Republicans in the context for any future presidential nominee. 
Republican leaders go against Trump at their potential electoral peril. It's not that other Republicans can't beat Trump. We'll have to wait and see on that. Rather, it's that he could be a very big voice over the next four years. 
After the US Capitol insurrection on January 6, Trump's still cruising in a potential 2024 primary. A majority of Republicans (57%) said in an Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll that he should be the 2024 nominee. 
Against named opponents, Trump easily leads the field. Among those who either voted for Trump in 2020 or are Republicans, Trump's averaging about half the primary vote. No one else is even close. 
Trump pulling in half the vote may seem low given that Trump won over 90% of the vote in the 2020 primaries
His position, though, is extremely unusual for a president who just lost a general election. As I've noted previously, ex-presidents usually don't lead future primary fields. Most party voters are happy to see their presidents glide into the sunset. 
The three presidents who lost their chance at another term in the polling era (Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992) were all lagging behind in early primary polling following their loss. Ford was in second place, Carter was in third place and Bush was in fourth place. None of them commanded anywhere near half the primary vote. 
How well Trump is doing puts extreme pressure on Republicans within the party to adhere to any of the ex-president's doctrine. These members of Congress and other elected (and unelected) officials know that Trump is by far the most powerful politician within the party among the base.
There's a hell of a lot that will happen between now and 2024, I guarantee it. But I'm not sure enough will happen to keep Trump from being the candidate again four years from now.  And let's remember, should Trump actually be convicted or die from old age or disease, the GOP will only end up finding an even nastier authoritarian monster to run the party.

We still have a long, long fight ahead of us. January 2021 felt like it took another decade off my life.

It only gets harder from here.

The Coup-Coup Birds Come Home To Roost, Con't

The FBI is finally realizing the scope and scale of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, the evidence pointing towards hundreds of terrorists in a conspiracy to kidnap and murder members of Congress in order to install Donald Trump in a second term.

When die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump showed up at rally point “Cowboy” in Louisville on the morning of Jan. 5, they found the shopping mall’s parking lot was closed to cars, so they assembled their 50 or so vehicles outside a nearby Kohl’s department store. Hundreds of miles away in Columbia, S.C., at a mall designated rally point “Rebel,” other Trump supporters gathered to form another caravan to Washington. A similar meetup — dubbed “Minuteman” — was planned for Springfield, Mass.

That same day, FBI personnel in Norfolk were increasingly alarmed by the online conversations they were seeing, including warlike talk around the convoys headed to the nation’s capital. One map posted online described the rally points, declaring them a “MAGA Cavalry To Connect Patriot Caravans to StopTheSteal in D.C.” Another map showed the U.S. Congress, indicating tunnels connecting different parts of the complex. The map was headlined, “CREATE PERIMETER,” according to the FBI report, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,” read one posting, according to the report.

FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.

Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

Video and court filings, for instance, describe how several groups of men that include alleged members of the Proud Boys appear to engage in concerted action, converging on the West Front of the Capitol just before 1 p.m., near the Peace Monument at First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Different factions of the crowd appear to coalesce, move forward and chant under the direction of different leaders before charging at startled police staffing a pedestrian gate, all in the matter of a few minutes.

An indictment Friday night charged a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., with conspiracy, saying his actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination.” Another alleged member of the Proud Boys, William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, N.Y., also was charged with conspiracy.

Minutes before the crowd surge, at 12:45 p.m., police received the first report of a pipe bomb behind the Republican National Committee headquarters at the opposite, southeast side of the U.S. Capitol campus. The device and another discovered shortly afterward at Democratic National Committee headquarters included end caps, wiring, timers and explosive powder, investigators have said.

Some law enforcement officials have suggested the pipe bombs may have been a deliberate distraction meant to siphon law enforcement away from the Capitol building at the crucial moment.

The FBI is also trying to determine how many people went to Washington seeking to engage in violence, even if they weren’t part of any formal organization. Some of those in the Louisville caravan said they were animated by the belief that the election was stolen, according to interviews they gave to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Much of the discussion of potential violence occurred at, where Trump’s supporters talked about the upcoming rally, sometimes in graphic terms, according to people familiar with the FBI investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open matter.

After the riot, a statement posted on the website said moderators “had been struggling for some time to address a flood of racist and violent content that appeared to be coming primarily from a small group of extremists who were often brigading from other sites,” leading to inquiries from the FBI.

One of the comments cited in the FBI memo declared Trump supporters should go to Washington and get “violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die.”

Some had been preparing for conflict for weeks.
Once again, this was a coordinated terrorist attack on the US Capitol. The evidence is overwhelming. And growing amounts of that evidence point to direct involvement by the Trump regime.
In the week leading up to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that exploded into an attack on the Capitol, a top Trump campaign fundraiser issued a directive to a woman who had been overseeing planning for the event.

“Get the budget and vendors breakdown to me and Justin,” Caroline Wren wrote to Cindy Chafian, a self-described “constitutional conservative,” in a Dec. 28 text message obtained by ProPublica.

Wren was no ordinary event planner. She served as a deputy to Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at Trump Victory, a joint presidential fundraising committee during the 2020 campaign. The Justin mentioned in her text was Justin Caporale, a former top aide to first lady Melania Trump, whose production company helped put on the event at the Ellipse.

Text messages and an event-planning memo obtained by ProPublica, along with an interview with Chafian, indicate that Wren, a Washington insider with a low public profile, played an extensive role in managing operations for the event. The records show that Wren oversaw logistics, budgeting, funding and messaging for the Jan. 6 rally that featured President Donald Trump.

Chafian told ProPublica that Wren and others had pushed her aside as plans intensified, including as a late effort was made to get Trump to speak at the event.

On Dec. 29, after receiving the budget, Wren instructed Chafian, via text, to hold off on printing event-related slogans “until we decide what the messaging is and we have no clue on timing because it all depends on the votes that day so we won’t know timing for a few more days.” The “timing” appears to be a reference to Congress’ Jan. 6 vote to certify the election results.

Wren’s services were enlisted by a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported Saturday that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, the heiress to Publix Super Markets, committed some $300,000 to fund the Jan. 6 rally.

The funding commitment by Fancelli, who Federal Election Commission records show has donated more than $1 million to Trump Victory, the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee since 2018, was facilitated by the right-wing conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, the Journal reported. Chafian told ProPublica that she herself had been directed by Jones to Wren, who, she was told, had ties to a wealthy donor who wanted to support the January affair. Chafian said the donor is a woman but wouldn’t disclose her name, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Fancelli hasn’t responded to messages left at numbers listed for her.

The Associated Press had previously reported that Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” in an attachment to a National Park Service permit for the Jan. 6 event issued to Women for America First, a pro-Trump nonprofit run by the mother-daughter duo Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer. Chafian had worked on and off with Women for America First since October 2019.

But that title gives little indication of the scope of Wren’s role in managing the “March to Save America” event, where the president would tell thousands of supporters to walk to the Capitol and “demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated,” the records show.

A guidance memo provided to VIP attendees of the Jan. 6 rally further establishes Wren’s centrality to the event. She is listed, along with three other people, as one of the primary points of contact for the demonstration. The Kremers, whose nonprofit was attached to the event, are not mentioned at all.

Wren hasn’t responded to requests for comment about the role she played in organizing the Jan. 6 rally. In a statement to the Journal, she said her role in the event was to “assist many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced event at the Ellipse.” She was last paid by the Trump campaign on Nov. 15, a campaign spokesman said, adding that the campaign “did not organize, operate or finance the event” and any former staffers who worked on the event “did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.”
In other words, all of this was planned from the top, to get Donald Trump to the event so that he would light the final fuse on the Capitol assault. The Trump regime knew what was coming, donors knew what was coming, the terrorists knew what was coming, and the Capitol Police had no clue, and all of that was part of the plan.

In fact, the Capitol Police were left high and dry deliberately, because we now know that Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered the DC National Guard not to interfere with the US Capitol terrorists.

In testimony before the House last week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that "… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."

On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It's not a to-do list. It's a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can't arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that's just for starters.

The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can't share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can't … really do much of anything.

When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that's the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It's clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location. 

As racial justice protests erupted nationwide last year, President Donald J. Trump, struggling to find a winning campaign theme, hit on a message that he stressed over and over: The real domestic threat to the United States emanated from the radical left, even though law enforcement authorities had long since concluded it came from the far right.

It was a message that was quickly embraced and amplified by his attorney general and his top homeland security officials, who translated it into a shift in criminal justice and national security priorities even as Mr. Trump was beginning to openly stoke the outrage that months later would culminate in the storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to focus his administration on the antifa movement and leftist groups did not stop the Justice Department and the F.B.I. from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism. They broke up a kidnapping plot, for example, targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat.

But the effect of his direction was nonetheless substantial, according to interviews with current and former officials, diverting key portions of the federal law enforcement and domestic security agencies at a time when the threat from the far right was building ominously.

In late spring and early summer, as the racial justice demonstrations intensified, Justice Department officials began shifting federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents from investigations into violent white supremacists to focus on cases involving rioters or anarchists, including those who might be associated with the antifa movement. One Justice Department prosecutor was sufficiently concerned about an excessive focus on antifa that the official went to the department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, telling his office that politics might have played a part.

Federal prosecutors and agents felt pressure to uncover a left-wing extremist criminal conspiracy that never materialized, according to two people who worked on Justice Department efforts to counter domestic terrorism. They were told to do so even though the F.B.I., in particular, had increasingly expressed concern about the threat from white supremacists, long the top domestic terrorism threat, and well-organized far-right extremist groups that had allied themselves with the president.

White House and Justice Department officials stifled internal efforts to publicly promote concerns about the far-right threat, with aides to Mr. Trump seeking to suppress the phrase “domestic terrorism” in internal discussions, according to a former official at the Department of Homeland Security.

Requests for funding to bolster the number of analysts who search social media posts for warnings of potential violent extremism were denied by top homeland security officials, limiting the department’s ability to spot developing threats like the post-Election Day anger among far-right groups over Mr. Trump’s loss.

The scale and intensity of the threat developing on the right became stunningly clear on Jan. 6, when news broadcasts and social media were flooded with images of far-right militias, followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement and white supremacists storming the Capitol.

Militias and other dangerous elements of the far right saw “an ally in the White House,” said Mary McCord, a former Justice Department official who teaches at Georgetown University and focuses on domestic terrorism. “That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw” at the Capitol.
We can and should draw a line from Trump to the militias to the US Capitol terrorist attack.
It came within one brave man leading the mob away from the House Chamber of turning into a massacre and a very possible coup. 

Remember that. Remember how close we came to a firefight in the well of the House. How close we came to losing dozens of members of Congress, perhaps enough to allow the seditionists in the GOP to install Trump.

And never forget.

Sunday Long Read: One Step Away

For millions of Americans, a lost job or a major illness can be a serious financial problem. For the increasingly fragile Black middle-class, one bad roll of the dice is absolute disaster and a near-guaranteed fall into long-term poverty.
Among Dee’s friends, talking about money is considered impolite. But that’s not really what stops her. “Most of my peers are white,” she says, “and I get very angry about the systemic inequality evident in our situations, and their seeming obliviousness to it.”

Dee’s family has been middle-class and college-educated going back three generations, “since Black people reasonably could be,” she says. Her maternal grandparents were the children of sharecroppers in the South, migrated north as adults, got graduate degrees, and, unlike millions of Black Americans who were unable to secure mortgages at the time due to racist housing covenants and lending practices, bought a home.

Homeownership was, and remains, the beating heart of wealth accumulation for the American middle class. Our society privileges homeowners in everything from the tax code to the availability of home equity lines to membership requirements for neighborhood associations. You buy a place, that place grows in value, and either you trade up to a bigger place or you keep it until you can pass it down to your kids or your kids get the money from its sale. Stability gives birth to even more stability.

That’s not what happened with Dee’s family. “My grandparents were bludgeoned every time the economy took a downturn,” Dee recalls, in part because of the legacy of redlining and the devaluation of property in Black neighborhoods. “They ended up losing their house. They had enough to live on, but no wealth.” The same happened to her parents. She says they were “destroyed” by the 2008 housing crisis, which disproportionately affected Black homeowners, many of whom, because of longstanding discriminatory lending practices, believed subprime mortgages were the best financing option available to them. Dee’s grandparents managed to make ends meet, but their retirement savings were drastically diminished, and they’ll eventually require some subsidization from Dee.

But Dee, 41, has been struggling for years to find something approximating financial security in her own life. She lives in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, with her partner and two kids. She and her partner make around $200,000 a year. At more than three times the national median household income, this sounds like a big number, but every month, they found their resources depleted. Before the pandemic, they were allocating most of their money toward their mortgage, child care, and student loans. They’d been putting money into their kids’ 529 college savings accounts, but otherwise the focus has been on credit card and student loan debt, which they’ve just started to be able to actually pay off. These days, they’re no longer paying expensive child care bills, but there’s a real threat that Dee’s partner’s job could disappear at any moment, at which point they would immediately start drowning in debt.

Dee describes herself as frustrated and so very, very angry. “Having everything ‘right’ and still living with precarity, literally living paycheck to paycheck, is deeply upsetting,” she says. Which is why her extra income is going toward her kids’ college savings: to prevent them starting their lives already behind, the way she feels she did. The hole Dee dug in search of middle-class stability for her family is so deep that she’d realistically need to double, even triple her income to pull herself out and have enough to stabilize her parents as well.

She doesn’t have a ton of hope that will happen. “I live in America,” she says. “There is no support for middle-class families, and there is no targeted support for those who have suffered from systemic racism. It’s getting harder and harder to maintain a middle-class life.”

Dee’s story is illustrative of just how different the hollowing of the middle class can feel, depending on your race and family history. Unlike many white middle-class Americans who find themselves bewildered by the prospect of going financially backward from their parents, Dee watched as her family’s best-laid plans for a steady, middle-class future were foiled, again and again, by economic catastrophes in which losses were disproportionately absorbed by Black Americans.

As economists William Darity Jr., Fenaba Addo, and Imari Smith recently explained, “for Black Americans, the issue may not be restoring its middle class, but constructing a robust middle class in the first place.” For families like Dee’s, the stability of the middle class has always been a mirage. And you can’t hollow out what’s never actually existed.
And for Black America, that's been true. There's always the risk that you lose it all, because you have to bet it all to get ahead. Every door you come to has a higher and higher price, one that isn't true for tens of millions of white Americans. 
One wrong move in a system that rigged specifically to see you fail, and more often than not, you fail.
You don't always come back.
Black Lives Still Matter.

Biden, The Masked Man(date)

The CDC has readied President Biden's mask mandate for public transportation effective Monday, based on the president's executive order from last week. It's time to mask up, America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order late Friday requiring travelers in the United States to wear face masks at transportation hubs, and on planes and all forms of public transportation. The order goes into effect late Monday, one minute before midnight.

"People must wear masks that completely cover both the mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding, disembarking, or traveling on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares as they are traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories," the CDC says.

Masks are also required at airports, bus and ferry terminals, seaports, and train and subway stations, according to the federal agency.

There are some exceptions. Children under 2 are not required to wear masks, nor are people who cannot safely wear a mask due to a disability. Also: Face masks can be taken off while eating, drinking or taking medication. A mask is also not required when communicating with a person who is hearing impaired and needs to see a person's mouth to communicate.

The CDC says it reserves the right to enforce the order through criminal penalties but "does not intend" to primarily rely on them. Instead, it "encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance as well as support from other federal agencies in implementing additional civil measures enforcing the provisions" of its order, "to the extent permitted by law and consistent with" an executive order President Joe Biden signed last Thursday.

Mr. Biden's executive order specified travelers must wear masks in airports and on commercial planes, trains, public boats and inter-city buses — as part of the White House's effort to fight the spread of COVID-19. It orders the heads of executive departments and agencies to "immediately take action" to require masks be worn in keeping with CDC guidelines — as allowed by law, and as "appropriate."

All U.S. airlines have already established their own mandatory mask requirements for passengers, and banned more than 2,700 passengers for violations of mask policies and other disruptive behavior since May. Mr. Biden's executive order, however, was met with praise from an organization representing flight attendants, who have complained of the difficulty in ensuring passengers wear face masks.

The executive order "will provide much needed back up for flight attendants and aviation workers on the frontlines," said Sara Nelson, president of Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents flight attendants at 17 airlines. "Masks are vitally important to the health of everyone onboard and an especially necessary safety measure in our workspace where proper social distancing is not an option."

Imagine how many thousands of lives would have been saved if this order had been implemented in March of last year. Alas, we'll never know.

At this late stage in the game the order is still both necessary and beneficial because we're basically months behind on efforts to stop the spread of COVID, now well into its third wave of national infections with 150K-250K cases per day and still 2-4K deaths per day. Things are improving marginally, but not by enough to prevent well more than a half-million deaths total by February's end.

However, I can't shake the feeling that given today's hyper-charged political climate by raging Trump cultists, this week is still going to be bad for a lot of bus drivers, taxi drivers, flight attendants and ride-share drivers on top of all that. The mandate will not be well-received by the Trumpists, and we're about to find out if the mandates are even enforceable, if it's not blocked by an emergency injunction this weekend.
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