Just When You Thought Wisc. repub’s couldn’t get any Wackier, They Do !

Milwaukee Sentinel

‘It’s just plain unconstitutional’: Wisconsin GOP leaders again reject resolution to ‘pull back’ 2020 electoral votes

Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel January 26, 2022

Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, listens to testimony.
Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, listens to testimony.

MADISON – Assembly leaders for the second time have rejected a proposal from a Republican lawmaker to pull back Wisconsin’s electoral votes cast in the 2020 election, which is illegal.

Rep. Timothy Ramthun, a Republican from Campbellsport, introduced a resolution during a floor session Tuesday to take the impossible step of retracting the state’s 10 electoral votes cast for President Joe Biden in 2021.

Assembly leaders referred the resolution to a committee used to schedule floor votes for bills, a required action for such proposals under Assembly rules, and the committee chairman quickly said Ramthun’s resolution won’t be taken up.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

“Rep Ramthun just attempted to pass an Assembly resolution to recall WI’s presidential electors. Not only is it illegal, it’s just plain unconstitutional,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, who leads the committee, said in a tweet. “As chair of the Rules Committee, there is ZERO chance I will advance this illegal resolution. #EndofStory”

But popular conservative website Gateway Pundit falsely reported the move had been successful. Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, then tweeted to her 107,315 followers “**HUGE BREAKING NEWS** — Wisconsin Assembly Votes to Withdraw Its 10 Electors for Joe Biden in 2020 Election.”

As of Tuesday morning, the tweet reporting inaccurate information was still up despite Gateway Pundit recasting the story. The tweet had been liked more than 11,000 times and shared by more than 5,000 people.

Recounts and court rulings found Biden beat former President Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Independent reviews have found no signs of widespread voter fraud.

But Trump’s claims alleging otherwise have fueled a significant number of complaints from Wisconsin Republican voters to lawmakers, seeking a review of how the 2020 election was conducted.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the head of Wisconsin’s elections board certified Joe Biden’s victory in the state on Nov. 30 as Republicans contended they should have waited to act because of a likely lawsuit from Trump.

On Dec. 14, 10 Democratic electors also met inside Evers’ office to finalize the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. At the same time, Republicans convened to cast votes for President Donald Trump.

Ultimately, the results of the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, which declared Biden the winner, were certified on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress met to tabulate the Electoral College vote.

Since the election results were certified, Ramthun has called to “pull the electoral ballots back from Wisconsin.”

But according to the Legislature’s attorneys, “there is no mechanism in state or federal law for the Legislature to reverse certified votes cast by the Electoral College and counted by Congress.”

“Instead, except in the case of presidential incapacity, impeachment is the only mechanism for removing a sitting U.S. President,” Katie Bender-Olson and Peggy Hurley, attorneys with the nonpartisan Legislative Council, wrote in a Nov. 1, 2021, memo.

The U.S. Constitution authorizes state legislatures to “direct” how presidential electors are appointed, which the Wisconsin Legislature has done by specifying an appointment procedure in state law, the memo said.

It reads: “The Wisconsin Legislature enacted statutes establishing the process for selecting and appointing presidential electors, which involves the political parties each nominating a slate of electors, and the results of the popular vote for president in Wisconsin determining which slate will be appointed.”

The Legislature could change this process, but it would require amending state law.

There is no procedure under Wisconsin law for “decertifying” or “pulling back” a slate of presidential electors who have been appointed pursuant to state statutes.

Ramthun, the Legislature’s most vocal denier of the 2020 election outcome, was disciplined by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos last week after Ramthun falsely accused Vos of signing a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize ballot drop boxes, according to Vos’s office.

Vos stripped Ramthun of his only staff position, a move criticized by Republican candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

“I disagree with the speaker’s decision last week,” Kleefisch said Monday in an appearance on WTAQ’s “The Regular Joe Show.” “My fear is over his constituents … I wouldn’t have done that.”

When host Joe Giganti asked Kleefisch if Vos should resign over the matter and other election-related issues, Kleefisch said “no, but I will say this: the people in the Legislature are the ones who choose their speaker. I urge them to choose wisely.”

Vos has become a target of the far-right, where discontent is growing among some who believe Vos is not conservative enough and has not investigated the 2020 election thoroughly.

Last week, two Assembly Republican lawmakers were surreptitiously filmed in their state Capitol offices by a group critical of Vos’s decision to discipline Ramthun. One of the legislators, Rep. John Spiros, slammed his office door in the face of a man distributing a petition to oust Vos.

More: A who’s who guide to the Republican review of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election

Vos last summer hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to review the presidential election at a cost of $676,000 to taxpayers on behalf of Assembly Republicans. Members of the group captured in one of the new videos called the review too secretive.

Newt Gingrich Invented Donald Trump’s Lock-Them-Up Politics

Newt Gingrich Invented Donald Trump’s Lock-Them-Up Politics

How one man was the bridge from Reaganism to Trumpism.

By Jonathan Chait January 24, 2022

This past weekend, Newt Gingrich appeared on Fox News to denounce the Democratic voting-rights bill before veering — as he is wont to do — into other topics on his mind. Gingrich segued into the January 6 commission, which was cruelly “pursuing innocent people, causing them to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on legal fees” — a tactic Gingrich himself pioneered in the 1990s but which was now not only wrong but somehow illegal. When Republicans gain control of Congress, he warned, they will prosecute the commission itself for unspecified crimes: “When you have a Republican Congress, this is all going to come crashing down, and the wolves are going to find that they are now sheep, and they’re the ones who are going to face a real risk of jail for the kind of laws they are breaking.”

Gingrich’s host, Maria Bartiromo, rather than recoil in horror at this authoritarian-tinged threat, or even ask what crimes he had in mind, instead gushed, “This is such great analysis!”

The man casually threatening to imprison members of a bipartisan commission investigating a violent attack on the Capitol is not some marginal screwball. His influence is ongoing, most recently through advising House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on strategies to win the midterm elections, and long-standing. Donald Trump’s combination of bombast, ridiculous hair, and explosive political success would have been totally impossible were it not for Gingrich’s prototype.

A popular belief, especially among political centrists, holds that Trump is the antithesis of the old Republican ethos. On one side of this divide sits idea-oriented, Reaganite, small-government conservatism, and on the other, an angry, reflexively oppositional, authoritarian personality cult.

Gingrich belies that simple and comforting dichotomy. His career shows how the two strands are so closely intertwined as to be indistinguishable.

Gingrich reshaped his party in two important ways. First, he instilled the belief that the party’s main problem was that it was too nice and accommodating to the opposition. “I think that one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty,” he explained in 1978. “We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal, and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire but are lousy in politics.”

Gingrich trained House Republicans to depict their rivals in the most hysterical terms. A 1990 memo he wrote instructed candidates to label their Democratic adversaries with the terms betraybizarredecayanti-flaganti-familypatheticliecheatradicalsicktraitors, among others.

And while Ronald Reagan gained credit for converting the party to supply-side economics and away from traditional fiscal conservatism, it was Gingrich who turned this program into a kind of theological tenet. Reagan, after all, had agreed to several tax increases in order to reduce the deficit his original tax cut had caused. But when George H.W. Bush made another deal in 1990 — to hike the top tax rate from 28 percent to 31 percent in return for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts — Gingrich led a Republican revolt, ultimately deposing the House leadership. Since the 1990 Gingrich revolt, not a single Republican in Congress has ever supported even the tiniest tax increase.

Gingrich reached the pinnacle of his career after the 1994 midterm elections swept his party into control of Congress, which he depicted as a “revolution.” The conservative movement was intoxicated by power and possibility. The first issue of The Weekly Standard portrayed Gingrich as an action-movie hero, swinging from a rope while firing a machine gun over a flaming Washington landscape.

As the party’s chief ideologist, Gingrich castigated the Clinton administration as a radical, socialist threat that would destroy the American way of life unless it was destroyed itself. His party’s tactics reflected that apocalyptic conception of the stakes of their disagreement with the Democrats. First, Republicans shut down the government to force Clinton to accept their program, then impeached him.

While many Republicans initially met Trump’s 2016 campaign with disgust and attacked him as an apostate from the Reaganite creed, Gingrich quickly recognized Trump’s politics as an iteration of his own. In a March 2016 interview with Slate, he explained that he welcomed Trump not despite but because of his belief in movement conservatism: “Remember, I came in as a Reaganite, Kempite when I helped lead the effort in 1994. And I have consistently been in favor of a more aggressive, more active Republican Party that reaches out and expands its base and that is very, very idea-oriented.”

Gingrich’s fervent advocacy for Trump echoed the upside-down logic he had always used on his own behalf. On the one hand, he piously insisted he was motivated by high-minded ideas. “You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy,” he scolded Megyn Kelly, shortly after Trump was caught boasting about sexual assault. On the other, he obsessively criminalized his opponents, both real and imagined, calling at various times for the arrests of such disparate figures as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, Madonna, and various poll workers in states Trump claimed falsely to have won.

Meanwhile, the content of the policy itself seemed extremely pliable. In one postelection speech at the Heritage Foundation, Gingrich predicted, “My argument is that Trumpism produces a balanced budget largely as a consequence of its policies rather than by focusing on the balance itself.” It mattered not a whit to Gingrich that Trump’s policies actually increased the deficit. Sexual morality, like deficits, could either be the bedrock of social order or a totally insignificant hang-up of the elite media, depending entirely on which party could be held responsible for it.

Tax cuts remained the exception. Cutting taxes was the issue that enabled him to seize power within the party in the 1990s, and it held the party together under Trump’s presidency. No surprise that his advice to McCarthy reiterates the goal of cutting taxes again.

But more significant than the policy content of the Trump-Gingrich formula is its unwavering commitment to apocalyptic confrontation. Trump and Gingrich’s enemies are always liars and the embodiment of pure evil. The task is always to muster the courage to call out the lies of the liberals and the media and to mete out the same brutal treatment their enemies wish to use on them.

Many observers have assumed there is some neat conceptual divide between the slashing partisanship of a Gingrich and the naked authoritarianism of a Trump. If such a distinction exists, it is one of degree, not kind. At some point, the assumption that the opposing party is completely illegitimate and inherently criminal — beliefs Gingrich has promoted for decades — melds seamlessly into the conviction that your own party is entitled to lock up its enemies and hold power in spite of losing.

If you want to understand how the party of Reagan became the party of Trump, a grasp of Gingrich’s career is essential. He took control of the party at a time when its advance seemed precarious and infused it with the belief that it could only prevail through fanatical bellicosity. If Trump had not come along, there would have been no need to invent him; Gingrich was there all along.

The Anti-Vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America

The Atlantic – Ideas

The Anti-Vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America

By Kurt Andersen January 25, 2022

A photo illustration of a scene of human sacrifice

Getty – The Atlantic

Since last summer, the conservative campaign against vaccination has claimed thousands of lives for no ethically justifiable purpose.

In the early phases of the pandemic, as the coronavirus spread in the United States and doctors and pharmacists and supermarket clerks continued to work and risk infection, some commentators made reference—metaphorical reference, fast and loose and over the top—to ritual human sacrifice. The immediate panicky focus on resuming business as usual in order to keep the stock market from crashing was the equivalent of “those who offered human sacrifices to Moloch,” according to the writer Kitanya Harrison. That first summer, as Republicans settled into their anti-testing, anti-lockdown, anti-mask, nothing-to-worry-about orthodoxy, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said it was “like a policy of mass human sacrifice.” The anthropology professor Shan-Estelle Brown and the researcher Zoe Pearson wrote that people who continued to do their jobs outside their homes were essentially victims of “involuntary human sacrifice, made to look voluntary.” Meanwhile, people on the right likewise compared the inconvenience of closing down public places to ritual sacrifice.

I got in on the analogy too: After Donald Trump’s first big indoor pandemic campaign rally in June 2020, I made a crack on Twitter that for the 6,000 MAGA folks attending it was like a “human sacrifice to please the leader.” And indeed at least once during the month before the rally, Trump played the part of a gung-ho godlike king presiding over the glorious sacrificial deaths of his subjects. When asked, during an Oval Office encounter with the press, whether the nation will “just have to accept the idea that … there will be more deaths” as a result of his open-everything-up-now plan, he said, “I call these people warriors, and I’m actually calling now … the nation, warriors. We have to be warriors.”

“Warriors,” “mass human sacrifice”: These were high-pitched figures of speech studding a debate about our political economy—whether and how governments should intervene to keep people and businesses financially afloat, and how many lives were worth how much of a hit to the economy. Beneath the polemics this discourse was at least fundamentally rational, a weighing of social costs against social benefits.

Today, however, the economy is no longer in jeopardy; unemployment rates and salaries have returned to pre-pandemic levels; GDP per person is higher than it was at the end of 2019; personal savings are growing, and businesses are starting up faster than evercorporate profits and stock prices are at record highs. And for more than a year, we’ve had astoundingly effective vaccines that radically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All of which means that for a long time now the right’s ongoing propaganda campaign against and organized political resistance to vaccination, among other public-health protocols, has been killing many, many Americans for no reasonable, ethically justifiable social purpose.

In other words, what we’ve experienced certainly since the middle of 2021 is literally ritual human sacrifice on a mass scale—the real thing, comparable to the innumerable ghastly historical versions.

Anthropologists define ritual sacrifice as societies’ organized killing of people in order to please supernatural beings and—the unspoken real-world part—to fortify the political and economic power of those societies’ elites. The tradition is right there in the first book of the Bible, when God commands Abraham to prove he loves him by murdering his son, and then only at the last second lets Abraham off the hook. For thousands of years in societies all over the world, small-scale and large-scale human sacrifice was common.

One big difference between then and now is the likelihood of death. In sacrificial spectacles hundreds and thousands of years ago, almost all of those chosen to die died, whether or not they had volunteered, whereas only a fraction of the people now volunteering to die by forgoing vaccinations actually do. It’s the new and improved modern version of mass human sacrifice.

But as I surveyed the anthropological literature, I was struck again and again by how well that scholarship describes the factors responsible for the thousands of deaths of Americans each month. Our current experience with COVID is filled with what historians of human sacrifice have identified as its key features. Let me run through the main ones.

1. Cultural and social complexity

The literature suggests that, far from happening only in simple societies, “human sacrifice stamps relatively advanced and especially decadent peoples,” as the Cambridge University scholar Stanley Arthur Cook concluded a century ago, just as the practice finally seemed to be disappearing. In the introduction to The Strange World of Human Sacrifice (2007), the religious historian Jan Bremmer wrote, “Human sacrifice is not something that is typical of marginal or minor tribes. On the contrary, as a regular practice on a grander scale, human sacrifice seems to belong to … larger empires”—“more developed cultures” that “have a strong government” and thus “could happily dispose” of people “without the community suffering a disastrous loss of members.” A groundbreaking 2016 study of scores of socially complex cultures across the Pacific and East Asia found that “sacrificial victims were typically of low status.” In various places around the world, the victims of human sacrifice tended to be elderly, ill, or both.

Today in the U.S.—the world’s most powerful empire and third-most-populous nation, possessor of a strong government and social and political complexity, a culture both advanced and decadent—two-thirds of COVID victims have had incomes below the median. Three-quarters have been 65 or older, with a median age of over 75.

2. Intense social stress

“The sacrifices,” Bremmer wrote, “often took place during exceptional circumstances … in periods of crisis.” In Inca societies in 15th- and 16th-century South America, according to a 2015 paper, “sacrifices were often conducted in response to natural calamities, such as … epidemics,” “based on their belief that illness and natural disasters were forms of supernatural punishment for sins committed.”

Accompanying the exceptional health crisis of COVID-19 were the immediate economic and social crises: public life shut down, a spike in violent crime, a one-third drop in stock prices, an economic recession, unemployment near 15 percent. In the spring of 2020, a University of Chicago survey found that of the 80 percent of Americans who believe in God, more than 60 percent at least somewhat agreed that the pandemic was “God telling humanity to change how we are living”; 43 percent of evangelicals “strongly” felt that to be true. In a different 2020 survey, three in five white evangelicals agreed that the pandemic and its ramifications were “evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the ‘end times.’”

Naturally, many Christian ultra-conservatives rushed to put a finer point on it, including reliable superstars such as Pat Robertson, who declared, “We’ve allowed this terrible plague to spread throughout our society—and it’s a small wonder God would hold us guilty.” Notably, most believers apparently didn’t judge themselves to be sinners deserving of this punishment: According to the University of Chicago survey at the start of the pandemic, 55 percent thought God would protect them from infection.

3. Politics plus faith

According to the literature, human sacrifice occurred in societies where highly supernatural religion and state governance were deeply intertwined.

For some time in the U.S., evangelicals have made up about a third of Republicans, and 78 percent of all U.S. evangelical voters chose the GOP nominee in 2020. Donald Trump is a conspicuously un-Christian leader for an ultra-Christian party, but he is a showman, like the most successful evangelists throughout American history. In the fall of 2020, he put on a spectacular pandemic show with a Christian subtext: Infected with the coronavirus, he entered the valley of the shadow of death on a Friday. Three days later, he returned, on live TV, descending from the sky before surmounting America’s great secular temple and ceremoniously removing his maskresurrected.

Even his most fervidly Christian supporters have never minded that he shares practically none of their theological beliefs. Indeed, his leadership of the American right is apparently making evangelical and Republican more or less synonymous in the minds of Trumpists. A longitudinal study by Pew of 2,900 Americans identified a peculiar sliver of the white people who liked Trump when he first ran for president: In 2016, a sixth of those white Americans didn’t identify as evangelicals or born again, but by 2020 they did. Republicanism has been transformed by the merger of religion and partisanship that started before the turn of this century. “If more and more of a political party’s members hold more and more extravagantly supernatural beliefs,” I wrote about the 21st-century GOP’s anti-modern denial of various empirical realities in my 2017 book, Fantasyland, “doesn’t it make sense that the party will be more and more open to make-believe in its politics and policy?”

4. Enormous scale

The human sacrifices carried out in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Aztecs, “a relatively young empire,” killed thousands of people and perhaps tens of thousands annually. For that civilization, according to Science’s Mexico-based archaeology and Latin American correspondent, “political power as well as religious belief is likely key to understanding the scale of the practice.”

Relatively young North American empire? Check. An annual count of victims in the thousands? Check. Driven by religious belief and politically powerful figures seeking to sustain their power? Check.

5. Victims volunteer and “volunteer”

In the Quranic version of the story, when Abraham is ordered by the Almighty to murder his son, the boy voluntarily submits to the plan in order to please God. The Aztecs’ “sacrificial victims earned a special, honored place in the afterlife,” according to one account; another declared that many “went willingly to the sacrificial altar.” The historian Bremmer writes that in the ritual sacrifices carried out by India’s Kond people into the 1800s, “the victims were always treated with great kindness before being sacrificed” to “the founding goddess of the village” and that, “in turn, the Konds expected them to offer themselves voluntarily.” Not surprisingly, when it comes to human sacrifice, the lines between voluntary and involuntary, suicide and murder, can be blurry. In the blood sacrifices practiced by the indigenous Chukchi people of Siberia well into the 19th century, the anthropologist Rane Willerslev explained in a 2013 paper, their ritual of so-called voluntary death was accomplished by means of various forms of “sacrificial trickery.”

Millions of Americans in 2021 were tricked by propagandists of the political right into forgoing vaccination and thus volunteering for death by COVID. Fox News hosts have consistently disparaged vaccination. During 2021, according to Media Matters, Tucker Carlson discussed vaccines on half of his nightly broadcasts after Joe Biden became president, “and all but one of those episodes featured a claim that undermined vaccines or vaccination efforts.” One night this month he said, “The boosters aren’t working” and “there’s evidence that people who get the booster are more likely” to become infected. The median age of Fox News viewers is 65. Unvaccinated people from 65 to 79 are now 21 times as likely to die of COVID as vaccinated people the same age, and unvaccinated Americans 50 and older are 44 times likelier to be hospitalized than the vaccinated and boosted.

Last fall, Joy Pullmann, the executive editor of the well-funded right-wing magazine The Federalist, published a remarkable essay there headlined “For Christians, Dying From COVID (Or Anything Else) Is a Good Thing.” She portrays vaccination, along with other pandemic mitigation, as part of an “illusion of human control over death,” because, she insists, “there is nothing we can do to make our days on earth one second longer.” And, according to her, “the Christian faith makes it very clear that death, while sad to those left behind and a tragic consequence of human sin, is now good for all who believe in Christ.”

Indeed, Pullmann continues, “it is time for Christians individually and corporately to repent for the way we and our institutions responded to the COVID-19 outbreak”—that is, apparently, to seek forgiveness for their sins of quarantining, getting vaccinated, actively avoiding death. Christians, she writes at one point, are “routinely martyred” in Communist China and “raped and ethnically cleansed to punish their beliefs” in the Middle East. She declares, “It’s time for we comparatively comfortable Westerners to despise the shame”—the shame of trying to avoid death by COVID—“and get back to running our race like [our] fellow Christians, not cowards.”

This argument reminds me of the Disciples of Christ minister who famously encouraged his hundreds of devout, credulous followers to die nobly at their Peoples Temple compound in 1978. “Be kind to seniors and take the potion,” Jim Jones told the residents of Jonestown gathered near the vats of poisoned Flavor Aid, with his armed lieutenants ensuring compliance. “Die with a degree of dignity,” he declares on a recording of that event, above the screams of some of his followers. “Lay down your life with dignity. Don’t lay down with tears and agony. Stop the hysterics.”

But today, instead of frankly rousing true believers to volunteer to die for Christ (or, as Trump demanded in 2020, for the economy), most orchestrators of the current mass-sacrifice campaign employ fear-based trickery. In Vero Beach, Florida, the right-wing pastor Rick Wiles (his surname a synonym for manipulative tricks!) has said that demons are “implementing a plan that they created 10-15 years ago” and insisted that the vaccines are “Satan’s syrup.” In Boynton Beach, Florida, one of the state’s three Republican National Committee members (whose day job is probate law, distributing the property of the dead) wrote that “Diabolical [Democratic] Michigan Governor Whiter [sic] wants her citizens to get the Mark of the Beast to participate in society.” Trump’s crypto-Republican buddy Kanye West announced back in July 2020 that “vaccines are the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.”

And the right’s QAnon anti-vaccination cohort has produced its own eager volunteers for mass human sacrifice—volunteers probably oblivious to the irony that their own conspiracy theories center on a fantasy that elite liberals practice gruesome human sacrifice.

The original protestants 500 years ago, and in particular the extreme ones who self-exiled to the New World 400 years ago, very much identified as a fervent Christian minority persecuted by powerful ungodly elites. The fundamentalist Protestant revival that got under way in the U.S. a century ago was specifically anti-science, because adherents’ literal reading of Genesis didn’t jibe with modern geology or astronomy or biology. Starting in the 1960s and ’70s, their next U.S. revival resumed that crusade and extended it to other scientific realms, lately including virology. Not only are white Protestant evangelicals less likely than any other large American religious demographic to be vaccinated, but, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, those “who attend religious services regularly are twice as likely as less frequent attenders to be vaccine refusers.”

6. Participants’ murky understandings

Overseers and victims of human sacrifice don’t necessarily understand its goals, ostensible or real. “Many times when witnessing sacrifices,” the Russian ethnologist Vladimir Bogoraz wrote in his classic early-1900s monograph on the Siberian Chukchi, “… I asked to whom the sacrifice was being proffered. The answer was, ‘Who knows!’” The Chukchi expert Willerslev says this shows the witnesses’ lack of “any strenuous commitment to faith,” that the “rite of sacrifice is somehow thought to be effective as long as the ritual rules are followed”—that is, even the awareness of trickery doesn’t necessarily dissuade participants.

Bureaucratic trickery has been a consistent part of Republican-led governments’ COVID policies. The 2021 year-end staff report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis lays out how the Trump administration worked to keep citizens uninformed about the risks of the virus and about the scale of the mass death that was about to occur. In the spring of 2020, when the White House ordered the CDC to loosen its recommendations to churches about masking and social distancing, the CDC’s “incident manager,” Jay Butler, emailed a colleague to say that “this is not good public health—I am very troubled on this Sunday morning that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do.” Butler also had misgivings “as someone who has been speaking to churches and pastors on this (and as someone who goes to church).” Trump and his administration discouraged testing for infection from the start. As Deborah Birx, the former White House pandemic coordinator, told the House subcommittee this past fall, the “less aggressive testing of those without symptoms” was “the primary reason for the early community spread.”

Along-standing theory of human sacrifice, the “social-control hypothesis,” has argued that social elites used it to keep the hoi polloi subservient. But the evidence was scattered and anecdotal, untested by the most rigorous modern scholarship. One big question: What distinguished the cultures that practiced human sacrifice from those that did not? Thanks to a massive historical database of the social and genetic particulars of a hundred traditional societies spread over a sixth of the planet, from the eastern Pacific to Australia and East Asia, in 2016 we got one definitive answer: “Ritual human sacrifice,” an official summary of the research said, “played a central role in helping those at the top of the social hierarchy maintain power over those at the bottom.”

Researchers from the University of Auckland, Australia’s Victoria University, and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History categorized 93 Austronesian societies, 40 of which practiced human sacrifice, according to three levels of socioeconomic fairness—from most egalitarian, where children didn’t inherit wealth or status from parents, to totally nonegalitarian, where children could acquire wealth and status only by inheritance. The results are stark: The less fair a society’s socioeconomic system was, the more likely it was to practice human sacrifice—67 percent of the least egalitarian societies versus only 25 percent of the most egalitarian and 37 percent of those in the middle. More specifically, the researchers wrote, “human sacrifice substantially increased the chances of high social stratification arising,” “increased the rate at which” those societies “gain high social stratification,” and “stabilizes social stratification once stratification has arisen.”

Do I even need to make the point that in America since the 1970s, as a result of the reengineering of our political economy led by Republicans, Big Business, and the rich, the U.S. has become much less egalitarian, inequality and stratification have radically increased, and socioeconomic mobility has radically decreased?

Whether they were convinced that COVID wasn’t real; that if it was, God would keep them alive or, alternatively, use COVID to kill them on schedule; that vaccines are “Satan’s syrup” or make you sterile or worse; that in any case vaccination mandates are, like gun regulation, a tyrannical plot by liberals and globalists; or that the Omicron variant was introduced to deflect public attention from Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial (and, by the way, omicron and delta combined are an anagram for media control)whatever their reasons, millions of Americans have been persuaded by the right to promote death, and potentially to sacrifice themselves and others, ostensibly for the sake of personal liberty but definitely as a means of increasing their tribal solidarity and inclination to vote Republican.

That’s why the Republican governor of Texas, after mandating masks early in the pandemic, gave in to his pro-sacrifice hard-liners last fall and issued a prohibition on businesses requiring customers to be vaccinated. It’s why at a November forum for the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, one candidate bragged that he was “the only one up here … who’s not vaxxed.” It’s why the Republican attorney general of Missouri, running for the U.S. Senate there, informed the state’s local health and school officials in December that any “mask mandates, quarantine orders, and other public health orders” concerning COVID are unconstitutional and thus “null and void,” which at least one county took to mean that it must end “all COVID-19 related work” of any kind. It’s why all 13 states that have legally prohibited vaccination mandates have Republican-controlled legislatures, and why at least five Republican states are paying unemployment benefits to people who leave their jobs because they refuse to be vaccinated.

Back in 2020, the Republican-led resistance to mask wearing and other public-health measures may have made people die unnecessarily, but if so it wasn’t killing that many more Republicans (or those in their vicinity) than other Americans. During the second half of 2021, however, after vaccines were available to all adults, that changed dramatically. Of the 20 least-vaccinated states today, Trump carried 17 in the 2020 election. According to one analysis, in the most Republican tenth of America only 42 percent of people were fully vaccinated by the end of last year. In Washington State, for example, the shrinking unvaccinated minority have lately comprised more than nine out of 10 COVID victims under 65, and three-quarters of the older ones. More and more, the unvaccinated (three out of five of whom are Republicans) and those killed by COVID are distinctly GOP subsets.

It was a graph I saw in the fall that startled me into taking the mass-human-sacrifice idea seriously. The Duke University sociologist Kieran Healy’s granular analysis plotted the number of deaths and degree of Republicanism in each of America’s 3,000 counties, then divided the counties into 10 groups from reddest to bluest, each containing a tenth of the U.S. population. In the reddest counties—those where 70 percent or more voted for Trump—the COVID death rates from last June through November were five or six times the death rates in places at the other end of the political scale. And step by step up the blue-to-red scale, the statistical correlation is amazingly consistent—the more Republican your county, the more likely you are to die of COVID.

At their imperial peak 500 years ago, the Aztec rulers sacrificed 20,000 or more people each year, some estimates suggest. By the reckoning of experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation, counting only the “COVID-19 deaths [that] could have been prevented by vaccination,” the number of Americans unnecessarily and avoidably killed in the U.S. from just last June to November is 163,000.

A week before Christmas, at a right-wing convention in Phoenix called Americafest, Sarah Palin said, “It’ll be over my dead body that I get a shot,” and “if enough of us rise up … there are more of us than there are of them.” (This week, as the federal trial of her defamation lawsuit against The New York Times was starting, she “tested positive for coronavirus,” the judge announced in court. “She is, of course, unvaccinated.”) In fact, 87 percent of adults have now been at least partially vaccinated. The 13 percent who have not are basically the same people who’ve said all along that they’d refuse to be vaccinated—and most of them, like Palin, are Republican, and nearly all the rest of them are Republican-leaning independents.

It’s notable that the Republican president who stirred up and led the anti-lockdown, anti-mask movement during 2020 never signed on to the anti-vaccine dogma. Despite gaining some natural immunity from having been infected, Trump was among the first to be vaccinated a year ago, then stepped right up to get a booster. Last summer, it seems like, he was persuaded by the overwhelming political logic of the numbers—by then a supermajority of the electorate was vaccinated, 70 percent and growing, while only about half of those remaining were still committed to the hard-core anti-vaccination vision. Trump obviously made a marketing choice to pivot away from those dead-enders.

“I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you’ve got to do what you have to do,” he said at a rally in August on a farm in an Alabama county where 88 percent voted for him. But: “I recommend—take the vaccines, I did it, it’s good, take the vaccines.” Some people booed. Which made news, to which Trump is addicted. So in three interviews on three consecutive days at the end of the year, he went at it again, harder—with Bill O’Reilly on their joint speaking tour, on Fox News, and on The Daily Wire with the MAGA star Candace Owens.

For the past six years, few of his masses of fervent supporters—whether evangelical or irreligious—have objected much to any particular Trump heresy or inconsistency. Indeed, his extreme unpredictability is part of the show. And as he considers running for president in 2024, he must be acutely aware that his margins of victory and loss in 2016 and 2020 were mere thousands of votes in a few states, and that his voters are disproportionately the ones now being sacrificed. “I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed,” Trump said this month, “and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ … They’re answering like––in other words, the answer is ‘yes,’ but they don’t want to say it, because they’re gutless.” Perhaps his primary campaign has begun: His leading rival for the nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, keeps refusing to say whether he’s gotten a vaccine booster shot.

The pandemic will eventually finish its course, and the supply of sacrifice victims will run out. But the people who politicized and badly exacerbated this current mass-fatality event must now realize, if only unconsciously, that large-scale human sacrifice can be a useful modern political tool for a party ideologically committed to extreme inequality. What might be the next public-health crisis they can exploit? After all, for 40 years now they’ve proved their righteous power by sacrificing thousands of lives each year to the quasi-religious American fetish for guns.

But some emerging anthropology scholarship offers a glimmer of hope. Those 93 Austronesian societies in Asia and the Pacific where ritual sacrifice and inequality were strongly correlated all had populations of under a million. An ongoing cross-cultural study, based on a different, wider-ranging historical database called Seshat, has found an inverse correlation between human sacrifice and population: Organized, state-sanctioned sacrifice typically becomes unsustainable in larger societies. As Laura Spinney explained in The Atlantic in 2018, the Seshat data corpus “includes ‘mega-empires’ whose subjects numbered in the tens of millions,” and thus “tracks social complexity closer to modern levels.” Over time, the essentially parasitic nature of human sacrifice becomes more generally acknowledged. This “particularly pernicious form of inequality,” concludes the Oxford University anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse, one of Seshat’s founders, eventually disappears in very big societies “because they cannot survive with that level of injustice.”

So perhaps in a country of 330 million people, and even just within its super-red jurisdictions, the long-term governing prospects for the live-free-and-die GOP are inherently self-limiting. Maybe we have empirical grounds for hoping that the long arc of the moral universe will bend toward justice in this instance. For now, though, the death count keeps gratuitously rising.

About the author: Kurt Andersen is the author of Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History.

Mars Wrigley closing nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side

Chicago Tribune

Mars Wrigley closing nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune January 25, 2022

Mars Wrigley closing nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side

Mars Wrigley is closing a nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side once hailed as the most beautiful candy factory in America.

Built in a Spanish-style architecture in 1928, the sprawling plant in the Galewood neighborhood bordering Oak Park employs about 280 workers and will be phased out over the next two years, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

What becomes of the employees and the unique factory — an intriguing part of Chicago’s rich candy history — remains to be seen.

“The company remains committed to the city of Chicago and intends to partner with the surrounding community on a future vision for the site,” a spokesperson for Mars Wrigley Confectionery said in an email. “As we continuously evaluate our footprint across North America, our Associates were informed of the decision to move the majority of operations to other facilities in the U.S. over the next two years.”

The U.S. headquarters for privately held Mars Wrigley moved to New Jersey in 2017, following Mars’ $23 billion acquisition of Chicago-based Wrigley in 2008. The Mars Wrigley global headquarters are located on Goose Island in Chicago.

Workers at the closing Chicago plant will be “encouraged to explore the opportunities to apply for open roles across our network, specifically in the Chicago area,” the Mars Wrigley spokesperson said.

Mars Wrigley has an ice cream factory in Burr Ridge, a candy factory in Yorkville and a pet nutrition manufacturing site in downstate Mattoon, among other Illinois locations, the company said.

The plant at 2019 N. Oak Park Ave. produces a variety of “filled bar chocolate” such as 3 Musketeers and Milky Way, the company said. The success of the Milky Way, a malted milk candy bar introduced in 1923, helped build the company and the Chicago factory, with founder Frank Mars moving the company from Minneapolis to Chicago when it opened in 1929.

Built on 16 acres in a residential area, the plant was named the “factory of the month” in a 1953 Chicago Tribune series, which called it “an outstanding bit of architecture … in a beautiful setting of brilliant green bent grass, beds of flowers, shrubs and towering trees.” The factory included tinted walls, red tile roofs and two-story-high curved-top windows.

Mars Factory Chicago

Inside, fine art adorned the walls and Oriental rugs were “scattered about,” reflecting the company’s mission to create a better workplace and beautify the neighborhood, according to the Tribune article.

The Tribune reported that the candy bar plant was the “largest of its kind in the world,” at least as of 1953.

The property was formerly part of the Westward Ho Golf Club. Mars Wrigley plans to donate the factory site “for the use of the community,” the company said.

Mars moved its corporate headquarters to New Jersey in 1940 and relocated to Virginia in 1984, where the parent company remains.

Liberal stronghold Lawrence fears getting gerrymandered into rural Kansas district

The Kansas City Star

Liberal stronghold Lawrence fears getting gerrymandered into rural Kansas district

Jonathan Shorman, Katie Bernard January 25, 2022

Every year, Lawrence Free State High School social studies teacher Blake Swenson walks his students through redistricting, the crucial once-a-decade redrawing of congressional and legislative boundaries to account for shifts in population.

The students test out online mapping tools that let them draw their own districts and discover just how hard it is to make them equal, as required by federal law. And Swenson covers the less savory elements of the process, too — the raw politics that can lead to gerrymandering.

So when Republican lawmakers proposed a congressional map last week that would move Lawrence out of its current home in the eastern Kansas 2nd District and into the western and north central 1st District, the idea didn’t shock him.

“I wasn’t too surprised they would try to do this just because this has kind of been the trend,” Swenson said.

Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas and long a liberal stronghold in a conservative state, is bracing for the possibility it will spend the next 10 years in the Big 1st – a vast Republican expanse that currently stretches from just west of Topeka to the Colorado border.

The Kansas Senate on Friday passed a congressional map that would extend the 1st further east, snaking north of Topeka then south to snatch up Lawrence. On Monday, a House committee advanced an identical proposal to the full House, a sign the Republican-controlled Legislature is bent on sending the plan to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

The House debated the plan on Tuesday. GOP leaders defeated several attempts to amend the map. A final vote is expected Wednesday.

Lawrence is no stranger to being tossed around in redistricting. From the early 70s until 2002, the city flipped between the 2nd and 3rd District every 10 years. Then lawmakers split the city between the two districts before federal judges drew maps in 2012 that returned it all back into the 2nd.

But never before has Lawrence – a college hub less than an hour’s drive from downtown Kansas City – stood at the edge of being pushed into the rural western 1st.

“I think there’s definitely political gerrymandering going on … ever since I’ve lived in Lawrence, we’ve just changed our district,” said Swenson, who moved to the city in 2000.

The idea of moving one of Kansas’s bluest cities into its reddest district, combined with the speed at which lawmakers are moving, has sent community leaders and activists scrambling. They’re frustrated and angered not only by what appears to be a brazen political power play, but also what they see as the absurdity of dropping one of the state’s most urban communities into a traditionally rural, agriculturally-focused district.

The city didn’t feature prominently in public redistricting discussions leading up to the start of the legislative session earlier this month. Much of the attention focused on the 3rd District, which encompasses the Kansas City metro and whether Democratic-leaning Wyandotte County would be split apart or severed from Johnson County, where Democrats have made gains in recent years.

“I didn’t expect something like this,” Pat Willer, chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party, said.

Lawrence as it appears in Republican-led ad astra congressional redistricting map. The map would move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district while leaving the surrounding area in the 2nd district.
Lawrence as it appears in Republican-led ad astra congressional redistricting map. The map would move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district while leaving the surrounding area in the 2nd district.
Gerrymandering seen in map

Douglas County, home to Lawrence, currently sits entirely in the 2nd, which includes all of eastern Kansas with the exception of the Kansas City metro. The map passed by the Senate – called “ad astra” among lawmakers – leaves the county in the 2nd except for Lawrence.

The city, with nearly 95,000 residents in the northern part of the county, would be scooped out of the 2nd into the 1st with a bowl-shaped line running south of the city.

“I think visually, looking at that specific little notch, it makes so little sense,” Willer said. “It just kind of drives home the notion of gerrymandering.”

Republicans control three of the state’s four congressional districts. Since 2020, some Republicans have signaled they believe the map can be redrawn to weaken the delegation’s sole Democrat, Rep. Sharice Davids of the 3rd.

But shifting Lawrence into the 1st suggests Republicans are embarking on an even more ambitious project that would not only undermine Davids, but also shore up GOP control over the 2nd.

Under the ad astra map, part of Wyandotte County would move from the 3rd into the 2nd. The switch would be offset by taking Lawrence out of the 2nd.

Kansas Republicans introduced a redistricting map Tuesday that split part of Wyandotte County away from Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.
Kansas Republicans introduced a redistricting map Tuesday that split part of Wyandotte County away from Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

Republicans have held the 2nd District for the past decade but it has at times been competitive. Democrats nearly captured the seat in 2018, when Lawrence attorney Paul Davis, a former candidate for governor, ran against Republican Steve Watkins. Watkins, who suffered from numerous controversies and a divisive primary, won by 2,239 votes or less than 1 percentage point.

Republicans hold unquestioned command of the 1st, however. GOP Rep. Tracey Mann won more than 71% of the vote in 2020. With that kind of margin, the party is betting Mann can afford to absorb Lawrence’s Democrats without risk.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat, said she couldn’t understand how moving Lawrence can be justified. “People may not like that Lawrence is more liberal, votes blue, though it has a lot of Republicans there too,” she told a committee hearing on Monday.

As of June, 45% of registered voters in Douglas County were Democrats and 26% were Republicans.

Top Republicans have offered only a few perfunctory non-political explanations for the ad astra map.

Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn, a McPherson Republican who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee, said during debate that the Board of Regents a decade ago had wanted the schools kept together.

And, he said, it “didn’t cross my mind” that moving Lawrence out of the 2nd would make up for new Democrats in the district from Wyandotte County.

Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, has emphasized that Lawrence and Manhattan would both be in the 1st district, grouping the University of Kansas and Kansas State University together.

“I don’t know how you would contest that Lawrence and Manhattan aren’t similar in their interests. It made a lot of sense to put the universities back together,” Masterson said.

Matt Keith, Board of Regents spokesman, said the board hasn’t taken a position or offered testimony on any aspect of redistricting.

The University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. The Kansas Legislature may move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district, but students don’t appear engaged on the issue, according to a student activist.
The University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. The Kansas Legislature may move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district, but students don’t appear engaged on the issue, according to a student activist.
KU student engagement lacking

Although Republicans are angling to move KU into a new district, the fight over the congressional map hasn’t attracted the attention of students, said Ryan Reza, a senior studying political science and global and international relations.

Reza, president of Kansas Young Democrats, said that while he appreciates the efforts of some groups to raise awareness, “I think that historically, students have not cared about redistricting – not because they don’t care but because they’re not as informed and aware of the process as they should be.”

For his part, Reza’s objections go beyond partisan politics and include concerns about dividing Lawrence, where he plans to live after graduation, and Topeka, where he grew up.

“The two communities are so tight-knit because a lot of younger folks who work in Topeka live in Lawrence,” Reza said.

Some Lawrence leaders are sidestepping the partisan aspects of the redistricting fight, instead focusing on the economic, cultural and community reasons a move to the 1st doesn’t make sense.

Both the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the City of Lawrence have gone on record opposing the ad astra map.

“The City of Lawrence is opposed to redistricting maps that split Douglas County into more than one congressional district. We are also opposed to efforts to place Douglas County into the 1st Congressional District,” Mayor Courtney Shipley wrote in a letter to lawmakers dated Jan. 19.

Shipley didn’t elaborate in her letter and didn’t respond to an interview request.

Lawrence Mayor Courtney Shipley opposes the current Republican-led congressional redistricting map, which would place the city into the 1st congressional district, which includes western Kansas.
Lawrence Mayor Courtney Shipley opposes the current Republican-led congressional redistricting map, which would place the city into the 1st congressional district, which includes western Kansas.

In its letter, the Chamber of Commerce focused on urging lawmakers to keep Douglas County intact. Criteria for redistricting include the compactness of districts, preservation of political communities, racial fairness, equal population and partisan fairness, the letter said, alleging the ad astra map “violates several of these criteria.”

“Lawrence has never been in district one and I think for obvious reasons,” Hugh Carter, vice president of external affairs at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview. “It isn’t a good fit. It’s an ag region.”

Zack Pistora, who sits on the board of the Kansas Rural Center, an agricultural advocacy group, also questioned the connection between Lawrence and western side of the state. How is a U.S. representative supposed to reconcile the interests of the southwest tip of Kansas with the interest of Lawrence residents, he asked.

“It would just be a stretch,” said Pistora, who lives outside Lawrence in Leavenworth County and would remain in the 2nd district under the ad astra map.

South Park in Lawrence. Republican legislators are close to approving new congressional maps that would move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district, which includes western Kansas.
South Park in Lawrence. Republican legislators are close to approving new congressional maps that would move Lawrence into the 1st congressional district, which includes western Kansas.
Lawsuit over congressional map?

If the House approves the ad astra map without changes, it will go to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. The governor hasn’t said she will veto the map, but told reporters last week she wanted communities of interest maintained.

The House and Senate would need two-thirds majorities to override a veto. The Senate could likely achieve the necessary support but it’s less clear whether the House has the votes.

The ad astra map would almost certainly face a lawsuit if it becomes law, however. Opponents would likely allege the districts aren’t compact and lawmakers haven’t done enough to preserve communities of interest.

“I would expect there would be court challenges,” said Cille King, advocacy chair for the Kansas League of Women Voters who is also involved in the group’s Douglas County chapter.

Regardless of whether the ad astra map is ultimately enacted, Carter said the way the Legislature has conducted redistricting has been disappointing. With the candidate filing deadline not until June, lawmakers have the entire session to approve a map.

“So to push something, especially with some of the things that we think are clearly at least not in this community’s best interest, so quickly that we can barely scramble and get the leadership in this county all together to even express an opinion is disappointing,” he said.

GOP map ties ‘woke’ Kansas enclave to Trump-loving areas

Associated Press

GOP map ties ‘woke’ Kansas enclave to Trump-loving areas

John Hanna January 25, 2022

Redistricting Kansas

This image shows the "Ad Astra 2" congressional redistricting plan for Kansas drafted by the Kansas Legislative Research Department for Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The blue represents the new 1st Congressional District, and it takes in the city of Lawrence at its far eastern edge. (Kansas Legislative Research Department via AP)

This image shows the “Ad Astra 2” congressional redistricting plan for Kansas drafted by the Kansas Legislative Research Department for Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The blue represents the new 1st Congressional District, and it takes in the city of Lawrence at its far eastern edge. (Kansas Legislative Research Department via AP)

FILE - Students walks in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. The northeast Kansas town of Lawrence is moved under a redistricting plan from Republican legislators into a district with central and western Kansas. Lawrence is known for its liberal politics, and it would go into a district where former President Donald Trump received more than 70% of the vote in 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

FILE – Students walks in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. The northeast Kansas town of Lawrence is moved under a redistricting plan from Republican legislators into a district with central and western Kansas. Lawrence is known for its liberal politics, and it would go into a district where former President Donald Trump received more than 70% of the vote in 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

Kansas state Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence, follows a House debate over a Republican redistricting plan that moves his hometown into a central and western Kansas district, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Highberger calls the proposal "a travesty," and others complain about putting the liberal Lawrence into a district with conservative rural communities hours away by car. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Kansas state Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence, follows a House debate over a Republican redistricting plan that moves his hometown into a central and western Kansas district, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Highberger calls the proposal “a travesty,” and others complain about putting the liberal Lawrence into a district with conservative rural communities hours away by car. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republicans who control the Kansas Legislature are close to passing a congressional redistricting plan that marries an eastern Kansas community proud of its “woke” politics to Trump-loving small towns and farms five hours west by car on the expansive and stark plains.

Democratic legislators and some local officials see the worst kind of gerrymandering in the GOP’s intentions for Lawrence, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Kansas City. The northeast Kansas city of almost 95,000 residents is home to the main University of Kansas campus.

A city that has a penchant for irritating conservatives with liberal politics — it’s trying to move to entirely renewable energy, for example — would be moved into the sprawling 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas where former President Donald Trump received almost 70% of the vote in 2020.

The Kansas House debated the bill Tuesday for four hours and set a final vote for Wednesday. The Senate approved the plan last week. Democrats don’t have the political strength to prevent its passage and might not be able to sustain a possible veto from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Both parties expect the lines to be settled in court.

Kansas’ new 1st District would not look like its GOP-drawn 1st District cousin in North Carolina, held together over the north-south length of that state by islands off its Atlantic coast, or the snaky Chicago-area districts that favor Democrats in Illinois. But it raises eyebrows even among some Republicans who planned to vote for it by having a finger of land extend far into eastern Kansas and end with Lawrence at a small tip.

“It’s a travesty,” said Democratic state Rep. Boog Highberger, of Lawrence, an attorney. “It really disenfranchises my district, my city.”

As for the political divides between Lawrence and western Kansas, Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican and an architect of the GOP plan, said that divide exists now for Lawrence in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. The 2nd has swaths of conservative rural territory in southeast Kansas. In fact, even some local residents acknowledge that such a divide exists between Lawrence and the less populated areas immediately around it.

“It’s a change in a number,” Masterson said Tuesday. “They were in District No. 2 and they were the most woke place, and they were with other counties in the 2nd that you could argue were the least-woke places. Now it’s District No. 1 with the most woke and the least woke.”

Though red Kansas has a few blue strongholds, Lawrence has a reputation as an especially liberal town.

In 2018, complaints from the then-Republican governor and others prompted the university to take down an altered American flag that was part of an art display. The following year, conservatives were irked by plans for a course called “Angry White Male Studies.” And many residents wanted local officials to resist federal immigration enforcement efforts during the Trump administration.

Democratic legislators and local officials complained about how the GOP map splits the city of Lawrence from the rest of Douglas County and even splits voting precincts. They also argued that Lawrence is oriented toward the Kansas City area, with people commuting there for jobs and fun.

“The map is clearly political gerrymandering in a way that only hurts voters,” said Shannon Portillo, a Douglas County commissioner who represents both part of the city and rural areas.

The change for Lawrence stems from other changes top Republicans proposed that would make it harder for the lone Kansas Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, to win reelection in her Kansas City-area 3rd District, which has swung back and forth between the two parties for nearly 25 years.

Davids’ current district is overpopulated by nearly 58,000 residents, so Republicans’ map moves part of the Kansas City area — where Davids is the strongest — into the neighboring 2nd District of eastern Kansas. To keep that district close to the ideal population and maintain a safe GOP seat, Democratic voters in Lawrence were moved out of the 2nd.

Republicans contend that the change for Lawrence is just about numbers and complying with mandates established by federal courts that congressional districts be made as equal in population as possible after a decade of population shifts. They argue that the GOP plan achieves that: Each of the four districts hits the target of 734,470 residents, exactly.

“For you over here,” Rep. Steve Huebert, a Wichita-area Republican, told Democrats during the House debate, “who says, ‘Well, that’s not fair,’ that’s the way it works.”

Republican lawmakers argued that the University of Kansas gives Lawrence a common interest with other 1st District communities with universities, most notably Kansas State University in Manhattan, also in northeast Kansas.

When Democrats touted how Lawrence honors diversity, Republicans countered that southwest Kansas has three counties in which non-Hispanic white residents are a minority, largely because of meatpacking plants.

But Highberger and other Lawrence-area lawmakers believe the city’s votes for Democratic candidates and progressive candidates will be swallowed by western Kansas conservatives, causing it to be ignored.

Though initially surprised, western Kansas lawmakers seemed to be taking the change in stride — and supporting the map.

“Rural counties are used to being put places, and you just have to make do with it,” said former Kansas Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, a former House member who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

Also contributing was Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, and David Lieb, in Jefferson City, Missouri.

A huge iceberg dumped nearly 1 trillion tons of freshwater in the ocean. The effects could be massive

USA Today

A huge iceberg dumped nearly 1 trillion tons of freshwater in the ocean. The effects could be massive

Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY January 25, 2022

What was once the biggest iceberg in the world released more than 167 billion tons of freshwater in three months and nearly 1 trillion tons in its lifespan, which could have profound effects on wildlife, scientists say.

The A68A iceberg was part of the Larsen-C Ice Shelf on the Antarctica peninsula before it broke off in July 2017. At the time, it was the biggest iceberg on Earth at 2,208 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware.

When the iceberg broke off, it began to drift across the Southern Ocean. In December 2020, the iceberg began to approach South Georgia island, about 1,300 miles off the Argentina coast. The island is home to wildlife including penguins and seals.

The A68A iceberg in Nov. 2020 with some smaller parts of ice that have broken off around it.
The A68A iceberg in Nov. 2020 with some smaller parts of ice that have broken off around it.

Scientists said the iceberg broke apart just before it could have hit the seabed. A collision could have seriously damaged the island’s ecosystem, including killing wildlife.

A team of international scientists then examined the size and thickness of the iceberg since it first broke off using three satellites. The team found the iceberg had released more than 167 billion tons of water around the island in three months. That would be enough water to fill 61 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

The findings are set to be published in the March 1 edition of Remote Sensing of Environment.

“This is a huge amount of melt water,” Anne Braakmann-Folgmann, a researcher at the University of Leeds in England and Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, said in a statement.

The melting was the result of the iceberg’s movement from the cold waters along the Drake Passage to the warmer Scotia Sea near the island. When the iceberg approached the island, it dropped in thickness from 771 feet to 219 feet, most of which occurred from November 2020 to January 2021.

By April 2021, it had completely melted, totaling 992 billion tons of ice lost in its 2,485-mile journey since it broke off in 2017. At its peak, 22 feet of ice melted each month.

“Doomsday” glacier: Collapse of Florida-sized glacier may happen soon, raising sea levels and threatening coastal cities

Rain: The Arctic will soon see more rain than snow. Scientists say it may speed up global warming.

Luckily, the melting was enough to break the iceberg so it’s “less of a risk in terms of blockage” of the island, but it still could have a significant effect. The cold freshwater drifts with the oceans currents, so the mixture with the salty warm waters will release nutrients into the waters.

Scientists believe that will change or produce new plankton in the area, which affects the local food chain. What that means for the environment in the long term is not known.

“The next thing we want to learn is whether it had a positive or negative impact on the ecosystem around South Georgia,” Braakmann-Folgmann said. “Because A68A took a common route across the Drake Passage, we hope to learn more about icebergs taking a similar trajectory, and how they influence the polar oceans.”

Jan. 6 panel: Lawyer behind Trump election memos invoked 5th Amendment 146 times

Yahoo! News

Jan. 6 panel: Lawyer behind Trump election memos invoked 5th Amendment 146 times

Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent – January 25, 2022

John Eastman, the conservative law professor who authored memos outlining how President Donald Trump could overturn the results of the 2020 election, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights 146 times when he was questioned by the Jan. 6 committee last month, a lawyer for the panel revealed late Monday.

The disclosure came in a court hearing before U.S. District Judge David Carter in Santa Ana, Calif., on Eastman’s lawsuit to block a subpoena from the committee directing Chapman University — where he previously worked as a professor — to turn over more than 19,000 emails relating to his work for Trump in the months following the Nov. 3, 2020, election.

Attorney John Eastman, standing next to Rudy Giuliani, gestures as he speaks.
Attorney John Eastman, alongside Rudy Giuliani, speaks on Jan. 6, 2021, ahead of then-President Donald Trump’s speech to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The Eastman emails are considered crucial evidence by the committee because, in its view, the law professor’s memos laid out a road map for a constitutional coup: They argued that Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to accept the certified results of the Electoral College vote declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner. Pence publicly rejected Eastman’s advice, agreeing with the vast majority of legal experts who said he did not have the power to reverse the voters.

But Trump backed Eastman’s legal views and lashed out at Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, calling on his vice president to show “extreme courage” during the vote certification. At the “Stop the Steal” rally that day in Washington, where Eastman also spoke, Trump urged his fans to “fight like hell” in support of his false claims that the election had been stolen. Many of those supporters then stormed the U.S. Capitol, assaulted Capitol Police officers and even chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Trump supporters gather around a noose near the U.S Capitol.
Trump supporters gather around a noose near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Eastman was questioned by the committee in a Dec. 9 deposition, but he refused to answer any questions on the grounds that it could violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination for potential criminal activity, the House lawyer, Doug Letter, disclosed. Just days after the deposition, Eastman sued the committee to protect his emails from disclosure, arguing that they were protected by attorney-client privilege covering his communications with then-President Trump and his legal team. In response to pointed questioning from the judge on Monday, Eastman’s lawyer said his client has not even produced a “privilege log” identifying which of the emails are covered by the privilege because to do so would risk disclosing the existence of emails that could undercut his assertion of Fifth Amendment rights.

But Eastman’s argument suffered a blow when the lawyer for Chapman University, whose computer hosts the emails, told the judge that the professor had no right to use the university email system for his representation of Trump because it was partisan work on behalf of a political candidate — a violation of the university’s status as a nonprofit.

John Eastman.
Eastman speaking in April 2021. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Any use by Eastman of Chapman emails on behalf of Trump was “improper” and “unauthorized,” said Fred Plevin, a lawyer for Chapman. “I liken [it] to contraband,” he added.

Once a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Eastman appears to have played a central role in developing strategies for Trump to cling to office even though state electoral boards had affirmed Biden’s victory in the election. In addition to speaking at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally along with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, Eastman testified before a Georgia legislative committee urging it to reject Biden’s win in that state. 

Eastman’s lawyer, Charles Burnham, argued to Carter that Chapman’s dean was well aware of his client’s legal work for Trump — and raised no objections. But Carter seemed most focused on why there had been no “privilege log” developed so that the law professor could specifically identify which of his communications he believed are covered by attorney-client privilege. He demanded that Eastman be provided with the emails by Chapman, review them and — after consulting with the Jan. 6 committee lawyers — come up with a plan for who should resolve any disputes: the judge or a so-called taint team of lawyers who would review the emails on their own. Carter said he wanted a status report on the matter next Monday.

Was that a Senate hearing on Arizona elections or an SNL skit?

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

Was that a Senate hearing on Arizona elections or an SNL skit?

Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic January 25, 2022

Rep. Kelly Townsend of the Arizona Delegation listens in the House chambers at the Arizona state Capitol on Sept. 12, 2017.
Rep. Kelly Townsend of the Arizona Delegation listens in the House chambers at the Arizona state Capitol on Sept. 12, 2017.

The first seven of a bumper crop of bills aimed at fixing non-existent problems in Arizona’s elections glided through a Senate panel on Monday, floating forth on a bulging cloud of hot air and conspiracy claims.

This, of course, was no surprise.

The Senate Government Committee is stacked with some of the Legislature’s biggest super spreaders of election misinformation and/or outright lies: Sens. Kelly Townsend of Apache Junction, Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City, and — a late addition courtesy of Senate President Karen Fann — Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff.

Rounding out the Republican contingent on the seven-member panel was Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen of Gilbert, Fann’s No. 2 on the election audit.

Is it any wonder that most voter rights groups skipped Monday’s meeting? Deaf ears and all that.

Townsend, the panel’s chairwoman who recently announced she’s running for Congress in a Tucson district, presided over a meeting that was more a rally by the conspiracy mongers than it was a deliberative legislative hearing, with speaker after speaker rising to describe the many fantastical ways in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Never mind the lack of any actual evidence or the inconvenient fact that many of their claims have been investigated and found to be false.

Yet not one Republican on the panel pointed this out as the conspiracy theories flew during Monday’s televised hearing.

The issue was election integrity, after all, not legislative integrity.

No less than the GOP’s leading light Kari Lake — introducing herself as the “Trump-endorsed candidate for governor” — was there to offer up the long-debunked claim that a Sharpie stole her vote.

“This last election was shady,” she said. “It was shoddy, it was corrupt, and our vote was taken from us. I’m a citizen. I feel my vote was taken. I was handed a ballot and the Sharpie that was given to me bled right through, so I believe my vote may have been adjudicated. Somebody else decided who I voted for and that’s unacceptable.”

It absolutely would be unacceptable, if there was a shred of truth to it.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich investigated Sharpiegate — the theory that Republican voters were given Sharpies so that their votes would not be counted — and found it to be fiction. Sharpies, in fact, were recommended for use by the manufacturer because the ink dries quickly and doesn’t smear when ballots are run through the tabulation machines.

That, however, didn’t stop Christina Smith, a congressional candidate who said the government sent her husband an early ballot in 2020 but refused to send her one because she voted for Donald Trump four years earlier.

“They forced me to use Sharpies on thinner paper so my vote wouldn’t count,” she told the committee. “The government knows how we vote. They know he voted Democratic. They know I voted Republican.”

That wasn’t even the most outlandish claim during the four-hour hearing.

That honor went to Gail Golec of Scottsdale, a frequent purveyor of conspiracy theories who claimed, without evidence, that half of the people on Arizona’s voter registration rolls “have no Social Security or driver’s license numbers or dates of birth assigned to them”.

She also flatly said that 27,000 “counterfeit” ballots were cast in the 2020 election.

“Batches and batches of Biden ballots,” she told the panel.

When Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, asked Golec why the audit never discovered these all these phony Biden ballots, Townsend quickly intervened.

To reprimand Gonzales.

“As far as establishing if there was fraud, that’s not appropriate for this committee,” Townsend scolded.

No, but passing bills based upon non-existent fraud apparently was appropriate.

In all, seven bills were approved on partyline votes.

Bills to raise the threshold for automatic recounts in close races and to require the state to post pictures of every ballot online for public viewing, searchable by precinct.

A bill to eliminate all-mail voting by cities and school districts because … what … too many people vote?

A bill to allow the Legislature to investigate federal-voters — the ones who registered under federal law, which requires no proof of citizenship, and thus can only vote in federal races. County elections officials already check a variety of records to try to determine citizenship for those voters and if they find evidence that someone’s not a citizen, that’s already a crime.

And my personal favorite: Borrelli’s bill to ensure that no bamboo slips into our ballots. This, by adding watermarks, holographs, “stealth numbering in ultraviolet, infrared or taggant inks”, “invisible ultraviolet microtext”, “three-color invisible ultraviolet guilloche with an anti-copy feature”, “a serialized black QR code” to track an individual voter’s ballot, and 13 other “ballot fraud countermeasures”.

No disappearing ink or self-destruct feature that I could detect but 19 “countermeasures” in all, assuming you can find a printer who can do all that.

“Any illegal ballot that gets injected into the system suppresses a legal vote,” Borrelli said.

It’s worth repeating the fact that here in the real world, the Senate’s own audit found no evidence of fraud.

Republican-run Maricopa County, after a three-month study of the audit’s findings, found just 87 of the 2.1 million ballots cast were problematic. Of those, 50 were votes that were counted twice due to a county worker’s error.

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a bunch of new election laws designed to solve problems that don’t exist. With many more to come, including bills that will undoubtedly make it more difficult to vote.

With the possible exception of the recount bill, none of them are needed, of course, but won’t it look fantastic on this year’s re-election brochure?

Idaho has biggest U.S. deposit of metal vital for clean energy. Is mining boom coming?

Idaho Statesman

Idaho has biggest U.S. deposit of metal vital for clean energy. Is mining boom coming?

Orion Donovan-Smith January 25, 2022

Antonia Hedrick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management

President Joe Biden has set the United States on an ambitious path toward dramatically cutting its carbon emissions in an effort to slow climate change. Thanks to skyrocketing demand for minerals needed to build electric vehicles, that path could lead through Idaho.

Those vehicles need cobalt, a key component of lithium-ion batteries used in electronic devices and electric vehicles. The Gem State sits atop the biggest deposit of cobalt in North America, said Claudio Berti, director of the Idaho Geological Survey.

But none of it is being mined. Now, operators of a long-planned cobalt mine west of Salmon say they expect to begin mining later this year.

Supporters of the mining project emphasize that new mining practices reduce the risk of environmental harm. But the transition to more climate-friendly vehicles comes with risks.

Josh Johnson, who works on cobalt issues at the Idaho Conservation League, said his organization has had to grapple with that tension as they have partnered with battery minerals company Jervois on a program to protect the Upper Salmon River basin.

“We know that mining has historically been a destructive activity to the environment,” Johnson said, pointing to the defunct Blackbird site near the new mine, where extracting cobalt and other minerals starting in the late 1800s created pollution and ultimately led to the mine’s designation as a Superfund site. “As they go into production, we’ll be watching to see if all of their environmental safeguards are working as they should be.”

But Johnson noted the mine could be an important part of a global effort to cut carbon emissions, another goal of the Idaho Conservation League.

“The fact that they are mining cobalt is important,” he said. “But we also need to make sure that that cobalt is being extracted in an environmentally responsible way. That’s the bottom line.”

In April, Biden committed the U.S. to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half from peak levels by the end of the decade. In June, the president signed an executive order directing the federal government to expand domestic production of critical minerals and “next-generation” electric vehicle batteries.

The Idaho Geological Survey, which is housed at the University of Idaho, conducted an unprecedented aerial survey last September of the Idaho Cobalt Belt, which lies under the Salmon River Mountains. Its findings will be made public in the next two months, Berti said.

While the Jervois mine is slated to be the first active cobalt mine in the region, it likely won’t be alone for long. According to a 2019 Idaho Geological Survey presentation, of about 6,000 new mining claims filed in the previous year, roughly 5,000 were in Idaho’s cobalt belt.

The potential boom in cobalt mining could affect the area in numerous ways, Berti said.

“There is of course a fundamental economic impact for the region,” he said. “Developing one or several cobalt operations can be an incredible economic boost for the region. It also has a fundamental impact in (not only) Idaho’s but the nation’s ability to sustain the energy transition from fossil fuels into renewable energy.”

“Of course, there is also the environmental impact,” he said, including “a whole suite of possible issues,” including water contamination.

According to its website, Jervois will operate a water treatment plant on-site, and the mine “will operate on a zero-discharge basis with the water used in our processes, so there will be no degradation to rivers and streams.”

Those safeguards could make Idaho cobalt even more attractive to companies, like the automaker Tesla, that have recently made commitments to cleaning up their supply chains. The world’s cobalt supply relies on mines in countries without the environmental and worker-safety standards that apply in the United States.

Most of the global supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Central African country that holds more than half of the world’s reserves of the mineral, according to the latest U.S. Geological Survey estimates. Numerous reports of child labor and other human rights abuses have emerged from Congolese mines, most of which are controlled by Chinese companies.

Pandemic-era supply chain problems have also shined a spotlight on the U.S. economy’s reliance on China, which accounts for two-thirds of global output of refined cobalt, according to a 2021 report by market research firm Fitch Solutions.

“I don’t want to see the United States forced into a position where we grow even more reliant on countries that in some cases are not too friendly to us,” Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican whose district includes the mine site, said during a virtual event Jan. 18 that celebrated Idaho mining.

Rep. Russ Fulcher, another Idaho Republican, echoed that sentiment at the event, which was organized by Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Washington state Republican who leads the Congressional Western Caucus.

“To me, it’s made no sense whatsoever to depend on our enemies for critical minerals, especially when we have such blessings of those minerals in domestic areas, and one of those is right in my home state of Idaho,” said Fulcher, whose district could also benefit from the project.

In 2019, former Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who sat on the board of a rival mining company whose bid to acquire the mine came up short, called for the Treasury Department to review the sale to Jervois for potential links to China. Jervois CEO Bryce Crocker dismissed Otter’s allegation, and the acquisition went ahead.

In a phone call Friday, Matt Lengerich, executive general manager of the Idaho mine at Jervois, said the cobalt mined in Idaho will be sent to a refinery in Brazil. There are no active cobalt refineries in the United States.

That may change in the years ahead, as demand for cobalt and other minerals is expected to skyrocket.

A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a gas-powered car, according to a May 2021 report by the International Energy Agency that projected “cobalt demand could be anything from 6 to 30 times higher than today’s levels depending on assumptions about the evolution of battery chemistry and climate policies.”

In the event with lawmakers Tuesday, Lengerich estimated the mine will produce about 2,000 tons of cobalt in concentrate each year, enough to meet roughly 15% of U.S. demand for the metal based on 2019 figures. The site is currently permitted to operate for eight years, but Lengerich said it could double that production if it receives a permit for an expansion.

Lengerich said the mine will employ up to 120 people during construction and create 180 full-time positions at the mine site, including contractors. The mine is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2022, he said, declining to give a precise start date.

“When you talk about 180 jobs in Seattle or Boise or somewhere else, that has an impact,” Simpson said in the celebratory event. “But 180 jobs in Salmon, Idaho, is critical. That is a big, big deal.”

Berti said because domestic cobalt mining will be “a fundamental part of the economy to come,” Americans will need to realize “there is not a perfectly clean solution to anything, unfortunately.”

“If we want to detach ourselves from one ‘bad thing’ like fossil fuels, something has to be done in one way or another,” he said. “Nobody wants to see the mountain next to your home mined, but we have no choice — we have to find ways to produce concentrated energy, and we either use fossil fuels or we use minerals that allow us to store it in batteries.”

Johnson said because the Jervois site is just the first of what will likely be many more cobalt mines in Idaho, he hopes the company will set the bar high in terms of environmental standards.

“A lot of eyes are going to be on this project,” he said. “Both in the Idaho Cobalt Belt and across the country.”

The Idaho Statesman contributed.