May 12, 2021 / by 

 

Fertile Ground: Lack of Broadband and Disinformation Proliferation

Focusing on infrastructure this week, The Verge published an article Monday about broadband distribution in the U.S., providing a tidy map denoting which counties are not adequately served by high-speed internet.

Do you see what I see? Because it looks really familiar, kind of like this somewhat more granular map published in USAToday:

There are exceptions to my theory, but on the face of it there’s a correlation in most states between broadband access and so-called conservative voters.

Look at these two excerpts side by side:

There may be another corollary, at least in Michigan: the areas with crappy to nonexistent broadband are the ones which were hardest hit by the third wave COVID because there are more anti-mask, anti-lockdown, ‘COVID’s a hoax’ residents on average. Here’s NYT’s national map of COVID hot spots from April 9 (sorry, I didn’t get a zoomed-in image of WI-MI at that time):

Wisconsin is not as obvious a challenge in this map but the lack of broadband and red voters correlates to COVID hot spot region in north Texas.

This map, published by State of Michigan a few weeks earlier into Michigan’s third wave COVID cases, also shows the correlation:

While there are some exceptions like Marquette and Keweenaw Counties (both of which may have been affected by student and faculty populations in state universities) in the Upper Peninsula, the hot spots tracked from March into May the areas with low broadband and red voters.

Do note the one small outlier county near the middle of Wisconsin — that’s Menominee County, which voted blue but has crappy broadband. It’s the least populated of all counties in the state but its roughly 4550 residents are more than 87% Native American. Which means there’s not enough profit for broadband providers, and no ethics or adequate legislation at either state or federal level obligating coverage.

This week’s map of vaccination uptake in Michigan as published by Mlive shows the effect of anti-vaxx disinformation. In spite of horrific case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths in the low broadband Trump-voting areas, vaccine uptake has been slow.

Note the yellow county at the right of the map along Lake Huron; this is in MI-10, an area so pro-Trump that its previous congressional representative retired rather than run for re-election. Also not served adequately by broadband. (Also ripe for manipulation by outside parties like banking and real estate investors; it’s through this county that the new pipeline for water from Lake Huron to Flint was run at considerable expense and time, in spite of the proximity to Saginaw’s water system to the north and Detroit’s to the south.)

Another layer to this onion is the lack of print news media, shown on this Knight Foundation national map:

While that Trump-voting Michigan county of Sanilac on Lake Huron has print media, there’s a correlation between other counties without adequate broadband and low vaccine uptake.

I can’t find a decent map showing broadcast TV and radio coverage but some of the same problematic counties are underserved — most definitely in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the upper portion of Wisconsin. There are concerns about how much of the state is served by Sinclair-owned television stations; they’re not as bad as Fox, but Sinclair owns far too much opportunity to push right-wing friendly content over publicly-owned airwaves.

Granted, there are some additional factors which shape the ideology espoused by persons who are slow to accept vaccination and reject masks. Some of these counties are extremely non-diverse, by which I mean more than 96% non-Hispanic white. Some are more than 55% male.

At least one of the counties in Michigan’s UP leans the other way because its population is older. Ontonagon County’s median age is 52.7 years while Sanilac’s median age is 43.

All of this is to say that the lack of broadband infrastructure serving Americans uniformly leaves them prey to disinformation about existential matters. If they aren’t getting information from a variety of media served up by broadband, AND they don’t have ready access to print media, AND they are likely underserved by broadcasters, they are ripe for whatever media is easiest to access including Facebook and other social media platforms on their cell phones.

~ ~ ~

Now here’s where it gets personal.

I have a family member who lives in a broadband desert, in a Trump-voting rural county. I thought of them immediately when Marcy wrote Radicalized by Trump: A Tale of Two Assault Defendants last week. This family member has written some things my kids won’t share with me (I’m not on Facebook and they are) because what this person has shared is so Trumpy and Qultish.

One of the two defendants Marcy wrote about blamed “Foxitis” for their radicalization. This isn’t the case for this family member because they live in a broadband desert. They may get digital broadcast but this means they aren’t exposed to Fox programming on cable. They don’t have cable, DSL, or wireless internet, only the data they purchase with their cell phone service.

This family member isn’t getting the newspaper, either; they’re not stupid but they’ve never been much of a reader.

Whatever is rotting their brain is coming through their phone, and my kids already know Facebook is one of the social media outlets this family member uses.

Fortunately this same family member isn’t prone to activism and has enough demands on their personal time that they aren’t likely to take off and go to rallies with other Trumpers and Qultists.

But we’re still looking at someone who views any messaging from the state government under Governor Whitmer and the federal government under President Biden with great suspicion and skepticism, to the point where they may resist measures intended to protect them, their family, and their community. The only information they’re getting about either state or federal government is through the filter of their limited social media.

I’m afraid this person’s mind won’t change until they have access to a lot more information from a much broader range of sources. Until they have cheap and easily accessible broadband, they’re going to be lost to disinformation and at continued risk.

This is bad enough — a family member who lives a couple hours away who I’ll have to write off as inaccessible for the near term because they have been poisoned by disinfo.

But this disinfo poisoning managed to affect my household directly.

Friends who are in agriculture suggested purchasing a side of beef soon as they expect meat prices to go up over the next few months. They recommended a processor in one of the counties which was hit hard by the third wave — a processor from whom we haven’t purchased before.

I suggested to my spouse that we try a processor up north who we’ve used in the past. They live in a very rural county which has fared a little better, and we’ve always liked their service.

When my spouse looked into placing an order, he was told they’d just lost two personnel who died of COVID and orders were backlogged.

How the heck do people who process meat for a country store in a county of less than 15,000 people end up dead of COVID?

What else may be hurting, possibly killing these people for lack of adequate, rational information?

I can’t be certain of anything except for not buying my beef there any time soon, and that country store’s location in a county indicated by blue denoting a lack of broadband.


The Day After the Second COVID Mother’s Day

The cards have been opened and read, the flowers admired, the meal not cooked by Mom fussed over and the dishes done. We’ve passed our second Mother’s Day under COVID.

Last Mother’s Day we were still in a state of collective shock and denial about the pandemic.

It had been four months since SARS-CoV-2 had been sequenced, three months since the first outbreak in the U.S., two months since we began to lockdown in earnest. The country’s daily average new case count was less than 200, and we counted deaths in tens of thousands.

As of this now-past Mother’s Day we had lost 581,056 to COVID with 607 deaths reported Saturday, 246 more on Sunday. At least one recent study estimated the true number of deaths due to COVID at 900,000 — more than double the reported number.

Many of those lost were mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be. In the the last several weeks mothers died of COVID after giving birth, having never held their infants.

We’ve lost mothers who will be coolly labeled “excess deaths,” among them a mother and grandmother in my own family who did not seek help in adequate time.

This is not to minimize all the other mothers we’ve lost for a host of usual reasons, including unacceptable increasing maternal mortality in this country, disproportionately affecting women of color.

While we celebrated motherhood yesterday we must remember the day after and here forward not only mothers who aren’t here with us but the families they left behind who may have observed yet another first holiday without their loved one.

We must look after the mothers still with us.

~ ~ ~

Mothers who survived this past year of pandemic have been under incredible pressure; 35 million moms with children at home increased their unpaid care time by 57 million hours as childcare and home schooling fell to them disproportionately. They’re exhausted, tapped out of resources, and fed up with the unrelenting guilt trips about the glory of motherhood on top of the nasty demands from the business world which insists workers are slackers laying about, sucking down unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile the previous shortage of childcare has become catastrophic, in part because many moms who worked as daycare providers and grandmothers who may have provided care for free have gotten sick, developed long COVID, or died.

What daycare remains open is increasingly expensive — in 2019 the average cost for an infant and a preschool child was $22,000 a year — and moms who earn minimum wage may not be able to afford care depending on whether they are eligible for any state or federal aid.

Hourly tipped workers whose workplaces have limited capacity due to COVID restrictions may not earn enough tips — they certainly can’t make enough on their base wages which in 18 states and Washington DC doesn’t reach $2.50 an hour.

What happens when an outbreak happens and schools need to rapidly change to remote learning? Moms drop everything and end up at home to care for their kids, needing to drop work hours and shifts or quit altogether. Far too many mothers can’t get paid time off let alone unpaid time off to address their children’s needs even when there isn’t a pandemic; it’s worse during COVID because there are so few alternatives to simply quitting when there’s no backup care provider.

If we truly want to do something meaningful and of real use for mothers in this country, we need to do more than send cards and flowers. We need to deliver for them the remaining 364 days a year.

Moms need:

– A living wage beginning with $15 an hour for all minimum wage workers;

– Health care for all, not just insurance for some;

– A comprehensive program helping to meet the needs of new parents, persons with serious personal or family health challenges, providing paid leave (see the FAMILY Act);

– Establish a national paid sick days standard (see the Healthy Families Act);

– Establish a national childcare program to expand availability and at prices based on income, beginning with the Child Care for Working Families Act;

– Integrate the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act into a national childcare program so that children do not have to be shuttled from daycare to preschool essential to preparation for K-12 education;

– Care for working mothers-to-be with passage of the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, which protects pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodation, prevents retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation, and prevents pregnant women from being forced to take leave, paid or unpaid, if reasonable accommodation is available;

– Address the massive economic losses sustained disproportionately by women during the pandemic, a considerable percentage of which are mothers.

Both the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act were introduced in 2019 but ended up shuttled off to die in committee. The FAMILY Act has been resubmitted and needs to passed if we are to successfully recover from this pandemic without further sacrifice on the part of mothers.

The Healthy Families Act does not appear to have been re-introduced yet under the 117th Congress (at least no bill comes up for this term under that name).

The Child Care for Working Families Act was re-introduced in April in both houses of Congress after failing to pass under the 116th Congress.

Senators Wyden and Warren introduced the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act last month.

The Pregnant Worker Fairness Act has already been approved by the House Education and Labor Committee as of March 24; it has wide, bipartisan support and needs to be passed ASAP before any more pregnant workers are forced out of their jobs without reasonable accommodation.

~ ~ ~

You made your phone call to the mothers in your life yesterday to tell them you care. Now make the calls to your representatives in Congress to follow through and insist they take action to pass the legislation to help mothers and grandmothers, and mothers-to-be.

Don’t just talk, do the walk.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot.


India’s COVID Surge: The Curious Facets of U.S. Response

The volume and tenor of pleas for help escalated to new heights this past week as India was engulfed in the pandemic.

You’ve likely seen images of numerous funeral pyres and many graves along with sick outside overfull hospitals.

Apart from the pyres, it looks like Wuhan in January 2020, the U.S. in March 2020, and Brazil at the end of this March.

And yet there is something really wrong here, very off. The case counts and deaths are truths which can’t be escaped but the insistence the U.S. somehow is failing to meet India’s needs is off base.

~ ~ ~

All that’s left of a couple thousand word post I wrote and wrote, and  then rewrote over the last several days is what remains above.

The situation over this past weekend changed rapidly, thought the angry ranting at the U.S. and Big Pharma never let up.

The Biden administration issued a couple of statements between Sunday and Monday about the steps it would take to aid India, which included COVID testing kits, PPE, oxygen, therapeutics for treatment, raw materials for vaccine production, and funding to ramp up capacity of India’s own vaccine producer, BioE.

The media did its usual weak sauce reporting.

Not a single outlet noted extremely curious facets about the Biden administration’s outreach to India:

• U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his counterpart, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval this weekend;

• There are no reports of Prime Minister Mahendra Modi contacting Biden to ask for help though they have spoken in the last 24 hours (perhaps as recently as this morning Eastern Time);

• There was scant coverage of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks at least a week ago with his counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, regarding COVID and vaccines.

Why did the National Security Adviser play such a big role, with the White House statement issued by NSC office?

~ ~ ~

In the mean time invective against the Biden administration and Big Pharma has continued, some of it based in what looks like weak and less-than-thorough reporting.

Claims that Big Pharma has decided profits come before the lives of India’s people follow reports that Big Pharma refused to give India patents or transfer intellectual property.

Except that Big Pharma is represented in India by AstraZeneca, which is making their adenovirus-vector vaccine in country. It’s the same vaccine which has been used in Europe, and is still in FDA safety review here.

India also has its own Big Pharma in Bharat Biotech, which has developed Covaxin vaccine in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The vaccine left Phase 3 trials in early January.

Yet intelligent people continue to harangue the U.S. and Big Pharma about their refusal to help India with the IP needed for licensing. They retweet stuff like this:

The account that wrote this was opened only weeks ago in January 2021. There’s almost nothing in its profile to suggest this is a human with credible background education or experience; the account hasn’t been validated by Twitter. Note the number of times this has been shared by retweet or quote tweet, yet the majority of roughly 6000 tweets by this account are about pop culture.

This is the kind of social media content which ramped up tension around U.S. response to India’s ongoing COVID surge and continues to do so because it remains uncontested.

The issue the tweet focused on was vaccine manufacturers’ request for indemnification by countries which use its vaccine or licensing to manufacture vaccines. How odd that an account tweeting about beauty products and the Kardashians chose to phrase indemnification this way.

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons the U.S. National Security Adviser may be involved is the lack of an effective top-level response by India’s government to the surge. From Reuters via Yahoo:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s government has decided to leave the import of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a decision that may slow acquisitions of shots as a second wave of the pandemic rips through the country.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing purchases from them. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for vaccine doses.

Under fire for his uneven handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 surge, Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults from next month but supplies are already running short.

Negotiations between countries on exports/imports are usually handled by their state departments or external affairs and not at lower state/province level. What amounts to the transfer of technology between a nation and individual states is a security risk, let alone problematic for individual pharmaceutical companies.

This is likely why the initial agreement between the U.S. and India’s national security advisers addressed shipment of supplies and other support but not vaccines, technology, or licensing.

It surely didn’t encourage the Biden administration to see how badly Modi has bungled handling the pandemic:

In late January, Modi indulged in a smarter version of Trump’s March 10, 2020 remark, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda Summit, PM Modi said India has beaten all odds to battle the pandemic. “When Covid-19 arrived, India had its share of problems. At the beginning of last year, several experts and organizations had made several predictions that India would be most affected by the pandemic. Someone had even said that 700-800 million would be infected and someone had said that over two million Indians would die from the pandemic. Looking at the condition of countries with better health infrastructure, the world was right in worrying about us,” he said.

“India, however, took a proactive public participation approach and developed a Covid-specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight Covid,” the PM added.

This was a mere 12 weeks ago; it was complete hogwash and hardly the stuff needed to instill confidence. India’s situation deteriorated greatly after Davos because Modi failed to take any effective measures to mitigate COVID’s spread in advance of a weeks-long major religious holiday, the Hindu observation of Kumbh Mela.

Nor has it helped develop trust in Modi and his government when they have demanded Twitter hide tweets critical of Modi’s COVID response from Indian public view.

Faith in the individual Indian states is tenuous at best; there are far too many anecdotes about state governments lying about COVID response and health care resources.

This is an insane level of denial:

Amid reports of patients and hospitals struggling to find and maintain oxygen supply, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of individuals who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”.

Mr. Adityanath asserted that there was no shortage of oxygen supply in any COVID-19 hospital – private or government-run – but that the actual problem was blackmarketing and hoarding.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is expending more resources on suppressing “rumours” than on demonstrating to the public there is ample oxygen and other resources for COVID therapy.

~ ~ ~

This level of narcissism, gross incompetence, and denial in another country’s leadership isn’t something the U.S. can fix. Obviously the U.S. is still struggling with cleaning up after its own run-in with a white nationalist populist who was narcissistic and grossly incompetent as well as corrupt.

We’re still playing catch up because the Trump administration obstructed a peaceful and efficient transition, what with Trumpist GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refusing to turn over the keys to Biden’s team after the election. We’re not as far along as we should be with vaccinating the public because there was no federal COVID program when Biden was inaugurated and insufficient amounts of vaccine had been ordered by Trump.

Not to mention the January 6 attempt to overthrow the government and the Big Lie which continues to interfere with outstanding transition issues.

But the U.S. somehow bears some responsibility for the mounting disaster in India?

Otherwise smart people are trashing both the U.S. and their own cred with demands to remedy Modi’s manifold failures; others insist immediate action in spite of global inaction for decades on pandemic preparedness.

Where was all this concern when Trump killed the pandemic monitoring program instituted under Obama?

Where is the awareness of the security risks posed by a failing state like India, which already has patents?

~ ~ ~

There’s one more element in this mix which may explain the presence of the National Security Adviser in the aid offering to India.

Granted, I’m not certain how to get a handle on the risk involved, but some of the intellectual property and technology isn’t as benign as a Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper or an Easy-Bake Oven. It can be militarized and its output weaponized.

When talking about some of the COVID vaccines, we’re talking about development which began as military programs. Research for adenovirus-vector vaccines now used against COVID began in the 1950s inside the Defense Department; a vaccine was developed and distributed to military personnel for more than two decades to prevent acute respiratory disease associated with adenovirus infections. This vaccine didn’t become part of the scheduled vaccines American civilians receive, just as they didn’t receive anthrax vaccines.

How much of the limitations we have seen tossed around in social media, attributed to Big Pharma greed, are really carefully parsed concerns about the potential for the vaccine IP and technology to be acquired by hostile entities for weaponization?

Can we really blame any legitimate pharmaceutical company for expecting indemnification against the misuse of their product, IP, or technology considering this kind of exposure? Let alone the potential claims against them for extremely rare side effects which may be worsened by incompetence in treatment, ex. treating unusual clotting events with blood thinners which may exacerbate the clotting.

But this goes to the lack of global systemic preparedness for pandemic. It’s a global problem, not one for which the U.S. bears sole responsibility.

Imagine the possible blowback from questionable social media accounts with negligible provenance should the U.S. under the Biden administration choose to arbitrarily “Free the patents!” as so many demanded this past week over social media, without due diligence about the security risks these new vaccine technologies pose.

This pandemic requires us to imagine this and a lot more. We need to think systemically, more deeply and widely.

This includes thinking ahead to where will the next crisis begin, because it’s only a matter of time.


Soft-Handed Academic Dudes and Minimum Wage Fast Food: What Could Go Wrong?

I see tweets like this one in my timeline and I brace myself for the inevitable dogpile bashing workers:

Unemployed minimum wage workers have collected too much from state unemployment and federal aid, the old white dudes opine from their cushy home offices somewhere in McMansionburbia, nudge-nudge-winking about prescient forecasts of inflationary pressures.

Sod off, you slack-bottomed, soft-handed gits.

Unemployed minimum wage workers were most likely to be laid off early in the pandemic, and may already have been laid off not once but twice or perhaps even more, depending on location and on whether they were or are juggling one or more minimum wage jobs to make ends meet.

These are the same workers whose jobs OSHA has categorized as High Exposure Risk:

Those who have frequent indoor or poorly ventilated contact with the general public, including workers in retail stores, grocery stores or supermarkets, pharmacies, transit and transportation operations, law enforcement and emergency response operations, restaurants, and bars.

They’re in the same risk class as mortuary workers who prep the bodies of those who died of COVID.

This group of workers are among the risk class most likely to experience an outbreak of COVID; just look at the workplaces where Michigan had outbreaks as of April 9:

Not as bad as schools but how many of the K-12 and university students overlap in some way with fast food workers — either as consumers or employees?

Recall my chicken scratching from my last post about the unaffordability of the American Dream in which I calculate annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker:

Do the math:

Minimum federal wage $7.25  x  40 hour week  x  52 weeks  =  $15,080 a year.

That’s nowhere near enough to make a payment on the median home priced at $301,000. It’s not enough for a tiny dump of a house at one-third of median price.

The equation above already contains numerous generous assumptions: the employee makes 1) minimum federal wage, 2) at a full-time job, 3) for the entire year. For most minimum wage workers, at least one of these three points doesn’t apply. Most employers who hire minimum wage workers avoid paying unemployment taxes by employing workers less than full time, which means a minimum wage worker must work two jobs (or more) to make $15,080.

The average one-bedroom or studio apartment costs roughly $1000 a month right now. What’s left over for food, health care, transportation? Even if a worker can manage a roommate or two, what’s left over for basic needs?

Gods help them if they need childcare or eldercare on top of shelter, food, health care, and transportation.

And with most employers refusing to hire minimum wage workers for more than 27-32 hours a week in order to avoid paying either unemployment insurance tax or contribute to health care, these workers are likely not to have any benefits like sick or paid time off, or any savings to offset time needed for illness.

Why would any food service or retail employer think for a moment that minimum wage workers should be beating down the doors to come back to more of the same if their health and their lives had been and could be again at risk, for an absurdly low wage? Why can’t the usual pudgy white neoliberal male academic types grasp this?

The snotty, dismissive attitude by business toward minimum wage workers reflected in the tweet above — though labor appears to be an essential component to the business — also reveals both carelessness and cluelessness of these businesses. If a piece of equipment needed repair for the business to remain open, they’d fix it. But apparently remedying the problems their workers face is a step too far or opaque to the business operator.

Minimum wage workers also need the right to organize. Amazon may pay more than the federal minimum wage, but there are businesses across the U.S. which also operate like Amazon but without the notoriety forcing Amazon to pay better wages. Those businesses must be forced to rejigger their business models. Amazon is no model employer, either; overall conditions are bad when Amazon looks good by comparison.

But demanding businesses rework their operations to protect workers’ right to organize is too much to ask, one might say. Is it?

When businesses shut down sites to avoid unionization, they are rejiggering their business model, and they are doing it at a cost to the community as well as the workers. They are eating the cost of the closures to make an ugly point.

Kroger’s Seattle locations aren’t the only two sites the grocer is closing for this reason. At least three more closed in California to avoid paying higher wages to their workers who are disproportionately at risk of COVID — wages mandated by local government to ameliorate the risks these workers take.

Workers need Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act) for this reason, as do their communities. Many older and disabled Americans rely on their local grocers; losing one is incredibly disruptive and expensive, especially when it creates a food desert. No business is obligated to do business in any location, but a business willing to pull up and leave a neighborhood and damage customer relations solely because it can’t (read: won’t) figure out how to pay a living wage needs to do its own reorganization internally, restructuring its business model to operate ethically. A workforce which has the right to unionize may be the only way to force business to reset its thinking and operations.

In other words, if a business’s profits rely on paying wages which can’t support a worker, the business model isn’t legitimate. Unions may be the only means to make this clear to businesses.

Something needs to give soon, because this kind of scenario will continue — a clueless business thinking it must hire anybody at less than living wages, to work in conditions which may not be safe for either employees or customers.

The Youngsville mother of two was taken aback at the offer since she was only trying to go inside to get the food that was left out of her order after going through the drive-thru a first time. The lobby was closed, so she went back to the drive-thru window to get the order straightened out.

Then she learned why the lobby was closed.

“The manager told me, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t open the lobby because no one wants to work,’” Picou said. “And then she asked if I wanted a job. She said they’d hire anyone at this point.”

Imagine thinking a fully-staffed indoor fast food lobby is necessary in the middle of a pandemic, instead of creating a safer alternative.

Waiting for those slack-bottomed academic types to nod their heads vigorously in affirmation as they wipe the fast food mung off their faces.

You’ll notice that young mother in that article didn’t jump at the offer.


Goodbye, American Dream: The Unaffordability of American Life

My oldest sent me a text this past weekend:

Also houses down here are going for 1.5x value. [Friend] put an offer in at 200k for house selling for 160k and it ended up selling for 240k. There’s no way it’ll appraise that high but EVERY house is selling like that.

Folks in big coastal metro areas will laugh at these prices, but until recently $160,000 bought a 900-1200 square foot home, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a basement and a two-car garage in a suburban setting here in Michigan. At this price one wouldn’t find a brand new home but one between 10 to 50 years old, with a medium sized suburban lot. If one was really lucky, the house would be move-in ready, the yard would be fenced, and there might be a shed in the backyard for the lawn mower.

A young professional earning $80 to $100,000 a year could afford this and a family and still have a tiny bit left over to put in retirement savings.

But it’s a stretch at $200,000, and absolutely out of their range at $240,000. They may not even have the 20-25% down payment for this larger price, and the housing market has tightened so quickly they certainly haven’t been able to come up with an additional $20 to $40,000 to put down.

Wall Street Journal reported last week that as much as a third of single-family residential housing is now being snapped up by investors.

Big foreign investment firms that buy office buildings, hotels and shopping centers around the world have a new favorite real-estate play: single-family homes in American suburbs.

These institutions are partnering with U.S. housing companies to buy or build rental homes by the thousands. In suburban neighborhoods near cities such as Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix, blocks of families are sending monthly rent checks to ventures backed by Canadian pension funds, European insurers, and Asian or Middle Eastern government-run funds.

The overseas investors are following in the footsteps of many big U.S. investment firms and pension funds, which started buying single-family homes on a large scale in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

This may well explain the huge jump in prices over the last 12-18 months.

The situation is so bad it’s become a joke on TikTok and Twitter:

Speculation is doing to residential property what it did to oil prices before June 2008 when Congress passed legislation requiring an increase from 10% to 30% margin on options. Oil prices then dropped greatly, but not enough fast enough to prevent economic Jenga – many mortgages failed because homeowners had to choose between a tank of gas to get to work or making their house payment.

~ ~ ~

Now imagine the frustration of a prospective house buyer like [Friend] above. They’re a two-career household with a small family, which means they have car payments, childcare expenses which likely exceed car payments, and student loans they’ll be paying down for at least another decade if they are trying to juggle all these expenses.

They’ve scrimped and saved, kept their lifestyle minimal – not hard to do if you’ve had to weigh going to the movies on a date night against the cost of a babysitter and movie tickets – and they’ve amassed enough cash to put down 20% on a house and been pre-approved for a mortgage between $120,000 and $160,000. The higher end would be a push for them but sometimes the right house is a little pricier.

And then the dream for which they’ve scrimped and saved is gone in a heartbeat. As soon as they see the house on market they bid but they couldn’t counteroffer enough money fast enough and it’s gone.

Even in a pandemic with so many people out of work, the right house is gone.

It’s probably been sold to a speculator who will put it up for rent at a price which is the same as [Friend]’s mortgage payment would have been, but at that price there’s no room to save any extra money.

And that’s what it’s like in the Midwest. What’s it like in more densely-populated coastal states?

How do young people who are competing for jobs on a national basis, earning pay which doesn’t adjust all that much for location, buy a home and attain the American Dream?

They’re giving up children to do this, we can see that by the flat to falling birth rates.

A major one. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that the largest component of child-rearing costs is housing. And the cost of housing in America has skyrocketed. The median U.S. home in 1953 cost $18,080, or about $177,000 in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, the median home price is $301,000. Young people who cannot afford homes or even a two-bedroom apartment are less inclined to marry and to have children. One 2014 study published in the Journal of Public Economics explicitly linked housing costs to fertility, suggesting that for every $10,000 jump in housing values, fertility among nonowners fell 2.4 percent. Economists also point to the fact that the fertility rate has fallen every year since 2007, and suggest that the Great Recession compelled many Millennials to put off child-rearing for years. “What we learned from the Great Recession is that every 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate reduces births by 1 percent,” said Wellesley College economics professor Phil Levine.

And in places like the greater San Francisco area they go homeless, living in their vehicles because they can’t afford rent *if* there’s rental housing available.

~ ~ ~

One solution to this mess is reducing student loan burdens. Getting tens of millions of young people out from underneath $50,000 and a decade or more of payments would free them to have children and/or buy a home.

I hesitate to say they may also save for retirement but it’s possible they’re not able to until they are out from under their student loans.

This problem may explain why so many young people have jumped at online trading apps like Robinhood, causing increased volatility in the stock market. They can get in with very little money, get out quickly, and do it all over again rapidly. It offers them a chance to increase their asset value though it does nothing for the overall stock market while compromising their personal data privacy.

But putting some portion of their meager savings in the stock market isn’t a solution — it’s far too risky, too easily gamed (hah, GameStop, get it?). It’s not a prudent approach to funding necessities.

Getting out from under student loan debt, though, would be a doable help with very little downside.

~ ~ ~

Removing at least part of student loan debt from younger consumers’ shoulders will act as an economic stimulus, too. Those who are able to end their loan payments will be able to spend more of their income on expenses they’ve deferred in addition to housing.

Employment should rise as demand increases, and a tighter employment market will help boost some if not all wages.

Which brings us to the section of the market which may not benefit directly from canceling student debt. Workers who make minimum wage or are employed in tipped hourly jobs can’t afford to buy the average home in the U.S.; they are struggling to pay rent let alone save a down payment. Many of them are students.

Do the math:

Minimum federal wage $7.25  x  40 hour week  x  52 weeks  =  $15,080 a year.

That’s nowhere near enough to make a payment on the median home priced at $301,000. It’s not enough for a tiny dump of a house at one-third of median price.

The equation above already contains numerous generous assumptions: the employee makes 1) minimum federal wage, 2) at a full-time job, 3) for the entire year. For most minimum wage workers, at least one of these three points doesn’t apply. Most employers who hire minimum wage workers avoid paying unemployment taxes by employing workers less than full time, which means a minimum wage worker must work two jobs (or more) to make $15,080.

Forget about it if the worker holds down a tipped hourly job; while in some cases tips can be quite good, the base wage in at least 16 states is $2.13 an hour. On a bad day it may cost a worker more to show up than they make if they pay for any form of transportation besides shoe leather or a bicycle.

The minimum wage must be raised if roughly 1.8 million Americans have any chance at saving a down payment on a house, let alone buying one. And if businesses aren’t already increasing wages now during pandemic market conditions, they’re not likely to do so unless they’re forced to by law.

~ ~ ~

Canceling a big chunk of student loan debt and raising the minimum wage will still not be enough to help tens of millions of Americans afford to buy their own home.

Once these folks have more disposable income and increase demand on the housing market, speculators will swamp the market even more so than they are right now.

(Domestic policy aside, it’s a marvelous way to ratchet up class conflict by locking out a couple generations of potential homebuyers if a hostile country’s sovereign fund was looking to both invest and destabilize the U.S. at the same time.)

Canada’s domestic housing policy encourages home owner occupancy of single family homes; speculative investment is far less than it is in the U.S. It hasn’t solved their housing market problems — Toronto housing is incredibly expensive — but it does reduce competition for homes.

There must be some form of legislation which reduces market demand by speculators so that the only participants in the single-family home market are single families.

There should be some limitation on speculation for multi-family housing so that rental properties remain affordable. Eliminating overseas buyers or funds is one possibility.

~ ~ ~

We’ll hear all kinds of caterwauling about how unfair it is that some students will have all their debt paid for them by canceling $50,000  while they had to pay for all their student’s education.

Bah. They can suck it up.

This month I finished shelling out a total of $200,000 for two kids to go to college. This doesn’t include what I’ve paid for their cell phone, health care insurance, and for the vehicles and auto insurance they’ve needed.

$200K covered tuition, books, fees and some of the housing and food for one kid on a half ride to a private school, and a kid at a Big 10 public university. Both kids worked throughout their four-year programs and paid for their own gasoline and rent off campus, along with some sundries.

Because of this investment in them I’ve got to come up with income for another seven-plus years to pay for my health care, but at least my kids have a fighting chance right now that most of their cohort don’t have. They don’t need to live at home with me to scrimp and save. They can move out out state and chase a better job.

But even with this investment in both of my kids it will take years for them to save enough to make a down payment on a home and have a 6-month cushion in the bank.

I don’t resent the fact they don’t have school loans which might be canceled. What I resent is that they don’t have the kind of world I had as a young adult, where if one worked hard they could make enough money to get ahead and expect a better life. (I do resent having to pay through the nose, five to ten times over what I paid for college, but that’s another matter.)

If housing prices jump 20-60% almost overnight, my kids don’t have that chance. They can’t expect their friends to uniformly have that chance, either, as [Friend]’s situation demonstrates.

If their entire cohort is stifled by student loan debt, wages stagnant for decades, and competition for housing from speculation, even steep parental investment isn’t enough to help them tread water.

And if all of their cohort of 20-somethings are stuck in the same boat, the entire economy is deeply skewed and screwed. Whatever assessment analysts are making of the stock market and the economy is manipulated by this iceberg of frozen, frustrated demand which cannot remain in stasis forever.

Something has to give.

We can start with canceling $50,000 student debt, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and eliminating overseas speculation from the housing market while limiting single-family homes to sales between occupants and their heirs.


3 Things: Myths of Overnight Success, Herd Immunity, and COVID-19 Vaccine

[NB: I’ve spent several days drafting this post only to have today’s FDA’s pause on J&J vaccine throw a wrench in the works. I will try to pull something together about that issue in a separate post. / ~Rayne]

Friends and family tell me they are frustrated by people they know who are dragging their feet getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Some are actively resisting vaccination, refusing to get one.

Nearly all of this has been driven by misinformation, often been spread by well-meaning but skeptical folks. Anti-vaxx disinformation has been spread by those who have a vested interest in seeing Americans getting sick and dying, accepted by the same audience.

One friend told me a skeptical acquaintance explained, “I’m not an anti-vaxxer, I just don’t trust how fast this has been put together.”

Others have waved off the vaccine, saying they “don’t need a vaccine because we’ll reach herd immunity,” or “I already had COVID so I’m fine.”

We are never going to reach herd immunity so long as people refuse to be vaccinated.

And people wonder why CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was so emotional a couple weeks ago about the need to continue infection prevention and the rate of vaccination.

The problem in my home state is evident in this profile piece (now paywalled) featuring Michigan residents in the 10th congressional district. You’ll recall Rep. Paul Mitchell who won in 2018 declined to run for reelection because of the political atmosphere. It wasn’t just the toxicity in Washington DC from Trump and his backup singers in the GOP-majority Senate, but back at home where constituents have become increasingly unmoored from reality.

Their part of the state is the worst for new cases and deaths; given how thinly populated the rural district is and how small these communities are, they have to know people who are severely ill and dying and yet they just don’t give a flying fuck.

There will be no reaching some of these folks, ever, but we have to reach folks who are on the fence if we are ever going to stop the spread of COVID including new variants.

~ 3 ~

Misinfo/Disinfo 1: The vaccine was developed too fast.

Truth: The mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s were at least 31 years in the making. Work on adenovirus-vector vaccines like Johnson & Johnson’s began in the 1950s looking at defenses against adenoviruses. These are the only two types of vaccines currently distributed in the U.S. under Emergency Use Authorizations.

Research for the COVID-19 vaccine began in 2002 with the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), caused by the coronavirus now known as SARSr-CoV. The epidemic which ran its course from 1 November 2002 – 31 July 2003, resulted in approximately 8,000 cases and nearly 800 deaths.

Research into Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus which is very similar to SARSr-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, also contributed to the body of knowledge. MERS epidemic resulted in 2,500 cases and nearly 900 deaths.

In total there were at least 12 years of research into similar coronaviruses before funding dried up because neither then-known coronaviruses were spreading.

In tandem with the research on coronaviruses, technology used for genetic sequencing and analysis improved exponentially in sensitivity, capability, and speed. Once SARS-CoV-2 was isolated and the unique spike protein identified, the vaccine research had most of what it needed to develop a trial-worthy vaccine candidate. The genetic sequencing in January 2020 couldn’t have done so quickly and in such detail in 2002.

The mRNA approach used by Pfizer and Moderna was first proposed in the late 1980s after more than a decade of conjecture; research into HIV and Ebola are among the diseases which contributed to the body of knowledge for these COVID vaccines. That’s more than 30 years of research leading up to the current vaccines.

If funding for research hadn’t stopped in the mid-2010s, COVID vaccines might have been delivered weeks or even months earlier than late October/early November last year.

~ 2 ~

Misinfo/Disinfo 2: Don’t need vaccination because of herd immunity.

Truth: We are nowhere near herd immunity. The safe approach to herd immunity also relies on vaccines.

While there are a number of ways this concept is being distorted, I ran into a situation last week in which someone I know who is a health care provider had begun to doubt the use of vaccines for COVID.

They’d been exposed to a European doctor’s claim that wearing masks and the vaccines themselves prevented our bodies from eliciting a natural immune response.

Ignoring, of course, the fact that nearly 600,000 Americans alone have died from the effects of their natural immune response to infection with SARS-CoV-19. That’s the disease, COVID – the response to the infection.

I went and did some digging to check this Euro doc’s credentials and lo, there it is: he’s a fucking DVM. A veterinarian who did some work on viruses in animals, with a handful of papers published a couple decades ago about viruses in donkeys. I won’t even name this bozo because I don’t want to give his nonsense any more oxygen.

In retrospect this guy is akin to the French researcher whose early, extremely small, and utterly lousy study was used to rationalize the use of hydroxychloroquine as COVID therapy. Poor credentials and bad track record combined with inadequate evidence, launched from overseas into American consumers’ social media – and they lapped up his misinfo and disinfo without any skepticism let alone the wherewithal to check credentials.

Just stop them. Cut them off as soon as they start talking about herd immunity.

That includes cutting off morons like Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott:

Nobody should listen to this stupid asshat when it comes to COVID-19 because he’s propagating false information when he should be turning this over to professionals with appropriate credentials.

I’ll let biologist Carl Bergstrom discuss the concept of herd immunity with regard to a pandemic in this Twitter thread:

Bergstrom distills the challenge:

“The key thing to note is that the herd immunity threshold is the point at enough people are immune (by vaccination or previous infection) to prevent a new epidemic from starting from scratch.

It is *not* the point at which an ongoing epidemic disappears.”

COVID will still be with us after a majority of the adult public has been vaccinated because children and unvaccinated adults will constitute 20-30% of the population while the herd immunity threshold for COVID as an airborne disease will be closer to that of other other airborne diseases like pertussis and measles. This means at least 90% percent of the public must be immune before the disease will stop spreading.

And with only 35.9% of the U.S. having had a dose of vaccine, there’s no way in hell any part of the U.S. is close to herd immunity – including Texas where as of today only 19.9% of residents have been fully vaccinated.

All of this assumes there isn’t a new strain mutating in an unvaccinated person which may bypass the existing vaccines. It’s urgent that we vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible to stem the spread of the disease before this can happen, setting off a new epidemic.

Anybody who is waiting for herd immunity while refusing to wear a mask and rejecting the vaccine is a nihilist wishing sickness and death on others if not themselves.

But don’t take my word for it; find virologists, epidemiologists, public health experts, and/or others with solid credentials who’ll explain why we need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

~ 1 ~

And then the excuse used by the oppositional defiant/libertarian/owning the libs crowd –

Misinfo/Disinfo 3: Getting vaccinated means submitting to the federal government which is taking away freedom by issuing “vaccine passports.”

Truth: NO. Fuck, no. The only thing being issued at vaccination sites is a record of vaccination. Vaccination records are shared with one’s doctor under HIPAA privacy regulations.

I am so disappointed with former representative Justin Amash on this point. It’s as if he’s forgotten universities and public schools have long required proof of vaccination for entrance, because education provided in a shared public space requires students who are not at risk of death from other students’ diseases.

It’s as if Amash has forgotten the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and that the nation’s founders lived in a world when travel was often restricted by epidemics like smallpox, measles, and yellow fever requiring mandatory quarantines.

Or that state and federal governments regularly require proof of baseline safety measures like passing vision and driver’s tests for a driver’s license.

Businesses and government functions should not be held hostage by a pandemic. They should be able to ask their employees and customers to act prudently to protect themselves and others, which may include providing proof of vaccination.

(Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis can pound sand with his ridiculous executive order banning “vaccine passports,” intended to prevent cruise ships requiring booking passengers to have proof of COVID vaccination. It’s as if he’s completely forgotten what happened to cruise passengers last year.)

Here’s a more personal example as a business case for required vaccination. My youngest contracted mild food poisoning from a chain restaurant’s takeout, but the first question posed by his employer and co-workers who all work in a facility which tests foods and pharmaceuticals, is whether he really contracted COVID since some symptoms like nausea may be present after infection with SARS-CoV-2. Imagine the repercussions to the supply chain if someone asymptomatic simply went to work in that environment.

My kid is taking the day off and getting tested for COVID to assure their workplace is safe, but imagine this happens again next week to a different employee, and the week after that to yet another. The cost to business and to workers could be staggering when simply requiring vaccination with proof could resolve the challenge.

And your own foods and drugs might also be safer for it.

Fortunately my youngest will be vaccinated soon; my oldest already is as of last week when Michigan opened vaccinations to all ages.

~ 0 ~

As of this morning we have lost 562,007 Americans to COVID – 476 died yesterday, the lowest number of daily deaths since last autumn.

Most of these deaths were not caused by UK variant B.1.1.7 which is now dominant in the US, nor by Brazilian variant P1, nor by South African varian B.1.351, all three of which appear to be more transmissible, and in the case of P1, more deadly, sickening younger people more often, and re-infecting those who already had an earlier strain.

Had we not mitigated the first strains of COVID with a combination of social distancing, mask wearing, increased hygiene, and lockdowns as well as vaccines, we would be on our way to several million dead.

But we are still on our way to that number if people do not continue mitigation measures and get vaccinated. Brazil’s 1,480 deaths yesterday alone, most caused by P1, offers proof.


Open Thread: NASA’s Perseverance Rover Mars Landing

OMG it feels soooo good to be able to think about future-looking science instead of worrying about the country blowing up!

We’re waiting now for NASA’S latest Mars rover craft to land on the red planet. Follow along with these videos:

This is NASA Mission Control with a 360-degree video feed (some browsers may not support this):

This is raw feed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab:

Some of the content may be duplicative, but it’s still exciting to listen to this team as they reach a major landmark in their Perseverance project.

Why is Perseverance so different and important compared to the previous Mars rover missions? From the Mission Overview site:

The Perseverance rover has four science objectives that support the Mars Exploration Program’s science goals:

Looking for Habitability: Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
Seeking Biosignatures: Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time.
Caching Samples: Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface.
Preparing for Humans: Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

In other words, we’ve moved beyond successfully arriving at the planet, landing, and taking a look around. We’re now ready to engage in the science which supports humans once they arrive in a near-future stage of exploration.

That last goal is huge; if we can’t manufacture oxygen on Mars using the planet’s resources, we’re going to have to bring means to support humans with us in future exploration.

UPDATE-1 — 3:39 PM ET —

10 minutes ago from The Oatmeal:

RunPeeNowHURRYLOL

UPDATE-2 — 3:55 PM ET —

TANGO DELTA.

Touchdown!! Perseverance is on Mars’ surface!! WOOHOO!!

Poor scientist calling the tick-tock just gave a massive sigh of relief over the raw feed.

And now they have an image from the surface!

Congratulations, Team Perseverance!!

UPDATE-3 — 4:25 PM ET —

And now the first tweet from Perseverance on Mars!

Team Perseverance has run through their post-landing review. The next phase of the mission has now begun.

Wow, it feels so good to have some successful science under the belt today!

What science would you like to see tackled this year? Share in comments.


Three Things: It’s Our Lucky Day

Though friends and family in Texas are still desperately miserable, we had an unusually lucky day.

~ 3 ~

Don’t know about you folks but my sleep cycle has been extremely erratic during this pandemic. I’m up at 3:00 a.m. for a few hours, finally fall back to sleep, and wake again at no set hour.

Today I woke a few minutes before nine a.m. ET, launching Twitter immediately as one does while still trying to shake off the Trump era habit of checking for the apocalypse on rising.

Lo and behold, the first tweet in my timeline was the live stream of the impending implosion of Trump’s shuttered Atlantic City hotel.

I huddled under my blankets in rapt attention for several minutes waiting for explosives’ detonation and BOOM-boom-boom-boom-boom, there it was and I blinked and the hideous structure was gone when I opened my eyes.

Dust slowly rose into the air and sailed out over the ocean like fine confetti.

It was glorious — a sign like smoke over the Vatican, a portent of better things to come.

~ 2 ~

And there it was, the dusty oracle delivered.

One of the meanest, nastiest, most useless sacks of flesh assumed room temperature today.

Right-wing talk radio blabbermouth Rush Limbaugh succumbed from complications due to lung cancer.

Don’t tell me I’m being unusually harsh; I’m using the contemptible toad’s own words. When homeless rights activist Mitch Snyder died, Limbaugh said Snyder assumed room temperature.

Nor should you imagine for one goddamned moment I will now demonstrate an iota of respect for that dead wretch because respect is earned. The racist, misogynist ignoramus who played a key role in the progress of the GOP away from a pro-democracy political party earned no respect from me.

This obituary at Huffington Post says it best, though there’s plenty it left out even though it’s unsparing. Michael Tomasky at Democracy Journal faults Bork and Scalia for Limbaugh’s poisonous rise across our publicly-owned airwaves (there’s a lesson in this).

Adios, motherfucker. Give my regards to Hades.

~ 1 ~

Good news from White House COVID-19 Response Team today


Doubling the weekly average is great, considering the response team had NOTHING, ZIP, NADA in the way of a federal plan for rolling out the vaccine as of Inauguration Day. The Trump Administration’s plan appeared to consist of dumping vaccine on the states in quantities which may have been rationalized by politics, and telling the states to just do it, just distribute it — if they listened to VP Pence’s team.

If they listened to Secretary Azar — like Florida’s Gov. DeSantis surely did, with emphasis added by grocery store chain Publix’s heiress’s donation — then commercial pharmacies were going to run the show.

What a fucking shit show.

With luck in spite of the lingering Trumpy mess, some of you have had your first and possibly second vaccination if you’re in health care or older than 65 (age threshold depends on states’ criteria and how closely they followed the CDC’s guidance, I think, correct me if I’m wrong). Good. I won’t receive mine for another eight weeks, I estimate, based on my state’s current roll out schedule.

With the announcement that enough doses have been ordered for delivery in late July, the rest of the country may expect to be vaccinated by late summer. Depending on how the last push for vaccinations is organized and pulled off, school this fall is likely to be on campus and in classrooms once again.

That is very good news.

~ 0 ~

If you feel inclined to assist Texans who are suffering from the worst of the intersection between their elected GOP officials and capitalist profiteering, the Texas Tribune reported where help is accepted (bottom of article):

Here’s how to help:

Dallas: Dallas Homeless Alliance President and CEO Carl Falconer said donations can be made to Our Calling, who is managing the city’s shelter at the convention center.
Austin: Chris Davis, communications manager for Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, said people can find a list of ways to help here. These donations range from sleeping bags to monetary donations for hygiene and snack kits.
San Antonio: South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless Executive Director Katie Vela said their biggest area of need is volunteers to work the overnight shifts, especially those living in the downtown area who might be able to walk to the shelters. Vela also said the shelters are also in need of hot meals beginning Tuesday. People can find the list of shelters here.
Houston: Catherine B. Villarreal, the director of communications for the Coalition for the Homeless, said people can donate to any of the organizations in The Way Home listed here.

I hope Texans are thinking ahead to the thaw when all that snow and ice will turn into flood water, which may be as soon as Friday.


Three Things: Eff These Effing Effers

That mealy-mouthed compromised weasel Lindsey Graham spent a lot of time whining on the Sunday talk show circuit this weekend.

Somebody out there has the dirt on Graham. Just. Spill. It. Find a vehicle to do the job, get yourself clear, and let it rip because all of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, are going to spend too much time mopping up Lindsey’s alligator tears if his personal problem isn’t addressed out in the open.

He wouldn’t be doing all this whining about Democrats and backstabbing his own party if he was hidey-holed trying to lick his wounds. It’s not like he’s got anything to lose in 2022 or 2024 because he was just re-elected, goddamn it all.

Just. Spill. The. Dirt. Lance the festering boil animating Graham. Back up the truck, press DUMP, and run like hell.

~ 3 ~

Until somebody gets smart and dumps the dirt on Graham, we need to regroup and get in gear for 2022. We can’t lose the Senate or we’ll end up with two years of stagnation and worse. If the last two years were bad, an economic depression making the 1930s look like a piece of cake could result from the GOP taking the Senate again.

Here’s the targets of our offense:

State Class III Cook PVI Age Now Open ‘2018 Moscow Convict Trump
Pennsylvania Pat Toomey (R) Even 59 Open N Y
Wisconsin Ron Johnson (R) Even 65   Y N
Florida Marco Rubio (R) R+02 49   N N
Iowa Chuck Grassley (R) R+03 87   N N
North Carolina Richard Burr (R) R+03 65 Open N Y
Ohio Rob Portman (R) R+03 65 Open N N
           
Arizona Mark Kelly (D) R+05 56   N Y
Georgia Raphael Warnock (D) R+05 51   N Y
           
South Carolina Tim Scott (R) R+08 55   N N
Alaska Lisa Murkowski (R) R+09 63   N Y
Missouri Roy Blunt (R) R+09 71   N N
Indiana Todd Young (R) R+09 48   N N
Louisiana John Kennedy (R) R+11 69   Y N
Kansas Jerry Moran (R) R+13 66   Y N
Alabama Richard Shelby (R) R+13 86 Open Y N
South Dakota John Thune (R) R+14 60   Y N
Arkansas John Boozman (R) R+15 70   N N
Kentucky Rand Paul (R) R+15 58   N N
North Dakota John Hoeven (R) R+17 63   Y N
Idaho Mike Crapo (R) R+19 69   N N
Oklahoma James Lankford (R) R+20 52   N N
Utah Mike Lee (R) R+20 49   N N

These are all the GOP seats up for re-election or open in 2022, sorted by their Cook Partisan Voting Index rating. The strongest rated GOP are at the bottom, the weakest at the top.

There are three columns identifying which seats are open, which of these GOP senators went to Moscow on July 4 in 2018, and which ones voted to convict.

Sen. Shelby, one of those who went to Moscow, is 86 years old. He’s likely retiring due to age; it’s not clear why Putin would have ensured he was invited unless he knew something about Shelby not obvious to us. But Shelby is the likely ceiling on Cook PVI at R+13.

I’ve inserted two of the newest Democratic senators in the table, noting their state is rated R+5. This should tell us that every single seat at R+5 to Even is highly gettable with solid organizing on the ground. If you live in one of these states, you should be looking into helping as soon as possible. Those two Democrats, Kelly and Warnock, also need help; they won a special election, but must now fight for the Class III seat for the full six-year term.

Every one of the GOP senators who went to Moscow is vulnerable. Moscow wouldn’t have invited them if they weren’t either compromised, soft and could be compromised, or whatever psychographic and demographic data Putin’s data trolls had pulled together indicated these seats would trend left long before the pandemic.

Louisiana, for example, is increasingly non-white, its population become less white and more non-white at a rate of 1/4% per year. In 2018, the state was 58.4% non-Hispanic white. COVID may have stemmed some of that shift by way of Team Trump’s passive genocide by neglect, but that still means 41.6% of the population is non-white. Strong, effective organizing like that in Georgia this last election season could make Louisiana gettable, and it could explain why Moscow reached out to Sen. Kennedy.

Iowa is gettable for other reasons — the damage Trump did to farmers with his unnecessary trade war, Chuck Grassley’s decrepitude, a strong Democratic candidate pipeline, to name a few. What Iowa will need, though, is to get its act together with regard to its primary process. DNC’s new chair Jaime Harrison may be looking into this early rather than later to assure smooth sailing into 2022.

Speaking of Harrison, all those other less-gettable seats shouldn’t be ignored. Harrison appears ready to reinstitute a 50-state strategy leaving no seat uncontested. Kentucky, for example, shouldn’t be ceded because it’s rated R+15 and McConnell just won re-election there; if Charles Booker was interested in running against Rand Paul, he could stand a decent chance of winning, let alone make Paul work hard for his seat.

Pick a race or two. Get engaged early. Figure out how to help. Do not let the fascist GOP believe it has a chance at continued minority rule.

~ 2 ~

A new conservative party may soon emerge, consisting of more traditional conservatives who identified as Republican and are not Trump supporters.

This is a good move; I hope these folks do all the right things, getting their party formally established and organized in all 50 states. Could these folks peel away a few centrist Democrats? Possibly. But they’re more likely to fragment the power of the existing GOP.

We’d also be closer to a multi-party model than we have been, preventing a far more fascist entity like the Party of Trumpism from taking control of any branch of government.

Many Democrats have been upset about House Speaker Pelosi’s remarks saying this country needs a strong Republican Party:


But I wonder if what she really meant was a the country needs a strong party which believes in a republic — a democratic republic — giving a subtle nod to McMullin and the other breakaway Republicans who are interested in a pro-democracy conservative party.

Consider the timing of her remarks made on Saturday, while McMullin discussed the potential new party on Friday.

~ 1 ~

Of all the whining that pasty, soft-handed, slack-assed Graham did this weekend, this pissed me off the most.

Right, asshole. You want to impeach the first Black-Asian woman VP because she supported First Amendment-protected peaceful protests against racist police brutality while she was a senator? Or are you really just eager to impeach Harris because she’s Black-Asian, woman, and a VP like you will never be?

Go ahead and try it, whiner. You’re only giving every American who is non-white and/or woman impetus to organize even harder to get out the mothertrucking vote.

I really do hope there’s a new pro-democracy conservative party ready to run for Lindsey Graham’s seat in six years. I’d even donate money to them to see them make him whine even harder.

~ 0 ~

If you’re inside the polar vortex, I hope you’re able to stay warm. Reduce your electricity consumption as much as you can tolerate it to keep the load on the grid down. This web site is cheesy looking but it has some decent pointers about keeping warm. If you’re not in the vortex, do some emergency preparedness work because we don’t know with certainty how this or the next vortex will pan out.

And for dogs’ sake, stay off the road if at all possible if you live where snow and ice are rarities.

Oh, and double mask to protect against the newer highly-transmissible UK version of COVID.


Crowdsourced Timeline: Tick-Tock to Insurrection and Beyond [UPDATE-3]

[NB: Check the byline. Updates or changes to this timeline will be emphasized (note dark blue font). /~Rayne]

You’ll recall Marcy’s January 8 post, “Investigate Tommy Tuberville’s Pre-Speech and Debate Actions” in which she wrote about Rudy Giuliani’s January 6 phone calls intended for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

EDIT: One The first call was received by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), which he handed over to Tuberville even as they were preparing to evacuate the Senate chambers. The caller was Trump.

Giuliani’s The second call, from Rudy Giuliani, was left instead on another unnamed senator’s phone.

Giuliani’s voicemail message asked Tuberville to slow down the election certification process on January 6, buying Team Trump time to get more information from states to contest multiple states’ elections with the aim for states to pull their certifications of their elections altogether.

How this would all come together and result in an overturned election wasn’t clear. What was the mechanism by which the states, which had already certified their elections, would reverse those certifications?

Last evening a missing piece dropped, deep in the Friday night news dump zone. The New York Times reported Trump and a little-known Department of Justice attorney, Jeffrey Clark, attempted a takeover of the DOJ, with the intent to use the department’s powers to persuade the state of Georgia to overturn its election results.

Overturning Georgia’s results and fraudulently awarding the state’s electoral votes to Trump wouldn’t have been enough to give Trump the election. But the same powers might have been used to pressure other states or to provide cover for states with GOP elected officials or legislature which favored Trump. We really need to know if Trump made calls to other states like the one he made to Georgia’s secretary of state to lean on him for 11,780 votes.

~ ~ ~

The following timeline has been pulled together from community members harpie’s and Eureka’s comments over the last several weeks as reports were published about the events leading up to and during the January 6 Capitol Building insurrection.

11/12/2020 — Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Chris Krebs said he expected he would be fired for CISA’s website dedicated to debunking election-related disinformation, much of which was spread by Trump and campaign associates.

11/17/2020 — Krebs was fired by Trump tweet after Krebs tweeted, “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims (of fraud) either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’”

11/17/2020 — Michigan election officials certified the state’s election.

11/18/2020 — 8:04 AM – Trump tweets that Michigan can’t certify its election because of voter fraud.

11/18/2020 — GOP Michigan election officials attempt unsuccessfully to rescind their certification of the state’s election.

11/25/20 — Sham “hearing” in Gettysburg, PA (Rudy, Jenna, Trump via phone).

11/25/2020 — Michael Flynn pardoned by Trump.

11/30/2020 — Trump nominated Charles Flynn to be the Army’s “deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training.”  submitted a nomination for elevation of Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn to full general. Flynn began his current and ongoing role as Deputy Chief of Staff G3/5/7 in June 2019; he is retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn’s sibling.

12/01/2020 — Attorney General Bill Barr told Associated Press there was no widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 election, disputing Trump’s claims to the contrary.

12/01/2020 — Michigan’s state senate oversight committee held a 7-hour long hearing listening to testimony about the conduct of the November general election.

12/02/2020 — Rudy Giuliani appeared before Michigan’s state house oversight committee in a hearing about the conduct of the November general election; Giuliani maintained Trump won the election. Neither state senate or house oversight committees “have the power or authority to mandate a recount, audit or review of vote processes anywhere in the state.”

12/08/2020 — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton files suit with U.S. Supreme Court against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in an effort to force elections in these states back to their respective states’ legislatures where they could be invalidated.

12/11/2020 — Texas v. Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin dismissed by SCOTUS for lack of standing; Trump escalates pressure on DOJ leadership officials (*including Barr* and Rosen) to file suit in Supreme Court to overturn relevant states.

12/12/2020 — General Michael Flynn and Family speak at Jericho March in DC.

12/12/2020 — 8:47 AM Trump tweets, WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!! [time stamp subject to confirmation]

12/12/2020 — approx. 9:00 AM Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio posts a photo (which appears to be taken by someone else) on Parler social media platform. 

12/14/2020 — Jacob Chansley (now recognized as the buffalo-headed shirtless insurrectionist) was reported to Capitol Police for 12/14 for carrying a weapon on Capitol Grounds; “higher ups” okay’d him being there.
[see https://twitter.com/mcbyrne/status/1350137671084089345]

12/14/2020 — Trump announced by tweet AG Bill Barr’s resignation effective 12/23/2020. Barr confirmed his resignation by letter to Trump.

12/15/2020 — Trump summons Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to the Oval Office and makes requests detailed in NYT article; Rosen refuses; he “reiterated what Mr. Barr had privately told Mr. Trump: The department had investigated voting irregularities and found no evidence of widespread fraud.”

After 12/15/20 — [Date(s) TBD] Trump continues to press Rosen in phone calls and in person.

Mid December  — [Date(s) TBD] Clark had been introduced to Mr. Trump by  Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA); he told the president that he agreed that fraud had affected the election results. Mr. Trump quickly embraced Mr. Clark, who had been appointed with Rosen’s assistance the acting head of DOJ’s civil division in September; Clark was also the head of the department’s environmental and natural resources division, confirmed October 2018.

Mid to Late December — [Date(s) TBD] Trump complains about U.S. Attorney-Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak. Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue warns Pak.

Mid to Late December — [Date(s) TBD] Clark drafts a letter that he wants Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators. Rosen and Donoghue again reject Mr. Clark’s proposal

12/19/2020 — Trump, Sydney Powell and Mike Flynn meet at WH [NYT].

“During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to ‘rerun’ the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea. […]”

12/19/2020 — Trump tweets about the Solar Winds hack.
[see https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1340666651658899457 ]

12/20/2020 — Charles Flynn‘s elevation to full general from lt. general confirmed by the Senate by voice vote to be Army’s “deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training.”.

12/21/2020 — Sidney Powell was back at the White House again, for third time in four days [NYT]

12/23/2020 — Bill Barr’s last day as AG.

12/23/2020 — Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner, and 23 other individuals were pardoned by Trump.

12/23/2020 — Trump arrived late evening at Mar-a-Lago for vacation through New Year’s Day.

12/30/2020 — Trump to quit FL vacation early, return to DC on 31st:

“The White House announced the abrupt change in the president’s schedule late Wednesday, hours after Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he would raise objections next week when Congress meets to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election.”
[see https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-politics-florida-coronavirus-pandemic-mar-a-lago-87a839746b4d1a6dca7441791bbc20bc]

12/31/2020Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and 10 other plaintiffs from across the GOP filed suit in Texas federal court against Vice President Mike Pence, asking the court to find Pence has the authority to certify the election, possibly throwing out the results in states previously contested by TX AG Paxton.
[see https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/us/politics/justice-department-mike-pence-louie-gohmert.html]

12/31/2020 — DOJ’s Rosen, Donoghue, and Clark meet to discuss Clark’s refusal to hew to the department’s conclusion that the election results were valid. Donoghue is blunt and tells Mr. Clark that what he was doing was wrong.

01/01/2021 — Trump appointee U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Kernodle dismissed Rep. Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit against VP Pence for lack of standing.

01/01/2021 — Clark tells Rosen that he was going to discuss his strategy with the president early the next week. [How and when was this decision made?] [But this meeting ended up happening “over the weekend”: Saturday 1/2/21, Sunday 1/3/21]

01/01/2021 and/or 2 — Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund confers with D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, who offered to lend a hand if trouble arose.

01/02/2021 — “Roughly a dozen Republican senators are in talks to join Missouri Senator Josh Hawley in objecting to the electoral college results when congress meets Wednesday, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the ongoing talks.”
[see https://twitter.com/johnkruzel/status/1349198860573421568]

01/02/2021 — Trump along with on the call were WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, attorney Cleta Mitchell calls Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and the GA legal counsel Ryan Germany, pressuring him to “find 11,780 votes” in order to change the outcome of Georgia’s election. Raffensperger and Germany refute Trump’s claims he won GA’s election.

01/02/2021 and/or 01/03/2021 — [Date(s) TBD] Clark meets with Trump.

01/03/2021 — 8:57 AM – Trump tweets about the call to GA-SoS Raffensperger. Raffensperger tweets a reply, saying, “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true.”

01/03/2021 — Midday [time TBD] Clark informs Rosen that he had met with Trump and that the president intended to replace him with Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. He says that Rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general. Rosen insisted on talking with Trump.

01/03/2021 — Early afternoon – The Washington Post releases a story along with a roughly one-hour-long audio recording of Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger the previous evening.

01/03/2021 — Afternoon – Rosen works with Cipollone, to convene a meeting with Trump for early that evening.

01/03/2021 — Later afternoon – Donoghue convenes a call with the department’s remaining senior leaders, laying out Clark’s efforts to replace Rosen. Should  Rosen be fired, they all agreed to resign en masse.

01/03/2021 — 6PM – 9PM White House meeting convened with Trump, Rosen, Donoghue, Clark, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Deputy Counsel Pat Philbin, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engel, “and other lawyers.”

01/04/2021 — Sund called House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger to ask for permission to request that the National Guard be put on emergency standby. Irving didn’t like the idea, Sund said; he said it would look bad because it would communicate that they presumed an emergency. He said he’d have to ask House leaders. [DID HE ASK PELOSI?] [Questionable if that was necessary. See 1:15 PM, 1/6/21]

01/04/2021 — Following Stenger’s advice, Sund calls Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard, to tell him that he might call on him for help. Walker says he thought he could send 125 personnel fairly quickly.

01/05/2021 — Sund [said he] briefed Irving and Stenger, who said that backup seemed sufficient.

01/05/2021 — More than 100 representatives from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia asked for at least 10 more days, so they could investigate and then vote on the election in their state legislatures. The two-page letter with more than 60 pages of attachments was sent to Pence to purportedly show “the illegalities present in the 2020 election” and provide “evidence of a coordinated and structured multi-state effort to undermine state law protecting election integrity.”
[see https://wisconsinexaminer.com/2021/01/14/these-15-state-legislators-asked-pence-not-to-certify-election-results/]

01/05/2021 — Capitol Building CCTV feeds showed Reps. Louie Gohmert R-TX, Jim Jordan R-OH, Matt Gaetz R-FL, Lauren Boebert R-CO, Marjorie Taylor Greene R-GA, Paul Gosar R-AZ, Andy Biggs R-AZ were involved in giving ‘reconnaissance’ tours to groups 1/5.
[Disclosed on 01/13/2021 via https://twitter.com/FrankSowa1/status/1349574338060685312]  Claim regarding CCTV not verified. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) later shared via Facebook live broadcast that she had seen “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th as a reconnaissance for the next day”; she and 33 other House Dems later requested an investigation into these tour(s). 

01/05/2021 — Georgia’s U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak resigned unexpectedly. A “Never-Trumper” U.S. Attorney was mentioned but not named in Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s SoS Raffensperger on January 2; it’s believed Pak was the subject.

01/05/2021 — VP Pence tells Trump he doesn’t have the authority to overturn election results. Trump rejects this. (This needs to be validated as perspectives in multiple outlets are sourced to NYT’s Haberman.)

—————

01/06/2021 — Day of Capitol Building insurrection

TBD — Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was photographed at the Women for America First event during the rally in front of the White House. [Exact time TBD; unclear how and when she gets to the Capitol Building ahead of the rioters.]

Just before 12 PM — Sund was monitoring Trump’s speech to the crowd on the Ellipse when he was called away by reports of two pipe bombs — near the Capitol grounds.

12:40 PM — The first wave of rioters arrived at the Capitol Building roughly 40 minutes after Trump had begun speaking at the Ellipse.

1:00 PM — Sund called Contee, who sent 100 District of Columbia (DCPD) police officers to the scene

1:09 PM — Sund [said he] called Irving and Stenger, telling them it was time to call in the Guard.

He wanted an emergency declaration. Both men said they would “run it up the chain” and get back to him, he said. [Questionable if that was necessary. See 1:15 PM, 1/6/21] // Sund said he called Irving twice more and Stenger once to check on their progress.

1:10 PM — Some officers arrive from DCPD.

[1:15 PM?] — [Minutes later] aides to the top congressional leaders were called to Stenger’s office for an update on the situation — and were infuriated to learn that the sergeants at arms had not yet called in the National Guard or any other reinforcements, as was their responsibility to do without seeking approval from leaders.

1:50 PM — Sund called Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard to tell him to get ready to bring the Guard.

1:59 PM — The Capitol Building was breached. D.C. police had hundreds of officers on the scene.

2:10 PM — Irving called back with formal approval. By then, plainclothes Capitol Police agents were barricading the door to the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House chamber to keep the marauders from charging in.

2:10 PM (est.)Rudy Giuliani Trump called Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) around this time, before senators were evacuated, but reached Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) phone. Lee handed his cell phone to Tuberville who spoke with Giuliani Trump briefly.

2:13 PM — Vice President Pence was escorted off the Senate floor. Sen. Charles E. Grassley begins presiding, but almost immediately calls a recess.

2:15 PM — Senate sealed. [WaPo]

2:17 PM — [Boebert tweets] We were locked in the House Chambers

2:18 PM — [Boebert tweets] The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.

2:XX PM — Exact time TBD – Rep. Ayanna Pressley and staff notice the panic button for her office had been removed without any notice. The button had been functional and used previously.

2:20 PM — Capitol was on lockdown. [NOTE: I have to find a cite for this]

2:21 PM — Jim Acosta from CNN tweets (link to tweet needed):

“A source close to the White House who is in touch with some of the rioters at the Capitol said it’s the goal of those involved to stay inside the Capitol through the night.”

2:22 PM — Capitol Police chief Sund requests National Guard support.

2:23 PM — A dense group of protestors rioters* has shattered the windows of the Capitol. We can hear roaring chants of “USA” outside. [VIDEO]

2:24 PM — [TRUMP TWEETS about PENCE / ECHOES CROWD: “USA”]

CROWD: ‘Where is Pence? Find Pence!’ ” and also “Fight for Trump!” [NYT]

2:26 PM — CONFERENCE CALL organized by D.C’s homeland security director, Chris Rodriguez. Among those on the screen were the District’s police chief, [D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III] mayor [Bowser] and Walker. [head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard]

3:04 PM — [DOD said] Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller verbally authorized the activation of the entire D.C. Guard

3:45 PM — Stenger told Sund that he would ask his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for help getting the National Guard authorized more quickly. Sund never learned the result.

More of Contee’s officers had arrived and were helping remove rioters from the grounds. Capitol Police worked with other federal authorities, including the Secret Service, the Park Police and the FBI, to secure lawmakers, eject rioters and sweep the building so lawmakers could return to finish counting the electoral college votes that would allow them to formally recognize Biden’s victory later that night.

5:40PM — First National Guard personnel arrive at the Capitol.

About 7:00 PM — Rudy Giuliani leaves a voicemail message for Sen. Tuberville but on a senator’s phone.

[RUDY:] “We need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you.”
“If you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote.”

After 8:00 PM — Congress reconvenes and completes certification of the election.

—————

01/13/2021 — Trump tells staff not to pay any more of Giuliani’s legal fees (unclear if this is campaign, Trump org, or White House staff, or all of the above).

01/15/2021 — MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell has a meeting in the afternoon at White House; his notes are caught on camera.

7 NOW as Acting National Security
8 him with getting the evidence of ALL the
9 as the election and all information regarding
10 people he knows who already have security
11 done massive research on these issues
12 Fort Mead. He is an attorney with Cyber-
13 and is up to speed on election issues.
14
15 [insurrection?] Act now as a result of the assault on the
16 marial law if necessary upon the first hint of any
17
18
19 Sidney Powell, Bill Olsen, Kurt Olsen.
20 Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting.
21
22 up Foreign Interference in the election. Trigger
23 powers. Make clear this is China/Iran
24 used domestic actors. Instruct Frank
25 evidence on [—–] the [—-]broad
26 account [————–]-ary
27 the line [—————] evidence
28 caus [——————-] attorney

01/16/2021 — WaPo: Acting Defense Secretary Orders NSA director to immediately install former GOP operative as agency’s top lawyer

01/17/2021 — The NSA is ‘moving forward’ to install Michael Ellis, a former GOP operative, as its top lawyer
[see https://twitter.com/nakashimae/status/1350855207270445059]

01/20/2021 — Ellis placed on leave pending an investigation.

“He will remain on administrative leave while his hiring is investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general.”

~ ~ ~

What seemed random a week or more ago looks much less so today. If you have any item you believe is relevant to this developing timeline, please feel free to share in comments.

NOTE: Please restrict comments in this thread to content germane to this timeline. Thanks.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 11:45 AM 23-JAN-2021 —

  • Corrections made re: first known phone call to Tuberville – call was from Trump, not Giuliani, who made the second call left on a senator’s voicemail.
  • Strike claim about CCTV of Capitol Building tours on January 5, add Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s observation of tours that day along with House Dems’ request for investigation into the tours.
  • Added Trump’s 12/12/2020 tweet and Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio’s visit to White House same day.
  • Added link to Philadelphia Inquirer story about 11/25/2020 hearing.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 2:15 PM 23-JAN-2021 —

  • 01/06/2021 2:21 PM tweet by CNN’s Acosta added
  • 01/20/2021 Michael Ellis’s change in status added

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 5:40 PM 25-JAN-2021 —

* Once they are engaged in destruction they are no longer protesters but rioters.

Added these items, tweaked others:

  • 11/17/2020 Michigan election officials certified the state’s election.
  • 11/18/2020 Trump tweets that Michigan can’t certify its election because of voter fraud.
  • 11/17/2020-11/18/2020Details about Michigan’s election certification and GOP officials attempt unsuccessfully to rescind their certification of the state’s election.
  • 12/08/2020-12/11/2020  Filing and dismissal of Texas lawsuit before SCOTUS.
  • 12/31/2020-01/01/2021 Rep. Gohmert’s Hail Mary lawsuit filed and tossed.
  • 01/06/2021 Rep. Pressley’s panic button discovered missing.
  • 01/02/2021-01/03/2021 More details about Trump’s call to Georgia secretary of state Raffensperger added.
  • 01/13/2021  Trump wants to stiff Rudy.
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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/rayne/