Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: A piping hot mess

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian says that the Jan. 6 hearings will be hard-pressed to duplicate the effect that the Watergate hearings had on the public.

Now the nine-member committee, Cheney included, have a different – and arguably more difficult – job to do. They must let the American people into their deliberations, share with them key facts and exhibits, grill witnesses in front of them, and through it all begin to build a compelling narrative of how ferociously Trump attempted to subvert the 2020 election – and how close he came to succeeding.

“It’s important that we tell the American public, to the best we are able, exactly what happened,” said Zoe Lofgren, a congresswoman from California who is among the seven Democratic members of the committee. “The public need to understand the stakes for our system of government, and we need to devise potential changes in legislation or procedures to protect ourselves in future.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Lofgren was hesitant to get into details of the investigation. But asked whether she has been surprised by the breadth and depth of the plot to overturn the 2020 election and the extent to which it was organized, she replied: “The short answer is yes.”

Eleanor Klibanoff writes for the Texas Tribune that major Republican donors have signed a letter which appears as a full-page ad in today’s Dallas Morning News. The ad supports federal gun control legislation.

Major Republican donors, including some that have contributed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaigns, joined other conservative Texans in signing an open letter supporting congressional action to increase gun restrictions in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead last week.

The letter, which is expected to run as a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday, endorses the creation of red flag laws, expanding background checks and raising the age to purchase a gun to 21. More than 250 self-declared gun enthusiasts signed it. […]

The letter was paid for by Todd Maclin, a former senior executive at J.P. Morgan Chase who now runs the Dallas-based finance firm Maclin Management. Maclin said he is a conservative gun owner who has been stirred to action by the shooting in Uvalde. […]

Maclin said the group is focusing on federal legislation, which he believes is the best avenue to passing gun safety laws and ensuring they are applied uniformly across the country. He declined to comment on the state response to the shooting or gun legislation, except to say that he hopes any federal plan led by Cornyn and passed with conservative support would be embraced by state governments.


Sheila Dewan and Mike Baker of The New York Times write that it will be difficult for families and the Uvalde community to achieve legal remedies for police accountability for the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

But any legal remedy could be difficult to achieve. A civil lawsuit would have to overcome the legal immunity that protects police officers during the course of their duties. And while police officers have occasionally been charged and convicted when their actions caused death, criminal charges against police officers who failed to protect the public are extremely rare.

Generally speaking, said Seth Stoughton, a former officer who now tracks police accountability as a professor of law and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, actions are legally easier to punish than omissions.

“I think it would be difficult, but it’s possible,” he said, adding, “We can only punish someone for failing to do something if they were legally required to do it.” The law usually does not require people to put themselves in harm’s way even if training instructs them to do so, Professor Stoughton said.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe writes that the U.S. Supreme Court is truly dysfunctional right now.

Usually, May is one of the busiest opinion months of the year. Arguments wrap up by April, meaning that until the term concludes, just before Independence Day, the justices and their staff are almost entirely focused on drafting, circulating, finalizing, and issuing opinions in the cases that remain on the docket. The usual result is a steady stream of rulings — including those in the most high-stakes cases of the term — from May until the end of June or early July.

But the court hasn’t issued an opinion since May 23, nearly two weeks ago. It handed down only five decisions in merits cases during the entire month of May. More than half of the term’s argued cases have yet to be decided, including those that could gut privacy rights, expand Second Amendment and religious rights, and curtail environmental protections and access to voting. That means that over the next few weeks, the justices will have to issue rulings at a breakneck pace to meet its targeted term deadline of July 1.

There is no official explanation for the high court holdup, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. The unprecedented leak of a draft opinion that would not just overturn Roe v. Wade but dance on its grave prompted such furious outcry and protest that nonscalable barriers were erected around the courthouse, and security for the justices was boosted.

Ian Millihiser of Vox writes about an elections case in Pennsylvania that is now on the infamous “shadow docket” of the Supreme Court and could potentially become the Court’s next assault on voting rights.

David Ritter is a Republican candidate for a judgeship on the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania. Official tallies show him leading Democrat Zachary Cohen by 71 votes. Meanwhile, 257 ballots remain uncounted — enough to potentially flip the race from Ritter to Cohen.

Ritter wants the Supreme Court to prevent these ballots from being counted, thus locking in his victory. And, while the election took place last November and two other judges who prevailed in that election have already been sworn in, the outcome of the Ritter/Cohen race remains uncertain as the fight over these uncounted ballots drags on.

A state law provides that voters who cast their ballots by mail shall “date and sign” the envelope accompanying their ballot. Significantly, however, the state does not care which date the voter writes on this envelope — only that a date is written upon it. Envelopes that are dated “July 4, 1776” or “April 5th, 2063” will be opened and the ballot within shall be counted. But Ritter argues that voters who fail to write any date should be disenfranchised.

Victoria St. Martin of Inside Climate News writes that global warming will lead to less sleep for future generations.

A study released last week by a team of climatologists found that by the end of this century, sleeplessness related to global warming will be so pervasive that our descendants will likely lose roughly two and a half days of sleep per year compared to the levels that typical adults enjoy today.

The findings, published in a peer-reviewed study in the journal One Earth, used data from more than 10 billion sleep-duration measurements from tracking wristbands across 68 different countries and combined that with local weather and climate data.[…]

“And I think importantly, we found that this hidden human cost of heat is not distributed equally in the population,” Minor said, noting that he and his colleagues found that sleep loss per degree of warming occurs approximately twice as much among the elderly as compared to younger or middle aged adults. That rate was approximately three times higher for lower income versus high income countries.

Minor said that nighttime temperatures are warming faster than daytime temperatures for two reasons: anthropogenic – or human-induced – climate change and urbanization.

Geoffrey Cain of Wired interviews Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about a wide range of topics including the role of technology and social media in Ukraine’s war with Russia. 

CAIN: Are social media companies doing enough now to comply with sanctions and maintain the flow of verifiable information? What else can they do?

ZELENSKY: Some platforms and social networks have already left Russia, which I think is very important, because I would not like them to be influenced by the country’s internal policies. The thing is that those companies are the ones who have all of the influence now. There is an information—call it what you want—a wall, or an information submarine, where the people of the Russian Federation are. Because of this veil, made by the political elite of the Russian Federation, they are in their own informational space, and that space is fueled by the Kremlin, which only gives the information that is favorable to them. There is no freedom in their space.

Some big, cool platforms—despite being blocked in Russia—should find a technological, ideological, or some kind of creative way to show them the truth of our reality so that Russian people would understand that they live in another world. The main thing is that people on social media platforms live in freedom, and Russians are outside of it, as if on another planet.

Aaron Blake of The Washington Post writes about President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, which will include a meeting with Prince Bonesaw.

Administration officials confirmed Thursday that Biden plans to make a trip to Saudi Arabia later this month. The addition of the stop on Biden’s trip comes in an apparent effort to seek help from the oil-rich nation, among others, to lower the record-high gas prices that have hampered the American economy and dogged Biden’s political fortunes.

But it also comes less than three years after Biden pledged to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” for the gruesome assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden is expected to meet with the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite U.S. intelligence having said Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Needless to say, this not a treatment generally reserved for pariahs.

Finally today, Arthur Brooks writes for The Atlantic that, on the whole, some of us are probably less of a “hot mess” than we think that we are.

Young people today have a habit of describing themselves as a “hot mess.” Despite its Millennial-sounding modifier—not just a mess, but a hot one—the term is not new; examples of it go back to the 19th century. As one editorialist from 1899 wrote, “If the newspaper says the sky is painted with green chalk that is what goes. Verily, I say unto you, the public is a hot mess.”

When people use this term, they generally don’t mean they’re running from the Mob, entangled in a deadly love triangle, or waking up after a bender missing a kidney. Instead, they mean that they feel steaming, churning emotional disarray—they’re unsure of themselves, insecure, neurotic. And everyone can see them for the disaster they are.

Or so they think. In truth, you often think you are a lot messier than others think you are. Understanding this and acting accordingly can help you relax and enjoy your hot, messy life a lot more.

Peace, everyone!

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