This morning, I was listening to the rebroadcast of last weekend’s Midnight Special broadcast on WFMT. And they played Pete Seeger’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” at his Carnegie Hall concert in June, 1963. I’d heard this version before, but not for a very long time. And…it’s spectacular.
Everyone here knows “We Shall Overcome.” Everybody has either heard it or sung it, and probably most have done both. But even though you know the song intimately, this is still an enthralling, emotional performance.
It’s not all the verses. Or the big crowd joining in. Mostly, it’s Pete Seeger singing his ethereal harmony that soars throughout. Yes, it’s all of that together. But keep your ear honed to Seeger’s voice. It’s really special.
And it's made even more special from the perspective of knowing the time we live in, with the voting rights bill just failing in Congress with zero Republican votes.
After a bit of an introduction, the song lasts five minutes, and it just sucks you in. I know that it says this goes on for over eight minutes, but that’s only because when the song finishes, there is a roaring ovation for literally a minute-and-a-half! (In fairness, I don’t think that’s only for this song, but it seems like it’s the end of the concert. But it’s still the way you want this performance to end.)
The four NFL games over the weekend were remarkable -- all four games ended regulation on a field goal, either to win or send the game to overtime. And all the better, both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady lost their games.
All of which leads to this tweet that I think is hilarious.
This is from several weeks ago, so it's not the current story it was at the time, but it's still an interesting discussion. And at least it's timely for being in the final stages of the NFL playoffs. As Team Stewart puts it, "Fantasy football legend Jon Stewart sits down with real football legend Keyshawn Johnson to discuss coach Jon Gruden’s leaked racist emails and how the power structure of the NFL enables such behavior. Jon is also joined by Kris Acimovic and Kasaun Wilson, who don’t hold back on the Gruden controversy."
Okay, under normal circumstances, not being a lawyer, I’d be on legal overload from all the various legal news out the last couple days. But the depth of it all has additionally put me on sensory overload, as well. And I am sure this is only the very tip of the tip of the iceberg.
From the Supreme Court ruling slamming down Trump’s request of Executive Privilege, to the Fulton County, Georgia D.A. requesting a special grand jury, to requests to Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump to testify before the New York Attorney General, to requests to Ivanka Trump to testify before the January 6 House Select Committee (in an incredibly-detailed, 8-page letter), to the release of the first batch of material coming into the House Select Committee as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, to stories of Rudy Giuliani being the leader of Trump’s efforts to get states to violate the law by putting together illegal slates of electors to help overthrow the government…and…well, there’s probably more, but that whole “sensory overload” thing is kicking in.
Because of all that, including my lack of actual legal training, I’m not going to get into the details of it all. But there are some important perceptions that I think can be taken away from this activity.
First, I think Trump must be very concerned that not only did the very heavily-conservative Supreme Court – with three members he himself nominated – rule against him 8-1, but it did so bluntly, in no uncertain terms. So much so that Trump can’t just look at this as a loss on this one issue (and it’s a huge issue, releasing presidential documents he wanted hidden), but also as something that puts all future decisions related to the insurrection at risk. To be clear, I’m not saying the Supreme Court will ever rule against Trump in the future – they may or may not – just that Trump now knows he can’t rely on them, can’t rely on their “Trump loyalty,” which is the sort of thing like likely drives him crazy.
I also think that the minutiae of detail in the House Select Committee’s letter to Ivanka Trump was there to serve notice about how much information they already have – and this is only the hints they’re willing to give out. This lets people who have already refused to testify (or who plan to) know that their testimony is not necessarily needed, at least in part. That the Committee already knows a lot, in minute detail, so not testifying doesn’t keep that material hidden. But by testifying you have a chance to put that material in as good a light as possible and to defend yourself.
It also, as lawyer Dan Goldman (who served on the impeachment teams) said, puts pressure on Ivanka Trump to testify. That’s because, by including so much information about her presence at the center of activity during the insurrection, if she refuses to testify then her absence stands out even more.
And I also think all this legal news and release of known-information puts the Fear of God into all lower-level people involved in order to save their necks. And by “lower-level” I don’t just mean secretaries and assistants (who might know a lot), but also even more notably high-ranking people underneath the center of the inner circle. When anyone other than those who are instigators of the coup see the deep level of information that has overwhelmed their own lives and threatens to suck them in the whirlwind vortex of subpoenas, indictments, criminality and just simply legal costs, I think many if not most of them will start to think they don’t want to go to jail or have their financial lives destroyed on behalf of perhaps the most criminal, malignantly narcissistic, pathological lying con man they’ve ever come across who they know (from being on the inside) will never lift one finger of even concern for them. And even though the House Select Committee has already done over 400 interviews, that may be nothing compared to what could possibly be coming. The floodgates may now open wide as these insiders rush in to save themselves. And not just contacting the House Select Committee, but calls to the Department of Justice, along the lines of, “Hi, I don’t know if you’re actually investigating any of this, but on the likelihood that you are, who do I talk to about a deal to protect myself?...Yes, I’ll hold.”
As for the specifics of what all this news the past two days – and all that’s to come – well, that brings up back to the whole “sensory overload” thing.
One good candidate video deserves another...
Yesterday, I posted a candidacy announcement by Clay Aiken running for Congress in North Carolina, which I thought was wonderfully done. Today, here's another that I think is terrific. It's for Matt West who's running for the Democratic nomination in Oregon.
There's only one thing I don't like about the announcement -- nowhere in the video, or even on his website does he say what district he's running in! In fact, only by tracking down the address of his campaign office on his website do you even find out he's in Oregon.
This seems to be getting common. The only thing I can guess is that it's related to trying to get national fundraising. Maybe it works, maybe not. But I think it's a poor idea not to say where you're running for Congress, when running for Congress.
For the record, I tracked down that he's running in Oregon-6.
That aside, it's a great candidate video.
You may recall Clay Aiken when he finished second on American Idol 20 years ago. He ran for Congress from North Carolina in 2014 and got the Democratic nomination, but lost in the general election.
It turns out that with redistricting, he now lives in an area that’s strongly Democratic, and the area’s current congressman, Rep. David Price, announced his retirement in October. So, Aiken has said he’s running again, in NC-06.
I mention this because he just released his first campaign video, and I thought it was terrific. Simple and eloquent – and blunt. I wish the last "throwaway line" was a little louder (I had to replay it with the volume up), but it's still a really good one. Perhaps they can boost the audio.
Aiken was a special needs teacher before he got involved with the American Idol competition, and has since founded The National Inclusion Project. He was also a National Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, advocating for humanitarian efforts in war-torn countries, and served a two-year appointment on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, so it’s not like he hasn’t involved himself with social and political issues since becoming a national name.
If you haven't been following the Boris Johnson controversy in London, here it is explained to you magnificently. In only 35 seconds. All of which shows the trouble he's in.
I'd love to see her explain Trump's problems.
Or explain pretty much anything.
Several years back, when Trump began calling out his support of white supremacist groups, trying to tell anyone who’d listen that there were very fine people among the neo-Nazis, and the Republican Party began moving towards enabling violence and xenophobia and fascism, I kept remembering a news story from many years back that I want to bring back, but I couldn’t track it down for the specifics.
I know that some people remember the story, although like me at this point, only the most-surface details. And some will have likely forgotten it -- until being reminded in an "Oh, yeahhh..." moment. And many (probably most) have no recollection of it. And it's a story that very much bears remembers, because it carries great substance with it today.
The problem with finding the story online was that the words to search for had all become far too common and generic. “White supremacist.” “Terrorist groups.” "Extremist." “Right-wing.” “Government report.” “Republicans outraged.” And since I didn't recall exactly when it was written, I couldn't search for who was head of the department that released it. Any search brought up a tsunami of results, all on a vast range of topics.
The story I was trying to find was of a government study made about 10 years ago which said that the biggest threat to the United States in terrorism was from far-right, white supremacist groups here in the United States. And when the report got released, Republicans began squealing like stuck pigs, howling in whiney angst that this was so unfair and wrong and mean and political and nasty and blah blah fill-in-the-blank horrified that they demanded (demanded!!!) the report be retracted. Never mind that it was based on detailed research. But the howls were so loud and…well, faux-outraged that, in fact, the scholarly report was ultimately retracted.
And since then…yes, white supremacist terrorist groups like the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, neo-Nazis and more began growing with Republican support, leading to the point of having Trump in a presidential debate actually telling them to infamously “Stand back and stand by,” which brought us to the January 6 insurrection and then last week having 11 members of the Oath Keepers (including their leader) arrested on charges of seditious conspiracy.
So, I've wanted to write about it for many years, but those search terms just led me nowhere. And any article without the details would have been empty.
And then, a few months back, the skies opened, and – on yet another of my attempted searches, not only did I come across information that filled in the blanks, but…even better, found a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post written by the actual author of that government report, Darryl Johnson, about his experience with that event and the whining cries from Republicans.
And to be clear, Darryl Johnson wasn’t some ivory tower academic sitting behind ivory-covered walls of an elite university, musing random thoughts in his tweed jacket while smoking a briarwood pipe. (Not that any of that would have invalidated his research, mind you.). Rather, at the time, he was the senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Ever since finding the op-ed, I've been trying to find the place to write about this piece, but the election -- and oddly, the insurrection and its aftermath -- kept getting in the way. But finally, enough is enough. It's not only as timely as when I found the op-ed, but as much when he wrote his report 13 years ago.
The title of his op-ed explained everything succinctly. “I warned of right-wing violence in 2009. Republicans objected. I was right.” And the sub-title put the cherry on top – “White nationalists have only gotten more dangerous since then.”
And here’s the thing. Putting aside that the report was written in 2009, Mr. Johnson’s op-ed noting that the threat had gotten even worse than when he wrote his original government advisory was not written after the insurrection, or in the last months of the Trump administration as the red flags grew more pronounced in the divisive anger of the election, Or during the pandemic when the edges of the nation’s psyche were frayed. Or after the crazy anonymous conspiracy theories of QAnon began to proliferate and drive wedges. No – it was written in 2017! During Trump’s second year in office.
What’s fascinating about Mr. Johnson’s op-ed is not just his recounting of the surface facts that I remembered, but the details underneath. Like that his paper was not even meant for public consumption, but was an intelligence report only for law enforcement. However, conservative media got a hold of it and leaked the material. Which allowed Republicans in Congress to squeal about it.
And worse, that conservative Republican reaction didn’t just get the report retracted, but it had long term effects we are feeling today – since work in the Department of Homeland Security investigating extremist groups was stopped. And the division was shut down. And more.
Johnson begins his article –
“Eight years ago, I warned of a singular threat — the resurgence of right-wing extremist activity and associated violence in the United States as a result of the 2008 presidential election, the financial crisis and the stock market crash. My intelligence report, meant only for law enforcement, was leaked by conservative media.
“A political backlash ensued because of an objection to the label ‘right-wing extremism.’ The report also rightly pointed out that returning military veterans may be targeted for recruitment by extremists. Republican lawmakers demanded then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rescind my report. The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.”
And the op-ed goes on even more from there. It’s pointed, detailed, authoritative and very angry. And – as he notes in sub-title – right. Right in the most minute specifics. Just for starters there’s that “returning military veterans may be targeted for recruitment by extremists.” Written in 2009.
This isn’t just the report I’d been trying to find for many years, this is the full story laid out exquisitely by its creator.
And it makes clear that, no, this isn’t about Trump – he only walked through the open door that was there and took advantage of it – it’s about the officials of the Republican Party who enabled it all and supported it, in ways even more explicit that most people presume.
You can read the full op-ed here. It’s well-worth it.
When I saw the number of bizarre headlines over the weekend – many of which came from the Trump rally in Arizona (most of which still weren’t weird enough to even make this article, like “Trump Supporters at Arizona Rally Think the 2020 Election Will Be Redone” and the headline about a church across the street from the rally calling the police on abusive rallygoers harassing parishioners for wearing face masks) -- it was too near-impossible to pass them up. Any other weekend, any one of these would be the winner absolute worst, but this weekend the competition is much too strong.
I swear that this are all real headlines from Raw Story.
Mike Lindell tells MAGA rally there will be 'no computers or machines' used in 2022 elections
Just to let you know right off – no, this was not the worst headline of the weekend. So, that alone should give you an idea of what I meant by these being truly bizarre.
And in fairness, Mr. MyPillow’s track record of make predictions is really horrific. (No, Trump has still not been re-installed as president again.) Making his prediction all the worse is that I truly have no idea what the incomprehensible world salad he spewed to explain himself means. "The reason I say that,” Lindell began, “is because everybody now is out there with no fear, and we all know what happened, and it's all going to get corrected, and it's been on God's timing, not our timing.” Nope, I have no clue what that means. And clearly, neither does Mike Lindell when he then added, “I will promise you this: There's not going to be any election done with any machines or any computers in 2022." Which, just to be clear, is this year, and the elections are only 10 months away, which isn’t much time for every election to completely readjust how they run elections and start from scratch at the literal level of the Founding Fathers. Of course, even if he somehow thinks that Red states throughout the South are each going to use an abacus, why on earth he thinks Blue states like California, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon and more, who accept the concept of technology, won’t be using computers or any machines at all is another matter between Mike Lindell and his God. And by the way, an abacus is a machine. So, maybe he just means using a pencil and paper.
“'That really hurt my feelings': Marjorie Taylor Greene is still upset about 'Jewish space lasers'”
To repeat, I swear this one is true. And against, it’s not the winner of Headline of the Weekend either! But yes, Ms. Taylor-Greene actually said this.
Saying "That really hurt my feelings" is almost adorable in a whiney snowflakey-way when it comes from a virulent insurrectionist who has threatened lives of members of Congress and Democrats. Her lack of self-awareness is at a level almost never reached by members of the human species. All the more so since, in her explanation why her feelings were so hurt, she said, "That was a term I had never used in my life," after having previously written on Facebook that the space lasers were part-funded by the Rothschilds. There are two other things about her statement that are remarkably amazing – the first is that’s only bothered by the “Jewish” part (never mind the whole “Rothschild
thing), but not that she said California wildfires were started by space lasers, whoever made them!! And the second is that she has feelings to hurt.
“Lara Trump thinks Microsoft Word office assistant 'Clippy' is a real person spying on her documents”
In fairness to Ms. Trump, who has turned being married to someone into quite a gig, she didn’t refer to the Microsoft office assistant as “Clippy,” which was its original name, but got retired years ago. But she was still reference the office assistant as if it was a real persona, and not just artificial intelligent coding that recognizes text and offers suggestions. "Someone is reading this?! And assessing what I'm writing?" she said on Fox “News”, outraged by software than can be easily turned off under the Settings option. Because it’s just software, not a real person.
Worse, she compared to software to her new car that doesn’t need a key anymore, but you just push a button – she explained that the car wouldn’t start if she “didn’t jingle the keys around.” Of course, as most sane people know, that’s not how push-button starting works, since they use safety technology that requires a key fob inside the car with you, and your foot on the break, with the car in park.
And yes, she’s a political analyst on Fox “News.” Which should explain a lot, right there.
“Mike Lindell goes to war with his bank after they tell him to take his money elsewhere: report”
It was a very bad weekend for Mr. MyPillow. Not only did he insist that no computers or machines would be used in this year’s mid-term elections, but he also said he was told by his bank that they didn't want his money and he should close all his accounts. They were concerned by FBI investigations and didn't want the "reputational damage." So, what did Mr. Lindell do? He published their phone numbers and contact information and said that people should call to complain. Because, yeah, that's just exactly what a bank wants to help his reputation.
And no, none of these headlines are the best of the weekend.
That’s because this is –
"QAnon leader attending Arizona rally scrambles to convince followers Trump isn't a 'body double'"
Yes, absolutely the best headline of the weekend. An easy winner. That’s why the others, as outlandish as bizarre as they all were, were each fighting for second place.
We may have thought JFK and his son coming back to slight, so that one of them could run with Trump in 2024 was as insane as the Republican base could get. But as we learned with Trump’s own depravity, there’s no level too deep.
One can only wonder what Republican officials think about all this—if it even registers with them. Which is should – because this is their base! And this is their party leader! And some of the base actually, truly thinks that the Republican Party leader is a freaking body double. You have serious problems with your party when that’s the starting point and the natural progression of your party’s various conspiracy theories. Even if it’s coming from just “some” of the base – because it was from enough of the base that it had to be addressed. And all the worse when the conspiracy leader of an anonymous conspiracy is the one who has to refute it. Or try to refute it.
Because, hey, since conspiracy theories are the lifeblood of today’s GOP…maybe that was a body double. I mean, honestly, how do we know??!! So, I’m okay with this one staying alive.
And that’s The Weekend in Headlines with the Republican Party.
And it was hard to edit them all down to just these five.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is one of my favorite reporter, David Cay Johnston who writes about economics and finance, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. He talks with Al about his new book, “The Big Cheat.” Al asks, “Who’s it about? Take a guess!” And then adds that the book is “a one-stop romp through the crimes of Trump and his grifter family.”
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor