…it’s tempting to say that there’s something wrong with some people
The argument is not just that Democrats disagree with conservatives, but that they despise them and hurt them on purpose. This past week, after a man attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) at a rally for his gubernatorial campaign, Biden and Vice President Harris condemned the violence, as did Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).
[…whether there’s something wrong with the guy claiming to have been black out drunk & incapable of identifying his erstwhile victim, I leave to your better judgement]
But local Republicans suggested that Democrats had effectively encouraged the attack, pointing to a Democratic news release about the rally “encouraging people to stalk” the candidate, according to one GOP county executive. Although the district attorney who let the attacker out of jail was a Zeldin supporter, the candidate and his party argued that Democratic bail overhauls, passed in 2019, had let the attacker off scot-free.
…but the encouragement thing…you’d think that would be about the last piece of logic anyone on that side of the aisle (with a couple of notable exceptions) would be looking to go on the record as being able to follow…hypocrisy is a helluva drug, people…& these nutters are, if nothing else, pastmasters when it comes to living in denial
Masks are just one symbol of the divisions gripping Shasta county, a remote, heavily forested region in far northern California that has long considered itself an outlier in a deep Blue state.
Political tensions intensified across the US during the pandemic. But the ferocity of the conflicts in Shasta county surprised much of California.
The board has fired the county health officer. The county CEO, under pressure from a conservative supervisor, has resigned. Amid the chaos and political division, the director of the health and human services agency retired.
The county is overwhelmingly white and has long been a conservative stronghold – Republicans make up 50% of registered voters while just 23% are Democrats. The State of Jefferson movement, which advocates for secession from the Golden State and its liberal government in Sacramento, has thrived among residents longing for lower taxes and less regulation.
When the pandemic hit and California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, enacted some of the strictest Covid rules in the US, issuing a stay-at-home order, school closures and a statewide mask requirement, Shasta leaders limited their measures to those mandated by the state. The county publicly told the governor it opposed the rules, and encouraged unhappy residents to contact state representatives.
Still, some residents were outraged that the county didn’t disregard the state’s orders entirely. They focused their anger on the board of supervisors, a group of five elected officials that oversees the county, including its departments, roughly 2,000 workers and nearly $600m budget.
Unhappy residents began showing up to board meetings in large numbers. In one meeting, Carlos Zapata, a local militia member and business owner, stood in the board chambers and told the supervisors there would be grave consequences.
“You better be happy that we’re good citizens, that we’re peaceful citizens. But it’s not gonna be peaceful much longer. This isn’t a threat. I’m not a criminal,” he said. “This is a warning for what’s coming. It’s not going to be peaceful much longer… I’ve been in combat and I never wanted to go back again, but I’m telling you what I will to save this country. If it has to be against our own citizens, it will happen. And there’s a million people like me, and you won’t stop us. Open the county.”
…I mean…we all know where these people would wind up if they got their way, right?
The departures of key staff mean Shasta county will have to find permanent replacements for three of its most senior positions in the coming months. Meanwhile, Jones and the new majority have pledged to look at the efficiency of the health and human services agency, including a possible reorganization of the department.
Janine Carroll, who has lived in the area for 30 years and previously worked for the county as an administrative assistant, said it’s difficult for county workers to attend to regular responsibilities in such a tense political environment.
“When the political issues are so much at the forefront instead of the day-to-day business, it’s distracting,” she said. “It’s going to be harder for us to hire some of these higher level professionals. It’s gonna have a devastating impact on the whole system.”
“I think we’re just a microcosm of what’s happening. What’s made us stand out is the infusion of large amounts of money,” said Mary Rickert, another county supervisor the recall effort had set their sights on but failed to collect enough signatures to attempt to remove.
“It was just an opportunity to weaponize the pandemic, to use this as something they could rally people and have them get behind their movement. It’s been a perfect storm.”
Rickert, a conservative who has served on the county board for nearly six years, said she was alarmed by the movement from the beginning, but that citizens didn’t seem aware of how serious things were.
“We were very concerned about where this particular movement wanted to take the county,” she said. “I’ve said from the very beginning, this county will collapse if these people continue to be successful in what they have said they want to do.”
Even those who admit they haven’t closely followed the political upheaval say the anxiety in the area is palpable.
There are some signs the area’s far-right movement may be losing ground. In the election last month, a slate of ultra-conservative candidates running for roles ranging from the district attorney to the county superintendent of schools lost outright to moderate opponents or will head to runoff elections in November.
“This last election, in spite of the amount of money that was poured into it, they did not win,” […] “If people get together, and start talking, and forming a plan of action, change can take place. You can turn the tide. I think that can happen here. I know it can.”
But the election was marked by tension, including a crowd of rowdy observers who officials say tried to intimidate county staff. The defeated candidates have now requested a recount.
…it’s curious thing…but somehow when folks are all-in on the root of the problem actually being a great idea they seem to be able to perform mental gymnastics that entirely defy their demonstrable difficulties with far simpler logic
French authorities have hit back at claims by the Port of Dover that French border control staff were to blame for a second day of hours-long delays, saying: “France is not responsible for Brexit.”
…the french are hardly about to step in with a whole mea culpa routine, it doesn’t suit their interests…or really their temperament…but…its worth noting that the delays seem to be a damn sight worse on the dover side of things
The row came as long queues formed at Dover and a major incident was declared as a second day of travel chaos consumed the key port amid additional post-Brexit checks.
Meanwhile, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and Tory leadership candidate, said the problems are down to not enough border resources, rather than extra checks post-Brexit. She said she had been “very clear” with French authorities that it is “a situation that has been caused by a lack of resource at the border”.
Passengers faced hours-long queues and were warned to expect another “very busy day” at Dover. Kent officials declared a major incident due to the traffic as P&O Ferries told travellers to allow at least three to four hours to pass through security and French border checks.
French politician Pierre-Henri Dumont, the Republican MP for Calais, blamed the UK’s exit from the EU for the chaos, telling BBC News it was “an aftermath of Brexit” with more checks needed.
Dumont also accused London of having “rejected [a] few months ago a proposal to double the number of passport booths” for French police in Dover.
…travel plans are tricky when there’s politics at play
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to become the highest-ranking lawmaker ever to visit Taiwan have been long in the making. Now, as she finalizes those plans, the Chinese government is threatening massive retaliation and the Biden administration wants her to delay. Taiwan is caught in the middle. All sides are bracing for a possible crisis that nobody really wants.
While it is true that some military leaders are concerned about the trip, they are not the only ones. Over the past several weeks, officials including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John C. Aquilino, NSC Asia czar Kurt Campbell and others have briefed Pelosi or her staff about the intelligence assessments of the risks and the military planning that would be necessary if she goes.
Chinese authorities always complain when congressional delegations visit Taiwan. But administration officials tell me that they have particular cause for concern right now. China, they say, is planning a potentially destabilizing response. They don’t know exactly what Beijing will do, but at least one Chinese state-media commentator has suggested that the Chinese air force might send planes to intercept Pelosi, which could spark a showdown.
U.S. officials are also concerned that the Chinese government believes (incorrectly) that Biden supports Pelosi’s trip, contradicting the administration’s current drive to ramp down tensions in the bilateral relationship. As the White House knows well, the speaker can and will make her own decisions on travel. But Beijing may (wrongly) see it as an intentional escalation.
“Who knows, maybe the Chinese back down and there’s nothing there,” said Zack Cooper, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “But it’s clear Beijing sees this trip by Pelosi differently and as a much more severe break with past policy than some Americans appreciate.”
…although…some politics are pretty clear cut
Although congressional Republicans have refused to embrace Biden’s policy ideas, the party has largely abandoned its past climate denialism. But climate experts and activists say the ideas Republicans have proposed are insufficient or misguided and fail to address the magnitude and urgency of this crisis.
Republicans have not generally been viewed as champions when it comes to combating the climate crisis at the federal level. Donald Trump famously withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement, and his administration rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules during his presidency, eliminating important regulations for the fossil fuel industry.
More recently, the conservative-dominated supreme court handed down a decision, in West Virginia v the Environmental Protection Agency, that will severely hamper that government agency’s ability to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, has released his own climate platform. The proposal, unveiled last month, outlines how Republicans would work to address environmental and energy issues if they regain control of the House, as they are expected to do after the midterm elections this November.
Critics say McCarthy’s platform is a perfect example of Republicans’ failure to grasp the enormity of the climate crisis. The plan calls for increasing domestic fossil fuel production and boosting exports of US natural gas. In the past several months, Republicans’ demands to boost US oil production have grown louder, as the war in Ukraine drives gas prices to record highs.
“This House Republican proposal simply recycles old, bad ideas that amount to little more than handouts to oil companies,” Democrat Frank Pallone, chair of the House energy and commerce committee, said last month. “It is a stunning display of insincerity to admit climate change is a problem but to propose policies that make it worse.”
…stunning displays of insincerity are…well…par for that particular course
Members of the committee said the evidence showed that Trump lied, betrayed his oath of office, and summoned a mob to Washington to try to overturn the presidential election. It was, said Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, “a stain on our history”.
But in the heart of Trump country, there’s a different take.
“I looked up kangaroo court,” said Terri Burl, a Republican activist in rural northern Wisconsin, a key swing state that Trump won in 2016 but lost four years later.
“I’m like, yes, that’s exactly what this is. What’s it supposed to prove?”
Opinion polls suggest that the hearings have not produced the devastating shift in public opinion against Trump that some Democrats hoped for. Nor have they slackened the grip of Trumpism on the Republican party. Even as evidence spilled out that the then-president “commanded an armed mob to overturn the election”, few Republican politicians have turned away from Trump. Those that do pay the price.
A poll by the Wisconsin’s Marquette law school released on Thursday showed that nationally most Republican voters have heard about the January 6 hearings only “a little” or “nothing at all”. Just 35% of Republicans have been paying attention compared to a clear majority of Democrats.
The hearings are instead viewed as part of a broader witch-hunt against the former president, alongside official investigations into whether his company fiddled taxes and fraudulently inflated property values to obtain cheaper loans.
…where’s that 20:20 hindsight when we need it?
It will take time for historians to assess whether the eight public sessions were comparable to the 1973 Watergate hearings, as Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the January 6 committee, predicted. Yet it’s already clear that after 19 hours and 11 minutes of testimony, filmed depositions, documentary evidence and raw footage of the Capitol attack the hearings have generated a mountain of words and images that will linger long in the collective memory.
To those who track anti-democratic movements there is a chilling familiarity to this rich evocation of a president descending into an abyss of fantasy, fury and possible illegality. “The picture that the hearings depict is of a coup leader,” said the Harvard political scientist Steven Levitsky. “This is a guy who was unwilling to accept defeat and was prepared to use virtually any means to try to stay illegally in power.”
Levitsky told the Guardian that the Trump who emerges from the hearings was a coup leader, “but not a very sophisticated one. Not a very experienced one. A petty autocrat. A type of leader more familiar to someone like me, a student of Latin American politics.”
If Trump’s Latin American-style authoritarianism rang out from the hearings for scholars like Levitsky, a more vexed question is whether it similarly pierced the consciences of the wider American people. It is in their hands that the fate of the January 6 committee’s prime objective now rests: ensuring that a head-on assault on US democracy never happens again.
It is one thing to preach to the millions of Americans who are already horrified by Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy, but what about those who went along with it and internalized his lies about the stolen election?
Here the evidence is less comforting. When you enter the right-wing media bubble, the vision of a South American coup leader suddenly vanishes.
Over on Fox News, the opening hearing was passed over in favor of the channel’s controversial star Tucker Carlson who used his show to ridicule the proceedings as “deranged propaganda” and to shrink the insurrection into “a forgettably minor outbreak”. On Thursday night, Carlson again supplanted live coverage of the closing hearing, going on a rant instead about Biden and Covid.
The further into the right-wing media jungle you venture, the more the narrative becomes distorted. NewsGuard, a non-partisan firm that monitors misinformation, reviewed output during the period of the hearings from Newsmax, the hard-right TV channel that is still carried by most major cable and satellite providers.
“If you were watching only Newsmax to get information about the January 6 hearings, you would likely be living in an entirely alternate universe,” said Jack Brewster, NewsGuard’s senior analyst.
“In a two-party system, if one political party is not committed to democratic rules of the game, democracy is not likely to survive for very long,” Levitsky said. “The party has revealed itself, from top to bottom, to be a majority anti-democratic party.”
Levitsky cites an analysis by the Republican Accountability Project, a group of anti-Trump conservatives, of the public statements made by all 261 Republicans in the US House and Senate in the wake of the 2020 election. It found that 224 of them – a staggering 86% of all Republicans in Congress – cast doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s win in what amounted to a mass “attack on a cornerstone of our democracy”.
“They discovered that there is a plethora of opportunities for subverting an election, from blocking certification to sending alternate slates of electors to Congress. Armed with that knowledge, they may well do it much better next time.”
“They learned that if you try to overturn the election you will not be punished by Republican voters, activists or donors. For the most part, you’ll be rewarded for it. And to me, that is terrifying.”
But it is at state and local levels that the rot is most advanced. The watchdog States United Democracy Center calculates that at least 33 states are considering 229 bills that would give state legislatures the power to politicize, criminalize or otherwise tamper with elections. The group also notes that disciples of Trump’s stolen election lie are bidding for secretary of state positions in November in 17 states, which would give them, were they to win, control over election administration in a large swathe of the country.
[…] A mega poll from UC Davis this week found that one in five adults in the US – which extrapolates to about 50 million people – believe that it can be justified to achieve your political aims through violence.
Extremist groups have also stepped up their activities since the insurrection. Last month, the national chairman of the far-right Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, and several other top leaders were charged with seditious conspiracy. Yet the indictments do not appear to have discouraged the group from audaciously moving to infiltrate the Republicans – more than 10 current or former Proud Boys, for instance, now sit on the Republican party’s executive committee in Miami-Dade, Florida.
…however much the whole clowncar effect makes it look like a sideshow
…this is not a drill
Former President Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his “America First” ideology, people involved in the discussions tell Axios.
The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as “Schedule F,” developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election.
As Trump publicly flirts with a 2024 comeback campaign, this planning is quietly flourishing from Mar-a-Lago to Washington — with his blessing but without the knowledge of some people in his orbit.
Their work could accelerate controversial policy and enforcement changes, but also enable revenge tours against real or perceived enemies, and potentially insulate the president and allies from investigation or prosecution.
They intend to stack thousands of mid-level staff jobs. Well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates selected often for their animus against the system — in line with Trump’s long-running obsession with draining “the swamp.” This includes building extensive databases of people vetted as being committed to Trump and his agenda.
The preparations are far more advanced and ambitious than previously reported. What is happening now is an inversion of the slapdash and virtually non-existent infrastructure surrounding Trump ahead of his 2017 presidential transition.
These groups are operating on multiple fronts: shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.
Tens of thousands of civil servants who serve in roles deemed to have some influence over policy would be reassigned as “Schedule F” employees. Upon reassignment, they would lose their employment protections.
New presidents typically get to replace more than 4,000 so-called “political” appointees to oversee the running of their administrations. But below this rotating layer of political appointees sits a mass of government workers who enjoy strong employment protections — and typically continue their service from one administration to the next, regardless of the president’s party affiliation.
An initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers — a fraction of a workforce of more than 2 million, but a segment with a profound role in shaping American life.
It would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy. The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks — and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy.
Trump’s allies claim such pendulum swings will not happen because they will not have to fire anything close to 50,000 federal workers to achieve the result, as one source put it, of “behavior change.” Firing a smaller segment of “bad apples” among the career officials at each agency would have the desired chilling effect on others tempted to obstruct Trump’s orders.
No operation of this scale is possible without the machinery to implement it. To that end, Trump has blessed a string of conservative organizations linked to advisers he currently trusts and calls on. Most of these conservative groups host senior figures from the Trump administration on their payroll, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The names are a mix of familiar and new. They include Jeffrey Clark, the controversial lawyer Trump had wanted to install as attorney general in the end days of his presidency. Clark, who advocated a plan to contest the 2020 election results, is now in the crosshairs of the Jan. 6 committee and the FBI. Clark is working at the Center for Renewing America (CRA), the group founded by Russ Vought, the former head of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget.
Former Trump administration and transition officials working on personnel, legal or policy projects for a potential 2025 government include names like Vought, Meadows, Stephen Miller, Ed Corrigan, Wesley Denton, Brooke Rollins, James Sherk, Andrew Kloster and Troup Hemenway.
Others, who remain close to Trump and would be in contention for the most senior roles in a second-term administration, include Dan Scavino, John McEntee, Richard Grenell, Kash Patel, Robert O’Brien, David Bernhardt, John Ratcliffe, Peter Navarro and Pam Bondi.
The advocacy groups who have effectively become extensions of the Trump infrastructure include the CRA, the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), and the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI).
Other groups — while not formally connected to Trump’s operation — have hired key lieutenants and are effectively serving his ends. The Heritage Foundation, the legacy conservative group, has moved closer to Trump under its new president, Kevin Roberts, and is building links to other parts of the “America First” movement.
Sources close to the former president said that he will — as a matter of top priority — go after the national security apparatus, “clean house” in the intelligence community and the State Department, target the “woke generals” at the Defense Department, and remove the top layers of the Justice Department and FBI.
Trump has reduced his circle of advisers and expunged nearly every former aide who refused to embrace his view that the 2020 election was “stolen.”
He spends significant amounts of his time talking to luminaries of the “Stop the Steal” movement, including attorney Boris Epshteyn and the pillow entrepreneur Mike Lindell, who has spent at least $25 million of his own money sowing doubts about the 2020 election result.
One important hub of 2025 preparations is the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), an organization whose nonprofit status under the tax code allows it to conceal its donors’ identities. CPI is a who’s-who of Trump’s former administration and the “America First” movement.
Founded by former firebrand GOP South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint — the bane of Mitch McConnell’s existence when he served in Congress — CPI has become the hub of the hard right in Washington.
In March, the Federal Election Commission released data showing Trump’s political action committee, “Save America,” had more cash on hand than the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee combined. This is partly because of the strength of Trump’s online fundraising machine. It is also partly because Trump does not like to share his PAC’s money.
CPI’s immediate priority is preparing to put its vetted people in new GOP congressional offices at the start of 2023. Over the past five years since CPI’s founding, the group has been adding personnel to a database that now contains thousands of names.
Another influential group is Vought’s Center for Renewing America — designed to keep alive and build upon Trump’s “America First” agenda during his exile.
In the final week of the Trump administration, Vought met with the former president in the Oval Office and shared with him his plans to start CRA. Trump gave Vought his blessing. CRA’s team now includes Jeffrey Clark and Kash Patel as well as other Trump allies including Mark Paoletta and Ken Cuccinelli, former acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
Vought plans to release a series of policy papers, beginning this year, detailing various aspects of their plans to dismantle the “administrative state.”
Vought has other far-reaching intentions. He has told associates it was too onerous in the past for Trump officials to receive security clearances, so he plans to recommend reforms to the security clearance system. He also wants to change the system that determines how government documents become classified.
America First Legal was launched by Trump’s influential senior adviser Stephen Miller less than three months after Trump left office. Its primary purpose was to file lawsuits to block President Biden’s policies — mirroring a well-funded legal infrastructure on the left.
But Miller has also been doing another job in preparation for 2025 that has not previously been reported. He has been identifying and assembling a list of lawyers who would be ready to fill the key general counsel jobs across government in a second-term Trump administration.
Miller has his eye out for general counsels who will aggressively implement Trump’s orders and skeptically interrogate any career government attorney who tells them their plans are unlawful or cannot be done.
Even the billionaire-funded Koch network is playing a friendly behind-the-scenes role. While the Koch network overall has often been at odds with Trump, the network’s anti-interventionist foreign policy aligns neatly with Trump’s “America First” ideology.
…the crazy pills certainly don’t seem to be in short supply
There’s a paradox that sits at the center of our mental health conversation in America. On the one hand, our treatments for mental illness have gotten better and better in recent decades. Psychopharmaceuticals have improved considerably; new, more effective methods of psychotherapy have been developed; and we’ve reached a better understanding of what kinds of social support are most helpful for those experiencing mental health crises.
But at the same time, mental health outcomes have moved in exactly the wrong direction. In the United States, there is a death by suicide about every 11 minutes, and about half of those who die by that method have not received mental health care. Rates of anxiety, depression and eating disorders have skyrocketed among young people in recent years. From 2009 to 2015, rates of emergency room visits for self-harm more than doubled for girls ages 10 to 14.
In this conversation, we discuss why our current medical system is so inadequate at helping people with mental illnesses of all stripes, why psychiatric research and patient outcomes are so wildly out of step, the story of how the U.S. government systematically divested from mental health care in the 1980s, and the fragmented system of care that those decisions created. We also touch on why it’s so difficult to find the right therapist; which treatments we know work really well — and why we so often fail to implement them; why mental health is not just a medical problem, but also an economic and social one; what public policy can, and importantly can’t, do to solve our mental health crisis; the relationship between loneliness and mental illness; how the loosening of family and social ties is impacting our collective mental health and more.
[…if you prefer…there’s a transcript]
…but…maybe…sanity might yet prevail?
In its final midsummer hearing, one of its most dramatic of the series of eight, the panel argued that Trump betrayed his oath of office and was derelict in his duty when he refused to condemn the violence as rioters carrying poles, bear spray and the banners of his campaign, led a bloody assault on the US Capitol.
But were his actions illegal? It’s a question at the heart of the committee’s yearlong inquiry.
The panel has sought to offer a full public accounting of the events of 6 January for the American people and for the historical record.
Its work, however, is not done.
The vice-chair, Liz Cheney, a Republican of Wyoming, said that the committee will spend August “pursuing and merging information”, which continues to come in, before reconvening for more hearings in September.
While the committee originally set a September deadline for releasing a final report on their investigation, lawmakers now say it will only release a preliminary report by then, and a full report by the end of the year. The committee must release a full report before it disbands, which it is set to do with the start of a new Congress in early January.
But already, the committee has presented evidence that lawmakers and aides have suggested could be used as a foundation for bringing a criminal case against the former president. Among the possible charges that have been discussed are conspiracy to defraud the American people and obstructing an official proceeding of Congress. The committee has also raised the prospect of witness tampering, announcing at its last hearing that Trump had attempted to contact a witness cooperating with its investigation.
But legal experts are divided over whether the evidence shown during the hearings is enough to charge Trump. No former president has ever been prosecuted by the justice department. And in this era of polarization, there are risks that both charging Trump – or declining to do so – could further undermine Americans faith in their system of justice.
Perhaps the panel’s most urgent work is to show Americans that the “forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away”, Kinzinger said. “The militant, intolerant ideologies. The militias. The alienation and the disaffection. The weird fantasies and disinformation. They’re all still out there, ready to go.”
“If there’s no accountability for January 6, for every part of this scheme, I fear we will not overcome the ongoing threat to our democracy,” Thompson warned. “There must be stiff consequences for those responsible.”
…one way or another…that shit’s gonna leave a mark…here’s hoping it’s one we can live with
[…ok…that might have got a little out of hand…I’ll find some tunes at some point…but I might need to catch my breath?]