5

How About Children Who Give Birth to Children?

From The Texas Tribune:

On abortion, moderators pressed Abbott on remarks he made months ago, advising victims of rape to seek Plan B, a form of emergency contraception, to avoid becoming pregnant. Abbott said the state would pay for emergency contraception and make it readily accessible at hospitals and clinics.

When asked if Plan B was the alternative to an abortion for victims of rape, Abbott stumbled.

“An alternative, obviously, is to do what we can to assist and aid the victim. And that is to help get them the medical assistance that they need and the care that they need,” Abbott said. He said the state could offer living assistance and “baby supplies” to rape victims who give birth to children.

Texas preemptively passed a “trigger law” banning almost all abortions, including those in instances of rape and incest, that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Emergency contraception is out of reach for the lowest-income Texans, many of whom are uninsured and face a dearth of state programs to access resources like Plan B to prevent pregnancy.

2

Ronald DeSantis, Climate Change Denier and Disaster Relief Refuser, May Finally Face Reality

Sadly for Floridians, it’s too late—if it even really happens.

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

Seems like the good times, back when the sun was shining and folks were laughing about some plane rides to Massachusetts, are all in the wind now.

Things were a bit different back in July. From Orlando Weekly:

Continuing to target what he calls “woke” corporations, Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to prohibit state investments that use “environmental, social and governance” ratings, which can include taking into account impacts of climate change.

DeSantis plans to have the State Board of Administration, which oversees investments, direct pension-fund managers against “using political factors when investing the state’s money.” So-called ESG policies have drawn criticism from Republicans across the country. “We want them (fund managers) to invest the state’s money for the best interests of the beneficiaries of those funds, which is, again, the people that are retired cops and teachers and other public employees,” DeSantis said Wednesday during an appearance at Harpoon Harry’s Crab House in Tampa.

Things were a bit different last year. From the Orlando Sentinel:

As reported by Laura Cassels in the Florida Phoenix, DeSantis — while speaking in Pinellas County on Dec. 7 — referred to climate change as “left-wing stuff” and neglected to even use the word, “climate change.” He said, “What I’ve found is, people when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways. We are not doing any left-wing stuff.”

That’s not “left-wing stuff” in the streets of Tampa, and Naples, and what used to be the streets on Sanibel Island. It’s the damn Gulf of Mexico. For a tinhorn politician with lofty plans for the future, DeSantis has been handed some actual governor-ing to do, now and for at least the next year, right up into the festivities in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has to admit by deed, if not by word, that he needs help from the big, bad Washington government headed by President Joe “Open Borders” Biden. He has to answer questions about why, when he was merely a Tea Party nuisance in Congress, he voted against similar relief for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. He has to confront the fact that it cost the state $12 million for his little stunt with the asylum seekers, which is $12 million it doesn’t have now to help the citizens on his state’s west coast.

Yes, Pinocchio, you’re a real boy now. Your state has been dealt a historic blow, intensified by natural phenomena that your political base doesn’t believe exists. They’re watching in Des Moines and in Nashua, certainly. But they’re struggling to survive in Tampa and Naples. Where’s your head going to be? Where’s your heart?

1

Understatement of the Day

From Politico:

Profit drove a 30-year boom. Ian smashed it in a day.

Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction cut through some of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, pulverizing communities whose populations have doubled and tripled in recent decades during a period of deceptive atmospheric calm.

Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon off the coast of Lee County, Fla., where the population has more than doubled since 1990 to nearly 800,000 residents.

Counties in Ian’s path through west and central Florida include Osceola, whose population has nearly tripled since 1990, and Sumter, where an influx of people has pushed its population to over three times what it was 30 years ago.

The “extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane,” as NOAA’s National Hurricane Center described Ian, potentially flooded hundreds of thousands of homes without flood insurance — maybe millions — and wrecked countless buildings erected under lax construction standards.

“The story of Florida is the story of development happening at times and places where it probably shouldn’t,” said Jonathan Webber of Florida Conservation Voters.

Ian developed as a rare triple threat, causing destruction with winds of 155 miles per hour, storm surge of 12 feet, and two feet or more of rainfall that flooded inland areas. Ian strengthened Wednesday to a Category 4 storm, with its howling winds almost reaching the mythic status of Category 5, which starts at 157 mph. Only four Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since 1900.

“This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come,” National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said at a briefing Wednesday. Ian will cause devastation “not just on the southwest coast [of Florida] but also inland.”

Ian weakened overnight to a tropical storm with 65 mph winds as it moved northeast across the Florida peninsula toward the Atlantic. It’s forecast to make a second landfall in South Carolina near the Georgia line Friday afternoon.

The storm will expose a wide range of vulnerabilities in the nation’s most hurricane-prone state including a failing property insurance market, a widespread lack of flood insurance and breakneck development.

Florida has some of the nation’s strongest statewide building codes, which were adopted after Hurricane Andrew demolished southwest Florida in 1992. But the new codes didn’t take effect until 2001 and apply only to structures that were built or substantially repaired since then.

“The level of damage is typically going to be directly related to the year the home was built,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of the Florida-based Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

The new codes “should be a very positive factor” on limiting damage to homes that were built under them, Chapman-Henderson said. But with Ian’s winds hitting 155 miles per hour, the damage to buildings “will still be extraordinary.”

The rainfall forecast also is alarming because it will create massive flooding in inland areas where few people have flood insurance, said Craig Fugate, a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the past head of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

CoreLogic Inc., a real estate analytics firm, projected that 7.2 million homes in Florida — worth a combined $1.6 trillion — are at risk of being damaged by flash flooding.

Flood insurance is sold separately from standard homeowners’ policies, and only a small number of people buy flood coverage.

Florida has one of the highest rates of flood coverage in the U.S., according to FEMA. But the policies are concentrated in flood-prone coastal regions such as the Miami area, where federal law requires many property owners to have flood insurance because they are in a high-risk zone.

“Most of the inland flooding from heavy rain is going to be in places that are not inside the mandatory purchase requirement area,” Fugate said in an interview.

“When you start dumping a foot or more rain in Orlando, there’s a potential for a lot of flooding,” he added.

Orange County, the landlocked central Florida county that includes Orlando, has nearly double the number of people as Palm Beach County on the southeast coast — roughly 1.5 million. But only a fraction of those inland residents have flood policies.

In Palm Beach, more than 115,000 households have federal flood insurance, according to FEMA records analyzed by E&E News. In Orange County, fewer than 12,000 households have flood coverage.

The widespread lack of flood insurance could force federal taxpayers to spend billions of dollars in disaster aid that gives households money for minor home repairs and other emergency expenses.

At the same time, Ian’s wind damage will generate tens of billions of dollars in insurance claims on Florida’s struggling private-sector property insurance companies. Six insurers in Florida have been declared insolvent this year, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to buy coverage through a state-backed insurer of last resort (Climatewire, Sept. 19).

Hurricane Ian “is only going to push it further off the cliff,” Webber of Florida Conservation Voters said of Florida’s insurance market.

Ian also is drawing attention to Florida’s overlooked west coast, which has seen some of the state’s fastest development and the creation of new metropolitan areas such as Cape Coral-Fort Myers, where Ian made landfall at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday.

“There has just been the creation of entire new towns that are on the northern frontier of the Everglades,” said Jesse Keenan, an associate professor of sustainable real estate at Tulane University’s School of Architecture and an expert on Florida development patterns.

Keenan pointed to San Carlos Park, a roughly 5-square-mile exurb of Fort Myers that today is home to 18,000 people and has helped make Lee County one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties.

Keenan said explosive growth in communities like San Carlos Park can be directly tied to the passage of Florida’s Community Planning Act of 2011, which returned most decision making authority over land use and development to local authorities.

The state Department of Community Affairs, which coordinated and helped enforce local development plans, was eliminated as a stand-alone agency, and its growth management responsibilities were placed under a newly created Department of Economic Opportunity.

“From a long-range planning point of view, much of what we see today in southwest Florida should not be there,” said Tim Chapin, a professor of urban and regional planning at Florida State University.

“The result is a sort of a poorly planned, real-estate profit-oriented place from the beginning,” Chapin said. “When you put that together with a massive storm, you’re coming up with a place with a very low resilience score from the start.”

2

Texas Attorney General Fled His Home to Avoid Subpoena in Abortion Rights Case

Maybe he can challenge Josh Hawley to a footrace.

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am jiggling with delight at the revelation that, a month and change before the election, the attorney general of the great state of Texas has apparently taken it on the arches. The bird’s-eye lowdown comes from the Texas Tribune:

Ernesto Martin Herrera, a process server, was attempting to serve the state’s top attorney with a subpoena for a federal court hearing Tuesday in a lawsuit from nonprofits that want to help Texans pay for abortions out of state. When Herrera arrived at Paxton’s home in McKinney on Monday morning, he told a woman who identified herself as Angela that he was trying to deliver legal documents to the attorney general. She told him that Paxton was on the phone and unable to come to the door. Herrera said he would wait.

Nearly an hour later, a black Chevrolet Tahoe pulled into the driveway, and 20 minutes after that, Ken Paxton exited the house. “I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name. As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage,” Herrera wrote in the sworn affidavit. Angela Paxton then exited the house, got inside a Chevrolet truck in the driveway, started it and opened the doors.

“A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side,” Herrera wrote. “I approached the truck, and loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him. Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck.” Herrera eventually placed the subpoenas on the ground near the truck and told him he was serving him with a subpoena. Both cars drove away, leaving the documents on the ground.

We pause here to mention that Paxton has been under indictment for securities fraud for seven years. Math tells us that the chief law enforcement officer of the great state of Texas has been under criminal indictment for his entire tenure as the chief law enforcement officer for the great state of Texas. He was re-elected while under criminal indictment. In 2021, when the Democrats in the Texas legislature fled the state for 38 days to deny the Republican majority a quorum on some horrible legislation, Ken Paxton—who was at that time under criminal indictment—put out the following statement:

“House Democrats have hurt their constituents and demonstrated that when they’re faced with a problem, they run away – literally. It’s shameful and they have failed as elected officials.”

Paxton, the attorney general for the great state of Texas who has been under criminal indictment for the past seven years, claims that he was just plain a’skeered by Herrera. And also it’s the media’s fault. From the Washington Post:

On Monday evening, Paxton addressed the process server’s claims, writing on Twitter that, earlier in the day, he had been avoiding a “stranger lingering outside my home” and was concerned for his and his family’s safety. “This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves,” Paxton wrote in response to the Texas Tribune, which earlier reported the story. “All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety — many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”

Oh, he’s adorable, this one is.

4

How a QAnon splinter group became a feature of Trump rallies

Freakin’ unbelievable.

From The Washington Post:

Michael Brian Protzman, also know as Negative48 and the leader of a QAnon splinter group, talks with supporters before a rally for former president Donald Trump in Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 23. (Madeline Gray for The Washington Post)

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Julie McDaniel can’t say for sure who started it. It might even have been her.

McDaniel was in the front section at a Trump rally earlier this month in Youngstown, Ohio, when the former president started wrapping up his speech by playing an instrumental score embraced by followers of the QAnon online conspiracy theory. She felt moved to raise her right hand and point to the sky — to God, she said. Soon everyone around her was doing it, too.

“It was spontaneous, it was like the domino effect,” said McDaniel, who also attended Friday’s rally here in Wilmington, N.C., coming from her home in the Chicago area. She objected to news coverage that condemned the gesture, with some comparing it to a Nazi salute. “It was an amazing, amazing moment, when you have the unity that everybody is there, and not only in this small group that was on the floor, but other people were doing it,” she said.

The group on the floor was an offshoot of the QAnon community called Negative48, a name that they say stands for the opposite of evil. They’ve become a fixture at Trump’s rallies this year. Numbering about 100, they can be spotted by their lanyards sporting as many as 16 commemorative buttons from each rally they have attended. Or see them wrap their arms around each other to sway to Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” blasting over the loudspeakers. Or lining up to take selfies in front of the stage with their leader, a man in American flag pants named Michael Brian Protzman.

The FBI has warned that extremist movements such as QAnon — which loosely revolves around the baseless belief that the world is secretly run by Satan-worshipping child sex traffickers — is likely to motivate some people to criminal and violent acts. The ideology has already been implicated in multiple crimes, including several people arrested in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and a recent murder in Michigan.

But the Negative48 group rejects such characterizations.

“Some people call QAnon a cult, but I like to spell it cult with a Q, Q-U-L-T, because it’s hard to find people that are on our same page,” said group member Kelly Heath from Georgia. “It’s a strange story. You’re not going to hear about it every day. It’s like saying that God’s coming, the world is changing, and we need it to change. There’s bad people that run the world, and they do bad things to kids, and it’s ugly.” Heath said the group included members who were themselves victims of sexual abuse as children.

As long as there have been Trump rallies, there have been roadies who follow him from city to city. Some have called themselves the “Front Row Joes,” like Saundra Kiczenski, who Trump called up to the stage in Anchorage in July because he liked her shirt covered with his face. Friday’s rally in Wilmington, N.C. was her 69th. Richard Snowden said the Wilmington rally would probably be his last, capping 80 events in 28 states across seven years. During his speech that night, Trump called out a few women from North Carolina who he said had been to 92 rallies, earning them a special invitation to Mar-a-Lago.

The Front Row Joes brought no agenda besides their undying love for Trump. The arrival of the QAnon group, however, has led to a silent standoff with Trump’s team, raising concerns that they could disrupt events, alienate other fans, distract from the former president’s message or generate bad publicity. The crew of crowd-control staff — male and female body builders in tight, silky green polos and black pants — keeps a close watch on the Negative48 group, telling them they can’t block the aisles with their dancing and, in Wilmington on Friday, working to head off another scene of index fingers pointing to the sky.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about the group.

How a QAnon song became a soundtrack at Trump rallies

The Trump team’s tensions with Negative48 come even as the ex-president has more and more explicitly courted support from QAnon followers with social media posts that adopt the movement’s slogans and imagery.

“Together we are standing up against some of the most menacing forces, entrenched interests and vicious opponents our people have ever, ever seen,” Trump said in his speech on Friday. “Despite great outside dangers from other countries, our biggest threat remains the sick, sinister and evil people from within our own country.”

QAnon followers search for hidden meaning in cryptic messages from a supposed military leader with the code name “Q” and in Trump’s own pronouncements. The Negative48 spinoff focuses on deciphering meaning using a takeoff of gematria, an ancient Hebrew tradition of assigning numeric values to letters. (Forty-eight, the group says, is the value of the word “evil.”)

One man with the group who didn’t identify himself illustrated how it worked using the name of this newspaper. “The Washington Post?” he said. “W is 23 in the alphabet. P is 16. Thirty-nine. Angel 39. Which angel? Lucifer was an angel.”

The group made headlines last year when members gathered in Dallas expecting to see the resurrection of John F. Kennedy Jr. In January, they decided to start attending every Trump rally in 2022. Protzman, their leader, said he wasn’t available for an interview and declined to set another time to talk. Other members were mysterious about their reasons or goals for coming to Trump rallies.

“We learned gematria from Michael in Dallas,” said Melissa Cole, who was at the rally in Wilmington with two 13-year-olds and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a stroller. “We have traveled around together, some of us go home, some of us go back and forth, but collectively we’re all learning together from him … We’re standing for the 2020 election, it was stolen from us.”

While the Negative48 group has become a prominent feature of recent Trump rallies, they clearly don’t represent the whole crowd. Many others interviewed in Wilmington were Carolinas residents, local Republican activists and Trump supporters attending an in-person rally for the first time.

But it would be equally inaccurate to describe the Negative48 group as total outliers. Other attendees who weren’t part of the group came wearing QAnon slogans or eager to discuss their belief, or at least curiosity, in the movement’s theories.

“Biden is a fraud, he’s an actor,” said a woman in an “I TQLD YOU SO” T-shirt who declined to give her name. “He died in 2019.”

Lisa Pyle, who came to the rally wearing a Q hat, said the Jewish New Year a few days after the rally would be the occasion when the Supreme Court would reveal that it had overturned the 2020 election.

“You know Joe Biden’s not the president,” she said. “That’s someone playing Joe Biden. It is. I know you want to laugh. I’m not joking.”

Her husband, Kip, chimed in to explain that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and many other members of Congress had already been arrested. The couple said Q was the force behind a long series of events in American history, including the Civil War, the JFK assassination, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 election.

Lisa Pyle attends a rally for former president Donald Trump in Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 23. (Madeline Gray for The Washington Post)
Kip Pyle attends a rally for former president Donald Trump in Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 23. (Madeline Gray for The Washington Post)

Lisa: “You’ve heard of Agenda 2030?”

Kip: “Do you do any research?”

Lisa: “You know about the Georgia Guidestones?”

Kip: “You gotta do some research, brother.”

Elsewhere at the rally, Eileen McDermott said she’d only started to explore gematria, but she believed there were coded messages in Trump’s speeches, executive orders and musical selections. She said her devotion to Trump became a strain on her relationship with her daughters, but eventually they accepted that if they wanted to have a relationship with her they had to let her be her.

“I think Donald Trump wants people to use their brains to think, and I think he wants us to figure out what he’s saying,” she said. “It’s all going to be exposed, it’s just a matter of time.”

Trump plots aggressive midterm strategy seen in GOP as a double-edged sword

When an ad came over the loudspeaker for Trump’s official presidential photo album that sells for $75, McDermott proudly noted that she bought two copies: one to let guests leaf through and one to keep stored away in mint condition. She said she spent $2,000 to fly from Southern California just for Friday’s rally.

Arriving early, she went to a nearby beach to watch the sunset and she noticed a glow in the eastern sky — almost like there was a second sun. McDermott said she isn’t sure about that one yet, she needs to do more research.