June 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 PM


After Thursday's Hearing John Eastman Really Should Get a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer (JEREMY STAHL, JUNE 16, 2022, Slate)

During the third in a set of summer hearings held by the House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on Thursday, committee members closely scrutinized former President Donald Trump's numerous attempts to coerce Vice President Mike Pence into unilaterally declaring they had won the 2020 election.

The main upshot of the day was not only that "team normal" knew the plan had no constitutional, legal, or historical basis, but also that the main architects of the Jan. 6 plot--specifically Trump attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani-- knew that their plan would be rejected by any sane judge. Eastman, Giuliani, and Trump pushed the plan anyway, leading to a rioting mob invading the Capitol and the disruption of the electoral count. Pence narrowly escaped potential harm when rioters came within 40 feet of confronting him as he moved to a secure location, the committee revealed on Thursday. On top of these revelations, we also learned that Eastman sought to shield himself from potential criminal liability following the insurrection and his failed attempts at stopping the peaceful transition of power.

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Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


Why Did Staunchly Democratic Counties Go for Trump?: Researchers Jon Shields and Stephanie Muravchik recount their fascinating findings (Aaron Ross Powell, 6/16/22, Reactionary Minds)

Jon: Yes, sure. One of the things that really struck us, Aaron, is that in these communities, politics is much more Trumpian in all kinds of ways. It was Trumpian before Trump, right? The local public officials reminded us of Trump in various ways. They were thin-skinned. They were brazen. They were tough. They were macho. They were the local daddies of their communities.

They were there to take care of their flock--that is to say, they weren't particularly ideological; rather, it was a sort of friends-and-neighbors politics. They were going to do particular favors or provide for particular constituents. It echoed back to a sort of machine politics, which has deep roots in the Democratic Party. Politics in these places weren't very ideological really. They were much more boss-centered. They were really about providing for and taking care of local constituents. Political leaders were expected to do favors for their constituents. We saw all of this in all kinds of ways. Maybe Steph wants to jump in and give some examples, give some flavor and feel for some of these characters.

Stephanie: In all three of the places in this town in Rhode Island, in this city in Iowa, in this county in Eastern Kentucky, there had been a strong-boss politics--perhaps most strong in Kentucky. These little rural counties are often dominated by these people called judges. They're not judicial figures. They're county executives essentially. There was a man in the county that I was looking at who had held office almost continually for about 30 years.

When I arrived there during the Trump administration, he had been out of office due to the fact that he had been brought up on federal charges in a votes-for-gravel scheme. This was after about some 30 years in office. The county had fallen on hard times. The main way that he was able to show his friendship to voters was by providing loads of gravel to them at county expense. A lot of these people live on little far-flung farms in this rural district. They need to have little roads that connect their farmsteads to the main public arteries.

The roads need to be constantly refreshed with gravel, and he was dumping loads of gravel in the months leading up to an election. The Feds came after him, and he pled. He had to deal with them basically so he would be free, but he pledged never again to run for office. The county's political imagination had been very much shaped by this man's long reign. He remained a very popular--although controversial--figure in the county when I was there.

Jon: There were echoes of this, too, in another town we studied, which is Johnston, Rhode Island. On the surface, you might think it would be a place with a radically different politics than Appalachia, right? It's in New England. It's a suburb of Providence, but in many ways, actually, the politics was really similar. It's a very Italian-American community, and they still practice old-style machine politics.

The mayor there is Joe Polisena. He rules with an iron fist. Again, he's like everyone's daddy, right? People go to Joe. They need something done. They need a favor. Sometimes they ask for things he can't deliver. When we asked Joe about this, he said, "Yes, sometimes they'll come in, my constituents, and they'll ask for something off the wall." Joe would have to tell them, "Gee, I can't do that. That's illegal, but I can do something else."

Likewise, people in that community feel like if they don't support the machine, if they don't support Joe Polisena and other Democratic candidates, they'll be basically shut out. They won't be able to get any goods from the city, because they'll be punished by the mayor, who can be very vindictive. Again, very different, seemingly, kinds of communities. They're regionally different. One's rural, one's suburban, et cetera, but a very different style of politics. It's a kind of politics that used to dominate the Democratic Party.

We forget about it in college towns and big urban cities because we've cleaned up this kind of politics, right? We want a politics that's more policy-oriented--politics without nepotism, without wheeling and dealing in this sort of favoritism--but it's a kind of politics that survived in a lot of these Democratic communities. It survived in those places because there are fewer college-educated, good-government types who wanted to clean up this kind of politics and get rid of it. That's one way in which the politics of these places was distinctive, but they also had a particular political culture, and we could talk about that if you like, Aaron.

Aaron: Just briefly before we turn to that: I'm curious, do the people in those towns view this as a kind of politics that needs to be cleaned up but just can't for various reasons, or do they think this is the right way to do politics, even if it sometimes is a little messy and looks corrupt?

Stephanie: Yes, I think there's definitely a view among some voters--and they're all men; these men are all somewhat controversial and have their detractors--who don't like how personalized the politics are. I spoke to one. Mayor Polisena in Johnston, Rhode Island, is very widely popular. He gets very high margins in elections, and lots of people had lots of good things to say about him, but he did have his detractors.

I was trying to talk to one of them, and he was quite anxious about talking to me and said, "Well, you know how things are in this town." Then he paused a beat, and then he said: "Well, you're not from here. Maybe you don't." There was this sense that there were critics, and they would often say: "This is too personalized. There's too much retribution for disloyalty. This is America. We should be able to express alternate opinions and not be personally penalized by the powers that be in our locality for this."

One colorful example from Elliott County was an executive who was no longer in office because of this federal deal and had one very outspoken opponent in the community. When they would be paving roads, like county roads, the new asphalt would stop at this man's property line and then start up again at the next property line. Only in front of his farm would there be no paving. That kind of stuff rubbed some people the wrong way for sure.

Jon: I would just echo that. I think it was somewhat mixed, but I think there was also a sort of sense in these places that this is just how one does politics. These are the main models of politics. It wasn't clear to many, I think, what the alternative to this might look like. In many ways, it's a sort of model that grows up out of their own community. It's the kind of politics that grows out of a traditional family in some ways. It's the sense that, "Well, there's a patriarch who's the head of the household but also the head of the community." They should provide and take care of their community. In exchange, they should get the loyalty of their constituents and their supporters.

There's also a sense that their loyalty is the main way that they pay back their benefactors, those who have supported them. Even if they have some misgivings or grumblings, or they think the mayor can be a little too iron-fisted or whatever, there's also a sense that they should be loyal to that person because they owe them something.

Aaron: Given all of that, and given the personal and transactional nature of the politics and the politics as extended family, as you describe it, the initial motivation of this book and the ethnographies that you conducted was that there was something new about Trump or Trumpism, or Trump as a candidate. It attracted what had been historically very, very exclusively blue communities. These were Democratic strongholds.

Given all of this, within this context, what does it mean for them to have been Democrat? You said this wasn't really about policy per se, so were they meaningfully Democratic in the way that we would think about it, from the perspective of looking broadly in American politics? Democrats represent a set of policy preferences and a certain coalition. Do they even fit within that? Or was it more just that this was a label, but they could have had a different one slapped on, and it wouldn't have been meaningfully distinct?

Stephanie: Yes, I think one thing that became very clear was that because of the relationships with these party elites in their local community, what the party meant, meant relationships with these local party leaders. What they understood "Democrat" to mean had been very much reflected or filtered through these local party leaders. A lot of their, I would say, social-cultural ideas were quite conservative.

Some of them made a point of saying, "I'm a Democrat and I'm a conservative." For example, we met a woman in Rhode Island who was from a deeply political family herself and had been a low local-level political leader--so not someone who was out of touch or disengaged at all. She talked about the revelation that Democrats were pro-choice. For her, this was a shock.

She had to wake up to this fact because she herself and her family were fierce Democrats. She had been told since she was a child that if the Republicans get into power, we'll all starve. It was that kind of rhetoric we've heard from a lot of people. But she was also from this deeply Catholic, church-going, mass-going family. She said she would go to mass and see her elected local leaders also taking communion.

It never crossed her mind that these people would not be pro-life. On a lot of the social-cultural issues in Elliott County, which was very rural, one big issue had to do, of course, with guns and the Second Amendment. All the Democrats were very pro-Second Amendment in Elliott County. They didn't feel a sense of cognitive dissonance because their understanding was so local.

Jon: And as Stephanie suggested, too, in some ways, they do have a sense that Republicans are the party of the rich. That resonates with what a lot of Democrats might say about the Republican Party and have said for a long time, but it's a very class-bound, New Deal, Democratic sense of the parties. Indeed, in some of the restaurants in these towns, it's not uncommon to find pictures of JFK or FDR.

They had a sense that those were the patron saints of the party. They did have a sense that they were part of something larger than their own local, particular community. It's like the culture wars were this thing that was blowing beyond their own local lives, and they didn't have a sense of where the parties landed on guns or abortion or those kinds of questions. That surprised us. That was interesting.

In lots of ways, of course, these people, on a lot of these issues, they're kind of conservative. They're pretty pro-Second Amendment. They're fairly pro-life. Although on economic questions, they're more moderate or even left-leaning. Ottumwa, Iowa, for example: It's a place with a meat-packing plant. There's a strong tradition of unionism there.

Basically, it's as if you froze the Democratic Party in the North in 1960 and took a peek at it; that's more what these places are like. It almost felt like going back in time a little bit. We got to peer at the old Democratic Party, as it used to be. We were reminded that it didn't all change overnight--that there are still these vestiges of this old party that have endured partly because they're isolated and they have this strong localism. The local leads buffer them from some of the big changes that are happening at the national level.

Indeed if you talk to local people, one of the major things they're trying to do is create their own brand, because they know that there's a big ideological divide between them and the national party. They want to keep the Democratic Party as localized as they can. Trump has made that a lot harder for them in all kinds of ways, because a lot of these folks are starting to become more aware of the national party and the ways in which it's different from their local party.

Localism versus Cosmopolitanism

Aaron: One of the broad theses of your book is that Trump appealed to these communities in part because the very things that those of us in our coastal, rootless, cosmopolitan enclaves were often dramatically, viscerally turned off by about him were the very things that felt the most familiar about him to the voters in these communities. As just discussed, he looked like the politicians that they're used to. What we saw as wild corruption and nepotism and so on was just business as usual--that's of course how politicians operate.

I want to move to another one that you discuss, which is honor cultures, because Trump for many of us was this famously belligerent but thin-skinned bully who couldn't back down. Constantly, anytime anyone said anything, he needed to come back at them, even if he looked ridiculous doing it. It seemed very off-putting to all of us. As you point out, this is like a quintessential "honor culture." 

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Israeli startup on track for 'recharging roads' project at Italy's Bergamo Airport (SUE SURKES , 6/16/22, Times of Israel)

Israeli company Electreon, whose technology is integrated into roads that recharge the batteries of electric vehicles as they travel on them, is on track to design a lane for shuttles and service vehicles at Bergamo Airport northwest of Milan, Italy, the company said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Florida is the only state to skip pre-ordering Covid-19 vaccines for kids (AREK SARKISSIAN, 06/15/2022, Politico)

Florida is the only state in the nation that has not placed an order with the federal government for doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for young children, saying the distribution process is "convoluted."

Moloch must be appeased. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM