Two Opposing Assessments of Wednesday’s Events at the Capitol

Here are two extremely different views of what happened Wednesday. Can we agree that some views are infinitely more reliable than others?

First, a person who identifies himself as Terry Bouton, an historian and author of Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution (Oxford University Press), offered an account on Twitter. He says he and his wife attended the protest as observers and stayed around for the assault on the Capitol:

My wife and I attended the “Stop the Steal” Txxxx Insurrection on Wednesday (as observers, NOT participants) and there are FIVE big take-aways from what we witnessed and heard outside the Capitol that I’d like to share.

1) This insurrection wasn’t just redneck white supremacists and QAnon kooks. The people participating in, espousing, or cheering the violence cut across the different factions of the Republican Party and those factions were working in unison.

Preppy looking “country club Republicans,” well-dressed social conservatives, and white Evangelicals in Jesus caps were standing shoulder to shoulder with QAnon cultists, Second Amendment cosplay commandos, and doughy, hardcore white nationalists.

We eavesdropped on conversations for hours and no one expressed the slightest concern about the large number of white supremacists and para-military spewing violent rhetoric. Even the man in the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt wasn’t beyond the pale. They were all “patriots.”

I’m sure there were Republicans there who were horrified by what was happening. But the most common emotions we witnessed by nearly everyone were jubilation at the take over and anger at Democrats, Mike Pence, non-Txxxx supporting Republicans, and the Capitol Police.

2) There is no doubt the Capitol was left purposefully understaffed as far as law enforcement and there was no federal effort to provide support even as things turned very dark. This contrasts sharply with all of other major protests we have attended.

A lot has been made of the contrast to the overwhelming police presence at Black Lives Matters protests in the fall, and this is certainly true. But there was also A LOT more federal law enforcement presence at every single previous protest we have attended in DC.

Most of these protests involved tens of thousands of mostly white, middle-aged people (meaning race wasn’t the only reason for the disparate police presence). Even the March for Science had far more police for a non-partisan event featuring “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

By contrast, there was a tiny federal police presence at “Stop the Steal” despite weeks of promises of violence spread on social media by well-known far-right radicals, many of whom had long histories of inciting violence.

When we arrived, the only forces present were the clearly overwhelmed Capitol Police. The only reinforcements that arrived were other Capitol Police. There were a handful of DC Metro police, but they had accompanied the ambulances to take away the injured.

The only other federal law enforcement presence was an FBI Swat team of about eight officers who arrived to provide cover for the Capitol Fire and EMTs there to extract Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon radical who was shot inside the Capitol Building.

Once the FBI team got Babbitt out, they left and no other federal officers arrived in the more than two hours that followed. The small Capitol Police force was left to deal with the chaos by themselves.

3)  The Txxxx rioters only supported law enforcement as long as they believed law enforcement was supporting them. Rioters, many carrying Thin Blue Line flags, seemed convinced that the Capitol Police would turn against the government and join them.

Numerous rioters shouted at the police, saying some version of “we had your back, now you need to have ours.” All of the Capitol officers we saw—Black, white, Latino, male, female—seemed alarmed by what was happening and continued to try to do their job faithfully.

And the crowd reviled them for it. They booed the police and FBI swat team, calling them traitors and murderers. A man on the back Capitol steps ripped up a Thin Blue Line flag, the torn stripes fluttering down over a crowd briefly chanting “fuck the police.”

4)  There were also no clear crowd rules imposed for Stop the Steal like there were for all the other protests we have attended. All of the “liberal” protests of the last four years we attended had a long list of things you could not bring that were enforced at the Capitol.

At these protests, there were no poles or sticks, no backpacks, no weapons or body armor, etc. There were sometimes security check points to go through to get onto the mall or Capitol grounds.

None of these standard rules applied to Stop the Steal. There were poles and flags and backpacks and body armor EVERYWHERE. We didn’t see any guns or knives. But there were certainly people brandishing flag poles as if they were weapons.

5) These people are serious and they are going to keep escalating the violence until they are stopped by the force of law. There were many, many people there who were excited by the violence and proud and excited about the prospect of more violence.

And it wasn’t just the white nationalists, Second Amendment radicals, and QAnon boneheads. I can’t adequately describe the blood lust we heard everywhere as we walked over the Capitol grounds, even from mild-mannered looking people.

The most alarming part to me was the matter-of-fact, causal ways that people from all walks of life were talking about violence and even the execution of “traitors” in private conversations, like this was something normal that happened every day.

I am convinced that if Congress doesn’t act to do something about this quickly, these people are going to keep going and the unrest and violence will get more widespread and more uncontrollable. This is a crisis. It’s real. It’s happening. It must be taken seriously.

Second, Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Chicago, posted something he says he received from a friend. It’s said to be an email from the head of an actual New York City investment firm:

From: Blackhawk Partners [email address omitted]

Date: January 8, 2021 at 3:43:24 PM EST

To: [name omitted]

Subject: It ain’t over yet. something BIG is about to happen.

Thanks much for being a loyal reader of my letters. If you think you’ve received this email by error, simply remove yourself from the list. No worries.

If interested in supporting me, I appreciate you forwarding this email along to help bypass the censorship of conservative/capitalist reports & opinions.

With 100,000 followers on board, my team and I are committed to start changing the narrative in America. It is high time for disruption. The alternative is “misery”.

The American Revolution 2.0 is upon America. That was the WORST staged event at the US Capitol that I have ever seen. Everyone of those ACTORS that ended up in the Capitol Building were hired actors. There was ZERO Police Presence at the Capitol Building and I am glad that Txxxx got out of Washington. We are watching the Coup come to an end and it was interesting to see that the MSM are naming it a coup and it really is a Coup. A coup against Txxxx. Anyway Txxxx is at an Elite Military Communications Base in Abilene, Texas where he is watching his Vice President finish his Presidency as he sits in the Bird Seat. Get ready for some big announcements. America is on the Brink. Treason is the End Game.

Fakestream Media continues to manipulate the world into thinking the U.S. Capitol insurgency was the fault of President Txxxx, asking for the 25th amendment, while Schumer and Pelosi et al are pushing the DoJ to go after Txxxx for inciting a riot to overthrow the government.

THEY are saying that all MAGA / Txxxx supporters are “Domestic Terrorists,” especially “Q-Anon followers.”

The hypocrisy by the communist left is over-the-top as NOTHING was said by these bastards about ANTIFA / BLM fire and destruction on the streets of America.

What THEY are not wanting the fakestream media to talk about is….WE in the Patriot Movement have the intel and WE understand that ANTIFA led the MAGA cattle to a deadly slaughter at the Capitol. WE all have the footage and intel on two particular ANTIFA thug chiefs.

The American public are being hoodwinked by the communist force that continues their coup against President Txxxx.

Txxxx MUST prevail and if he has NO support to begin massive arrests of all TRAITORS, then at least…HE MUST expose, expose and expose the foreign interference and traitors aiding and abetting the Chinese Communists.

Word tonight is that Pelosi’s laptop was grabbed and shows emails with ANTIFA organizers.

I am also seeing reports from credible sources, a U.S. military operation (during the night) was conducted in Ukraine, a raid of a Biden (owned) building and some very disturbing items and black tar heroin was seized.

The next couple of weeks could further entice the mental trip we’re all experiencing…WE ARE AT WAR.

Regardless of what Txxxx finally has to do, which WE might NOT agree with, the revolution and resistance against an illegal government will not end, but will become extremely dangerous, but righteous and our duty under the U.S. Constitution.

If you’re ready to escape perpetual fiefdom, extortion and slavery and build a powerhouse company or startup, sign up here < … > to find out how to create the biggest wealth creation movement ever

Subscribing to my master class will also get you:

  *   a complimentary copy of my most recent book . . . 

Start differentiating between what is the reality v/s what they are imposing on you or live with the consequences.

Let’s Roll!

Ziad K. Abdelnour, President & CEO

Blackhawk Partners

445 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10022

Unquote.

For context, Prof. Leiter offered a link to a Securities and Exchange Commission Order, which says in part:

This matter concerns a scheme by registered representative Abdelnour to offer and sell fictitious “prime bank” securities. From at least September 2009 to April 2011, Abdelnour, acting through Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a purported private equity “family office,” solicited investors to invest in trading programs that purportedly yielded returns of up to 600% in as little as seven days, with no risk. None of this was true, however. . . . 

2. Although Abdelnour did not succeed in selling any of the fictitious securities, as a result of his fraud, Abdelnour willfully violated Sections 17(a)(1) and (3) of the Securities Act, and by engaging in unregistered broker-dealer activity, he violated Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act.

The Trümperdämmerung Is Finally Upon Us

It’s The New Yorker, so you get articles with titles like “The Trümperdämmerung Is a Fitting End to 2020”. Susan Glasser has recollections and a piece of advice:

As the awful year of 2020 and the awful tenure of Dxxxx Txxxx both come to an end, the President has partied with the unmasked in Palm Beach and taken credit for a vaccine against a virus that he once counselled could be beaten with bleach. He has pardoned mercenary child-killers and Paul Manafort. He has golfed. He has raged. He has vetoed the annual defense bill and threatened to shut down the government over the holidays. He has turned against even some of his most loyal henchmen, and some, in turn, have finally flipped on him. “Mr. President . . . STOP THE INSANITY,” the New York Post blared on Monday, after four years of relentless cheerleading.

But, of course, the President did not, and he will not. He continues to refuse to accept his defeat in the election, and just the other day he retweeted a claim that “treason” kept him from winning. Injecting still more political drama into the most ministerial of constitutional processes, Txxxx and his most fanatical supporters now want Congress to refuse to confirm Joe Biden’s Electoral College win on January 6th—which is both pointless, in that it will not happen, and incredibly destructive. Meanwhile, more than a hundred thousand Americans have died of the coronavirus just since the election, and only two million Americans—not the hundred million he once promised—have so far received the vaccine.

The Trümperdämmerung is finally here, and it is every bit the raging dumpster fire that we, the unlucky audience for this drama, have come to expect. Is there anyone left who is surprised that the President is careening through the last days of his Administration with a reckless disdain that simply has no precedent in American public life? Still, the hardest thing to accept is that 2020 is not merely the year that Dxxxx Txxxx’s luck ran out but that with it the country’s did, too. Sadly and yet inevitably, this terrible, wretchedly toxic year of pandemic death and economic distress, of [hatred and protest], is the culmination of all that Txxxx has wrought and all that he is.

Now that 2020 is finally almost over, I find that I don’t want to remember it at all. . . .

. . . I can barely summon the concerns and controversies of a year ago, when the most pressing political question in Washington was whether Txxxx’s former national-security adviser John Bolton would have to testify in the impeachment trial of the President. . . . This was back when Txxxxian outrages seemed less threatening to the literal health of the nation.

How much worse was 2020? Well, NBC’s list of the President’s ten biggest lies in 2019 included Txxxx perennials like the idea that windmills, because of their noise, “cause cancer,” and “people are flushing toilets ten times, fifteen times,” and the U.S. will “be going to Mars very soon.” All are bad, absurd, and embarrassing coming from a President, but would not even rate in this year’s far deadlier, more consequential tally. Txxxx was not just a circus this year; he was an actual catastrophe. . . .

. . . On February 24th, . . . Txxxx tweeted, “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” We already knew that this wasn’t true. I had spent the previous weekend haranguing my visiting parents about the virus . . . But somehow I did not fully recognize until that moment that Txxxx was going to approach the biggest public-health emergency of our lifetimes with a strategy of outright denial. The Big Lie of 2020 had begun. So many more followed that it’s hard to remember the breathtaking simplicity of this first untruth, the foundational lie from which so many deadly consequences would flow.

“Just stay calm. It will go away,” Txxxx said on March 10th, when thirty-one Americans were dead. “It’s going to go away,” he said on August 31st, by which point nearly two hundred thousand had died. “It’s going to disappear,” he said on October 10th. “It is disappearing.” He said that the coronavirus was a Chinese plot and that concern over it was a Democratic hoax, that he knew how to treat it better than the doctors did, that it was just like the flu, and that, if you got it, you would get better, as he eventually did in October. “That’s all I hear about now. . . . covid, covid, covid, covid,” he said before the election. “By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore.” But that wasn’t true, either, and, since then, millions of Americans have been infected with the disease, and December has been by far our deadliest month yet.

To be sure, there are many, many other Txxxx-isms from 2020 that would have been mind-blowing in another context, in any other year. That’s the thing about historic, world-changing times; so much happens that you can’t remember it all. . . . It’s just all too insane.

When I Googled “craziest shit Txxxx did in 2020,” a column I wrote in September, on “Twenty Other Disturbing, Awful Things That Txxxx Has Said This Month” popped up. Although it was published just a few months ago, I realized that I did not remember many of the examples cited in it—the “super-duper” new “hydrosonic” missile that does not actually exist; Txxxx’s accusation that Biden got a “big fat shot in the ass” of some unknown drug; Txxxx’s admission that he was getting his information about the uselessness of mask-wearing from “waiters.” This, as George W. Bush was reported to have said about Txxxx’s ominous Inaugural Address, was some weird shit indeed.

Remembering all of this is already both hard and painful. There is still much more to learn about the disastrous events of the past four years in Txxxx’s Washington and on his watch. But I recognize that there are powerful forces—in human nature, in the politics of both the right and the left—that will push us toward forgetting. The urge to move on from Txxxx is understandable, and potentially very, very dangerous. As of noon on January 20th, no matter what other madness comes between now and then, America will start to move on anyway.

[Of the books] I read this year . . . the one that resonated perhaps the most was Those Who Forget: My Family’s Story in Nazi Europe — A Memoir, A History, A Warning, an account by the French-German author Géraldine Schwarz of postwar Europe’s, and her own family’s, not entirely successful effort to reckon with the crimes of the Second World War. It made the very convincing case that, until and unless there is a full accounting for what happened with Dxxxx Txxxx, 2020 is not over and never will be. I still don’t want to remember, but I know that forgetting is not an option, either.

King Donnie the Deplorable Puts On a Show

Mao Zedong, formerly known to most of us as Mao Tse-Tung, was known to the Chinese people as Chairman Mao, but also as the Great Leader, the Great Teacher and the Great Helmsman, among other appellations. Next to Mao, North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il seems rather modest. Hitler was officially known as Führer und Reichskanzler (“Leader and Chancellor of the Reich”). Mussolini was informally known as il Duce (the Leader). 

In the New York City tabloids, the Orange Menace used to be known as The Donald. Perhaps he’s satisfied now with simply being the President, the Commander-in-Chief  and (with due sarcasm) the Leader of the Free World. But if today’s meeting of the cabinet offers a clue, there’s at least a Blessed Leader or Master of All He Surveys in his (and our) future.

According to White House reporter John Harwood of CNBC, the President opened the proceedings just how you’d expect:

He began with an opening statement laced with the sort of wild, self-congratulatory boasts that are his trademark. 

“Never has there been a president, with few exceptions … who has passed more legislation, done more things,” Trump declared, even though Congress, which is controlled by his party, hasn’t passed any major legislation.

He hailed his plan for the “single biggest tax cut in American history,” even though he hasn’t proposed a plan and Congress hasn’t acted on one. He said “no one would have believed” his election could have created so many new jobs over the past seven months (1.1 million), even though more jobs (1.3 million) were created in the previous seven months.

Typically, a president’s initial comments mark the end of on-camera coverage of White House Cabinet meetings, with administration aides then escorting members of the small press “pool” out of the room. But Trump invited reporters to remain as he called on his senior-most advisers to “go around, name your position” and say a few words about the administration’s work.

Later, on Twitter, Harwood wrote: “In covering [the White House] over 4 decades, I’ve never seen a [President of the US] elicit flattery from aides like Trump today”.

According to The Washington Post:

… White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke up to thank Trump “for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.”

Priebus said he was offering words on behalf of everyone in the room. But one by one, pretty much everyone else seated around the table took the opportunity to lavish their leader with praise, too, as the media looked on.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve you,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I am privileged to be here,” said Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “Deeply honored.”

“What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” Tom Price, secretary of that department, added when it was his turn to speak. “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

Brian Beutler of The New Republic described it a more subjectively:

[He] assembled his entire cabinet at the White House on Monday, and, in a display of dominance and humiliation like none I’ve seen in an advanced democracy, invited everyone in attendance to go around the table praising Dear Leader before the press corps. The whole creepy-bordering-on-obscene spectacle lasted about 11 minutes.

[A video of the entire 11 minutes is provided]

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao looks like she’s been taken hostage, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (the only one who didn’t essentially swear loyalty to Trump) is clearly pissed, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus sounds desperate to keep his job (reportedly, he is). 

It’s been clear for years that everyone who agrees to work for Trump eventually abases themselves, but it usually isn’t as plain as it is here, with multiple supplicants surrounding him, essentially being ordered to humiliate themselves.

Remember how King Lear begins? The old guy meets his daughters and asks “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” Goneril goes first:

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare…

Cordelia doesn’t have much to say, but Regan does:

I profess myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses;
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness’ love.

Of course, Lear proceeds to lose his mind and eventually drops dead from all the stress he’s endured. If only life in Washington was that simple.

We Don’t Torture Them Now – We Kill Them Instead

American insanity isn’t limited to Republicans or Republican-sympathizers, of course. For example, President Obama may have curtailed our use of torture, but he’s expanded our use of drones. From The Atlantic:

A report from the CIA’s inspector general [in 2004] had raised the possibility that the CIA’s interrogation techniques violated the UN Convention Against Torture, and that individual officers might be liable for criminal prosecution. That torture report … “was perhaps the single most important reason for the C.I.A.’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.”

The difficulty in keeping terrorism suspects locked up indefinitely without access to the regular judicial system gave our government an additional reason to kill them instead of capturing them. The result has been more drone attacks:

Though the U.S. drone war started under Bush …, Obama has ramped it up considerably in his half-decade in office. [According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama] has authorized over nine times as many strikes as his predecessor… Estimates of the precise number of fatalities in those operations range widely; Zenko’s own tally, based on reporting from non-governmental research organizations, puts the rough death toll at around 3,500 people. These include an unknown number of civilian casualties believed by independent researchers to number at least in the hundreds….Tuesday’s report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, lists 119 terror suspects known to have been detained by the CIA, of whom “at least 39 were subject to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques”….

But despite the vast disparity in the numbers of people abused through the CIA’s detention program versus killed by drones, there has been no official accounting of the latter program on par with the torture report released this week. “[Those] normally interested in upholding human rights ideals and promoting transparency (generally Democrats) simply will not investigate their own,” Zenko explained. “And as I’ve pointed out, in every public opinion poll … Americans are more comfortable killing suspected terrorists than torturing them.”

As Andrea Tartaros of Fox News said the other day, “We are awesome!”.

Insanity, Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, …

You could make a list: the Declaration of Independence and most of the Bill of Rights; the electric light bulb and the Model T; the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Marshall Plan; Citizen Kane and “Good Vibrations”. The Apollo program. The personal computer and the Internet. Where would bloggers be without those?

We Americans have done some very good things. No doubt we’ll do many more, considering that there are almost 320 million of us now.

Still, the first entry on this blog, back in July 2012, was “Insanity”. I wrote it a few days after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado (12 dead, 58 wounded). Since then, according to the statistics, my most frequent topics have been “America” and “Republicans”. Insanity has been a continuing theme.

It strikes me now that I might as well stop writing about how screwed up this country is. It’s like beating a dead prisoner.

Too often, we’ve been brutal and greedy, fearful and stupid. 

And it isn’t that we’ve simply had bad leaders now and then. Many of us have been in favor of slavery and genocide and showing those foreign bastards who’s boss. Today, an amazing number of Americans think racist cops are heroes, torture is justified, global warming is a hoax and the Rapture is coming any day now. For crying out loud, in 2004, a majority of American voters decided to give Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld four more years!

Maybe reading about Ferguson, “I can’t breathe”, the lowest turnout in 72 years, Boehner and McConnell, the CIA, the rapacious rich and the incessant shrinking of the middle class have merely put me in a temporary funk. But it’s hard to deny that there is something seriously wrong with America and many Americans. 

Rather than filling this blog every day with the latest outrage, I could add a sentence or two to every post: “BTW, America is still screwed up and not getting better. Please vote and, if you call yourself a Christian, try acting like one”.

Or maybe I can focus on things we could do to make things better. In that spirit, here’s what Senator Bernie Sanders called for recently. He wants to make Election Day a national holiday, amend the constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, and institute public funding of political campaigns. But he knows that none of that will happen unless more of us vote:

For those of us who believe in a vibrant democracy with an engaged and well-informed electorate, we have a lot of work ahead. Sadly, in the year 2014, we must still convince the American people about the relevance of government to their lives.

We must convince young people that if they vote in large numbers, we can lower the 20% real unemployment they are experiencing with a major jobs program. We must convince students that if they participate in the political process, we can lower the outrageously high student debt they face. We must convince low-income workers that voting can raise the national minimum wage to a real living wage. We must convince seniors that not only can we prevent cuts to Social Security – we can expand the paltry benefits that so many are forced to live on. We must convince the millions of Americans who are deeply worried about climate change that political participation can transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy – and create millions of jobs.

Throughout American history, people have fought and died to protect our democracy and set an example for other nations. In these very difficult times, we cannot turn our backs on them.

Well, actually, we can. But if we choose not to, how do we go about convincing more people that it’s worth being part of a “well-informed and engaged electorate”, while convincing many of our fellow citizens to give up their benighted political, economic and social beliefs? I really don’t know.