Duck & Cover (Open Thread)

I took a road trip to the northern part of the state this weekend to visit my old grandma. Along the way, I saw this lovely wood duck:

Such a fancy head and markings! Here’s another shot of him, this time paddling toward me:

Interesting piece by Rebecca Traister: Can the New Activist Passion of Suburban White Women Change American Politics? She spent some time in the Georgia 6th with the women who are trying to get Ossoff elected. Here’s an excerpt:

Ann White, 63, is a former speech pathologist, the mother of teenagers, and a Democrat married to a Republican; she’s never been active in electoral politics before. “I just assumed that Hillary would win,” she said of the 2016 election. As the realization that Clinton had not won began to sink in, she felt herself changing. “The profanity filter on my mouth totally went away,” White said, describing a phone call days after the election with a like-minded friend from California. “I lost it, and my kids turned around and went ‘Whoa!’ Because they’ve never heard me say the F-word before.” White began to weigh the responsibility of taking a stand, “for people of color, for those who cannot afford health insurance, who are lesbian, gay and transgender, for immigrants. I’m a white older woman. There’s a lot of old white people that are [on the Republican] side right now. Well, I’m an old white person and I can be vocal too.”

[snip]

Women, said Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s House Minority Leader and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, “understand that this has to be the beginning of something, regardless of what happens on Tuesday night. Because they’ve seen, for the first time, the real consequences of inaction. So you have women who are waking up and seeing that they don’t have the luxury of going back to sleep.” Abrams, who if elected in 2018 would be the nation’s first African-American woman governor, continued, “Among African-American women there’s been a long consistency of action, which has moved our communities closer and closer to political power over time. What you’re seeing in the suburbs now is a version of that. It is louder and more vibrant [right now] because there’s an election to circle around, but it’s not unlike black women who fought for civil rights, and women throughout the South who have pushed back on narratives about who we are and what we’re capable of accomplishing.”

The whole thing is worth a read. I’ve heard folks here and elsewhere express pessimism. Ossoff can’t win. We’ll never take back the House. Plutocratic influence and the conservative propaganda machine are too strong to counter. The election of Trump means all is lost.

I’ve succumbed to that brand of pessimism myself occasionally. It’s okay to lose faith from time to time; that’s what separates people who are capable of considering new information and imagining a variety of possibilities from closed-minded zealots.

But regardless, we’ve got to keep fighting. The people dragging us backward want us to feel dispirited and helpless. If that makes you angry, the best way to give them the bird is to keep resisting.

PS: I made my daily call this morning to Senator Bill Nelson to urge him to oppose the super-secret Obamacare repeal bill, which he will. Also called Lil’ Marco to register my objections to his upcoming cave on that same bill. All lines were busy. That’s a good sign.



Warning: Cannot Be Unheard (Open Thread)

Five months into the rolling train-wreck of his father-in-law’s administration, we finally learn that Kushner has a voice:

I liked the Gilbert Gottfried theory better.

I only listened to a snippet of the statement to ascertain that Kushner sounds like a snotty adolescent ordering you to get your hobo-ass Honda out of the limo parking space rather than Gottfried. But the content of the speech is remarkably like the bland pablum that leaks out of Ivanka’s yap when Trump trots her unqualified ass out to address some weighty public issue.

It’s so embarrassing and presumptuous. It’s as if some odious orange buffoon is forcing us to watch his untalented, awful children perform in badly staged recitals. For the next goddamned three years and seven months.

Anyhoo, Jared and Ivanka: a pair of empty-headed, entitled dilettantes. As Granny Cracker always said, there’s a lid for every pot. Open thread!



Bipartisan!

Here’s something 98 out of 100 U.S. Senators agree on: Donald Trump shouldn’t be able to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia. Via Bloomberg:

The U.S. Senate voted to increase sanctions on Russia, and give Congress the power to review any attempt by President Donald Trump to unilaterally lift them, a rebuke of the president’s suggestions that the U.S. improve relations with the country.

It’s almost like they don’t trust him not to be weirdly solicitous of Putin or something…



Rachel in Rolling Stone (Open Thread)

Rachel Maddow is on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone, and there’s a fascinating interview with her here (H/T: valued commenter Quinerly). An excerpt — her dead-on accurate (IMO) description of the Trump-Russia scandal:

Q: Let’s talk about the Russia story. You got on that very early, and stuck with it.

A: Well, I mean, I’m not keeping it alive for its own sake. There’s a lot of scandal associated with this new administration. Some of it is like normal political scandal – like Tom Price trading health stocks while he was in a public position to regulate those stocks. That’s a bad scandal, but it’s kind of normal political corruption. It’s almost quaint. Then, there are Trump-specific scandals, like we now have a ruling family where there’s a crowned prince who’s an adviser without remit, and we’ve got unqualified nepotistic appointments and conflicts of interest and Trump not disclosing his taxes. And then there is this third scandal, which is about the existence of this presidency. That’s an existential scandal. If this presidency is knowingly the product of a foreign-intelligence operation, that’s not Tom Price trading stocks that he was also affecting the price of as a public official, you know? That is a full-stop national crisis. Does that mean Russia makes the air every day, even if nothing appears new? No. But when there is something to say about it, I’m going to report it insistently. And I’m willing to do that even if it bothers people.

Maddow does allow that the story could be all smoke and no fire, but she says her guiding star for assessing the importance of a Trump-related story is what Trump does, not what he says. Seems like a good technique for a journalist dealing with a pathological liar.

Speaking of liars, Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich and the whole Wingnut Wurlitzer are shrieking like scalded stoats about special counselor Mueller. Here’s a tweet from this morning:

Maddow is right to disregard what Trump says and focus on deeds. Trump isn’t strategic but rather an id lashing out. Gingrich, however, is a different sort of liar. I think he, Fox News and the rest of the Trump-enablement cooperative are setting the stage for Trump to fire Mueller. That play would indicate they have no other options.

Open thread!








Some Thoughts on Today’s Shootings

I’ve done a technical post on mass shootings before. Specifically what simulations and simulated recreations can tell us in terms of potential outcomes. And as the author of the US Army report on Soldiers who commit mass shootings (authorized by the Office of the Provost Marshall General and US Army Corrections Command via my office at USAWC), I’ll most likely have another technical post on the subject in a few days. And I’ve done numerous posts here on stochastic violence and terrorism – domestic, international, right wing extremist, religious, etc. And it is the stochastic element that I want to talk about right now.

As numerous others have referenced today there is a lot to unpack behind today’s events. Both the shooting targeting Republican members of Congress in Alexandria and the active shooter/mass shooting in San Francisco. And we’ve seen a variety of calls for comity and a reduction in heated and divisive political rhetoric and pointing of fingers as to who is responsible for what. I’m not linking to all of it as I don’t feel like going to dig up the different reporting, but we’ve seen it all day. All of it misses the point.

The real reason we see so much stochastic violence and terrorism in the US is because it is part of our foundational myths and ethos. We rightly, as a point of pride, celebrate our revolutionary success against the British. We turned the first verse of a hard to sing song based on a poem about a slightly obscure battle against the British in a subsequent war into our national anthem. And we have carried through the decades a mistaken belief that citizen militias, still often considered or referred to as the hallmark of American civic pride and engagement, were actually an effective force during the American revolution. As opposed to the actual professional army that General Washington required his aides and lieutenants create – two of whom weren’t even American, because the militia was absolutely useless for his needs in stopping the British forces.

We have a deep seated tradition of civic engagement that refers back to and is rooted in political violence. The first use of stand your ground as a defense was from the 1790s in Philadelphia. It was related to and rooted in this tradition. In this case a radical localist – an extreme, minority offshoot of the anti-Federalists –  member of a citizen militia decide to use his firearm in self defense while posting political handbills. His defense argument – that he had an enumerated right to self defense through using his firearm – was rejected by the court. The actual coverage of the event and trial from one of the local Philadelphia papers at the time is attached as a pdf at the bottom of the post.

The reason we have so much stochastic violence and terrorism is because we’re Americans. We have a civic inheritance that includes the justifications for it. Including that of the radical localist offshoot of the anti-Federalists that teach us that all government above the municipal level is always potentially tyrannical and the purpose of the armed citizen, as part of the citizen militia, is to provide a check on tyrannical government. We are the inheritors of a revolutionary state and society. And the inheritors of political traditions that are rooted in the revolutionary politics of the Founding – the Federalists, the anti-Federalists, and the radical localists. Each had different understandings and views of the citizen militia, of the proper role for an armed citizenry, but each were reflections of and responses to the revolutionary ethos that led to the split with Britain and the founding of the US.

And we have stochastic violence and terrorism because Americans just aren’t joiners. Despite Putnam’s Bowling Alone, which makes the mistake of understanding American social interactions through the forty to fifty year window between the end of WW II and the late 90s/early 00s, and ignore everything that came before the 1940s, Americans just don’t like to belong to groups. We self atomize. We don’t like to associate. And while modern technology has made it easier to form new associations, it also makes it easier to isolate ourselves into groups that are insular and insulating.

What happened today, and what will happen next week with the next mass shooting or terrorist attack or hate crime, isn’t an aberration. It is pure Americana. It is at our core of who we are as a people. If you spend enough time promoting the idea that one’s political opponents aren’t really even human or that the 2nd Amendment exists to prevent governmental tyranny, then you’re going get what happened today in both Alexandria and San Francisco. It doesn’t matter if the people making the assertions were just being hyperbolic or really didn’t mean it. Nor does it matter if you were actually and only messaging to the people who you identify as your side. All that matters is that someone hears the message over and over and over again, internalizes it, and then acts on it.

What happened today has happened many times before in the US. The ideas and messaging that promote and produce it have a long lineage in the US. And it will all happen again. The saying that “G-d made man, Samuel Colt made all men equal” doesn’t just apply to people that look like you, vote like you, worship like you, and behave like you. And, as a result, you get what happened on both the east and west coast today.

And all of this is why you get this type of paradox:

Versus Senator Paul today as quoted by NBC:

“We’re just like normal people, I go to the grocery store like a normal person. I buy my groceries. I go to the gas station. We practice out there and we just … we live in a country where we hope there’s not such hatred or craziness and, I don’t know, disappointing, sad.”

Here’s the pdf:

Duane 1799 – Report of extraordinary transactions at Philadelphia (1)



Trump’s Statement

Trump is supposed to make a statement about the Alexandria shooting shortly. I won’t be watching, but I’ll update this space with a transcript as soon as possible.

As far as national crises go, this would appear to be a minor one. No died in this incident,* thank FSM. But a political shooting is always traumatic, and now there’s some evidence emerging that the alleged shooter was an alt-left nutbar.

So, knowing what we know about Trump, what are the chances he handles this situation with the grace and humility befitting the office? Just about zero, I’d say. We’ll see.

*Update: the shooter has died.

ETA: Okay, I ended up watching it after all and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a well-written or expertly delivered statement by any means, and it’s an embarrassment, as always, to see that clown looming over the presidential seal.

But it was a pretty innocuous statement — thoughts and prayers, yada yada. If Trump is going to use the incident as a political cudgel, he’ll do it on Twitter later. Will post transcript when available.








Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Live Feed: Attorney General Sessions Testimony

Here’s the live feed for AG Sessions testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:

We now know that the source of the allegations of a third meeting between then Senator Sessions and Russian Ambassador Kislyak is from signals intelligence (SIGINT) captured last year.

The origin of the Mayflower story can be traced, according to several American officials, to raw intelligence picked up by American spy agencies last year that is now held at C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia. The intelligence appears to be based on intercepts of Mr. Kislyak discussing a private meeting he had with Mr. Sessions at a Trump campaign event last April at the luxury hotel.

Lawmakers have reviewed the intelligence — which remains classified — as part of the congressional investigations into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential election. Several news outlets have reported that Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior White House adviser, may have also attended the meeting.

Here is a link to Ryan Goodman’s, Just Security‘s co-editor in chief’s five not so obvious questions for Attorney General Sessions.

Update at 2:35 PM EDT

Don’t forget to call your Senators!