Minor Thoughts from me to you

New Prosecutors Are Reopening Old Cases Against Police Officers

New Prosecutors Are Reopening Old Cases Against Police Officers →

Steve Eder and David D. Kirkpatrick writing, for the New York Times, on newly elected prosecutors who have a less chummy relationship with the local police department than their predecessors did.

some prosecutors reviewing old cases were elected with the support of the police unions.

“I don’t define myself as a progressive prosecutor,” said Fani T. Willis, a Democrat who was elected district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., last year with police union backing. “I just define myself as doing what’s right.”

Since taking office in January, she has begun reviewing 50 use-of-force cases and seven death-in-custody cases going back to 2016 that her predecessor had not addressed; she has so far landed indictments in 13 of them. Six officers were indicted in November for a jailhouse death in 2018. They had allegedly shouted that it was “Taser Tuesday” as they tortured and killed Antonio May, 32, arrested for throwing rocks at a building.

“There were too many cases where nothing had been done,” said Ms. Willis, noting her office had also cleared more than 20 officers. “Where there is no courage, nothing happens.”

The System Only Worked Because It Was Pushed

The System Only Worked Because It Was Pushed →

Adam Serwer writing for The Atlantic.

The clip showing Arbery’s death became public a few weeks before the release of the video showing George Floyd being murdered by a police officer. In retrospect, the two share a disturbing connection: The videos contradicted the statements of local authorities that both Floyd and Arbery were responsible for their own deaths. Without the video evidence—and the national protest, outrage, and scrutiny they sparked—neither man’s killers would have seen the inside of a courtroom. It took a series of extraordinary events to force the system to regard their deaths as crimes worth investigating.

If it sounds ridiculous to say that chasing someone down while armed is an act of self-defense, and then to claim you had to shoot the person you were chasing, because they tried to defend themselves, recall that this was precisely the conclusion the local authorities initially reached.

The jury ultimately found the defense’s arguments unpersuasive, and the evidence against the defendants overwhelming. But had it been up to the folks in charge in Glynn County, the jury never would have seen that evidence. To say the system worked in this case is like saying your car made it home—after your entire family had to get out and push it miles down a dirt road.

Republicans Fight Covid Mandates, Then Blame Biden as Cases Rise

Republicans Fight Covid Mandates, Then Blame Biden as Cases Rise →

Jonathan Weisman, writing for the New York Times.

As [Republican House Minority Leader] McCarthy faulted Mr. Biden for failing to stop the virus, he also criticized him for demanding people get vaccinated, even health care workers. Mr. Biden, he said, “fired workers who were working because they wouldn’t comply with his Covid mandates. These were the same people who were heroes a year before.”

Matt Sparks, a spokesman for Mr. McCarthy, said he saw no contradiction in fighting vaccine mandates while faulting the president for his pandemic response. For instance, “natural immunity from those that have recovered from infection” should suffice to meet vaccination requirements, he said.

“The lack of acknowledgment of this fact further erodes the public trust in the vaccine and our public health officials,” he added. (The C.D.C. strongly advises that even those who have recovered from Covid-19 get vaccinated, citing a study out of Kentucky that found that previously infected people were more than twice as likely to get Covid-19 again as fully vaccinated people.)

Illegal Immigration Isn’t an ‘Invasion’

Illegal Immigration Isn’t an ‘Invasion’ →

David Bier writing at Reason.com, making one of my favorite points.

Migration is the exact opposite of an invasion. Nearly all these so-called invaders are coming to serve Americans. This supposed invasion will contribute to the strength and prosperity of the United States, not undermine it. This isn't Santa Anna's soldiers crossing the Rio Grande. It's four kids with their mom reuniting with their dad at a farm outside of Atlanta. They're not coming to blow us up or take our stuff—they're coming to work with us, work for us, and buy our products. They want to be us, not conquer us. And that's the most important point: A crackdown on migration does not vindicate the rights of Americans to be free from foreign attackers. Rather, it is a violation of our rights to associate, contract, and trade with peaceful people born in other countries.

The fact that these actions are so often illegal is lamentable. But Congress could pass a law tomorrow to legalize migration (as it in fact did for the first century of American history). The illegal part of illegal immigration is a problem easily solved by Congress. It does not warrant the suspension of habeas corpus or calling up militias to shoot the "invaders."

The Saltless Christianity of Bethlehem Baptist

Bethlehem Baptist Church, the church that grew to prominence under Pastor John Piper, is convulsing. Jean Hopfensperger has the story and I have a few thoughts.

What’s been happening?

Three pastors have abruptly resigned this summer from Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, signaling “a painful and confusing moment” at a megachurch that gained national prominence under longtime pastor John Piper.

The pastors cited several reasons for resigning, including how the church’s leadership council has handled race and diversity issues, and what one labeled a “bullying” and “toxic” culture toward those who hold different opinions.

At least one of the pastors said he was disturbed over the council’s refusal to distance the church from remarks about abused women by the incoming president of the church’s college and seminary.

“I believe our leadership culture has taken a turn in an unhealthy direction as we try to navigate conflict and division,” Meyer wrote in his July resignation letter. “Institutional protection can go too far when other viewpoints are unwelcome.”

Former care and counseling pastor Bryan Pickering, who also resigned, went further and claimed there was “domineering leadership, spiritual abuse and a toxic culture.”

interviews and correspondence with the departing pastors and congregation members point to several underlying issues.

One stems from church officials’ response to a “racial harmony” task force in 2019, which analyzed the diversity of the church’s leadership or lack thereof, and made numerous recommendations to recruit and retain members to the council, made up overwhelmingly of white men.

Task force members wanted the 85-page report to be sent to the congregation, but it wasn’t. Some elders charged the report was influenced by Marxism and critical race theory, task force members said. The elders now say the report will be released.

“We believe that in the absence of biblical clarity, ethnic harmony becomes a ‘wax nose’ that we can shape and twist any way we like,” according to a Council of Elders statement. “We simply cannot allow politics or secular culture to define our terms or determine our beliefs.”

Hold up. There is an absence of Biblical clarity on the topic of “ethnic harmony”? I would have thought that Revelation 7 succinctly summarized God’s perspective: “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

Likewise, talking about “the sins of racism” or spousal abuse from the pulpit was not welcomed, Pickering said.

I can understand that. When people are hurting and the culture outside of the church is talking about the ways in which people have been hurt, abandoned, and attacked, we absolutely would not want to give anyone the impression that the Bible might have anything relevant to say on the matter. Taking a stand could offend someone. And that someone might be wealthy and influential. Better to keep quiet and preserve our relationships with the powerful.

Another flash point occurred after church members became aware of Bethlehem College and Seminary President Joe Rigney’s appearance on an episode of “Man Rampant,” an Amazon Prime video series hosted by controversial religious figure Doug Wilson. In a discussion about what to do when a woman reports physical abuse to a pastor, Wilson and Rigney stressed it was important not to immediately believe her until they’ve heard the abuser’s side of the story.

Yes! The woman was probably mouthing off to her husband, neglecting her most important responsibilities (such as catering to her husband’s every whim), or voting for the wrong people. Regardless, she likely had it coming and once you’ve heard his side of the story you’ll understand exactly why he was justified in hitting her.

Upset church members introduced a motion at a Council of Elders meeting this year, asking that the full council “make a written, public statement separating the views expressed by Joe Rigney in Man Rampant from the views and teachings of Bethlehem Baptist Church.”

A council member who had given the episode a five-star online review threatened to resign if the motion passed. It was tabled.

Of course it was. Whatever else American evangelical Christians are, they’re moral cowards. It’s more important to coddle the powerful and defer to their feelings than it is to take a stand for truth and righteousness.

Church leaders declined to sanction a seminary professor who had been accused by a dozen students of abusive behavior. An investigation later determined there were no legal violations.

Oh. No legal violations. Professors can act like any kind of asshole that they like as long they don’t actually break the law. A seminary professor certainly has no higher moral or ethical standard that they should live by. All of those fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are for other people.

Stokes attributes some of the tensions and resignations at Bethlehem to the impact of the nation’s climate of polarization.

“You talk about racial issues too much, and some people will say ‘I’m leaving the church,’ “ he said. “You don’t talk enough about racial issues, and people say ‘I’m leaving.’ “

So he admits it: people will leave regardless. The only thing you get to choose is why people will leave and what you’ll stand for. Stokes is on the side of standing quietly by while evil is done, being complicit in that evil, and retaining the good opinion of both the evildoers and those who don’t want to hear about the existence of evil.

I believe Jesus had something to say about this as well.

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Arizona bill targets dangerous drug traffickers

Let’s not pass this bill in Arizona. It harms drug addicts and won’t do anything to prevent people from using illegal narcotics.

Arizona bill targets dangerous drug traffickers

Maria Polletta, reporting for the Arizona Republic.

House Bill 2779 would establish tougher minimum sentences for those caught selling or possessing even small amounts of heroin, fentanyl or fentanyl-like drugs.

Those who sell or share drugs linked to overdose deaths could face up to 25 years in prison under House Bill 2779, a measure aimed at taking down dangerous drug traffickers who knowingly taint or misrepresent their products.

Justice reform advocates argue the bill would more likely punish low-level dealers selling to support their addictions, boosting the state's already swollen prison population rather than public safety.

In addition to creating the crime of “drug trafficking homicide,” HB 2779 would establish tougher minimum sentences for those caught selling or possessing even small amounts of heroin, fentanyl or fentanyl-like drugs.

It also would make those offenders ineligible for probation, early release or virtually any other incentive.

"The idea that these mandatory minimums are going to deter people — that assumes that individuals who engage in illegal behavior are rational actors and they can accurately weigh future consequences in the moment," said Zachary Stout, a former opioid user who now advocates for sentencing and drug policy changes.

"Drug users who are suffering from addiction are not rational," he said. "If the intent is to decrease the number of overdoses and combat the opioid crisis, then this bill is the perfect example of a complete failure of understanding."

This entry was tagged. Arizona Drugs

Kids and Covid: Schools can reopen safely now

I've been as hesitant as anyone else to send children back to school. It seemed like a recipe for disaster—pulling together children from across the community, putting them together all day to spread sickness around, and then sending them back home to infect their families. But the research shows that school can be very safe. We should reopen schools and let every family send their children.

Kids and Covid: Schools can reopen safely now

Benjamin P. Linas, writing at Vox.

When Covid began to spread in the US last year, teachers were right to be worried about schools. We knew almost nothing about the virus’s spread. Operating schools under business-as-usual conditions very well could have led to more infections among teachers, students, and people in the community.

But since then, we have accumulated a massive amount of data about how to keep schools open safely.

First, last spring, we observed the experiences of other countries like Scotland, Singapore, and France, where schools reopened and masks and social distancing seemed to prevent large-scale transmission.

In the US, epidemiologists compared the timing of school closures to changes in Covid incidence. Some studies found that school closures might have reduced the spread of illness, but the findings are complicated because we were also making other major public health changes at the same time. And overall they failed to find a strong link.

Data and patterns also began to emerge about children’s Covid-19 test results and their exposures. Playdates with friends emerged as the common exposure among the infected; time in school did not.

Still, as reassuring as the data were, they were all indirect. The gold standard to learn if schools can open safely is fairly simple: Open schools, measure Covid incidence, and see what happens. Many US school districts have now done this, and we have the data.

First, researchers in North Carolina published results from 11 school districts and over 100,000 students and staff. Schools in those districts employed mandatory masking and six-foot distancing where feasible, but no major capital improvement to HVAC systems or buildings. In the first quarter of this school year, they found the rate of transmission of Covid in schools was dramatically lower (roughly 1/25) than the level of transmission in the community. Among all of the Covid-19 infections observed in school, the state health department’s tracers found 96 percent were acquired in the community, and there were no documented cases of the virus passing from child to adult in schools — zero.

Second, a similar study followed 17 schools in Wisconsin. Like North Carolina, those schools required masks indoors, three-foot distancing with effort to distance farther whenever feasible, and no major capital improvements. Between August 31 and November 29, with over 4,500 students and 650 staff, they found seven cases of Covid transmission to children and also found no cases of Covid transmission to educators in the buildings. Further, these schools eliminated Covid transmission at the same time that the surrounding community saw a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

A third important preprint study analyzes data from two schools in Atlanta. This study is small, but it is important because the schools were conducting routine asymptomatic screening of students, teachers, and staff. In Atlanta, 72 percent of the limited number of transmission events in one school were known to be the result of non-compliance with masking. And again here, there were no cases transmitted from students to teachers.

Sadly, at the same time that we are learning definitively that we can open schools safely and essentially prevent Covid transmission, data are emerging about the real damage being done to children by prolonged remote learning, including a rise in the use of pediatric emergency rooms for psychiatric illnesses, increasing anxiety and depression symptoms, losses in learning progress, and large racial disparities in both the availability of in-person instruction, and educational achievement.

At the same time, teachers also need to recognize that full vaccination is not a prerequisite for safe schools, as some educator unions have called for. We did not have a vaccine in North Carolina or Wisconsin when they safely opened schools in August 2020.

We must also not let other demands, such as universal asymptomatic testing or large-scale capital improvements to buildings, stymie the return to in-person learning. Yes, we should be working to implement more screening in schools and improving air exchange, but we can do that in parallel with re-opening. We know now from good data that we can effectively stop Covid-19 at the school doors and get American education back on track without these things. Essentially, all we need to safely reopen schools are mask mandates, reasonable distancing of at least three feet, minor and affordable upgrades to existing HVAC systems, and teachers.

A realistic plan for reopening schools is to immediately begin bringing the youngest learners back to full-time, in-person learning with strict guidance for masking indoors, three-foot minimal distancing with effort to maximize distance as much as possible. Districts can certainly conduct air-exchange surveys in classrooms as an extra precautionary measure and use simple and affordable mitigation strategies for suboptimal conditions, such as upgrading HVAC filters, opening windows, and deploying portable HEPA filters in problem spaces.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Education Policy Unions

McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot

The Republican Party now stands for nothing but Donald Trump. There are no principles, there are no convictions. There is only Trump. They have thrown everything else away in defense of the man.

McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot

Jonah Goldberg, writing for the Los Angeles Times.

McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot. Republicans claim to fight for fidelity to the Constitution, traditional morality, law and order, economic liberty, fiscal responsibility, etc. As a conservative, I believe these are things worth fighting for. But most Republicans today don’t see these as principles to stand for, they see them as slogans to campaign on.

That is the only way to reconcile their sloganeering with their slavish support for Donald Trump — a thrice-married, admitted sexual predator who, as president, lavished praise on dictators, imposed tariffs with drunken abandon, tried to steal an election so brazenly he was impeached twice and set in motion a multi-pronged anti-constitutional assault on Congress and democracy that left dead cops in its wake and the impeachment clause of the Constitution a dead letter.

“Courage,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

Again and again, at the moment of highest political reality, the bulk of the Republican Party has chosen Donald Trump — and the voters who dominate the primaries — over all other considerations.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Impeachment Republicans

A year of election misinformation from Trump, visualized

Mr. Trump’s incitement to violence started well before January 6, with a continuous stream of lies.

A year of election misinformation from Trump, visualized

Philip Bump, reporting for The Washington Post.

Before the 2016 election, Trump invested a decent amount of energy on claims that presidential elections were rife with voter fraud. It was transparently an effort to inoculate himself against what seemed to be a likely loss in that year’s presidential race. Then he won — and his claims that voter fraud were rampant were more narrowly tailored to explain why Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than he did, or so they said.

For the next few years, he’d occasionally return to the subject, waving his hands about fraud whenever he wanted to complain about immigrants, California, Californian immigrants or whatever. But it was last April when his fraud claims took a new, more concrete form: Democrats were using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to expand the use of mail-in ballots — a tool that made casting illegal ballots trivial, or so Trump asserted.

One could (and many did) watch the plan solidify over the next few months. Mail ballots were rife with fraud, Trump claimed over and over, and therefore an election predicated on mail ballots would necessarily be suspect. By April it had become clear that Trump’s opponent in his reelection bid would be Joe Biden, who led Trump by a healthy margin in the polls. So Trump dutifully planted seeds of doubt about what seemed like a probable Biden win.

As the election neared, he repeatedly refused to say that he would accept the outcome if he lost, instead saying that he would only accept the outcome of a free and fair election — something that he assured his followers was impossible, given the circumstances. Then he performatively demanded that no votes should be counted after the night of the election itself, recognizing that mail ballots that heavily favored Biden would only be counted in the hours or days after polls closed.

It was this poisonous snowball of nonsense meant to set the stage for his declaring that Biden hadn’t actually won. And it worked very well.

In the weeks after his loss, Trump repeatedly claimed that the election had been tainted by fraud, without offering any credible evidence. As surely as he’d built up nonsensical claims of imminent wrongdoing before the Nov. 3 election, he assiduously latched on to any claim of fraud that emerged after the election was over, however obviously ridiculous or quickly debunked. Day after day of dishonesty about his loss, of which his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 was only the last.

About an hour after he finished speaking, his supporters — in D.C. at his behest and motivated by Trump to try to interrupt the finalization of the election results occurring in the Capitol — had overrun the seat of legislative power in the United States.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020 Impeachment

Trump’s weak impeachment defense will expose the depravity of GOP senators who acquit him

Even more of the case for impeaching Donald Trump. Not only is he guilty, guilty, guilty, but if the Republican Senators acquit him, they’ll be guilty of putting the party—and the man—far above the Constitution that they swore an oath to defend.

Trump’s weak impeachment defense will expose the depravity of GOP senators who acquit him

Greg Sargent, opining in The Washington Post.

The real choice they face is not between sticking with Trump or going against him. Rather, it’s between sticking with Trump or remaining faithful to their oath of office, which requires them to defend the Constitution against those who would undermine or destroy it, and to the oath of impartiality they take as impeachment jurors.

Trump tried to overthrow U.S. democracy to keep himself in power illegitimately, first through corrupt legal efforts, then through nakedly extralegal means, and then by inciting intimidation and violence to disrupt the constitutionally designated process for securing the peaceful conclusion of free and fair elections.

Trump fully intended to subvert the constitutional process designating how our elections unfold, and intended this every step of the way. GOP senators cannot remain “loyal” to Trump without breaking their oaths to execute their public positions faithfully.

The weakness of Trump’s own defense will reveal the true contours of this choice — and demonstrate how his defenders, both on his legal team and in the GOP Senate caucus, will try to bury the inescapable nature of this choice under mounds of obfuscation.

Trump’s laughably weak defense

Trump’s lawyers will first argue that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try Trump, on the grounds that he no longer holds office. This idea has been roundly debunked by lawyers across the political spectrum, including Chuck Cooper, a conservative legal icon.

As Cooper argued, the Constitution provides for a Senate vote not just on removal for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but also for “disqualification” from ever holding office again, which by definition must also apply to those who are no longer in office but might run again later.

But the larger thrust of this “defense” is pernicious in another way.

GOP senators hope to take refuge in the idea that former presidents are exempt to give themselves a rhetorical and political means of dodging a direct vote on whether what Trump actually did constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors.

This has been widely depicted as mere tactical maneuvering. But it’s much worse than that: It’s an active evasion of their own duty as public officials to defend the Constitution. This defense, then, actually unmasks their dereliction of this duty.

Trump incited violent insurrection

Trump’s lawyers will also argue he is not guilty of “incitement of insurrection.” They will say he didn’t “direct anyone” to carry out the attack, as he used the word “peacefully” while haranguing the mob on Jan. 6.

And they will say that because the riots were “preplanned by a small group of criminals,” then Trump cannot have “incited” them.

All this is pure baloney. Trump spent months urging his supporters to mobilize for war over the election results, which he said could not be legitimate if he lost, meaning a struggle to overturn them would inevitably be a righteous cause in their own defense. If some preplanned the attack, they did so at what they understood — correctly — as his direction, as their own language has confirmed.

What’s more, if some preplanned the attack well in advance, many did not, and people in this latter group also attacked the Capitol. They, too, were incited by Trump’s haranguing leading up to and on Jan. 6.

And if Trump intended them to be peaceful, it’s strange that he again whipped up rage at then-Vice President Mike Pence while the mob rampaged into the Capitol looking for Pence and lawmakers who were counting electoral votes. It’s also odd that as the rampage worsened, he refused entreaties to call for the very calm his lawyers claim he wanted to see.

Acquitting Trump means declaring that these known facts do not point to high crimes and misdemeanors.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020 Impeachment Republicans

The worst thing about impeachment? The lawyers

More of the case for impeaching Donald Trump. He’s guilty, guilty, guilty.

The worst thing about impeachment? The lawyers

Jonah Goldberg, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

in their defense brief, the president’s lawyers claim that Trump’s remarks egging on the crowd on Jan. 6 are protected under the 1st Amendment. They’re probably right. But so what?

The president of a corporation has every freedom to go on TV to declare that his company’s products are defective. But the board of his company could — and would — fire him according to whatever procedure they liked. If the head of the Smithsonian invited a mob to protest outside the Air and Space Museum and the mob ransacked the place because of lies he told them, the regents wouldn’t await a legal verdict before firing him.

The Senate is like a board of trustees for the government. The Constitution gives the senators the authority to conduct impeachment trials as they see fit, subject to a handful of procedural rules. Even the judges in impeachment trials don’t function as judges would in a regular court; the Senate can overrule their decisions.

My analogy, while imperfect, is useful because impeachment is about self-government not criminal behavior. Yes, crimes can be impeachable, but as James Madison explained, impeachable acts don’t have to be criminal.

We all understand that private and most public institutions have every right to police the professional conduct of their officers. Why the standards for corporations, museums, universities, or Little League coaches should be so much higher than for presidents is a mystery to me. In almost every other realm of life, leaders are held to account not just to the law, but to notions of leadership, common sense and the basic decency and maturity we expect from responsible adults.

They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them

It wasn’t antifa.

They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them

Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, writing in The New York Times.

The data we were given showed what some in the tech industry might call a God-view vantage of that dark day. It included about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones, revealing around 130 devices inside the Capitol exactly when Trump supporters were storming the building. Times Opinion is only publishing the names of people who gave their permission to be quoted in this article.

About 40 percent of the phones tracked near the rally stage on the National Mall during the speeches were also found in and around the Capitol during the siege — a clear link between those who’d listened to the president and his allies and then marched on the building.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult

Countering the big lie

A public radio station stands up for the truth and promises to hold Republican politicians accountable for the lies that they’ve told. No one should be able to so blatantly mislead the public and expect to escape without any consequences.

Countering the big lie: WITF newsroom’s coverage will connect lawmakers with their election-fraud actions

Tim Lambert and Scott Blanchard, writing for WITF.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, WITF’s journalists worked to remind listeners and readers in story after story that results from Pennsylvania would take days to be finalized, and why that was the case.

Our goal was to prepare listeners for any disinformation or misinformation about the count and any attempts by President Donald Trump to claim victory before all the ballots were counted.

What we didn’t realize was that false claims of voter fraud would be amplified by the president’s allies in Congress, state legislatures, right-wing media and conspiracy theorists on social media.

What we didn’t realize was a large portion of the electorate would fall for this lie.

What we didn’t realize was elected leaders, who took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, would actively work to overturn an election that county, state and federal judges and public officials of both political parties, and election experts, concluded was free and fair.

To be clear, all the false claims about Pennsylvania’s results were attacks on the truth. On democracy.

The constant drumbeat of falsehoods that the election was stolen came to a head on Jan. 6 with a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as far-right extremists tried to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory and overturn the results.

The attack’s purpose was to ignore the will of the people, throw out their votes and allow former President Trump to remain in power.

If it had succeeded, democracy would have failed. Some experts called the national security nightmare a coup.

The insurrection was the culmination of a lie that was allowed to fester and grow.

A lie that was pushed by several Republican members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation and by many in the state legislature.

To be clear, all the false claims about Pennsylvania’s results were attacks on the truth.

On democracy.

On the work of dozens of journalists at WITF and across the state, who were doing on-the-ground reporting and talking with the county-level leaders who ran elections.

Those stories revealed the hard work of election workers to get it right, and that the election amid the coronavirus pandemic went smoothly, with no signs of massive fraud.

At WITF, our editors and journalists held dozens of discussions on how to counter the election-fraud lie with facts and original reporting.

Because of the unprecedented attack on an election and democracy, it’s important to discuss some of the basic facts:

  1. Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 legally cast votes. Court challenges were dismissed for reasons including lack of evidence. In tossing out one case, conservative federal judge Stephanos Bibas wrote: “… calling an election unfair does not make it so.”
  2. Eight Pennsylvania congressmen supported Trump’s lies about election fraud and irregularities as he attempted to illegally retain power. Those lies led many to believe the election was stolen from Trump. After the insurrection at the Capitol to try to overthrow the U.S. electoral system, those eight lawmakers voted to nullify Pennsylvania’s election results.

So, as part of WITF’s commitment to factual reporting, and because many who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 have said their goal was to overthrow the U.S. electoral system and government, we will use language in our reporting to show how elected officials’ actions are connected to the election-fraud lie and the insurrection.

Here are two examples:

“Sen. (name), who signed a letter asking members of Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes despite no evidence that would call those results into question, today introduced a bill …”

and

The congressmen who voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes are __ eight of the commonwealth’s nine GOP representatives. The one who did not vote for that is U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican who represents the Bucks County-based 1st Congressional District.

We understand this may be an unusual decision for a news organization to make. But, these are not normal times.

We are not taking this approach lightly, and will apply it for lawmakers who took at least one of these three actions: signed on to a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating Pennsylvania’s election; signed on to a state House or a state Senate letter urging Congressional representatives to object to or delay certification; and voted against certification. The list of lawmakers is here.

When using this language, we’ll consider whether the lawmaker has admitted their mistake, and how the language fits in to each particular story.

… We would like to emphasize our approach is based in fact and provides the proper context to the decisions made by Republican elected officials in the commonwealth.

This wasn’t a policy disagreement over taxes, abortion, or government spending.

This wasn’t lawmakers spinning an issue in their favor.

This was either knowingly spreading disinformation or outright lying by elected officials to overturn an election in an attempt to keep former President Trump in office.

This was an unprecedented assault on the fabric of American democracy.

To us, this is a matter of holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

Impeachment Shows How Partisan Politics Have Swamped the Constitution

Opening with a useful summary of the case for impeaching Donald Trump.

Impeachment Shows How Partisan Politics Have Swamped the Constitution

Jonah Goldberg, writing for The Dispatch.

Let me say up front I think it’s an open-and-shut case that Trump committed numerous impeachable acts, and in a healthy republic, any self-respecting Congress would have moved within hours of the assault to impeach, try, and convict him.

Over the 63 days between Election Day and the siege, Trump manufactured fraudulent claims that the election was stolen. He was recorded improperly—and almost certainly illegally—pressuring Georgia election officials to “find” the votes he needed to win the state. He invited supporters to come to Washington to pressure the vice president and Congress to commit unconstitutional acts so he could overturn the election he lost and hold power.

Whether Trump intended to incite violence or just negligently incited it is immaterial. The violence makes it worse, of course. But even exhorting the peaceful intimidation of officials conducting their constitutional duties would be a violation of his oath. Moreover, that the president was derelict in his duty to do everything he could to put down the violence once it was unfolding as he watched TV and fielded calls for help is also nakedly impeachable.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020 Impeachment Republicans

Egregious Minimum Wage Doubling

I’ve become a lot more progressive during the past year. I still think that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea. I don’t agree with everything in this piece, but I do agree with this bit about the minimum wage. If “we” want to support low income workers, I think we should do it through income supports, a negative income tax (the Earned Income Tax Credit), or something else that doesn’t pass the entire cost onto employers and businesses.

Biden Proposal Hijacks Recession for Liberal Wishlist

Brian Riedl, writing for The Dispatch.

Perhaps most egregious is a proposal to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour—including for employees who regularly receive additional tips, for which the current minimum wage is $2.13. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that even gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 in a growing economy would likely kill 1.3 million jobs, and perhaps as many as 3.7 million. Imposing a drastic minimum wage increase on small businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat during a recession is especially absurd. Moreover, forcing restaurants, which are failing at record rates, to raise their own tipped minimum wage by 600 percent is economic malpractice. Perhaps high-cost cities like New York City and San Francisco can afford a much higher minimum wage, but other parts of America with lower incomes and prices will not be able to absorb this policy. It has no business in a relief package.

This entry was tagged. Economics Income Jobs Joe Biden Minimum Wage

“What Do I Do When Someone Asks Me For Money?”

Kevin Nye answers “What Do I Do When Someone Asks Me For Money?”. You should read the whole thing. His discussion on setting boundaries and on interacting with the homeless—rather than making them feel invisible—is spot on.

I found Kevin’s perspective interesting, because in homeless services. He knows the clients, the issues, and the daily struggles. As such, I wanted to quote from this section, dealing with our assumptions and our fear that “they’ll just spend it all on drugs”.

The assumption that a person experiencing homelessness will spend your generous donation on drugs or alcohol is pervasive in a way that absolutely does not align with data. The numbers of people struggling with substance use and addiction is lower than the general assumption, though it is still a major part of the conversation.

More to the point, addiction is such that it drives a person to pursue the substance they crave through any and every obstacle. While I’ve seen many people through recovery, and many who are far from it, I’ve never once heard of someone who kicked their addiction because they ran out of money. Even though this narrative affects so much giving behavior, I’ve not once heard someone say, “Yeah, I was about to give up and stop using heroin forever, but then that nice lady gave me $20 and I was able to score.”

Frankly, even if they are planning to spend your money for that, you might be preventing far riskier behavior in order to meet that perceived need. That feels “icky” to many of us, perhaps like we are enabling bad behavior. While this conversation exceeds the limitations of this piece, it is worth pointing out that the gift of money to a person has little to no effect on their ability to manage addiction. Only larger interventions like treatment, healthcare, and housing can interrupt something of that magnitude.

Sometimes, we wonder if giving cash is even helpful to the problem of homelessness. And to be fair, I’ve never seen someone lift themselves out of homelessness based on the money made from solicitation, (except when someone was trying to get a bus ticket or gas money back to a place they have refuge.) However, I have seen that money buy someone a clean pair of socks. I’ve seen it allow someone the dignity of a meal at their favorite restaurant after a hungry day. I’ve seen it buy someone a weekend in a hotel to get out of the rain, or just to take a brief respite before returning to the streets. These are not nothing. Your gift may not lift someone out of their desperate situation, but it might provide an immeasurable amount of solace and even joy in the midst of their despair.

Above all else, homelessness dehumanizes. It isolates, it discards, and it amplifies the fear we all have that maybe things aren’t going to work out for us. In your daily interactions with people experiencing homelessness, their homelessness is not truly at stake. Their humanity, though, is – whether you end up giving them money or not.

This entry was tagged. Charity Christian Living Drugs Homelessness Poverty

'THIS IS ME': Rioters flaunt involvement in Capitol siege

Once again, it was Trump’s supporters at the capitol. We know who these people were. They told us themselves. It wasn’t antifa.

'THIS IS ME': Rioters flaunt involvement in Capitol siege

Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer, and Colleen Long, reporting for the Associated Press.

These suspects weren’t exactly in hiding.

“THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot.

In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI.

Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends’ willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down.

“Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.”

In the last few weeks, the FBI has received more than 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels.

More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it’s likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters.

A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.

Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said.

“They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building.

A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said that he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more.”

Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.”

In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult

Rudy Giuliani Sued by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims

Perhaps one person will get what he’s richly earned. Giuliani has done more than anyone besides the President to lie about the results of the Presidential election. It’d be nice if he paid some price for that.

Rudy Giuliani Sued by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims

Nick Corasaniti, reporting for the New York Times.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit on Monday against Rudolph W. Giuliani, the lawyer for Donald J. Trump and former mayor of New York City who played a key role in the former president’s monthslong effort to subvert the 2020 election.

The 107-page lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, accuses Mr. Giuliani of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion” made up of “demonstrably false” allegations, in part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.

The suit seeks damages of more than $1.3 billion and is based on more than 50 statements Mr. Giuliani made at legislative hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in the conservative news media, where he spun a fictitious narrative of a plot by one of the biggest voting machine manufacturers in the country to flip votes to President Biden.

Mr. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers and confidants, has faced continuing fallout for his highly visible efforts to reverse the election outcome. This month, the chairman of the New York State Senate’s judiciary committee formally requested that the state court system strip Mr. Giuliani of his law license.

Mr. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taken together with a lawsuit the company filed this month against Sidney Powell, another lawyer who was allied with Mr. Trump, the suit represents a point-by-point rebuke of one of the more outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding last year’s election. The president’s allies had contended that the voting machine company — which was also used in states during Mr. Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, has been tested by government agencies, and was used in states Mr. Trump carried in 2020 — was somehow involved in a rigged election, partly as a result of ties to a long-deceased Venezuelan dictator.

“Dominion was not founded in Venezuela to fix elections for Hugo Chávez,” the suit says. “It was founded in 2002 in John Poulos’s basement in Toronto to help blind people vote on paper ballots.” The suit later adds that the headquarters for the company’s United States subsidiary is in Denver.

Laying out a timeline of Mr. Giuliani’s comments about Dominion on Twitter, his podcast and Fox News, the company notes that Mr. Giuliani avoided mentioning Dominion in court, where he could have faced legal ramifications for falsehoods. “Notably, not a single one of the three complaints signed and filed by Giuliani and other attorneys for the Trump Campaign in the Pennsylvania action contained any allegations about Dominion,” the lawsuit says.

This entry was tagged. Elections MAGA Cult President2020

Trump’s Pre-Facism and The Big Lie

Donald Trump and his supporters need you to believe that he is the sole source of truth and that everyone else is untrustworthy, lying, and part of a plot against you.

The American Abyss

Timothy Snyder writing for the New York Times.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years, scholars have discussed the legitimacy and value of invoking fascism in reference to Trumpian propaganda. One comfortable position has been to label any such effort as a direct comparison and then to treat such comparisons as taboo. More productively, the philosopher Jason Stanley has treated fascism as a phenomenon, as a series of patterns that can be observed not only in interwar Europe but beyond it.

My own view is that greater knowledge of the past, fascist or otherwise, allows us to notice and conceptualize elements of the present that we might otherwise disregard and to think more broadly about future possibilities. It was clear to me in October that Trump’s behavior presaged a coup, and I said so in print; this is not because the present repeats the past, but because the past enlightens the present.

Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term “fake news” echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (“lying press”); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as “enemies of the people.” Like Adolf Hitler, he came to power at a moment when the conventional press had taken a beating; the financial crisis of 2008 did to American newspapers what the Great Depression did to German ones. The Nazis thought that they could use radio to replace the old pluralism of the newspaper; Trump tried to do the same with Twitter.

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.

Some of his lies were, admittedly, medium-size: that he was a successful businessman; that Russia did not support him in 2016; that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Such medium-size lies were the standard fare of aspiring authoritarians in the 21st century. In Poland the right-wing party built a martyrdom cult around assigning blame to political rivals for an airplane crash that killed the nation’s president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban blames a vanishingly small number of Muslim refugees for his country’s problems. But such claims were not quite big lies; they stretched but did not rend what Hannah Arendt called “the fabric of factuality.”

One historical big lie discussed by Arendt is Joseph Stalin’s explanation of starvation in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33. The state had collectivized agriculture, then applied a series of punitive measures to Ukraine that ensured millions would die. Yet the official line was that the starving were provocateurs, agents of Western powers who hated socialism so much they were killing themselves. A still grander fiction, in Arendt’s account, is Hitlerian anti-Semitism: the claims that Jews ran the world, Jews were responsible for ideas that poisoned German minds, Jews stabbed Germany in the back during the First World War. Intriguingly, Arendt thought big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship.

In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. The significance of the matter at hand was great: the right to rule the most powerful country in the world and the efficacy and trustworthiness of its succession procedures. The level of mendacity was profound. The claim was not only wrong, but it was also made in bad faith, amid unreliable sources. It challenged not just evidence but logic: Just how could (and why would) an election have been rigged against a Republican president but not against Republican senators and representatives? Trump had to speak, absurdly, of a “Rigged (for President) Election.”

The force of a big lie resides in its demand that many other things must be believed or disbelieved. To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and of experts but also of local, state and federal government institutions, from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security and all the way to the Supreme Court. It brings with it, of necessity, a conspiracy theory: Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all the people who would have had to work on the cover-up.

Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.

On the surface, a conspiracy theory makes its victim look strong: It sees Trump as resisting the Democrats, the Republicans, the Deep State, the pedophiles, the Satanists. More profoundly, however, it inverts the position of the strong and the weak. Trump’s focus on alleged “irregularities” and “contested states” comes down to cities where Black people live and vote. At bottom, the fantasy of fraud is that of a crime committed by Black people against white people.

It’s not just that electoral fraud by African-Americans against Donald Trump never happened. It is that it is the very opposite of what happened, in 2020 and in every American election. As always, Black people waited longer than others to vote and were more likely to have their votes challenged. They were more likely to be suffering or dying from Covid-19, and less likely to be able to take time away from work. The historical protection of their right to vote has been removed by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, and states have rushed to pass measures of a kind that historically reduce voting by the poor and communities of color.

The claim that Trump was denied a win by fraud is a big lie not just because it mauls logic, misdescribes the present and demands belief in a conspiracy. It is a big lie, fundamentally, because it reverses the moral field of American politics and the basic structure of American history.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult

How Democrats Planned for Doomsday

There are two messages here. First, nothing Mr. Trump did was a surprise. He’d been telegraphing his plans for holding onto power for months. Secondly, the left actually managed to coordinate an effective response to counter it.

How Democrats Planned for Doomsday

Alexander Burns, writing for the New York Times.

By the time rioters ransacked the Capitol, the machinery of the left had already been primed to respond — prepared by months spent sketching out doomsday scenarios and mapping out responses, by countless hours of training exercises and reams of opinion research.

At each juncture, the activist wing of the Democratic coalition deployed its resources deliberately, channeling its energy toward countering Mr. Trump’s attempts at sabotage. Joseph R. Biden Jr., an avowed centrist who has often boasted of beating his more liberal primary opponents, was a beneficiary of their work.

Just as important, progressive groups reckoned with their own vulnerabilities: The impulses toward fiery rhetoric and divisive demands — which generated polarizing slogans like “Abolish ICE” and “Defund the police” — were supplanted by a more studied vocabulary, developed through nightly opinion research and message testing.

Worried that Mr. Trump might use any unruly demonstrations as pretext for a federal crackdown of the kind seen last summer in Portland, Ore., progressives organized mass gatherings only sparingly and in highly choreographed ways after Nov. 3. In a year of surging political energy across the left and of record-breaking voter turnout, one side has stifled itself to an extraordinary degree during the precarious postelection period.

Since the violence of Jan. 6, progressive leaders have not deployed large-scale public protests at all.

Interviews with nearly two dozen leaders involved in the effort, and a review of several hundred pages of planning documents, polling presentations and legal memorandums, revealed an uncommon — and previously unreported — degree of collaboration among progressive groups that often struggle to work so closely together because of competition over political turf, funding and conflicting ideological priorities.

For the organizers of the effort, it represents both a good-news story — Mr. Trump was thwarted — and an ominous sign that such exhaustive efforts were required to protect election results that were not all that close.

For the most part, the organized left anticipated Mr. Trump’s postelection schemes, including his premature attempt to claim a victory he had not achieved, his pressure campaigns targeting Republican election administrators and county officials and his incitement of far-right violence, strategy documents show.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020