Why to Investigate

If you believe Antifa and BLM actually attacked the Capitol, you should want a January 6 commission. If you think the FBI organized the Capitol riots, you should certainly want a January 6th commission. But if you believe that you’ve been lying about it the whole time, then you don’t want a January 6 commission. That’s why we have to do it

Rep. Adam Kinziner (R-Illinois)

This week’s featured posts are “Climate Change is Here” and “The Trump/Weisselberg Tax Evasion Scheme“.

This week everybody was talking about the Trump Organization indictment

If you take away one thing from the featured post on this topic, it should be this: All businesses, even little ones, could try the same thing with their employees. But they don’t, because they’re not that stupid.

and the heat wave

In the other featured post, I wonder if this could be an inflection point in the climate-change debate. Because you can’t look at 116 degree temperatures in Portland and say that nothing is wrong.

Meanwhile, a gas leak near a Pemex drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico set the ocean on fire for a few hours on Friday.


and court decisions

Bill Cosby is a free man. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out his sexual assault conviction Wednesday, claiming that it violated a verbal non-prosecution agreement made by a previous prosecutor. Sixty different women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, but only one of those accusations resulted in a conviction. Vox has a good explanation

The thrust of that opinion is that, even though then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor never reached a formal agreement with Cosby that granted him immunity from prosecution, a press release that Castor sent out in 2005 — combined with Cosby’s later, incriminating testimony in a civil lawsuit — had the same effect as a formal immunity deal.

That decision — which, again, attaches a simply astonishing amount of legal weight to a 16-year-old press release — is less ridiculous than it sounds …

The court’s often-confounding opinion muddies this case’s place in history and may contribute to sexual assault victims’ sense that reporting the crimes against them won’t lead to justice.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the court’s decision was wrong as a matter of law. Six members of the seven-justice Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed that Cosby’s conviction must be tossed out, although only [Justice David] Wecht [who wrote the majority opinion] and three other justices agreed that the state should not be allowed to retry Cosby.

The Supreme Court continues to chip away at the Voting Rights Act. In upholding recent Arizona laws, the Court says that new rules that result in fewer people of color voting can be OK, if the number of votes suppressed isn’t that big, and if the state’s new rules advance a state interest — and preventing mythical voter fraud is a legitimate state interest.

The Court also made the world safer for dark money.

In its infamous decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court tossed a bone to lawmakers seeking to regulate money in politics. With a few exceptions, Citizens United stripped the government of its power to limit the amount of spending on elections, especially by corporations. But the decision also gave the Court’s blessing to nearly all laws requiring campaigns and political organizations to disclose their donors.

They’ve now stripped most of the lingering meat off that bone.

Back in 1958, the Court ruled that the NAACP didn’t have to reveal its membership to the state of Alabama. The very real fear in that case was that NAACP contributors in Alabama could become targets for the KKK.

Now the Court has extended that ruling to potentially cover all sorts of donors, who might find themselves victimized by “cancel culture” if their contributions were revealed.

The Supreme Court turned down an opportunity to extend its rulings on special rights for Christians religious liberty. A florist in Washington state refused to create arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her “relationship with Jesus Christ”. She was fined for violating an anti-discrimination law. The Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld that fine, and now the US Supreme Court has refused to hear the florist’s appeal. Apparently that ruling will stand.

I’ve already stated my general opinion on such cases: Any freedom-of-speech or freedom-of-religion exemption to discrimination laws needs to be rooted in what someone is asked to make or do, not on who is asking. If the florist had refused to make a floral rainbow-flag display, for example, I’d support her. But refusing to offer a gay couple arrangements that she’d happily make for an opposite-sex couple is discrimination and should be illegal. “I won’t do that” is an acceptable objection, but “I won’t do that for you” isn’t.

What I find most aggravating about this series of religious-freedom cases, though, is that they’re not just bad law; they’re also bad religion. People aren’t finding these behaviors in Christianity, they’re stretching Christianity to justify the bigotry they already have. I don’t know of any commandment that says “Thou shalt not arrange flowers for two men who love each other.”

Second example: the teacher who can’t use a student’s preferred pronouns because of his “Christian faith”. (A Virginia judge recently ruled that he must get his job back because of “religious liberty”.) My Bible somehow fails to include the “Epistle to the Grammarians”, where St. Paul explained the proper Christian usage of 21st-century English pronouns.

These days, a great deal of conservative Christians’ “practice of their faith” consists of the mental gymnastics needed to insert themselves into other people’s moral issues. (What I would say to the anti-trans Virginia teacher is: “This child has made a decision to present themselves to the world as a boy or a girl. It’s not about you.”) As I explained several years ago, this isn’t “religious freedom”, it’s passive aggression.

and the virus

For weeks, people have been wondering if the Covid delta variant, combined with pockets of anti-vaccine sentiment, might stop the decline in cases that has been going on since January. Now it seems that it has.

Covid deaths are still going down, but the NYT reports a 19% increase in cases over the last two weeks. Missouri and Arkansas are the top hot spots, with 16 cases per 100K per day, compared to less than 1 case per 100K per day in Massachusetts and Vermont. Arkansas has 34% of adults fully vaccinated and Missouri 39%, while Massachusetts has 62% and Vermont 66%.

and the January 6 select committee

Having failed to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, House Democrats have created a select committee. A Republican filibuster in the Senate blocked the bipartisan commission, but the House has no filibuster, so it will investigate on its own.

Republicans tried to block this investigation also. Only two Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — voted for the resolution establishing the committee.

Several investigations into the assault are already underway, but none have a mandate to look comprehensively at the event similar to the fact-finding commissions that scrutinized Sept. 11, the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Speaker Pelosi immediately named the eight members the establishing resolution allowed her to appoint, including Republican Liz Cheney. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can choose the other five members, but Pelosi can veto them. It’s unclear whether McCarthy will agree to participate, or if he will try to subvert the process by naming members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wants the job, or perhaps Andrew Clyde, who has compared the rioters invasion of the Capitol to a “normal tourist visit“.

McCarthy has already made snide remarks about Cheney accepting the appointment, suggesting that the former vice president’s daughter — a doctrinaire conservative whose only failing is her unwillingness to worship Trump — might be “closer to [Pelosi] than us”. He also hinted that her Republican committee assignments might be in jeopardy: “I don’t know in history where someone would go get their committee assignments from the Speaker and expect to have them from the conference as well.”

The predictable Republican objection to the select committee is that it will be partisan. Of course, they had a bipartisan option, but turned it down. Their real preference is that January 6 not be investigated at all. At various times, GOP congresspeople have blamed the riot on antifa, Black Lives Matter, or even the FBI. But none of the representatives who have made these claims voted in favor of an investigation that could establish the truth of the matter — probably because they already know that their claims aren’t true.

Some Democrats also have unproven theories: that Trump operatives (like Roger Stone) planned the violence, or that right-wing members of Congress gave “reconnaissance tours” to prospective insurrectionists. But unlike Republicans, they want the facts to come out.

This is one of those situations where the facts have a partisan bias: January 6 was a stain on the Republican Party, and on McCarthy’s puppetmaster Donald Trump. If the whole truth comes out, it will be bad for them.

you also might be interested in …

The June jobs report says that the economy added 850K jobs, led by hotels, restaurants, and bars gearing up for a real summer this year. Anomalously, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly, from 5.8% to 5.9%, as people re-entered the job market slightly faster than jobs appeared. Jobs are also paying a bit better, possibly because reopening businesses in some sectors have to compete for workers.

But there’s still a lot of ground to make up: 6.8 million more people were working when Covid hit the US in February of 2020.

1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones will get a tenure offer from the University of North Carolina after all, in spite of an outcry from anti-anti-racists.

The tenure approval [from the university’s board of trustees] came just one day before Hannah-Jones was set to officially join [UNC’s] Hussman School of Journalism and Media as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. Last month it was revealed that her appointment didn’t come with tenure, a break with tradition for that position. Hannah-Jones’ legal team had said she would not take the position if it doesn’t include tenure.

Hannah-Jones’ tenure application had been proceeding smoothly until May, when it reached the trustees, who refused to take any action on it. Influential conservative groups had lobbied against her, but protests from faculty and students, together with bad publicity, seem to have turned the tide.

Hannah-Jones’ resume includes a Pulitzer Prize and and MacArthur genius grant. I would guess that most UNC professors can’t say that.

Iraq invasion architect Donald Rumsfeld died Tuesday. George Packer decided not to follow the ancient “Say nothing but good about the dead” adage, and made a list of just how wrong Rumsfeld had been in the years after 9-11:

Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he’d long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn’t need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn’t operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he’d ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.

He believed in regime change but not in nation building, and he thought that a few tens of thousands of troops would be enough to win in Iraq. He thought that the quick overthrow of Saddam’s regime meant mission accomplished. He responded to the looting of Baghdad by saying “Freedom’s untidy,” as if the chaos was just a giddy display of democracy—as if it would not devastate Iraq and become America’s problem, too. He believed that Iraq should be led by a corrupt London banker with a history of deceiving the U.S. government. He faxed pages from a biography of Che Guevara to a U.S. Army officer in the region to prove that the growing Iraqi resistance did not meet the definition of an insurgency. He dismissed the insurgents as “dead-enders” and humiliated a top general who dared to call them by their true name. He insisted on keeping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq so low that much of the country soon fell to the insurgency.

His death at home, surrounded by loving family, is another reminder that the Bush administration officials implicated in torture were never brought to justice. This is from “The Green Light” written by Philippe Sands in 2008:

On a table before us were three documents. The first was a November 2002 “action memo” written by William J. (Jim) Haynes II, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld; the document is sometimes referred to as the Haynes Memo. Haynes recommended that Rumsfeld give “blanket approval” to 15 out of 18 proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation. Rumsfeld duly did so, on December 2, 2002, signing his name firmly next to the word “Approved.” Under his signature he also scrawled a few words that refer to the length of time a detainee can be forced to stand during interrogation: “I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

The second document on the table listed the 18 proposed techniques of interrogation, all of which went against long-standing U.S. military practice as presented in the Army Field Manual. The 15 approved techniques included certain forms of physical contact and also techniques intended to humiliate and to impose sensory deprivation. They permitted the use of stress positions, isolation, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, and nudity. Haynes and Rumsfeld explicitly did not rule out the future use of three other techniques, one of which was waterboarding, the application of a wet towel and water to induce the perception of drowning.

So this happened about a dozen miles up the road from where I live.

What started out as a seemingly routine stop by a State Police trooper to help motorists on the shoulder of Interstate 95 early Saturday morning spiraled into a surreal hours-long confrontation between nearly a dozen men with high-powered rifles and police, who were forced to shut down a busy highway on a holiday weekend and order nearby residents to shelter in their homes.

The men said they were from Rhode Island, and were headed to Maine for “training”.

When I first saw the headline, I thought this was some kind of white-supremacist militia thing. But it’s more complicated than that. The men were from Rise of the Moors, which seems to be an Islamic group of dark-skinned people who reject the label “Black” and instead identify as Moorish Americans.

In its zeal to expel immigrants who committed even minor crimes, the Trump administration deported “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of veterans and their immediate family members. The Biden administration is trying to bring them back.

“It’s our responsibility to serve all veterans as well as they have served us — no matter who they are, where they are from, or the status of their citizenship,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Keeping that promise means ensuring that noncitizen service members, veterans, and their families are guaranteed a place in the country they swore an oath — and in many cases fought — to defend.”

Looking at this video, I have to wonder how many Evangelicals are hearing QAnon conspiracy theories from the pulpit. This particular preacher is the founder of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee (which coincidentally is seven miles from where my sister is moving; I may have to drop in some Sunday).

Two firsts: A transgender woman is Miss Nevada and will be a contestant for Miss USA. Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, is the NFL’s first openly gay active player.

Nassib is by no means the first gay football player in the NFL, but he is the first openly gay active player in the league to play in the regular season. Michael Sam came out as gay following his successful college career and before the 2014 NFL draft, making him the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. However, Sam played only during the preseason. A handful of other players have come out after their professional careers had ended.

and let’s close with something bipartisan

A conservative boyfriend challenged the song-writing duo of Garfunkel and Oates to write a song where “both sides can laugh”. “How’d I do, Dan?”

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  • DV Henkel-Wallace  On July 5, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    I loved the tent full of white people listening to a guy complain about “mongrels”. Not even bothering to hide the true agenda.

    I may be a “mongrel” myself, but I prefer to think of it as “hybrid vigor”.

  • Bolling Lowrey  On July 5, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Thank goodness for you and Geo.Packer: Rumsfeld is dead One did not have to be an Iraqi to know that Rumsfeld was an empowered Monster. With the agenda Packer listed one can see that Rumsfeld cost the US far far more in addition to ‘men and materiel’. His position and “policies” dragged the country down to his own abysmal level. We have not yet resurfaced, but more listing like Packer’s will ensure we not forget nor repeat.

  • Anonymous  On July 6, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    “The men were from Rise of the Moors, which seems to be an Islamic group of dark-skinned people who reject the label “Black” and instead identify as Moorish Americans.”

    I also heard other oddities:
    * They don’t consider themselves to be U.S. citizens [but the U.S. grants citizenship to anyone who was born in the U.S., so they probably are, unless they have specifically renounced their citizenship]
    * They said they had a second amendment right to their guns, which violated Massachusetts firearms laws. [if they don’t consider themselves U.S. citizens, why do they think they have second amendment rights?]

    Sounds like Schrodinger’s cat citizenship

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