Monday, September 4, 2023

On Our Virtual Route 66 As September Dawns

 It has been quite a week in our World as we begin September and what is bound to be a tumultuous month with a looming US Government Shutdown, the war in Ukraine, uncertainty in Europe, uncertainty in China, and the looming challenges in the UK with By-Elections.

We present a selected snapshot of the week that was with thoughts courtesy of our valued partners Crooked Media, 1440, Politico, The Economist, the Bulwark, Principles,  and Truthout: 


A courthouse protester fending off  former Trump aide Peter Navarro trying to snatch her “TRUMP LOST (And you know it!)” sign. Give that woman the keys to the city.

Editor's note: We'll be off on Monday for Labor Day, and right back in your inbox on Tuesday. Solidarity forever ;)

Trump aides and allies continue their hot streak of humiliations as dozens of federal and state-level investigations continue. Nice!

  • FBI agent Jonathan Buma says that his investigation of “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani was stymied within the bureau, just the latest in a long string of “Hmmmm why did the investigation of this corrupt far-right person/group get pushed to the side for so long?” in recent FBI history. Buma says that Giuliani “may have been compromised” by Russian intelligence while working as a lawyer and adviser to disgraced former president Donald Trump during the 2020 campaign. 

  • Buma sent a 22-page statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in July full of extremely serious allegations, and the document leaked shortly thereafter. According to the account Giuliani was used as an asset by a Ukrainian oligarch tied to Russian intelligence and other Russian operatives for a disinformation operation that aimed to discredit Joe Biden and boost Trump in the 2020 presidential election. But what else is new?! Even more explosive, Buma says he was retaliated against within the bureau for investigating the matter. 

  • A source familiar with Buma’s work told Mother Jones that other potential FBI whistleblowers who participated in the investigation involving Giuliani have consulted the same lawyer as Buma and could meet with congressional investigators in the coming weeks. Giuliani’s attempts to dig up and disseminate dirt on Biden in Ukraine is well-known by now. In particular, Giuliani pushed an unfounded allegation that when Biden was vice president he put the kibosh on an investigation of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, for which his son Hunter worked as a director at the time. It turned out something close to the exact opposite was true—Biden got the corrupt prosecutor who wouldn’t investigate Burisma fired. But House Republicans are still hot on this dead-end trail to this day.

Giuliani isn’t the only Trump loyalist having a bad year. 

  • Five more members of the far-right Proud Boys were sentenced in a Washington, DC, court on Friday. One of them yelled “Trump won!” as he left the courtroom after being sentenced to 10 years in prison. Enjoy the clink, my guy! Dominic Pezzola, who did not play a leadership role in the group, was the only defendant of the five to be acquitted of seditious conspiracy. He was convicted of other felonies, including obstructing an official police proceeding and assaulting police. 

  • Thanks to amateur online sleuths known as “Sedition Hunters” who have helped authorities identify thousands of January 6 insurrectionists, the man shown in a newly released video telling Capitol police officers, “I want you to do me a favor right now and go hang yourself, because you’re a piece of shit,” has been identified as Dylan Quattrucci, who happens to be the deputy state director of Trump’s New Hampshire campaign operation. Four officers who responded to the insurrection later died by suicide. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn—who testified in the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial—praised his former colleagues and excoriated Quattrucci in a statement to NBC News on Thursday night, saying, “I hope Dylan Quattrucci will take the time to comprehend that 4 members of Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Dept did die via suicide and that the efforts to stop the certification of duly elected President Biden failed in part because of their brave heroics…You are a failure. Those men will be remembered for service to their country. And you’ll be remembered as the guy in the cheap suit during the failed insurrection.”

Finally, there’s a new development in the Donald Trump criminal proceedings extended universe. Unlike his trials in Florida, New York, and Washington, DC, court proceedings in Fulton County, GA will be televised and streamed. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee announced on Thursday that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom and that the case would also be livestreamed on the court’s YouTube channel. Feels kinda weird that a district court has its own YouTube channel, but that’s a problem for another day. 


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Southerners Die Younger Than Other Americans. It’s Not Why You Think.

Topographical U.S. map with silhouetted illustrations of a lifespan ranging from baby steps to senior walking.

POLITICO illustration/Photos by iStock

How long until you die? You can find the answer on a map of the U.S.

That’s according to a fascinating set of data out of Nationhood Lab, a Salve Regina University project founded by Colin Woodard, author of this week’s Friday Read. Their research has found that where you live in the U.S. has an incredible impact on your life expectancy. And the connection between geography and longevity holds true even for similar places in different regions.

For example, take Lexington County, South Carolina, and Placer County, California. They have a lot in common: they’re big, wealthy, suburban counties with white supermajorities that border on their respective state’s capital cities, and both voted for Donald Trump twice. But Placer’s life expectancy of 82.3 rivals that of Scandinavian countries, whereas Lexington’s, at 77.7, is worse than China’s.

It’s not just a question of poverty, either. Washington County, Maine, is the poorest in New England, ravaged by the opioid epidemic. But its life expectancy of 75.5 still beats that of the equally remote and drug-battered Perry County, Kentucky, by a full six years.

So where do these disparities come from? To answer that question, we have to go back to before America’s founding.

“The reason the U.S. has strong regional differences is precisely because our swath of the North American continent was settled in the 17th and 18th centuries by rival colonial projects that had very little in common,” Woodard writes. “Those colonial projects — Puritan-controlled New England; the Dutch-settled area around what is now New York City; the Quaker-founded Delaware Valley; the Scots-Irish-dominated upland backcountry of the Appalachians; the West Indies-style slave society in the Deep South; the Spanish project in the southwest and so on — had different religious, economic and ideological characteristics.”

And those characteristics have echoed down through the ages to influence culture, politics and, consequently, health.

Read the story.


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“Severe aging health issues and/or mental health incompetence in our nation’s leaders MUST be addressed.

Biden, McConnell, Feinstein, and Fetterman are examples of people who are not fit for office and it’s time to be serious about it.” 

Can you guess who said this? Scroll to the bottom for the answer.**


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A photo illustration of Dan Rapoport with a DC skyline and an image of Vladimir Putin in the background.

POLITICO illustration/Photos by Hunter Abrams/; Getty; iStock

Did Putin Kill a Man in Washington? … Yevgeny Prigozhin isn’t the first critic of Vladimir Putin to fall from the sky. A year ago, Soviet-born U.S. citizen Dan Rapoport, who made his fortune in post-Soviet Russia before souring on the regime, plunged from an M Street apartment building to his death. D.C. police almost immediately said there was no foul play — but Rapoport’s allies say something doesn’t add up. “Those who knew him — I’ve talked to a lot of venture capitalists — nobody is convinced he just up and decided to jump,” says Jason Jay Smart. In this week’s Capital City column, Michael Schaffer looks into Rapoport’s death — and why it hasn’t made a bigger splash in the Beltway.


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Vivek Ramaswamy declared Richard Nixon his favorite foreign policy president in last week’s Republican presidential debate, calling Nixon’s “realism” foundational to his own view on how to deal with other nations. But the pitch was bunk. When your friends talk up Ramaswamy’s debate performance, hit them with these details. (From POLITICO’s Jack Shafer)

- Nixon, unlike Ramaswamy, was no foreign policy amateur, having served as U.S. ambassador at large in his eight years as vice president, and consulted with thinkers and policy makers.

- Ramaswamy proposed a worldwide military retreat, sounding more like former presidential candidate Republican Robert A. Taft and Democrat George McGovern than Nixon.

- Definitely do not parrot what Ramaswamy says about Russia: The candidate thinks that by giving Russia the chunks of Ukraine it currently occupies and barring that nation’s entry into NATO, he could convince Putin to break with China — Russia’s more stalwart ally. Point out how Ramaswamy doesn’t understand the Sino-Russian relationship, which is the best it’s been since the 1950s. As long as they see the U.S. as a common rival and share similar views of a post-American world order, the two will remain friendly neighbors.

- If all your friends are already dunking on Ramaswamy, here’s what to say to stand out. Sure, his foreign policy proposals are scattered, but he did push other candidates to expand the debate. Plus, he’ll likely fully pull back the curtain on how the “Vivek Doctrine” would work in the real world during his future campaign stops. Hint to your friends that there’s more to come.


Illustration by Chloe Zola for POLITICO

The Hunter Biden Fan Club … The laptop. The drug problem. The gun. Hunter Biden’s many scandals have lit up headlines and provided conservatives with a bludgeon to use against President Joe Biden. Even many Democrats see him as a liability. But to political junkies on the post-Bernie Sanders, irony-poisoned left, Hunter Biden isn’t a stain on the White House — he’s “based.” “The … love affair between Hunter Biden and leftists who have little love for his father might seem like a surprising pairing,” writes Calder McHugh. Yet “if you examine Hunter’s misdeeds and escapades from just the right angle, they can be viewed as illuminating the hundreds of little cracks in the foundation of the American empire. For people who aren’t buying what America has sold, that’s heartening.”



Possible Ukraine Breakthrough

Ukrainian forces appear to have pierced through sections of Russia's frontline defenses in southeastern Ukraine, according to reports. The development could mark a breakthrough in Ukraine's three-month-long counteroffensive and would be the first instance in which its forces have penetrated Russian defensive lines, riddled with minefields, trenches, artillery, and other obstacles. 


Russia has three main defensive lines across southern Ukraine, including what's known as the Surovikin line outside of the village of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, once an agricultural area and home to roughly 1,000 people. The Surovikin line was constructed under the direction of and named after Russian Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who went missing after the short-lived Wagner rebellion and was later

removed from his role as head of Russia's air force. 


Ukraine also appeared to break through a defensive line in the village of Novoprokopivka. Verbove and Novoprokopivka are both near the village of Robotyne, which Ukraine reclaimed Tuesday. See updates on the war here.


A Desert Burn

Burning Man 2023 officially started Sunday in the Black Rock Desert—100 miles north of Reno, Nevada—with tens of thousands already in attendance for the nine-day event, despite a small group of environmental activists staging a demonstration on the route to the gate.


The annual event, which blends art, self-expression, and communal living, originated in 1986 with the burning of a wooden effigy on a San Francisco beach, evolving into a temporary desert city centered around art installations, music, workshops, and the symbolic burning of a massive wooden sculpture. The “burners,” who build the approximately 7-square-mile temporary city from scratch each year, bring everything they need to survive in the desert. The event will conclude with the burning of the "man" statue tomorrow, the Temple burn Sunday, and a mass exodus Monday.


This year's theme is “Animalia,” officially described as celebrating the animal world, both real and imagined, and our place in it. See some of the large-scale art here, including a massive wooden box that revealed a steel phoenix when burned, representing war-torn Ukraine.  


Proud Boys Sentencing 

Two former leaders of the Proud Boys group were sentenced to more than a decade in prison yesterday, in two of the longest jail terms handed out related to the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol.  


Prosecutors argued 39-year-old Joseph Biggs, who received a 17-year sentence, used his US military experience to organize and coordinate a group of people to enter the Capitol building. Separately, 37-year-old Zachary Rehl was handed down a 15-year sentence. Among other issues, Rehl was accused of firing pepper spray toward a Capitol officer during the crowd surge. The decision followed a jury conviction of the pair and two others in May. 


Enrique Tarrio—the group's former chief and reported police informant—is due to be sentenced Tuesday. 


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First Disruption to $martphones in 15 Years


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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Outerknown

> Taylor Swift's Eras Tour concert film will open in theaters Oct. 13; AMC will act as distributor for the film (More)

> Gil Brandt, former NFL executive and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 91 (More)

> University of Nebraska women's volleyball team hauls in 92,000 fans for game against Omaha, breaks world attendance record for women's sports (More) | US soccer star Julie Ertz announces her retirement (More)

From our partners: Outerknown is serious about comfortable and sustainable clothes. Founded by 11x World Champion surfer Kelly Slater, Outerknown creates timeless essentials that are comfortable, fit great, and are sustainably made. Experience style and comfort with their ultrasoft Blanket Shirt and the new California Series sweats made with 100% Climate Beneficial™ cotton grown in California. With 15K+ 5-star reviews, we trust Outerknown's quality. This weekend, readers get an exclusive 20% off with code 1440.


Science & Technology

> AI-powered drone beats world champion human competitors in drone racing competition; system made decisions based on a mounted camera providing visual data in real time (More, w/video)

> Archaeologists devise new method for analyzing ancient cremated remains, retrieving information about the method of ritual burials; learnings have historically been gathered from inhumated, or full body, burials (More)

> Study finds the brain circuitry controlling decision-making is similar in both insects and mammals; findings challenge previous notions of how insects react to stimuli (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed (S&P 500 -0.2%, Dow -0.5%, Nasdaq +0.1%); all three indexes close lower for the month of August (More)

> UBS posts stronger profits, Swiss banking giant will cut approximately 3,000 Credit Suisse jobs; shares up 6% to highest level since 2008 (More)

> Shopify to integrate Amazon’s Buy with Prime platform into product offering; Shopify shares up 11% (More) | Athleisure giant Lululemon beats expectations and increases guidance (More


Politics & World Affairs

> Early estimates place damage from Hurricane Idalia between $3B and $9B; death toll estimated to be one victim, possibly up to three as of this writing (More) | See photos (More)

> Former President Donald Trump pleads not guilty to state charges he conspired to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results, waives right to attend next week's arraignment (More)

> Greece deploys 100 additional firefighters to battle wildfires that have burned across the country's northeast for the past two weeks (More)



> Winning Back Trust

Tangle | Isaac Saul. Bias is one of the top complaints of news readers about the news they consume. See a breakdown of bias in action and five suggestions to address it. (Read)


> Paragliding Disaster

Real Survival Stories | John Hopkins. (Podcast) The tale of paraglider Ewa Wiśnierska's harrowing excursion through a storm pushing her higher and higher into the atmosphere. (Listen)

> Shopping Cart Theory 

Ringer | Nate Rogers. A profile of YouTuber Sebastian Davis, the so-called "Cart Narc," sparking debates about courtesy as he calls out shoppers who don't return their shopping carts to the corral. (Read)


> Why You Have an Accent in a Foreign Language

Economist | Staff. Differences in syllable stress, pronunciation, and rhythm make even fluent foreign language speakers talk with an accent. (Watch)

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1. Can We Elect a New Electorate?

We’re going to touch on three ideas today that all tie into the same overriding problem:

  • Public opinion about America’s schools.

  • The proposal to use the 14th Amendment to keep Trump off of the ballot.

  • Trump’s strong general election polling against Biden.

Each of these comes down to the same reality: The stability of liberalism is like the stability of the free market. It’s based on the assumption that people are rational actors in a system without overriding externalities and that these people will, on balance, choose to preserve liberalism over the long run.¹

So let’s start with how people view America’s schools. Newsflash: Americans think our schools are terrible! Only 36 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with America’s K-12 schools.

There’s just one problem with that number . .

An Obnoxious, Bigoted Businessman Is Rising in GOP Polls -- and It's Not Trump


After the first GOP debate, Ramaswamy appears to be fighting DeSantis for second place in the Republican primary.
Read the Article →

Facing Electoral Defeat, Guatemala's Ruling Elites Undermine Nation's Democracy


Efforts to undermine the president-elect are taking a toll on his party and on Guatemalans standing up for democracy.
Read the Article →

Biden Admin Proposes Long-Awaited Staffing Requirements for Nursing Homes


The regulations are the first of their kind, but some workers say they don't go far enough.
Read the Article →

California Becomes Largest Economy to Back Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty


"We hope this move locks in real action on ending the era of fossil fuels in California," said the initiative's leader.
Read the Article →

Researchers Find Remnants of Nuclear Waste in Sea Turtles


A new study underscores an enduring nuclear legacy as Japan releases wastewater from Fukushima into the Pacific.
Read the Article →

New Poll Shows Massive Public Backlash To Anti-LGBTQ School Policies


The numbers show GOP policies like book bans, sports discrimination, and Don't Say Gay bills are wildly unpopular.
Read the Article →

NYC Police Plan to Use Drones to Surveil Labor Day Parties This Weekend


Civil liberties groups believe police use of surveillance drones is "poised to explode."
Read the Article →

Group Defending Clarence Thomas's "Ethics" Includes Trump Attorney John Eastman


Eastman, an apparent Thomas devotee, was a central figure in Trump's 2020 coup plot.
Read the Article →

Pennsylvania Governor Ends Contract With Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Crisis Center


Pregnancy crisis centers are notorious for fearmongering and peddling false claims about abortion.
Read the Article →


It's Nearly Labor Day, and Congress Has a Chance to Abolish Prison Slavery


Formerly incarcerated workers are leading a push for basic labor rights in prisons that could change everything.
Read the Article →

Did Defunding Police Cause Oakland's "Crime Wave"? Here's What Really Happened.


Media and politicians call the defund police movement a failure, but it hasn't been tried.
Read the Article →

2024 Is America's Kobayashi Maru

There are no good outcomes. And we were put to this test not by prosecutors, but by the cowardice of the Republican party.

(Composite / Photos: Getty Images)

1. No Win

For the uninitiated, the Kobayashi Maru is a test given at Starfleet Academy in Star Trek. In the test, cadets participate in a simulation where everything goes wrong; no matter what they choose, the simulation ends with their deaths. The point of the Kobayashi Maru is to impress on students that some games cannot be won, no matter what you do. In some situations every decision—either wise or foolish—leads to a bad outcome.

Which is where we are with the 2024 election. A couple weeks ago I sketched out a number of scenarios for 2024:

(1) A jury finds Trump guilty in the months before the general election. Trump’s support falls dramatically. Biden wins a safe re-election.

(1a) A jury finds Trump not guilty, Biden wins safely.

(2) A jury finds Trump guilty before the general election and even so, Trump wins a clean victory over Biden.

(2a) Trump is found not guilty and wins a clean election.

(3) Trump is found guilty, but the election results are contested as they were in 2020.

(3b) Trump is found not guilty, with contested results.

Of these six scenarios, all but one—Trump guilty/Biden safe win—lead to crisis.¹

And even that one outcome would be fraught. You saw how Republican voters and elites behaved in the aftermath of 2020. Do you think that if Trump is convicted and then loses the election these same people will say,

Well, daggum it. I guess the jury has spoken and people didn’t like us running a convict. We’ll have to try something else.

Because I do not. Instead, these people will think,

Thank God Jack Smith and Biden took care of Trump for us. Now we can complain about how unfair and corrupt they were without losing any of the MAGA mouthbreathers while we pivot to Youngkinism.

And that’s the best outcome for the best-case scenario.

The scenarios in which we do not have a verdict by Election Day all lead to crisis, because there is not a voting outcome Trump’s supporters will accept as legitimate while the legal process is ongoing.

This is why prosecuting a man running for president is so dangerous. Trump’s prosecutions:

  • Invite future “retaliation” from Republicans.

  • Delegitimize an electoral system already under active assault.

  • Undermine respect for the rule of law in a large minority of the population.

So here are the two points I want to hammer home for you today:

  1. Prosecuting Trump is inherently dangerous and could result in breaking our constitutional democracy.

  2. The institutional Republican party has behaved so irresponsibly over the last 7 years that it basically demanded these prosecutions.

In other words: We are caught in this Kobayashi Maru because Republicans thought they could be irresponsible in their pursuit of power and have someone else pick up the check.

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