…stirring the pot [DOT 1/1/22]

or maybe stealing it...

…well…damn…for situations that aren’t notably different this week than they were last there’s sure been a lot of talking about what hasn’t-yet-but-looks-likely-to happened about a couple of things…obviously ukaraine would be one of those

Russia and the United States clashed head to head at the United Nations on Monday over the situation in Ukraine, as each charged the other with lying about their intentions and promoting panic and hysteria to serve their own ends.
The verbal confrontation, one of the sharpest in years in an international forum, was rife with historical references dating back to the end of World War II, the accumulated grievances of the Cold War and two decades of often-tenuous peace that followed. While both sides said the way out was through diplomacy, neither indicated an intention to yield.

Nebenzya accused the West of bringing “pure Nazis” to power on Russia’s borders, and “making heroes out of those peoples who fought on the side of Hitler.” The U.S. aim, he said, is “to weaken Russia and create an arc of instability around it.”

Thomas-Greenfield reminded the council of “the pattern of aggression we’ve seen from Russia again and again,” including its 2008 invasion of Georgia and 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. “What would it mean for the world if former empires had license to start reclaiming territory by force?” she asked.

Russia, which has demanded a Western commitment to exclude Ukraine from its security umbrella and the removal of NATO forces and equipment from Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, “has threatened to take military action should its demands not be met,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “If Russia further invades Ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn’t see it coming. And the consequences will be horrific, which is why this meeting is so important today.”

Nebenzya, denying any planned invasion, said Russia was within its rights to station troops anywhere within its own territory. “Not a single Russian politician, not a single public figure, not a single person said that we are planning to attack Ukraine,” he said.

…which honestly made me wonder how many people tick the box on the immigration form that says, more or less, “hi, I’m a terrorist & I’m here to do something awful”…because that question has to be on there for some reason…it stands to reason…sorry…where was I?

With the support of only China, the Russians forced a vote at the beginning of the U.S.-called meeting on whether to hold the session behind closed doors. “What we urgently need now is quiet diplomacy, but not microphone diplomacy,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said.

But the majority of the 15-member council voted to proceed with the public session, which President Biden, in a statement issued by the White House, called “a critical step in rallying the world to speak out in one voice.”

Beyond the Security Council, a U.S. official said the Russian government has delivered a written response to the U.S. proposal aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis sent to Moscow last week.

“We can confirm we received a written follow-up from Russia,” the official said, speaking on the condition on anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. “It would be unproductive to negotiate in public, so we’ll leave it up to Russia if they want to discuss their response. We remain fully committed to dialogue to address these issues and will continue to consult closely with our allies and partners, including Ukraine.”

…but the whole self-confessed-terrorist thing seemed like a perfectly reasonable thought compared to the tangent my mind went off on when I got to this bit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he planned to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an expected call that “Russia needs to step back from the brink.” In a statement to Parliament, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government was preparing to introduce sanctions that “will go further than ever before” in targeting Russian figures and freezing their assets, including what officials said could be seizure of property owned by Russian oligarchs in London.


…I mean…I know boris is pretty much flailing about for ways to appear to be associated with things that might be popular

Not for the first time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been unmasked and his true identity revealed: BoJo the Clown.
To become prime minister, Johnson stabbed his Conservative predecessor, Theresa May, in the back over Brexit. On the floor of the House of Commons she got to return the favor, telling Johnson that either he “had not read the rules, did not understand what they meant and nor did others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, demanded that Johnson step down. But of course he won’t. As Starmer noted, Johnson is “a man without shame.”

Indeed, that is a fair reading of his record. He began his public career as a journalist and was fired by the Times of London for fabricating a quote.

His agenda as a reporter was not to tell readers the truth but to make himself a star, and he did so by playing to the “little England” sympathies of those skeptical of E.U. membership. By the time one of his stories would fall apart under scrutiny — such as his ridiculous claim about a planned demolition of the E.U. headquarters — he was already on to the next tall tale.


…but if he were to seize that football club abramovich bought & declare it sovereign property of the UK…I dunno…it might be less crazy than some of the shit he’s tried…& I dare say it might buy him a lot of leeway with some people

A nine-page summary of the investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray assessed that some of the parties showed a failure in leadership, involved excessive alcohol use and “should not have been allowed to take place.”

…which might inadvertently give the impression that the report has reached some conclusions…but elsewhere (later in this same article, for one) it was rather carefully described as “an update” on the work being done to provide the report…& in a little twist that sort of surfs the line between counter-intuitive & ironic…the police asked poor sue to make sure to be light on the details where they overlapped with things the met haven’t finished looking into

The report provided little detail about 16 reported parties at the British prime minister’s residence and office and at other government buildings, because 12 of the gatherings, on eight different dates, are now the subject of a criminal investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police.

The police said in a statement that they are working “at pace” and reviewing more than 300 images and more than 500 pages of information.

…so…apparently the clear part is supposed to be that it would be irresponsible to draw any conclusions at this stage

Because of the ongoing police investigation, Gray wrote, “I am extremely limited in what I can say about those events and it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information I have been able to gather.”

Ian Blackford, a lawmaker from the Scottish National Party, was dripping with sarcasm: “The long-awaited Sue Gray report — what a farce! It was carefully engineered to be a fact-finding exercise with no conclusions. And now we find it’s a fact-finding exercise with no facts.”


…& sure, it’s a facile parallel to draw…but all the same…I can’t help feeling like to doesn’t take much paraphrasing before you can almost hear an echo

“sure – there are a lot of our troops & military equipment milling about over there by the border with that place we’re raising a whole stink about…”
“sure – there were a lot of people in my garden, well equipped with snacks & booze and what you might call “party equipment” when I stepped out that evening…”

“…but absolutely none of us have said anything about invading anywhere.”
“…but nobody said it was a party…or actually used the word peasants.”

…so…you know…nothing to see here

The National Archives confirmed Trump’s unusual habit of ripping up documents, which forced aides to attempt to piece them back together in order to comply with the Presidential Records Act.
Former president Donald Trump was known inside the White House for his unusual and potentially unlawful habit of tearing presidential records into shreds and tossing them on the floor — creating a headache for records management analysts who meticulously used Scotch tape to piece together fragments of paper that were sometimes as small as confetti, as Politico reported in 2018.

But despite the Presidential Records Act — which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties — the former president’s infrangible shredding practices apparently continued well into the latter stages of his presidency.

The National Archives on Monday took the unusual step of confirming the habit, saying in a statement that records turned over from the Trump White House “included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump.” The statement came in response to a question from The Washington Post about whether some Jan. 6-related records had been ripped up and taped back together.

Some of the documents turned over by the White House had not been reconstructed at all, according to the Archives.
Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and constitutional scholar, said White House documents torn up by Trump are clearly the property of the government under the Presidential Records Act.

“So destroying them could be a crime under several statutes that make it a crime to destroy government property if that was the intent of the defendant,” Gillers said. “A president does not own the records generated by his own administration. The definition of presidential records is broad. Trump’s own notes to himself could qualify and destroying them could be the criminal destruction of government property.”
This past weekend, the former president bashed the House Jan. 6 committee and raised the prospect of pardoning those who have been charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol if he ran and won reelection in 2024.


…now…as quid pro quo go

Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Giuliani did so, calling the department’s acting deputy secretary, who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines.

Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Giuliani to make that inquiry after rejecting a separate effort by his outside advisers to have the Pentagon take control of the machines. And the outreach to the Department of Homeland Security came not long after Mr. Trump, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr, raised the possibility of whether the Justice Department could seize the machines, a previously undisclosed suggestion that Mr. Barr immediately shot down.
The existence of proposals to use at least three federal departments to assist Mr. Trump’s attempt to stay in power has been publicly known. The proposals involving the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security were codified by advisers in the form of draft executive orders.

But the new accounts provide fresh insight into how the former president considered and to some degree pushed the plans, which would have taken the United States into uncharted territory by using federal authority to seize control of the voting systems run by states on baseless grounds of widespread voting fraud.
The meeting with Mr. Barr took place in mid- to late November when Mr. Trump raised the idea of whether the Justice Department could be used to seize machines, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump told Mr. Barr that his lawyers had told him that the department had the power to seize machines as evidence of fraud.

Mr. Trump mentioned a specific state that had used machines built by Dominion Voting Systems, where his lawyers believed there had been fraud, although it is unclear which state Mr. Trump was referring to. Mr. Barr, who had been briefed extensively at that point by federal law enforcement officials about how the theories being pushed by Mr. Trump’s legal team about the Dominion machines were unfounded, told Mr. Trump that the Justice Department had no basis for seizing the machines because there was no probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.
At [a] meeting [in the Oval Office][on Dec. 18, 2020], Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell presented Mr. Trump with a copy of the draft executive order authorizing the military to oversee the seizure of machines. After reading it, Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Giuliani to the Oval Office, according to one person familiar with the matter. When Mr. Giuliani read the draft order, he told Mr. Trump that the military could be used only if there was clear-cut evidence of foreign interference in the election.

Ms. Powell, who had spent the past month filing lawsuits claiming that China and other countries had hacked into voting machines, said she had such evidence, the person said. But Mr. Giuliani was adamant that the military should not be mobilized, the person said, and Mr. Trump ultimately heeded his advice.


…I guess using a speech to verbally dangle a pardon you have only a contingent chance of being in a position to bestow (for acts you variously claim to have not been illegal or not having been perpetrated by the people you’re offering pardons to) is probably less of a big deal that when he did the same thing while in office…& indeed probably not a big deal at all compared to some of the get-out-of-jail cards he did hand out as door prizes for obstructing justice on his behalf…or…you know…what’s a reasonable exercise of a right to free speech…& what’s…say…incitement?

The Atlanta-area prosecutor who is weighing whether to bring election-related criminal charges against former president Donald Trump is seeking FBI help in securing a county courthouse and government center in the wake of “alarming” rhetoric from Trump at a rally this weekend.

In a letter Sunday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis pointed to comments from Trump at a rally in Texas about “racist” and “mentally sick” prosecutors examining a range of issues, including his company and his actions following the 2020 election.
In the letter, Willis asked that Hacker immediately conduct a risk assessment of the Fulton County Courthouse and Government Center and provide “protective resources to include intelligence and federal agents.”

“We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,” Willis said.
Willis asked that resources be in place “well in advance” of May 2. That is the day a special purpose grand jury is set to convene to hear evidence in Willis’s criminal probe involving Trump and his associates.
At Saturday’s rally in Texas, Trump raised the prospect of massive protests in cities where he is being investigated.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” Trump said.

Trump claimed he is the victim of “prosecutorial misconduct” by “vicious, horrible people” whom he called “racist” and “mentally sick.”

He offered no explanation of why he considers Willis, who is Black, or other prosecutors to be racist.


…after all unless the courts step in…it’s not like it’s illegal to do illegal stuff

Ginni Thomas’s name stood out among the signatories of a December letter from conservative leaders, which blasted the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection as “overtly partisan political persecution.”

One month later, her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, took part in a case crucial to the same committee’s work: former president Donald Trump’s request to block the committee from getting White House records that were ordered released by President Biden and two lower courts.

Thomas was the only justice to say he would grant Trump’s request.
While the Supreme Court is supposed to operate under regulations guiding all federal judges, including a requirement that a justice “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” there’s no procedure to enforce that rule. Each justice can decide whether to recuse, and there is no way to appeal a Supreme Court member’s failure to do so.

Unlike in lower courts, there is no other judge that can step in, and thus a recusal by one justice would mean considering the case with only eight justices, increasing the chance it could not be resolved.
Ginni Thomas has long been one of the nation’s most outspoken conservatives. During her husband’s time on the Supreme Court, she has run organizations designed to activate right-wing networks, worked for Republicans in Congress, harshly criticized Democrats who she said were trying to make the country “ungovernable,” and handed out awards to those who agree with her agenda. Ginni Thomas also worked closely with the Trump administration and met with the president, and has come under fire over messages praising Jan. 6 crowds before the attack on the Capitol. In a number of instances, her activism has overlapped with cases that have been decided by Clarence Thomas.
The first major case that drew national attention to that potential conflict came in 2000, when the fate of the presidential campaign between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore came before the Supreme Court. At the time, Ginni Thomas was working with the Heritage Foundation to recommend people for jobs within a possible Bush administration. Some Democrats called for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from hearing the case that would decide the presidency, but Ginni Thomas told the New York Times at the time that “There is no conflict” and that she rarely discussed cases with her husband.

It was a pivotal, historic moment, and Gore faced a decision that would set the tone for politicians dealing with the court for years. Pressed by his aides about whether to call out the perception of the conflict, Gore instead instructed his deputy campaign manager Mark Fabiani to issue a statement that said, “The vice president has the highest regard for the independent judiciary, so we’re not going to comment on the various questions that have been raised.”

Thomas then joined with the 5-to-4 majority that ruled for Bush.
“It’s an attitude that, today, seems positively quaint,” Fabiani told The Washington Post in an email. “I wish we had objected more vigorously to the Vice President’s high-minded advice … Ginni Thomas’ claim in 2000 that she doesn’t talk to her husband about Supreme Court business now seems laughable. Is there a single opinion that Justice Thomas has ever written that is inconsistent with his wife’s far right-wing views?”
In 2011, a group of 74 House Democrats wrote a letter to Clarence Thomas urging that he recuse himself from ruling on whether to uphold the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The letter noted that Ginni Thomas had received $686,589 between 2003 and 2007 from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which opposed the health-care law. (Clarence Thomas had not disclosed the source of her income, as required; he was not required to disclose the amount of her earnings.) In addition, the letter said Ginni Thomas received an undisclosed salary from a nonprofit group she ran called Liberty Central that received undisclosed donations, which was made possible by Clarence Thomas’s vote with the 5-to-4 majority in the Citizens United case.
Ginni Thomas has reveled in her role as one of the nation’s leading right-wing activists, saying that conservatives must not “be complicit as the left moves its forces across our country.”

The Post reported in 2018 that she shared a post that accused Democrats of committing fraud in the midterms. She claimed that students who campaigned for gun control after surviving the mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school were “dangerous to the survival of our nation.” She claimed President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump.

She wrote to officials in Clifton, Va., in 2020 urging that they take down a Black Lives Matter banner, saying “Let’s not be tricked into joining cause with radical extremists seeking to foment a cultural revolution because they hate America.”

When Ginni Thomas interviewed her husband in 2018 for a video produced by the Daily Caller News Foundation and featured on the conservative website the Daily Signal, he told his wife that being a justice “would be impossible without you. I have to be honest. It’s sort of like, how do you run with one leg? You can’t.” He also pushed back against those who suggested he should rule a certain way because he is Black. “As a judge you don’t get to be on one team or the other. You have to think independently in order to live up to the oath that you take.”
Advocates have also said potential conflicts may extend to people who work with Ginni Thomas and file amicus “friend of the court” briefs. The New Yorker earlier this year detailed how the Center for Security Policy, run by Frank Gaffney, paid Ginni Thomas’s company for consulting services; tax returns reviewed by The Post show the center paid $101,500 in 2017 and $134,500 in 2018 for consulting.

Gaffney and others filed an amicus brief in 2017 supporting Trump’s travel restrictions on people from Muslim-dominated countries. The court upheld the restrictions by a 5-to-4 vote, with Clarence Thomas in the majority.

“We know that she has been a paid consultant to groups that have submitted these briefs before the court,” Johnson, the congressman from Georgia, said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who said amicus briefs have flooded the Supreme Court in an effort to sway justices, has introduced legislation that would require those who file such briefs to disclose the source of the financing.

“They’re not even at the point of letting the parties and themselves and the public know who’s really behind the amicus front groups,” Whitehouse said in an interview.
Nonetheless, months later, Ginni Thomas inserted herself into one of the most fraught political issues of the moment: the investigation into what led to the insurrection.

She was among a group called the Conservative Action Project who signed a Dec. 15, 2021, letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) decrying the probe. The letter said that the two Republicans on the panel, Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), should be removed as members of the House Republican Caucus, complaining that the committee put out “improperly issued subpoenas and other investigatory tactics designed not to pursue any valid legislative end, but merely to exploit for the sake of political harassment and demagoguery.”

Eight days later, Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to stop White House records from his administration from being turned over to the congressional committee. “Congress may not rifle through the confidential presidential papers of a former President to meet political objectives,” the filing said.

Meadows, the self-described teammate of Ginni Thomas, filed an amicus brief in support of Trump’s request.

On Jan. 19, the Supreme Court rejected the request. Clarence Thomas, the lone justice to say he would have sided with Trump, did not explain his reasoning.


…that’s what politics is all about

The new fundraising totals, revealed Monday in filings to the Federal Election Commission, showed both parties holding record amounts for the off-year of the congressional cycle. But the growth in the Republican cash hoard compared with the 2020 and 2018 cycles outstripped Democratic gains, as GOP donors, particularly those who give seven- and eight-figure checks, leaned into the effort to take back control of the House and the Senate this fall.
Democrats hold on to power by slim margins in both chambers. In the evenly divided Senate, Vice President Harris now provides the tiebreaking vote. In the House, Democrats govern with 222 seats, just four more than the minimum majority need to maintain control.
The party with control of the White House has gained House seats in a midterm elections only three times since 1910. President Bill Clinton lost 54 Democratic seats in his first midterm election. President Barack Obama lost 64 House seats in the first test after his 2008 election. Trump gave up about 40 seats in 2018.
[Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the super PAC associated with House Republican leaders] ended 2021 with $61 million in cash, more than double the $28 million it had at the same point in the 2020 election cycle. That included seven-figure donations from multiple individual donors last year and two $10 million donations — from hedge fund investor Kenneth C. Griffin and retired insurance magnate Patrick G. Ryan, who previously ran the Aon Corporation. The group’s Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC, ended the year with $39 million, and no eight-figure donations.


…everybody says so

Over the last quarter-century, white voters have overwhelmingly identified with the GOP while every other racial and ethnic group – Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters – consistently identify with the Democratic party. This unwavering reality reduces the machinations of each political party to a game of demographic mathematics, especially in racially diverse parts of the country, where one truisim dominates local politics: when non-white people can’t vote, Republicans win.
Perhaps this reality is why last Monday, a federal court threw out [Alabama]’s congressional map that disenfranchised Black voters across the state. The three-judge panel explained that the congressional redistricting plan created by [the state]’s Republican-controlled legislature meant that “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.” The previous map packed the two Blackest cities in one congressional district, splitting the rest of the state’s Black population – three of the five largest cities in the state – among three majority-white districts that have been safely Republican for years. The judges gave the white (Republican) lawmakers 14 days to draw new districts that did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Alabama Republicans vowed to appeal the ruling to the US supreme court, where the court’s conservative majority ruled in 2019 that disenfranchising Black voters is perfectly fine as long as the gerrymanderers’ intent was partisan and not racial. “If district lines were drawn for the purpose of separating racial groups, then they are subject to strict scrutiny because ‘race-based decisionmaking is inherently suspect,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion. “But determining that lines were drawn on the basis of partisanship does not indicate that the districting was improper. A permissible intent – securing partisan advantage – does not become constitutionally impermissible, like racial discrimination, when that permissible intent “predominates”.

Herein lies the problem with politics, conservative ideology and America in general. For years, there has been a subtle campaign to redefine racism by the intent and not the effects of discriminatory actions. According to this new American translation, disenfranchising entire communities by suppressing their voting power is not necessarily racist as long as the person didn’t mean to be racist. And, because there are very few people willing to stand in front of the world and confess to their racial prejudices, anyone is allowed to discriminate as long as they don’t articulate their racism out loud. However, this cleverly constructed loophole only applies to racism. America’s jurisprudence system has found a way to convict people for unintentional murder and hold people accountable for car accidents, but somehow white people are innocent until proven racist.

…I’m going to assume you’re familiar with what might commonly be referred to as “the proof

But the leaked files also revealed that Hofeller was the main architect of redistricting plans for states across the country, including Alabama. Hofeller’s files included emails and proposals from then Alabama state House redistricting commission chair Representative Jim McClendon, who included racial data, census maps broken down by race and … well, nothing else. The basis for McClendon and Hofeller’s plan for Alabama wasn’t mostly about race; it seems as if it was only about race. After serving in the Alabama house for 12 years, McClendon was elected to the state senate in 2014, where he co-chaired the senate commission whose gerrymandered maps were thrown out by the federal court. It was probably a coincidence. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it.

Alabama is not an outlier in this phenomenon. Republican-controlled legislatures in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri and Wisconsin have submitted gerrymandered maps that diminish the power of Black voters. Of course, they won’t admit that the redistricting plans are solely motivated by race because, according to the New American definition, that would make it racist. According to America’s highest legal authorities, there is nothing wrong with stealing the voices of Black people and accidentally murdering their opportunity to participate in democracy. After all, it has nothing to do with racism.


…& russia’s not doing anything invasion-y…& boris hasn’t done anything he should lose his job over…& round & round we go…after all, as the saying goes…by their words ye shall know them

The Kentucky Republican congressman Thomas Massie was under familiar fire on Monday, after criticising Anthony Fauci with a quote attributed to Voltaire but actually coined by a white supremacist convicted on charges related to child abuse images.

“To learn who rules over you,” the quote says, “simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.”
Massie is not the first person to apparently be fooled by the supposed quote from the French philosopher Voltaire. In 2019, the actor John Cusack used it in a tweet for which he apologised after being accused of antisemitism.

The neo-Nazi who coined the quote, Kevin Strom, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “arguably the only true intellectual remaining in the American neo-Nazi movement … a bookish yet dogmatic neo-Nazi”.
By Monday afternoon, Massie had not commented on Twitter or taken his post down.

He had tweeted in praise of the “intellectual honesty” of Joe Rogan, a podcast host under fire over Covid misinformation.


…& where it stops…maybe nobody knows…but where it’s headed?

At least six historically Black colleges and universities received bomb threats early Monday, prompting campus closures and investigations.

Howard University in D.C.; Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.; Delaware State University in Dover; Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla.; Albany State University in Albany, Ga.; and Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge received reports of bomb threats throughout Monday morning, according to statements from the schools and local law enforcement.
It’s the second time this month that numerous HBCUs reported such threats in a single day. In early January, at least eight historically Black colleges and universities received threats.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called for a “complete and thorough investigation” and noted in a statement that it was the second time in January that HBCUs “have been targeted, and the terror it has caused raises serious questions about the existence of hate-based violence across our nation and in our communities.”


…well, I can’t say as I like the looks of it

So far, no winterization requirements have been placed on the politically powerful gas sector [in Texas]. Instead, Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping to secure the power grid by encouraging … Bitcoin mining. This would supposedly reduce the risk of outages because Bitcoin’s huge electricity consumption would eventually expand the state’s generation capacity.

Yes, that’s as crazy as it sounds. But it fits a pattern. When confronted with problems that could easily be alleviated through cooperative action, the radical right-wingers who have taken over the Republican Party often turn instead to bizarre nonsolutions that appeal to their antisocial ideology. I’ll explain why I use that word in a minute.
Why support expensive, ineffective treatments while opposing measures that would help prevent severe illness in the first place? Well, consider a parallel that may not be immediately obvious but is actually quite close: school shootings.

Among major advanced nations, such shootings are an almost uniquely U.S. phenomenon. And while there may be multiple reasons America leads the world in massacres of schoolkids, we could surely mitigate the horror with common-sense measures like restrictions on gun sales, required background checks and a ban on privately owned assault weapons.

But no. Republicans want to expand access to guns and, in many states, protect students by arming schoolteachers.

What do these examples have in common?[…]we have law enforcement precisely so individuals don’t have to go around armed to protect themselves against other people’s violence.

Public health policy, if you think about it, reflects the same principle. Individuals can and should take responsibility for their own health, when they can; but the nature of infectious disease means that there is an essential role for collective action, whether it is public investment in clean water supplies or, yes, mask and vaccine mandates during a pandemic.
Which is why I’m calling the modern American right antisocial — because its members reject any policy that relies on social cooperation, and they want us to return instead to Hobbes’s dystopian state of nature. We won’t try to keep guns out of the hands of potential mass murderers; instead, we’ll rely on teacher-vigilantes to gun them down once the shooting has already started. We won’t try to limit the spread of infectious diseases; instead, we’ll tell people to take drugs that are expensive, ineffective or both after they’ve already gotten sick.

What about Bitcoin? I don’t think it’s even worth trying to make sense of Abbott’s tortured logic, why he imagines that promoting an environmentally destructive, energy-hogging industry will somehow make his state’s electricity supply more reliable. (An energy grid overloaded by crypto mining helped set off the recent crisis in Kazakhstan.)

A better question is why Republicans have become fanatics about cryptocurrency, to the extent that one Senate candidate has defined his position as being “pro-God, pro-family, pro-Bitcoin.” The answer, I’d argue, is that Bitcoin plays into a fantasy of self-sufficient individualism, of protecting your family with your personal AR-15, treating your Covid with an anti-parasite drug or urine and managing your financial affairs with privately created money, untainted by institutions like governments or banks.


…particularly since while it’s often claimed there are principles at stake…the actual stakes involved do tend to bear a startlingly crass resemblance to…well…money?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

A popular internet personality, beloved by millions for his irreverent, anti-establishment commentary, becomes the subject of a heated backlash after critics accuse him of promoting dangerous misinformation.

The controversy engulfs the creator’s biggest platform, which has rules prohibiting dangerous misinformation and now faces pressure to enforce them against one of its highest-profile users.

Hoping to ride out the storm, the platform’s chief executive publishes a blog post about the importance of free speech, declining to punish the rule-breaker but promising to introduce new features that will promote higher-quality information.

Still, the backlash intensifies. Civil rights groups organize a boycott. Advertisers pull their campaigns. A hashtag trends. The platform’s employees threaten to walk out. Days later, the chief executive is forced to choose between barring a popular creator — and face the fury of his fans — or being seen as a hypocrite and an enabler of dangerous behavior.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because a version of it has occurred on every major internet media platform over the last half decade. Facebook and Alex Jones, Twitter and Donald Trump, YouTube and PewDiePie, Netflix and Dave Chappelle: Every major platform has found itself trapped, at some point, between this particular rock and a hard place.


…who’s to say where one public disclosure is another’s private interest…or in the public interest…for which it’s only fair there be private negotiations about any potential compensation that might be involved

A 19-year-old Florida university student and aviation enthusiast says he rejected a $5,000 offer from Elon Musk to shut down @ElonJet, a Twitter bot he designed that tracks the comings and goings of the Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s private jet.
He first reached out to Sweeney on Nov. 30, according to screenshots of Twitter messages reviewed by NBC News, and Musk asked him for details about how the bot worked, remarked that air traffic control is “primitive” and said, “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”

Sweeney later asked Musk to “up” his $5,000 offer to $50,000, about the cost of a Tesla Model 3, which Musk considered for over a month, before Sweeney said he would also consider removing the account for an internship.

Then, some time after Jan. 23, Musk blocked him.
Sweeney said he told Musk about another aviation tracking blocking program, which Sweeney said Musk used last week.

“He might have thought that would have worked and he could just, like, ignore me,” Sweeney said of the blocker. “It doesn’t really make that much of a difference.”

Sweeney also runs jet trackers for billionaires Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and former President Donald Trump.


…some deals are worth a lot

U.S. and Allies Close to Reviving Nuclear Deal With Iran, Officials Say [NYT]

…& sometimes things there are large numbers of are a big deal

Researchers working on the ground in 90 countries collected information on 38 million trees, sometimes walking for days and camping in remote places to reach them. The study found there are about 14% more tree species than previously reported and that a third of undiscovered tree species are rare, meaning they could be vulnerable to extinction by human-driven changes in land use and the climate crisis.
Despite being among the largest and most widespread organisms, there are still thousands of trees to be discovered, with 40% of unknown species believed to be in South America, according to the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Some of these undocumented species would probably have been known to indigenous communities but some, in the most inaccessible regions, may have never been found before.
To estimate the number of unknown species, scientists used the Good-Turing frequency estimation, which was created by the codebreaker Alan Turing and his assistant Irving Good when trying to crack German codes for the Enigma machine during the second world war.

The theory, which was developed by the Taiwanese statistician Anne Chao to be applied to the study of undetected species, helped researchers work out the occurrence of rare events – in this case unknown species of trees – using data on observed rare species. Essentially, the code uses information on species that are only detected once or twice in data to estimate the number of undetected species.


…either way…I’m sure we can agree that numbers can be fascinating

Fermat’s last theorem, a riddle put forward by one of history’s great mathematicians, had baffled experts for more than 300 years. Then a genius toiled in secret for seven years to solve it, according to the usual narrative. That shy Englishman, Andrew Wiles, made his feat public in the early 1990s and amassed a glittering array of tributes. In 2016, he won the Abel Prize, math’s top award. It came with a $700,000 purse.

Now, a wealthy Texas philanthropist is recounting how his financial support created a community of Fermat innovators that, over decades, lent moral and mathematical support to Dr. Wiles. That patronage drew top mathematicians to the puzzle after great minds had given up, succeeded in bringing the moribund field back to life, and may have helped make Dr. Wiles’s breakthrough possible.
While gregarious, Mr. Vaughn, heir to a Texas oil fortune, is an extremely private man who has never before claimed publicly that his philanthropy begot the mathematical feat. Even so, he takes immense pride in what he characterizes as his legacy. Mr. Vaughn said that he and his wife had no children and that the Fermat triumph was how he hoped he would be remembered.
It seems unlikely that Mr. Vaughn had a direct impact on what turned out to be the Byzantine math of the Fermat proof. But in science, private donors often act as pathfinders for government investment in difficult research. So it was with Mr. Vaughn. He led, and Washington followed. In the 1970s and 1980s, he directed millions of dollars to Fermat conferences, authors and researchers, giving the old field new life and social acceptability.

Subsequently, in the early 1990s, the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, lent its support. It provided Dr. Wiles, then at Princeton University, with math research grants totaling nearly a half-million dollars.

It turns out that both men sought to advance an arcane branch of mathematics known as elliptic curves. The field’s equations build up sets of simple geometric forms that can lead to infinite runs of subsidiary equations and, when solved, solutions to problems of blinding complexity. The exotic forms led Dr. Wiles to the Fermat breakthrough.
Part of the appeal was basic. The simple equation had just three elements but an infinite number of possible solutions. The challenge was to find ways of bounding the infinite.
Mr. Vaughn studied math in graduate school at the University of Texas but never got an advanced degree. Back in Tyler, looking for direction, he decided to establish a foundation that would fund basic research on the Fermat question. He did so in 1972.

To his surprise, no mathematician would take his financial aid or even admit to being interested in working on the conundrum. “It was seen as throwing money away,” he recalled. The reputation of the riddle, he added, “was that fierce; it was two years before I could give any grants.”
Then, quite suddenly, at the peak of his influence, Mr. Vaughn’s world fell apart. The reason was an audit of his foundation by the Internal Revenue Service.

It ran from 1988 to 1992 and accused the charity of major improprieties. In the interview, Mr. Vaughn called the audit “very unpleasant” and “extremely traumatic.” Ultimately, he said, the tax agency threatened to impose $15 million in fines and to incarcerate him and his wife, who was on the foundation’s board.

According to Mr. Vaughn, the root problem was the ignorance of the I.R.S. auditor, who felt that mathematical research was “a boondoggle.” In the end, Mr. Vaughn added, “We won every one of the charges,” but the Vaughns had nonetheless come to a turning point. The foundation decided to end its funding of basic mathematics.

“We figured it was too dangerous,” Mr. Vaughn recalled. “You don’t have that kind of trouble if you give to a ballet company.”

…or…say…to PAC that might blow it all on somebody’s legal fees or something

…just sayin’

Finally, in May 1995, nearly two years after the Wiles announcement, the revised proof was published. The maze of equations ran to 130 pages. After more than three centuries of effort, the Fermat infinities had finally been surmounted, and civilization, amazingly, was still intact. Not only that, but experts hailed the proof as establishing a series of unexpected finds that promised to open new frontiers.

Despite Mr. Vaughn’s role in the field’s resurrection, the subsequent tributes paid him little if any note. At that point, it had been several years since his foundation had funded research on the theorem, reducing the charity’s visibility. And Mr. Vaughn in any case tended to be inaccessible, especially to the news media.


…what do you know…long sought after proof finally discovered…& it turns out that somewhere in the background was a guy with a lot of money & an interest in the answer…now…I’m not a mathematician…but what are the odds?



  1. In the (morally crippled, semi-functional when allies aren’t sniping at each other or getting drunk as fuck and partying into the night) west, counting trees is considered a good thing. In Soviet (and Putin’s) Russia… not so much.

    • …it’s easy to get lost in the weeds…which might explain why we often seem to have trouble seeing the forest for the trees…but it apparently takes a russian to survey the scene & declare “the sight of hundreds of thousands of massed russian trunks proudly silhouetted against the horizon is glorious to behold…but to be clear…nobody said anything about any forests existing…that’s just some bullshit the west made up”

      …or…I dunno…the supreme court…or boris johnson…or…sorry…apparently I’m getting confused…in the case of the actual tree math thing we know the forests are there…but nobody’s actually seen a bunch of trees the numbers imply should be in there somewhere…there’s probably a joke or at least a half-decent metaphor you could make out of that…in which intentions may or may not be deemed an important factor in any calculus about the impact of actions or their relationship to words…& doubtless with good people on both sides of any resulting punchlines?

  2. Finally (from a progressive youtube channel) a lawyer who took down Trump U and knows his finances sez that the reason why Rump is all in the RNC’s face about paying his legal bills is because the galaxy brained uber geniuz is basically broke as he’s got about 93 mil in cash on hand and 700+ million in debts to pay off in the next 2-3 years with none of properties generating cash thanks to CoVID and bad PR (which is probably why the fatheaded fuckwit is now pro vax.)

    If the RNC cuts him off then all his Jan 6 challenges, legal issues etc are fucked.  Considering how bad Jan 6 is for the Grand Ole Nazi Party, they don’t have a choice but to pay pay pay pay.


    • …between the various strands of stuff about the trump family’s finances that are matters of public record he seems to have managed to take bewildering amounts of what was once public money before it became a significant component of a private family fortune & no only squander just about all of it but also manage to leverage his way into a veritable house of cards composed mostly of vast debts…& even if you just stick to the ones he’s specifically and voluntarily personally liable for it’s not at all clear that even all the money being thrown in his general direction…over or under the proverbial table…is actually enough not to leave him underwater when all is said & done

      …I think it might be a rare case where it’s okay to hope the figure you can see flailing about on the surface is in fact not waving but drowning?

    • You’re close, Manchu, but selling that debt load a little bit short!😉😈😈😈


      Trump’s apparently on the hook for somewhere around 1.3 Billion in debt, in the next few years!!!

      It was being talked about *a little* in the run-up to the election last year, buuuuuut then it got surpassed, with all his “Hey!!! LOOK!!!! OVER THERE!!!”  distractions about “election cheating!!!”😕😕😕




    • …truly good coffee might be one of those things I’d be prepared to consider as potential evidence for the existence of a benevolent deity…so as far as I’m concerned that’s no small thing

      …also…on a somewhat related note…am I the only person who sort of a little bit wants to recreate that set of lab equipment the guy in breaking bad claimed made scientifically the best possible coffee…they made it sound so plausible…& the best science does involve rigorous replication of experiments and thorough peer review…& now I come to think about it…is sometimes funded by generous grants

      …I mean…for the good of humanity & all

  3. Once again, the New York Times misses the obvious conclusion about the Republican obsession with crypto assets. Republicans recognize that crypto provides vast opportunities for grift and theft, protected by a veil of crypto anonymity, even though they don’t necessarily understand exactly how crypto works. I guarantee you Abbott’s “plan” includes a significant portion of the crypto assets getting funneled into his personal accounts. That’s how Republicans work. Use government assets to generate money for themselves personally.  Convicted criminal Joel Greenberg also hatched a bunch of crypto schemes when he was the tax collector. You want to explain their obsession? Follow the crime.

    • Greenberg presents a weird little case study in how risky this kind of pseudo secrecy can be. Roger Stone wanted $250K in Bitcoin from Greenberg to funnel a pardon bid to Trump, and their communications were through supposedly self deleting messaging.

      Except Greenberg screenshotted the messages.


      There’s a reason why the pros use lawyers, corporations, and real estate to launder money. If the people on the other end of a crypto transaction double cross you, you’re at their mercy. A $10K deal can end up as a much bigger shakedown.

    • This! Right! Here!

      Average folks are interested in crypto because there’s seemingly huge gains, they hate the Fed/whatever central bank runs their economy, or they think it’s neat.

      But Joe or Susie down the street with their 5k in crypto aren’t what’s ballooning those, it’s the fact that it’s the perfect place to do crimes. Art theft, human trafficking, money laundering, all of it is happening there because it’s not regulated and people think it’s secret until you cash out.

    • …well, that’s pretty chilling

      …I think there’s some accepted conclusions made when it comes to a pattern that combines increasingly frequent instances that themselves represent escalation…at least when what’s be considered is a trajectory from mistreatment of animals through to serial homicide

      …so “hey, the fucked up thing that happened a few weeks ago happened again yesterday…& happened again today…but in more places”…not liking any part of that particular pattern, really

      • Because it’s the ONE thing White Supremacists & other-assorted-Nazis can do, to fuck things up for talented young Black folks, during Black History Month😕🙃

    • we have mixed drinks about feelings

      …maybe they should have stuck to that kind of thing…because the “viral” gag sucked badly enough that I’d have thought the bad idea part might have been something you could figure out without actually having to put it out in the world?

      • I’m guessing they were semi-serious after hearing about how poorly this place is run.  They used to make beer and wine but did such a poor job with both I think they gave up.  This place will close down after this I bet.

    • It’s sad enough for the poor servers working there, that I can’t even feel schadenfreude from this, but from a black-humor standpoint, it IS pretty darned hilarious that the viral post was “just too much” for that band who won’tbe performingthere anymore…

      Especially since their name is “Atrocity Girl”😉😄🤣💖

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