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While pandemic deaths soar, Mike Pence is on an extended ski vacation

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 15:55

The United States is facing still-rising pandemic deaths and both a federal government shutdown and the end of supplemental unemployment checks to those newly out of work, but Donald Trump is, of course, currently on vacation. You may be wondering where the ostensible head of the White House coronavirus "task force" has gotten to, since we haven't heard much from him either.

Alleged vice president Mike Pence is in Vail, Colorado. We're in the middle of a nationwide crisis and the guy "in charge" of it is takin' an extended family ski trip. One you're not supposed to know about, apparently.

Categories: Politics

'He is a child!!!' Teen son of Grammy Award-winning trumpeter wrongfully accused of stealing

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 15:13

A Black Grammy-Award-winning jazz trumpeter said he was made to watch his 14-year-old son assaulted and accused of stealing a white woman’s iPhone while the hotel he was a guest at only further enabled the woman. “I hate I have to post this!!! I am furious!!!” Keyon Harrold said in an Instagram post Saturday. “We see this crap happening all the time, but it hits different when it hits home!!!” He said when the incident occurred at Arlo SoHo, the woman who demanded Harrold’s son show her his phone to prove it wasn’t stolen wasn't even a guest at the boutique hotel in lower Manhattan. She had checked out on Wednesday. Still, video of the incident showed a hotel worker allowing the woman to make demands of Harrold’s son. 

“No he’s not leaving,” the woman was shown saying. “Show me the proof.” Harrold responded: “Are you kidding me? You better get on.” He earlier suggested she use the cellphone feature “find my iPhone” and told her to “get a life.” She, however, didn’t take his advice. Someone can be heard calling for security in the video, at which point the woman appears to step out of the camera’s view then back in front of the viewpoint. “No, I’m not letting him walk away with my phone,” she said. 

Categories: Politics

The right runs on outrage, the left lives for humor: An interview with Emily Epstein White

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 15:00

Outrage has its uses. Sometimes it is deeply deserved, as when focused on police violence against people of color. It can also be abused, as when right-wing hosts broil their audience in daily outrage over such important topics as someone choosing a fancy condiment

But after four years that seem to have been all about outrage, it’s good to remember that the emotional palate includes other flavors. There are such things as hopefulness. And empathy. And wonder. There is also humor, which can itself run a wide gamut from the most acidic of sarcasm to the most buoyant farce. You may not be aware—because we don’t talk about it—but Daily Kos is hiding a “celebrity” in our ranks. Our own humor aficionado. Because copy editor Emily Epstein White is also stand-up comic Emily Epstein White. And instead of just correcting everyone else’s words, today she’s going to share some of her own about humor and its place in communicating political ideas.

Categories: Politics

Watch Fauci get brutally honest about the possibility of a 'post-seasonal surge' as virus roars

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 14:15

As the nation continues to face the novel coronavirus pandemic, President-elect Joe Biden recently warned the American public that darker days might still rest ahead of us in spite of leaps forward with the vaccine. Why? Well, the message this holiday season was, essentially, to stay home and stay safe. So what did people do? According to recent data, people, apparently, headed to the airport. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who has been trying to steer the public in the right direction in spite of the Trump administration’s floundering, chatted with host Dana Bash about his concerns about the coming few weeks and what he agrees with Biden about.

“I share the concern of President-elect Biden that as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse,” Fauci stated about the virus during his interview. Let’s unpack why Fauci is worried about a possible surge, his own experience with the vaccine so far, and his recent estimates on herd immunity, and when we might achieve it, below.

Categories: Politics

'I hunt people—it’s a great job': Ohio deputy/pastor brags before killing Casey Goodson Jr.

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 14:05

The Ohio sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed 23-year-old  Casey Goodson Jr. on December 4 was also a pastor who two years earlier bragged to a congregation about being able to “hunt people,”  the Columbus Free Press reported and The Washington Post confirmed.

“I work for the sheriff’s office. . . . I hunt people — it’s a great job, I love it,” Jason Meade told attendees at a 2018 convention of the Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists. “I worked this job 14 years, you know I ain’t never been hit clean in the face one time? It’s a fact. It ain’t ’cause I’m so good. . . . You know why? I learned long ago I gotta throw the first punch. And I learned long ago why I’m justified in throwing the first punch. Don’t look up here like, ‘Oh, police brutality.’ People I hit you wish you could hit, trust me.”

Categories: Politics

Christmas Loot (Open Thread)

Balloon Juice - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 13:50

Did you get any good stuff for Christmas? I received many nice things, including a Waterpik Sonic Fusion thingie that I’d specifically requested from Santa. I’ve never had anything but a regular toothbrush until now, but I despise flossing the old fashioned way, so I figured I’d try the water method. Love it so far, though one has to be careful with the buttons or one can accidentally squirt water all over one’s boobs.

Other stuff I got: a bourbon cake, Florida Gators socks, two very nice bottles of wine and a fancy wine kit, a novelty tea towel, a mask that makes the wearer look like a fox from the nose down, several books, flannel pajamas, several Hot Wheels cars, truffle salt, and fancy honey. Overall, a nice haul.

It was the coldest Christmas we’ve had in a while; it was down to 28 degrees F a couple of mornings in a row, but it’s supposed to warm back up tomorrow, thank dog. Open thread!

The post Christmas Loot (Open Thread) appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Over a dozen hate groups got PPP loans totaling $4.3 million, analysis reveals

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 13:30

A Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that has promulgated anti-immigrant propaganda titled “The fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers” (I’m not going to link to it) received more than $680,000 in funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, an NBC News analysis has found (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.)

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and more than a dozen other designated hate groups in fact received a total of $4.3 million in funds—even as families have continued to remain without direct relief, aside from one lousy check. In FAIR’s case, it received $683,680 in relief as its also advocated punishing immigrant families through policies like the “public charge” rule. Help for me, none for thee.

Categories: Politics

The disturbing images of the COVID-19 pandemic that Americans never saw

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 13:17

For many Americans, the human impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which thus far has killed 340,000 (or about one in every 1,000) U.S. citizens, has still been a somewhat abstract exercise in interpreting numbers and percentages.

We read the daily death tolls, watching as the numbers go up and down. As the days pass, we hear more and more about hospitals and ICU units strained beyond capacity. Then, as the months pass, first a distant relative, then a much closer one, then a work colleague, and finally someone from our immediate family falls ill with this virus. We see heartrending anecdotes posted among our social media contacts and we wring our hands when one of our friends tests positive, sending our best wishes and prayers, perhaps unconsciously thanking our own good fortune or God or whoever else we choose to thank that we haven’t caught this thing yet.

Categories: Politics

#SongsOfComfort: Yo-Yo Ma and Angélique Kidjo, "Blewu"

Little Green Footballs - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 13:11

I’m grateful not only for music’s comfort, but for its connections. I heard my friend Angélique Kidjo sing “Blewu” — a dirge for the dead and an anthem of thanks — almost two years ago, and it’s never left me. This is for those we have lost and for those who risk their lives so we don’t lose more.

“Blewu,” based on a traditional Ewe song, composed by Bella Bellow #songsofcomfort

This video was originally released on April 21, 2020, as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s #SongsOfComfort project, which was launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide comfort in a time of anxiety and fear. The project inspired thousands of people around the world to upload their own songs of comfort in the months that followed.

Categories: Politics

A Pandemic Guide to Anime

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 13:09

Hello, pandemic stay-homers. Are you bored? Have you seen literally everything American networks and studios produced in the last five years, including the terrible things, and including the things even more awful than those? Are you fighting to keep yourself from acquiring new hobbies that will cause you to spend thousands of dollars you don't have to fill your home with hundreds of things you don't have room for? Not a gaming fan? Not into sports, much less reruns of sports?

You could do worse than trying a bit easy-to-digest foreign culture, right? Probably. Usually. Maybe it will be your cup of tea; maybe it won't, and that's fine too. If American television has been seeing a bit of an animation revival, albeit in sporadic fits and starts, it's due in at least some part to the influence of Japanese animated shows and movies. That’s not to say that the Japanese market hasn’t seen its share of stagnation and trope-entrapment itself, mind you, but in the United States the medium has descended from the more-adult-oriented-than-it-now-looks spectacle of an early Flintstones to a three-tiered system that struggles to produce anything not (1) specifically geared towards young children, (2) the "edgy" or not so edgy sitcom formats of The Simpsons, Family Guy, or South Park, or (3) the Disney "event" movies.

Categories: Politics

Black man left to die by cop who shot him in Columbus, mayor says

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 12:58

Three days before Christmas, a Black father was shot and killed at the hands of an Ohio police officer and left bleeding without aid for more than five minutes. The grave offense the man later identified as Andre Hill was accused of was being too close to a car reportedly being cut on and off in the area, Columbus authorities told reporters. Officer Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department, shot Hill while Coy’s body-camera was off. The officer didn’t turn it on until after the shooting, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a press conference Wednesday. Coy was initially relieved of duty and stripped of his badge, gun, and police powers, and Ginther called for the officer’s termination during the press conference. The mayor also called Hill’s death an “unexplainable loss.”

“The call for service early yesterday morning was a non-emergency call from a neighbor, not a 911 call, about a car on the street that was being turned on and off,” Ginther said. Residents in the area knew Hill on the street where his car was parked, and he was an “expected guest,” the mayor said. “He was not an intruder,” Ginther said.

Categories: Politics

Remember airlines planned to keep middle seats open? Not as much anymore despite COVID-19 spike

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 12:00

By now, most major cities have anticipated a spike in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, and many are already seeing signs of the “surge upon surge” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the nation about. The number of travelers who flew the Wednesday before Christmas Eve broke a pandemic record at 1.19 million, and that happened while hospital occupancy topped 90% in 126 countries and in Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been recommending families stay home. "As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you,” the agency said. City leaders have echoed that advice. "I believe the COVID rate will increase. Just as I believe most New Yorkers will put on weight," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "The only question is how much and how fast, and nobody knows."

Still, many airlines are using the same seven-page study to justify backing away from earlier policies to keep middle seats open to protect customers. That study’s recommendations, however, leave quite a bit of room for error. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health only concluded that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 on a plane reduces to “very low levels” when a combination of control measures are embraced. One of those measures is that passengers wear their masks. Another is that airlines “admit limited numbers of passengers on the plane at one time and in row-by-row sequence.” So basically if there’s no human error, we should all be fine. The more realistic airlines have accounted for the contrary. 

Categories: Politics

What will you take away from 2020?

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 11:59

In thinking about how to describe 2020, I’m reminded of a TV show that compared all of the events over the course of an awful year in an effort to make sense of it. History books tell us the year 1937 was not a good one for the people of Earth. Japan invaded China, leading to numerous atrocities including the Nanjing Massacre. Tens of thousands died as Francisco Franco began to turn the tide in his favor during the Spanish Civil War. The Buchenwald concentration camp opened, joining others already operating in Europe. In the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared one-third of the country was “ill-housed, ill-clad, (and) ill-nourished.”

Yet in 1937, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was published. The Golden Gate Bridge opened. Pablo Picasso painted Guernica. Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Dr. Seuss found a publisher for his first book. This is not to say that steel edifices and works of art balance out genocide and extreme poverty. But it does offer proof that even in the worst circumstances, in the very darkest of times, there can be moments that exhibit the best aspects of humanity and exist as dreams right alongside the terrors. 2020 was no different.

Categories: Politics

Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: December 26 Update

Kevin Drum - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 10:48

Here’s the officially reported coronavirus death toll through December 26. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.

Categories: Politics

A breakdown of all 126 seditious Republicans who signed on for a coup d'état

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 10:30

When Texas sued to overturn four other states’ election results in the hopes of installing illegitimate, two-time popular vote loser, and white supremacist mediocrity Donald Trump into a second presidential term, they exposed how many elected officials are straight-up wannabe oligarchs. The fact that even in the upside-down world we are living in, with the hijacked ultra conservative Supreme Court in place, most everybody knew there was little chance of the Supreme Court stepping in and hearing the case, which should tip one off to how far afield this maneuver is. It’s the kind of thing that most people would rather not put their name on since it is the sort of thing people should go to jail for—if laws concerning sedition and treason are real laws.

Many of the people on this list came into office during the tea party wave of 2010. If you don’t remember what the tea party is, it’s sort of like if you looked at the American Revolution for independence and democracy and your takeaway was … being a racist asshole. Another way to look at it is if you looked at the Civil War in the United States and boiled it down to … being a racist asshole. Let’s make sure we remember the 126 fascists who signed on for this attack on American democracy, and maybe even learn a smidgen more about them and their histories of being terrible people. A tip of the hat goes to community members republicinsanity and Carmeninvermont—republicinsanity for the Crazy/Stupid Republican of the Day series that is frequently sourced here, and Carmeninvermont for the easy-to-read and understand list of GOP anti-democracy Republicans who want to overthrow our elections process in order to hoist up the most mediocre man in American history.

Categories: Politics

Spend some holiday Black music family time with Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers

Daily Kos - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 09:00

During this holiday season, many of us cannot gather together with family and friends due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Some of us will be spending time alone, missing those we’ve either lost or who are far away.

Holidays have always been a family affair, and it made me think about musicians who are family; brothers and sisters, parents and cousins who have brought us so much soulful family magic over the years. This #BlackMusicSunday, join me in celebrating one of my favorite musical families: the Staples Singers and the woman who has carried their message forward: Mavis Staples. I want to also thank the family of readers and music lovers who have sustained and participated in this series since it started in April of 2020, as we move into 2021.

Categories: Politics

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: White Flowers for the Season

Balloon Juice - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 06:22

 White Flowers for the Season

More loveliness from commentor Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson):

For your enjoyment, here is a small selection of white flowers while you ignore the blizzard outside. They are all from our garden in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania and are from the last few years.

Looking back at pictures from recent summers is something I like really to do at this time of year and it helps me get through the short, dark winter days to spend time remembering the flowers of spring and summer. Also it makes me really look forward to something beyond the next few snowy months!

So, when Anne Laurie said she was about out of pictures for Sunday Garden Chats I thought it was about time I got my act together to share some pics of our garden with you all. We have just a little over an acre and it isn’t all native plants, but we do have a lot and that has been our focus over the last 25 (of the 35) years we’ve lived here. So here we go…..

The first two species are members of the one fragment of what used to be the Lily Family (sensu lato) and are now part of a more distant lineage the Melianthaceae. One characteristic of this family is nectar or sap that is toxic to some insects. The best-known plant in the family with this character is Fly-poison (Amianthemum muscitoxicum). Another character I like with these lovely white flowers is that after pollination the petals* don’t wither and fall, they just turn green with chlorophyll and start photosynthesizing!

(*or tepals as botanists call them in families where petals and sepals look the same)

 White Flowers for A White Winter
Common Featherbell (Stenanthemum graminium)

This Common Featherbell bloomed in our garden this summer — it was the first time I’ve ever seen this lovely flower as it doesn’t grow in eastern PA. It is found in the mountains of W. PA and south.

 White Flowers for A White Winter 1
(Also top pic) Virginia Bunchflower (Melianthemum virginigum syn. Veratrum virginicum)

Its cousin, Virginia Bunchflower is a plant of circum-neutral soils and grows in damp meadows on limestone or trap rock (diabase) soils. I know of three places where it grows within 25 miles of our house, but it only blooms regularly in the one that is a powerline right-of-way in full sun. The other two populations are in shady woods and only occasionally have a flower when a tree falls and allows some extra sunlight through the canopy of leaves to the hit the ground. We grow it in our rain garden and it loves it there.

 White Flowers for the Season 3

 White Flowers for the Season 4

Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) is also a damp or wet meadow plant, but it isn’t fussy in the garden where ordinary soil conditions are fine. The flowers may be white as in these pics or lavender in hue. Bumble bees love them either way!

I’m not sure of the origin of this species common epithet, but I assume it is from herbal use by a Mr. or Mrs. Culver in colonial days. Several large clumps of this species grace our front yard meadow and hold their own with the tall asters, grasses and rosin-weeds.

 White Flowers for the Season 2

 White Flowers for the Season 1
Declined Trillium ex. Susquehanna (Trillium flexipes)

Growing Trilliums from seed is something I’ve been doing for over 20 years, and it’s fortunate I started when I was younger, as it takes about seven years to get from seeds sprouting to flowering plants in this wonderful genus.

Many people are familiar with the Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) and I could share hundreds of photos of that beautiful species, but I felt maybe another less common, but equally pretty species deserved a little time in the spotlight. This is a plant we grew from seed from a population to the south of us along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.

The population of Trilliums in the Susquehanna River valley have been confusing botanists for over a century. They are apparently a hybrid swarm with the two parent species being the white-flowered Declined (or Drooping) trillium and the more upright and red-flowered Ill-scented Trillium (Trillium erectum) resulting in what botanists now call a “population with a reticulated phylogeny”. The plants can have a mixture of characters between the two parent species. This plant in our garden has the white flowers and large white ovary of T. flexipes but is upright like its T. erectum ancestors and not drooping at all. It and its siblings are excellent every April in our woodland gardens and we are glad they are happy here! I do have to give them a little bit of crushed eggshells or pelletized dolomite every year so they get enough calcium which is lacking in the very acid sandstone-derived soil here in our yard.

 White Flowers for the Season 5

Starry Campion (Silene stellata) a summer star rather than a Christmas star. This lovely native woodland flower seems to prefer sandy soils. The flower petals may wilt on a hot summer afternoon, but the revive every morning.

2020 was also the first year we had this nice summer flower bloom in our yard. It was grown from a few seeds sown about two years earlier that came from a local population. I’m looking forward to how they will do as more mature plants next summer.

The post Sunday Morning Garden Chat: White Flowers for the Season appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

New Music From Crowded House: "Whatever You Want" (Live From Home)

Little Green Footballs - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:38

Crowded House perform “Whatever You Want” live from home.
Stream | Buy the song here:
See Crowded House on their New Zealand “To the Island” Tour March 2021:

Crowded House is Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Mitchell Froom, Liam Finn and Elroy Finn.


Follow Crowded House:

Some people will tell you
Whatever you want
Whatever you want
You got em well trained now

People will tell you
Whatever you want
Whatever you want
They dare not complain

Every night and every day
Some will fall upon their swords
In order that
They might serve the greater good
But don’t believe a word of it

People will tell you
Whatever you want
Whatever you want
You got em well trained now
Some people will tell you
Whatever you want
Whatever you want
They dare not complain
As crazy as a king
As bent as a snake
There are some things they will never ever say
And people will tell you whatever you want
Whatever you want
To keep you in your place

Hear the lying every day
I see the same expressions on them
How they long to speak their mind
But something always stops them dead
Should be shouting from the mountain
At their top of their voice
This is not right, this man is a fake
But they will follow him down to the edge of the cliff
And if he tells them to jump,
They will jump right in

Some people will tell you
Whatever you want
Whatever you want
You got em well trained now
Whatever you want

You raise your hand
And they respond
And they will tell you
Whatever you want

#CrowdedHouse #WhateverYouWant

An EMI Recorded Music Australia Production © 2020 Lester Records Ltd, under exclusive license to Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.

Categories: Politics

The Nashville, Tennessee RV Bombing

Balloon Juice - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:26

I’ve been waiting to see what, if any, new information was going to be reported on the RV bombing in Nashville yesterday morning before doing a post. Very little factually useful information has been reported so far. Earlier today I put together a preliminary assessment for a close friend who is a supervisory patrol officer in the police department he works for. This is the same guy I’ve mentioned in comments before who I teach martial arts with and who used to be that department’s SWAT team leader and sniper. I’m going to copy and paste a slightly modified version of that assessment below for you. It had three parts and I’m going to actually start with what was part two of the assessment, follow it with part three, and then finish with part one.

The second thing that stands out to me is that I’ve so far not seen anyone report that someone has taken responsibility. There is no reporting that a manifesto was posted on one of the chan boards or somewhere else. If this was someone like the New Zealand shooter – an extreme rightist who is heavily involved in the online extreme right shitposting and trolling communities – I’d have expected a manifesto to have been posted, highlighted, and reported on by now. If this was an extremist politicized Islamic based attack, I’d have expected one of the obvious groups to have taken credit by now. As of 1:15 PM EST on 26 DEC, neither of those have taken place. This leads me to worry that we’ve got one of two potential types of perpetrators. Either someone more similar to Eric Robert Rudolph – long radicalized and indoctrinated, with a very detailed set of grievances, good impulse control, and the ability to operate in ways that do not require a lot of attention to himself – or someone with a very specific grievance against one of the businesses or companies in the building adjacent to where the RV was parked or the building’s owner. AT&T does have a major data processing center there, but they’re not the only company in that building.

The third thing has less to do with the bombing and more to do with how the news media covers this stuff. By mid afternoon CBS’s Homeland Security correspondent wasn’t just tweeting that the Nashville Police and the FBI had a “person of interest”*, but was also tweeting the guy’s name and a description of him. This was followed shortly by a bunch of other people tweeting pictures of the guy’s house. In over 20 years – since that idiot profiler Clint Van Zandt*** misidentified Richard Jewel as the Centennial Park bomber, which allowed the news media to focus on the wrong person letting Rudolph get away and continue his terrorism campaign for seven more years – the news media hasn’t been able to learn not to run with initial details that may have no actual significance to the events they’re covering. In this case the immediate connection is that the person that law enforcement wanted to talk to had a RV similar to the one used in the bombing parked at his house for a couple of weeks. So did one of my neighbors. The fact that the RV my neighbors rented or borrowed for a camping trip is no longer in their driveway DOES NOT MEAN THEY BLEW UP A STREET IN NASHVILLE ON CHRISTMAS MORNING!!!!!! 

While the BBC is carefully reporting that the FBI thinks, at this time, that it may have been a suicide bombing because of the human remains found at the bomb site, and that the FBI is not looking for anyone else at this time, it still does not mean that is a final assessment. And the fact that Catherine Herridge of CBS is tweeting that this is the leading theory is meaningless. Herridge couldn’t accurately report on what she had for breakfast or which shoes she is currently wearing. Why CBS decided it was a good idea to hire a hard right reporter with a sweet tooth for every silly conspiracy theory that emerges from the conservative digital and social media ecosystem away from Fox News is beyond me. Regardless, once they get the DNA back from the remains found at the bomb site they’ll know if their current working theory is accurate or if they are back to square one. Of course this assumes that someone didn’t kill the person whose home they searched earlier today in order to steal the guy’s RV and left the body in the RV so that it would appear to be a suicide bombing, which would allow the actual perpetrator or perpetrators to get away. I think that’s less likely, but it is still a possibility.

And now we get to the first part of the assessment. Before I went to work for the Army, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on domestic terrorism in the US. While there was a complete empirical theory I built out of existing criminological, political science, and sociological theories and then tested it statistically, there were also three case studies to qualify what had been quantified. The primary of those three case studies was Eric Robert Rudolph. In the findings, I then contrasted what we were seeing domestically with examples of terrorism in other nation-states by what we would call foreign non-state actors. This comparison of domestic and foreign extremists and the terrorism they were undertaking was the focus of my work until I went to work for the Army five years later.

Right now we’ve got two things that stand out, given that there’s been very little new news since late yesterday afternoon/early evening. The first is the use of the warning, as well as what appear to be strings of gunfire broadcast before the warning and count down. Rudolph was one of the first domestic terrorists in the US to use warnings before his bombings. By one of the first, I specifically mean the first on the extreme right. Rudolph’s behavioral drivers were rooted in the fact that he was a religiously motivated racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, anti-feminist, anti-government xenophobe. Rudolph had been raised in – indoctrinated and radicalized from the time he was child – the Christian Identity movement and the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The Church of Jesus Christ Christian is the religious arm/component of the Aryan Nations. It provides the theology and dogma in teaching and preaching not just for the Aryan Nations, but several other extreme right movements in the US. Its core theology and doctrine** is an extreme, violent, racist, and rigid version of charismatic Pentecostalism that was fused with the British Israelitism/Anglo Isrealitism theology that had bounced around England and the US since the Victorian period. Woodrow Wilson was an Anglo Israelite, so this wasn’t something that was just on the extreme fringes of American Christianity. Decades after Wilson’s presidency and death, in the early post WW II period, Anglo Israelitism was fused with a white, segregationist charismatic Pentacostalism and that gave us the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. And while the Aryan Nations is now little more than the name and several different men fighting over who has the right to it in an attempt to grift off of it these days, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian is still active. Small compared to other evangelical and charismatic sects of American Christianity, but active.

Rudolph’s terrorism was rooted in a solid blend of extreme right and extreme religious, in this case charismatic Protestant ideas, theologies, ideologies, and dogmas. Just like those of the directly tied to the Aryan Nations Order I and Order II. As we all as the anti-government behavior of the Weavers – specifically Vicki Weaver as she was the actual driver of her and her husband’s anti-government, racist, and anti-Semitic behavior as she was both the brains in the family and the one who had fervently adopted the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian and pulled Randi into it. Rudolph was also tied into the Army of God, which also existed then and what’s left of it exists now in this nexus of far right and religious Christian extremism in the US. But what makes Rudolph important here is his use of issuing warnings before his bombs would go off.

Prior to Rudolph this tactic had been used solely by extreme left terrorists. Specifically, because these groups were partially or totally Marxist in their ideologies. They wanted their violence to inspire a popular or proletarian revolution to sweep away what is and establish a new socialist state and society. Even the groups that were anti-colonialist and nationalists – like the IRA – were also partially or wholly Marxist in their ideology. And since they wanted to inspire a popular uprising, they couldn’t be indiscriminately killing the populace that they needed to motivate willy nilly. So they tried to carefully target – kidnap the right official or elite or notable, assassinate the right official or elite or notable, blow up a building or structure that is a symbol of the tyranny of the elites and notables – without causing mass casualties. If you just use Northern Ireland as the case study, if you look at violence coming from the Catholic independence groups like the IRA, the PIRA, INLA (what were originally called the Republicans because they wanted Northern Ireland to be rejoined to the Irish Republic) before a lot of them devolved into organized crime groups, they were very careful in who they killed and what they blew up. The casualty and death tallies for their groups is comparatively low. When you pull the numbers for the Protestant loyalist groups, both those that wanted to just remain in the UK and those that got fed up with Britain and believed it was betraying them to the Irish Catholics and also targeted British officials, the casualty and kill numbers for their attacks are through the roof. While the Catholic independence groups would call in a bomb threat so they could symbolically blow up a building once everyone had been evacuated, the Protestant loyalist groups would just blow it up. They’d kill a building full of Protestants if it allowed them to kill their lone Catholic target. And this pattern – that extreme left terrorists were much more discriminating in their targeting, while extreme right, extreme religious, and extreme right and religious terrorists were not discriminating at all – holds all over the world.

Since Rudolph, the tactic of calling in a warning or providing one has become commonplace on the extreme right in the US. Just working from memory, I’m almost 100% positive that it was actually included in a revision to the Army of God manual. What Rudolph did in adapting this tactic was to use it not to get people out of the way so few if any were hurt in his symbolic violence intended to motivate the masses to rise up, but rather to draw law enforcement and first responders, the news media, and others into the kill zone. This tactic has now been used dozens of times over the past 20 years or so as we’ve seen an increase in extreme right domestic terrorism in the US.

And now we continue to wait for more information to be released. Right now we have no idea if this is domestic terrorism or someone angry at one of the businesses in the building adjacent to where the RV was parked or the owner of the building or someone hoping to commit suicide by cop or someone hoping to draw in law enforcement and first responders and commit a mass casualty suicide attack. What we do know, unfortunately, is that these things have a tendency to spawn copycat attacks. And that is what law enforcement needs to keep an eye out for right now.

Open thread!

* I’ll let Ken White explain the problem with the use of person of interest, which law enforcement only started to use after the TV show became popular.

** Christian Identity theology, which is the core of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian’s theology, dogma, and doctrine is a combination of two things. The first is that the 10 lost tribes of Israel were not lost. Rather they sailed out of the Mediterranean, up the coast of Europe, down the Thames, and established the ancient city of Londinium, which is where the modern London is situated. There they reestablished themselves and started the Anglo-Saxon race. As such, Anglo-Saxons (read this as white European people) are the real Chosen People, not the Jews. Christian Identity takes this and adds a racist and anti-Semitic component. Specifically that the Jews are really the children of Satan, which is derived from the Jews being a “synagogue of Satan” mentioned in one of Paul’s epistles. Existence is a fight between the real Chosen People and the Jews and it is hard to distinguish them because only people who can blush – white people – are the real Chosen People and really have souls. Since Jews present as white and can blush, they are able to trick those not in the know. Anyhow, according to Christian Identity the Satanic Jews and their soulless minions – Africans/people of African descent, Asians/people of Asian descent, Hispanics/people of Hispanic descent and people of mixed ethnicities, which the Christian Identity folks call “mud people” seek to take over the world and rule on behalf of Satan. This all departs from traditional Anglo-Israelitism, which included the whole ten lost tribes thing, but recognized Jews as still part of the Chosen People, just not pure blood anymore, leading to a sort of bizarre antagonistic and hostile to Jews philo-Semitism by the English and then American elites who held these views, like Woodrow Wilson. The final component of Christian identity is a racialized, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and nativist/xenophobic version of charismatic evangelicalsim/Pentacostalism. The seminal work on all of this is Michael Barkun’s Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement.

*** Van Zandt so screwed this up that in May 2003 he was still blaming Jewell. On the Sunday morning TV talk fests! I was attending the XL Senior Conference at the US Military Academy in May 2003 as an invited guest and participant. It was the kickoff for the newly opened Combatting Terrorism Center, which I had a small involvement with as it was being set up. They had just arrested Rudolph as the conference was starting and we all had some fun talking about Van Zandt’s appearance on one of the Sunday news shows blaming Jewell for the fact that it took seven more years to catch Rudolph because Jewell had made himself such an appealing suspect that just fit every different assumption in Van Zandt’s profile. So it was Jewell’s fault, not Van Zandt’s that Rudolph was at large and active for seven more years. This was then, as it is now, a load of bullshit. Van Zandt is a moron. Behavioral profiling is a scam. It was a scam at its creation:

On November 16, 1940, workers at the Consolidated Edison building on West Sixty-fourth Street in Manhattan found a homemade pipe bomb on a windowsill. Attached was a note: “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” In September of 1941, a second bomb was found, on Nineteenth Street, just a few blocks from Con Edison’s headquarters, near Union Square. It had been left in the street, wrapped in a sock. A few months later, the New York police received a letter promising to “bring the Con Edison to justice—they will pay for their dastardly deeds.” Sixteen other letters followed, between 1941 and 1946, all written in block letters, many repeating the phrase “dastardly deeds” and all signed with the initials “F.P.” In March of 1950, a third bomb—larger and more powerful than the others—was found on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. The next was left in a phone booth at the New York Public Library. It exploded, as did one placed in a phone booth in Grand Central. In 1954, the Mad Bomber—as he came to be known—struck four times, once in Radio City Music Hall, sending shrapnel throughout the audience. In 1955, he struck six times. The city was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere. Late in 1956, in desperation, Inspector Howard Finney, of the New York City Police Department’s crime laboratory, and two plainclothesmen paid a visit to a psychiatrist by the name of James Brussel.

Brussel was a Freudian. He lived on Twelfth Street, in the West Village, and smoked a pipe. In Mexico, early in his career, he had done counter-espionage work for the F.B.I. He wrote many books, including “Instant Shrink: How to Become an Expert Psychiatrist in Ten Easy Lessons.” Finney put a stack of documents on Brussel’s desk: photographs of unexploded bombs, pictures of devastation, photostats of F.P.’s neatly lettered missives. “I didn’t miss the look in the two plainclothesmen’s eyes,” Brussel writes in his memoir, “Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist.” “I’d seen that look before, most often in the Army, on the faces of hard, old-line, field-grade officers who were sure this newfangled psychiatry business was all nonsense.”

He began to leaf through the case materials. For sixteen years, F.P. had been fixated on the notion that Con Ed had done him some terrible injustice. Clearly, he was clinically paranoid. But paranoia takes some time to develop. F.P. had been bombing since 1940, which suggested that he was now middle-aged. Brussel looked closely at the precise lettering of F.P.’s notes to the police. This was an orderly man. He would be cautious. His work record would be exemplary. Further, the language suggested some degree of education. But there was a stilted quality to the word choice and the phrasing. Con Edison was often referred to as “the Con Edison.” And who still used the expression “dastardly deeds”? F.P. seemed to be foreign-born. Brussel looked closer at the letters, and noticed that all the letters were perfect block capitals, except the “W”s. They were misshapen, like two “U”s. To Brussel’s eye, those “W”s looked like a pair of breasts. He flipped to the crime-scene descriptions. When F.P. planted his bombs in movie theatres, he would slit the underside of the seat with a knife and stuff his explosives into the upholstery. Didn’t that seem like a symbolic act of penetrating a woman, or castrating a man—or perhaps both? F.P. had probably never progressed beyond the Oedipal stage. He was unmarried, a loner. Living with a mother figure. Brussel made another leap. F.P. was a Slav. Just as the use of a garrote would have suggested someone of Mediterranean extraction, the bomb-knife combination struck him as Eastern European. Some of the letters had been posted from Westchester County, but F.P. wouldn’t have mailed the letters from his home town. Still, a number of cities in southeastern Connecticut had a large Slavic population. And didn’t you have to pass through Westchester to get to the city from Connecticut?

Brussel waited a moment, and then, in a scene that has become legendary among criminal profilers, he made a prediction:

“One more thing.” I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to see their reaction. I saw the Bomber: impeccably neat, absolutely proper. A man who would avoid the newer styles of clothing until long custom had made them conservative. I saw him clearly—much more clearly than the facts really warranted. I knew I was letting my imagination get the better of me, but I couldn’t help it.

“One more thing,” I said, my eyes closed tight. “When you catch him—and I have no doubt you will—he’ll be wearing a double-breasted suit.”

“Jesus!” one of the detectives whispered.

“And it will be buttoned,” I said. I opened my eyes. Finney and his men were looking at each other.

“A double-breasted suit,” said the Inspector.




He nodded. Without another word, they left.

A month later, George Metesky was arrested by police in connection with the New York City bombings. His name had been changed from Milauskas. He lived in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his two older sisters. He was unmarried. He was unfailingly neat. He attended Mass regularly. He had been employed by Con Edison from 1929 to 1931, and claimed to have been injured on the job. When he opened the door to the police officers, he said, “I know why you fellows are here. You think I’m the Mad Bomber.” It was midnight, and he was in his pajamas. The police asked that he get dressed. When he returned, his hair was combed into a pompadour and his shoes were newly shined. He was also wearing a double-breasted suit—buttoned.

And it is a scam now!

James Brussel didn’t really see the Mad Bomber in that pile of pictures and photostats, then. That was an illusion. As the literary scholar Donald Foster pointed out in his 2000 book “Author Unknown,” Brussel cleaned up his predictions for his memoirs. He actually told the police to look for the bomber in White Plains, sending the N.Y.P.D.’s bomb unit on a wild goose chase in Westchester County, sifting through local records. Brussel also told the police to look for a man with a facial scar, which Metesky didn’t have. He told them to look for a man with a night job, and Metesky had been largely unemployed since leaving Con Edison in 1931. He told them to look for someone between forty and fifty, and Metesky was over fifty. He told them to look for someone who was an “expert in civil or military ordnance” and the closest Metesky came to that was a brief stint in a machine shop. And Brussel, despite what he wrote in his memoir, never said that the Bomber would be a Slav. He actually told the police to look for a man “born and educated in Germany,” a prediction so far off the mark that the Mad Bomber himself was moved to object. At the height of the police investigation, when the New York Journal American offered to print any communications from the Mad Bomber, Metesky wrote in huffily to say that “the nearest to my being ‘Teutonic’ is that my father boarded a liner in Hamburg for passage to this country—about sixty-five years ago.”

The true hero of the case wasn’t Brussel; it was a woman named Alice Kelly, who had been assigned to go through Con Edison’s personnel files. In January, 1957, she ran across an employee complaint from the early nineteen-thirties: a generator wiper at the Hell Gate plant had been knocked down by a backdraft of hot gases. The worker said that he was injured. The company said that he wasn’t. And in the flood of angry letters from the ex-employee Kelly spotted a threat—to “take justice in my own hands”—that had appeared in one of the Mad Bomber’s letters. The name on the file was George Metesky.

Brussel did not really understand the mind of the Mad Bomber. He seems to have understood only that, if you make a great number of predictions, the ones that were wrong will soon be forgotten, and the ones that turn out to be true will make you famous. The Hedunit is not a triumph of forensic analysis. It’s a party trick.

There’s no criminological, sociological, and/or psychological empirical validity to behavioral profiling. It was bullshit in 1940 and it is bullshit in 2020.

The post The Nashville, Tennessee RV Bombing appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

Saturday Night Owls: A people's agenda for a better economy and a better nation

Daily Kos - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 22:30

Night Owls, a themed open thread, appears at Daily Kos seven days a week


Erik Gunn at The Progressive writes—A People’s Agenda for a Better NationThe Poor People’s Campaign and Congressional Progressive Caucus team up to chart a course for the future:

“Everything you hear tonight resonates with the call of our deepest moral values to establish justice and promote the general welfare, and our deepest religious values to love our neighbors and to lift from the bottom. And everything here, we are willing to fight and push for, because it is not about compromise. It is about deciding the future of this nation will be compromised if we don’t do at least the things that are here in this people’s agenda.”

With those words on December 21, the Reverend William Barber II, the nation’s most prominent progressive preacher, lent his moral authority to a sweeping agenda for governance as the Congressional Progressive Caucus unveiled its priorities for the first six months of the new year. [...]

The Progressive Caucus agenda is the product of more than three dozen participating activist groups, including the Poor People’s Campaign, said caucus chair U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, (Democrat of Washington). Jayapal called it an agenda “that puts people first, centering poor and working people of all races, who have been left out and left behind.” [...]

Categories: Politics