Sunday, May 16, 2021

Last Call For The Big Lie, Con't

Trump continues to lie to America and the world as his cultists continue to try to manufacture a scandal in Arizona's 2020 vote count, declaring that the entire Maricopa County voter database was deleted ahead of Monday's election board meeting, a lie so laughably false that the county's Republican top election official publicly tweeted that Donald Trump is "unhinged".

"Wow. This is unhinged."

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer's tweet Saturday castigated former President Donald Trump for alleging "election crime" in an email he sent Saturday.

Trump's premature leap to unsubstantiated conclusionsdrew Richer's attention before a scheduled meeting Monday in which Maricopa County officials say they will respond to questions raised by Arizona Senate-hired private contractors auditing the county's general election.

Richer took office in January, after the election, the election count and county accuracy tests and a county-directed audit were conducted.

He and other Republican county officials are sounding alarms as claims about a deleted database such as the one made by Trump — and the audit's own Twitter account — burn across social media like wildfire.

"Wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now," Richer posted on Twitter in response to Trump's claims.
He added: "We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country."
Trump wrote in one of his Saturday emails, "The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!" He called it "illegal" and an "election crime," despite the audit spokesperson walking back such claims two days earlier. Trump also alleged that "seals were broken on the boxes that hold the votes, ballots are missing, and worse."

On Wednesday, the auditors' Twitter account alleged Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases before the election equipment was delivered to the audit, claiming spoliation of evidence.
But Ken Bennett, the audit spokesperson, walked back a claim of wrongdoing.

"We didn’t say there was anything malicious," Bennett said Friday of the database in question. "Maybe it was deleted because it was a duplicate of something that was elsewhere."

Bennett said auditors seek an explanation from the county.
 
The explanation is simple: "You're all a bunch of liars, and you most likely will be hearing from our lawyers if not country prosecutors." 

And I don't feel sorry for Stephen Richter at all. The proper thing to do is to resign very publicly, very loudly, and to encourage every other Republican remaining in the party to leave as well, stating very clearly that Donald Trump's Big Lie cannot be allowed to stand. Back up those words with actions.

Leave. The. Party.

Because those who remain will be part and parcel of the violence that will inevitably come.
 

When House Republicans ousted Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership post, it spoke to the direction of the Republican Party in at least one specific way: what should happen to those who publicly break with former President Donald Trump? So, we surveyed the nation's self-identified Republicans to learn what they thought of the week's events. They still very much want their party to show loyalty to Mr. Trump and adhere to the idea that President Biden didn't legitimately win.

Their views on Cheney, in turn, now reflect those wishes.

Eighty percent of Republicans who'd heard about the vote agree with Cheney's removal — they feel she was off-message, unsupportive of Mr. Trump, and that she's wrong about the 2020 presidential election. To a third of them, and most particularly for those who place the highest importance on loyalty, Cheney's removal also shows "disloyalty will be punished."
Those Republicans opposed to her removal — just a fifth of the party right now — say it's mainly because there's room for different views in the party, not all need support Mr. Trump and this was a distraction. But when we look down the line to any potential electoral impact, theirs might be even more limited: this group is also less likely to report voting in Republican primaries. 
Republicans say that Mr. Trump himself represents their views just as well as they think the party does; it's a personal connection to him we've seen for years. Today, loyalty also means they specifically want the party to follow more of the former president's examples across a range of items, including economics, issues of race and immigration, how to treat the media, using power and leadership, generally.

 

There is no GOP anymore. There is only the Trump party now. And it will very soon go to war with America itself.

God help me, we're not prepared to win that war, either.

Retrubution Execution, Con't

The Liz Cheney fight is over, and Donald Trump has claimed 100% victory with Elise Stefanik taking Cheney's role as House GOP conference chair. As CNN's Harry Enten notes, Republicans are now moving on to winning back Congress in 2022.

The House GOP's move to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position is widely seen as the latest move to placate the base at the risk of alienating the center of the electorate. Cheney had voted to impeach former President Donald Trump and has continued her critiques of him while most other Republicans seem to have a hard time distancing themselves from him. 
But a look at the statistics reveals that Republicans may be playing it right when it comes to Trump. 
The belief that Republicans should not try to placate Trump or his supporters comes down to the fact that he is unpopular and just lost a presidential election. 
That said, there's little sign that Trump is even on the minds' of most voters these days. He's not on Twitter, and Google searches for him are way down. Indeed, there's not much of a sign that the GOP's association with Trump is hurting them at this point. 
Take a look at the generic congressional ballot. Democrats hold a slight lead of about 3 to 4 points in an average of polls. Trump lost the 2020 election by 4.5 points, and House Republicans lost nationally by 3.1 points. 
In other words, Republicans are in no worse position than they were in the 2020 election. In fact, they're actually polling better now on the generic ballot than they were heading into the last election by about 3 to 4 points because polling across the board underestimated Republicans.
 
In other words, without Trump reminding people daily why the GOP is corrupt and terrible, they're actually doing better in the polls, better enough to win back Congress by a healthy margin. Biden's big legislative wins and the COVID vaccine progress aren't enough. People actually like Republicans more now, because they're the "outsider" party and everything is now the Democrats' fault because they're in control.

Unless Democrats find a way to make the GOP pay a price for their continued support of Trump, the Biden admin will be over and done in 2023 when Republicans take over Congress and impeach him three, maybe four times just to make sure Trump is no longer the "most impeached" Oval Office occupant.

You think I'm kidding. I'm being deadly serious.

Sunday Long Read: The Coldest Of Cases

This week's Sunday Long Read mystery doesn't get much more "cold case" than the disappearance of a group of skiers in the Ural Mountains during the Soviet era more than 60 years ago, but as author Douglas Preston tells us in the New Yorker, the mystery may finally be solved.

Igor Dyatlov was a tinkerer, an inventor, and a devotee of the wilderness. Born in 1936, near Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), he built radios as a kid and loved camping. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, in 1957, he constructed a telescope so that he and his friends could watch the satellite travel across the night sky. By then, he was an engineering student at the city’s Ural Polytechnic Institute. One of the leading technical universities in the country, U.P.I. turned out topflight engineers to work in the nuclear-power and weapons industries, communications, and military engineering. During his years there, Dyatlov led a number of arduous wilderness trips, often using outdoor equipment that he had invented or improved on. It was a time of optimism in the U.S.S.R. Khrushchev’s Thaw had freed many political prisoners from Stalin’s Gulag, economic growth was robust, and the standard of living was rising. The shock that the success of Sputnik delivered to the West further bolstered national confidence. In late 1958, Dyatlov began planning a winter expedition that would exemplify the boldness and vigor of a new Soviet generation: an ambitious sixteen-day cross-country ski trip in the Urals, the north-south mountain range that divides western Russia from Siberia, and thus Europe from Asia.

He submitted his proposal to the U.P.I. sports club, which readily approved it. Dyatlov’s itinerary lay three hundred and fifty miles north of Sverdlovsk, in the traditional territory of the Mansi, an indigenous people. The Mansi came into contact with Russians around the sixteenth century, when Russia was extending its control over Siberia. Though largely Russified by this time, the Mansi continued to pursue a semi-traditional way of life—hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding. Dyatlov’s group would ski two hundred miles, on a route that no Russian, as far as anyone knew, had taken before. The mountains were gentle and rounded, their barren slopes rising from a vast boreal forest of birch and fir. The challenge wouldn’t be rugged terrain but brutally cold temperatures, deep snow, and high winds.

Dyatlov recruited his classmate Zina Kolmogorova, and seven other fellow-students and recent graduates. They were among the √©lite of Soviet youth and all highly experienced winter campers and cross-country skiers. One was Dyatlov’s close friend Georgy Krivonishchenko, who had graduated from U.P.I. two years before and worked as an engineer at the Mayak nuclear complex, in the then secret town of Chelyabinsk-40. Jug-eared, small, and wiry, he told jokes, sang, and played the mandolin. Two other recent graduates were Rustem Slobodin and Nikolay Thibault-Brignoles, of French descent, whose father had been worked nearly to death in one of Stalin’s camps. The other students included Yuri Yudin, Yuri Doroshenko, and Aleksandr Kolevatov. The youngest of the group, at twenty, was Lyuda Dubinina, an economics major, a track athlete, and an ardent Communist, who wore her long blond hair in braids tied with silk ribbons. On a previous wilderness outing, Dubinina had been accidentally shot by a hunter, and survived—quite cheerfully, it was said—a fifty-mile journey back to civilization. A couple of days before the group was due to set off, the U.P.I. administration unexpectedly added a new member, much older than the others and largely unknown to them: Semyon Zolotaryov, a thirty-seven-year-old veteran of the Second World War with an old-fashioned mustache, stainless-steel crowns on his teeth, and tattoos.

The party left Sverdlovsk by train on January 23rd. Several of them hid under seats to avoid buying tickets. They were in high spirits—so high that on a layover between trains Krivonishchenko was briefly detained by police for playing his mandolin and pretending to panhandle in the train station. We know these details because there was a communal journal, and many of the skiers also kept personal journals. At least five had cameras, and the pictures they took show a lively and strikingly handsome group of young people having the adventure of their lives—skiing, laughing, playing in the snow, and mugging for the camera.

After two days on trains, the party reached Ivdel, a remote town with a Stalin-era prison camp that, by then, held mostly criminals. From there the group travelled another day by bus, then in the back of a woodcutter’s truck, and finally by ski, guided by a horse-drawn sleigh. They slept in an abandoned logging camp called Second Northern. There Yuri Yudin had a flareup of sciatica that forced him to pull out of the trip. The next day, January 28th, he turned back, while the remaining nine set off toward the mountains. The plan was to end up at the tiny village of Vizhai around February 12th, and telegram the U.P.I. sports club that they had arrived safely. The expected telegram never came.

At first, the U.P.I. sports club assumed that the group had just been held up; there had been reports of a heavy snowstorm in the mountains. But, after several days passed, families of the group began placing frantic phone calls to the university and to the local bureau of the Communist Party, and, on February 20th, a search was launched. There were several search parties: student volunteers from U.P.I., prison guards from the Ivdel camp, Mansi hunters, local police; the military deployed planes and helicopters. On February 25th, the students found ski tracks, and the next day they discovered the skiers’ tent—above the tree line on a remote mountain that Soviet officials referred to as Height 1079 and that the Mansi called Kholat Syakhl, or Dead Mountain. There was no one inside.

The theories are quite entertaining as to what happened to the Dyatlov party, as good as some of Preston's novels featuring seminal New Orleans FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast. The reality may actually be a bit more frightening, however.

I avoid skiing anyway. Mountains will kill you, you know.
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