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.

Some of Them Are Merely Religious Fanatics

One of America’s leading villains is Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. He’s well-educated and apparently smart. Nevertheless, he insists the election was stolen. That’s him giving a fist of solidarity to the seditionists before the riot.

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Katherine Stewart, who has studied the religious right for years, explains why he’s willing to tell big lies. In addition to his political ambition, he’s serving what he sees as a higher truth:

In today’s Republican Party, the path to power is to build up a lie in order to overturn democracy. At least that is what Senator Josh Hawley was telling us when he offered a clenched-fist salute to the pro-Trump mob before it ransacked the Capitol, and it is the same message he delivered on the floor of the Senate in the aftermath of the attack, when he doubled down on the lies about electoral fraud that incited the insurrection in the first place. How did we get to the point where one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party appears to be at war with both truth and democracy?

Mr. Hawley himself, as it happens, has been making the answer plain for some time. It’s just a matter of listening to what he has been saying.

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. Mr. Hawley is not shy about making the point explicit. In a 2017 speech to the American Renewal Project, he declared — paraphrasing the Dutch Reformed theologian . . . Abraham Kuyper “There is not one square inch of all creation over which Jesus Christ is not Lord.” Mr. Kuyper is perhaps best known for his claim that Christianity has sole legitimate authority over all aspects of human life.

“We are called to take that message into every sphere of life that we touch, including the political realm,” Mr. Hawley said. “That is our charge. To take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Of our nation!”

Mr. Hawley has built his political career among people who believe that Shariah is just around the corner even as they attempt to secure privileges for their preferred religious groups to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove. Before he won election as a senator, he worked for Becket, a legal advocacy group that often coordinates with the right-wing legal juggernaut the Alliance Defending Freedom. He is a familiar presence on the Christian right media circuit.

The American Renewal Project, which hosted the event where Mr. Hawley delivered the speech I mentioned earlier, was founded by David Lane, a political organizer who has long worked behind the scenes to connect conservative pastors and Christian nationalist figures with politicians. The choice America faces, according to Mr. Lane, is “to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.”

The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic. It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness [“be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism”].

At the heart of Mr. Hawley’s condemnation of our terrifyingly Pelagian world lies a dark conclusion about the achievements of modern, liberal, pluralistic societies. When he was still attorney general, William Barr articulated this conclusion in a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he blamed “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for amplifying “virtually every measure of social pathology,” and maintained that “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.”

Christian nationalists’ acceptance of President Txxxx’s spectacular turpitude these past four years was a good measure of just how dire they think our situation is. Even a corrupt sociopath was better, in their eyes, than the horrifying freedom that religious moderates and liberals, along with the many Americans who don’t happen to be religious, offer the world.

That this neo-medieval vision is incompatible with constitutional democracy is clear. But in case you’re in doubt, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support for Mr. Txxxx’s post-election assault on the American constitutional system has come from. The Conservative Action Project, . . . which serves as a networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.

It called for members of the Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Among the signatories was Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who advised Mr. Trump and participated in the president’s call on Jan. 2 with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. . . .

Although many of the foot soldiers in the assault on the Capitol appear to have been white males aligned with white supremacist movements, it would be a mistake to overlook the powerful role of the rhetoric of religious nationalism in their ranks. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, on the eve of Electoral College certification, the right-wing pastor Greg Locke said that God is raising up “an army of patriots.” Another pastor, Brian Gibson, put it this way: “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” and added, “We’re going to take our nation back!”

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a number of Christian nationalist leaders issued statements condemning violence — on both sides. How very kind of them. But few if any appear willing to acknowledge the instrumental role they played in perpetuating the fraudulent allegations of a stolen election that were at the root of the insurrection.

They seem, like Mr. Hawley himself, to live in a post-truth environment. And this gets to the core of the Hawley enigma. The brash young senator styles himself not just a deep thinker who ruminates about late-Roman era heretics, but a man of the people, a champion of “the great American middle” . . . and a foe of the “ruling elite” . . .

Yet Mr. Hawley isn’t against elites per se. He is all for an elite, provided that it is a religiously righteous elite. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School and he clerked for John Roberts, the chief justice. Mr. Hawley, in other words, is a successful meritocrat of the Federalist Society variety. His greatest rival in that department is the Princeton debater Ted Cruz. They are résumé jockeys in a system that rewards those who do the best job of mobilizing fear and irrationalism. . . .

Over the past few days, following his participation in the failed efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Hawley’s career prospects may have dimmed. Two of his home state newspapers have called for his resignation; his political mentor, John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has described his earlier support for Mr. Hawley as “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”; and Simon & Schuster dropped his book. On the other hand, there is some reporting that suggests his complicity in efforts to overturn the election may have boosted his standing with Mr. Txxxx’s base. But the question that matters is not whether Mr. Hawley stays or goes, but whether he is simply replaced by the next wannabe demagogue . . . 

Make no mistake: Mr. Hawley is a symptom, not a cause. He is a product of the same underlying forces that brought us President Txxxx and the present crisis of American democracy. Unless we find a way to address these forces and the fundamental pathologies that drive them, then next month or next year we will be forced to contend with a new and perhaps more successful version of Mr. Hawley.

Unquote.

Some of them believe white people, especially men, own America. Others believe lying isn’t a sin if it helps their religion own America. It’s important to know your enemy, but I can’t think of any other encouraging words.

Seditious Right-Wing Apples Aren’t the Same as Illegal Left-Wing Oranges

Right-wing apologists have suggested that it was left-wing radicals acting as agents provocateur who fomented the violence on Wednesday. That’s almost as ridiculous as the idea that the government orchestrated the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as part of a plot to take away everybody’s guns.

The suggestion apparently originated when some idiot(s) using facial recognition software identified three men who invaded the Capitol. Two of the men’s faces also appear on an anti-fascist site. The big problem is that the site identifies these two as hard-core Nazis, not anti-fascists. The third man wasn’t an anti-fascist either. He’s a QAnon conspiracy promoter who’s been photographed in the vicinity of a protest or two. These stupid charges made it into a conservative newspaper and were given more oxygen by one of the worst members of Congress. So much for evidence.

Earlier this week, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, Carissa Byrne Hessick, responded to a somewhat more rational idea about the insurrection:

I have seen so many people (including folks on #lawtwitter) comparing what happened at the Capitol yesterday with the violence and property damage that happened in some cities during protests last summer.

Let me explain what is wrong with that analogy . . . . .

To clarify — my disagreement is not with those who are pointing out that law enforcement didn’t respond with the same level of force and arrests at the capitol as it did during BLM protests.

That comparison deserves to be drawn and it raises some very important questions.

My disagreement is with those who are saying that what happened at the Capitol yesterday is so similar to what happened during protests this summer, that people’s reactions ought to be similar–a suggestion that those reacting more strongly now are hypocritical.

Here’s one example of someone (a law professor) making the argument [“kudos to those who’ve consistently condemned riots”]. But I’ve seen it plastered across the site all day, it keeps cropping up in my mentions, and so I want to respond.

There are a number of things that distinguish what happened at the Capitol from what happened during [Black Lives Matter] protests. The most obvious is the reason that people protested—some protested about factually false claims about election fraud; others about real police shootings.

It should go without saying, but the reasons that people act are incredibly important in judging their actions. People who do bad things for bad reasons deserve more condemnation than people who do things for good reasons.

This is a pretty basic social and legal concept.

There is another, more important difference between the reasons for action.

The people at BLM protests were trying to get changes made to policing practices.

The people at the Capitol were trying to stop Congress from certifying an election.

Changing policing practices so that fewer civilians get shot is a totally legitimate aim. If we were to accomplish it through a court decision or legislation, I don’t think people would object. In fact, most Americans would likely welcome it.

In contrast, stopping the certification of an election is not a legitimate aim. It would be a major problem if it were accomplished via a court decision. And it’s even worse to try and do it via force or intimidation.

But the reasons for the actions we saw is not the only important difference.

There is also a huge difference in how those actions came about–specifically the role that public officials played in the turmoil and protests that led to the storming of the Capitol.

The anger towards and distrust of police in Black communities didn’t come from public officials. It came from people in those communities. In fact, much of the anger was directed at the public officials in those cities. Folks blame Democratic mayors for police violence.

And while some officials in Democratic cities expressed solidarity with the protestors, the mayors were not encouraging people to take to the streets and protest. The opposite in fact. They wanted people to stay home.

Contrast that with how President Txxxx and many other members of the GOP have reacted to the 2020 election:

They have been leading the charge to challenge the result.

They have been engaging in rhetoric that talks about violence and unrest.

They fanned these flames.

The President himself held a rally in which he literally encouraged people to march to the Capitol. He told them that the Republicans in Congress were being weak, and they needed to show them to be bold.

He told them to march to the Capitol, and he repeated it multiple times.

Did Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, or any one of a similar stature tell people to take to the streets this summer?

Did they give the protestors a fist pump like [Senator] Josh Hawley did, as he was heading in to try and overturn the election using frivolous legal arguments?

The answers to those questions is obviously “no”

Contributing to a bail fund or saying that you understand why people are angry–things that folks on the right criticized Democratic officials for–is obviously not the same thing as encouraging people to take to the streets.

So were there protests this summer at which some people broke the law?

Yes.

But what we saw at the Capitol yesterday and what happened over the summer obviously aren’t analogous.

And to pretend otherwise seems like it is minimizing yesterday’s attack on democracy [no, that’s exactly what it is].

Ridiculous, But Still Seditious

The attorneys general of Texas and 17 other states run by Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to change the winner of the presidential election in four states Joe Biden won: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If the Supreme Court agreed, the Democratic electors in those four states wouldn’t get to vote for Biden. Instead, the Republican-led legislatures in George, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would appoint electors who would then presumably vote for Biden’s opponent. Since those four states have 62 electoral votes between them, the Orange Menace would receive 294 electoral votes, enough for him to stay in office another four years. Voila!

The president and his cult have already lost more than 50 lawsuits before both Democratic and Republican judges aimed at changing the results of the election. But, according to the president, this latest lawsuit is “the big one”. It’s always been his hope that the Supreme Court, now overflowing with Republicans (three chosen by him), would come to his rescue if the election didn’t go his way.

In lawyer-speak, there is “no factual or legal basis” for the Supreme Court to intervene in the election. Giving Texas what it’s asking for would amount to a judicial coup d’état. Pennsylvania’s response to the lawsuit says “the Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated”. It’s not a close call.

In fact, it’s unlikely that the attorneys general of Texas and the other states think they can win. The president may be an ignoramus who lives in a world of his own imagination (he is), so he might think there’s hope. No doubt millions of his supporters believe the Supreme Court will step in and save their hero. But the attorneys general all made it through law school. They’re simply using the Supreme Court to publicly demonstrate they’ll do anything, no matter how preposterous, to back this president and Keep America Great Again.

As an indication of the seriousness of the Texas lawsuit, look at the statistical “evidence” the lawsuit presents (pages 6 and 7 here). They got one of the president’s supporters, who is roughly 80 years old and claims to have a Ph.D.in economics, to state that there was less than a 1 in 1 quadrillion chance (that’s less than 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000) that Biden won even one of the four states, given (1) how far ahead Txxxx was at 3 a.m. on the night of the election and (2) how much better Biden did than Hillary Clinton four years ago. These calculations were based on two absurd assumptions:

(1) Votes counted before 3 a.m. on the night of the election and those counted after 3 a.m. (including on subsequent days) were from identical samples of voters. But, as expected, Democrats tended to vote by mail, which meant their ballots were counted more slowly; and, of course, some jurisdictions count votes and report results more slowly than others. The assumption that “votes are evenly and randomly distributed among geographic regions, demographics, and voting method, so that any two large groups of voters should generate similar results [has been] described as “ludicrous” and “statistical incompetence” by several academics. Kenneth Mayer, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said “This is going to be used in undergraduate statistics classes as a canonical example of how not to do statistics” [Wikipedia].

(2) Since they were both Democrats running for president, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton should have received roughly the same percentage of votes in the four states. Is it necessary to mention that Biden and Clinton were different candidates running in elections four years apart, and that Clinton ran against a political newcomer, while Biden ran against an incumbent with a disastrous four-year record? Or that the differences between Biden’s percentages and Clinton’s were relatively small — the only significant difference being that he won and she lost?

So, the Supreme Court will either refuse to consider Texas’s lawsuit or dismiss it. This doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Millions of Republican voters, more than a few of whom are either violent or crazy, are counting on the Supreme Court. How will they react when they’re disappointed? (Gosh, I hope they refuse to vote in the Senate election in Georgia — that will show the politicians who’s boss!)

Secondly, hundreds of Republican politicians from around the country have signed on to this lawsuit, all repeating the same stupid arguments in favor of ignoring the votes of millions of their fellow citizens. As Paul Krugman wrote today:

The [Republican Party] has no commitment to democracy, and hasn’t for years. Given the chance to turn America into Hungary, the GOP wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

Some Republicans might hesitate, but it’s clear that one of our major political parties no longer plays by the rules. Their goal is power, and we have no idea how far they’ll go to get it or keep it. 

Note: Now that all the states have certified their election results, the Electoral College will meet on Monday and declare Joe Biden the winner. Thirty-seven days later, he’ll be sworn in. If you’d like to look at the legal documents filed for and against Texas’s suit, they’re available on the Supreme Court site.