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Confession: I have always felt warmly toward Texas, and I can't square the big-hearted, boisterous, self-confident place I've known with the petty, mean-spirited, downright vindictive anti-abortion law the state's Republican legislature and governor have endorsed.

Welcome to Beijing on the Brazos. It's as if 29 million Texans had surrendered to fundamentalist authoritarianism, brandishing Bibles like copies of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, vowing punishment against sinners and informing on their relatives and neighbors.

As I say, this is not the Texas I know: a sprawling, geographically and ethnically complex state larger than France, and which sometimes feels like the nation—as Texans never quit reminding you—that it was from 1836 to 1845.

Parts of Texas resemble Louisiana, others Oklahoma; the Texas panhandle feels a lot like Nebraska, and basically everywhere south of San Antonio like Mexico. The territory around Lubbock somewhat resembles the moon. Unless you really put the hammer down, it's a two-day drive from Beaumont to El Paso or Amarillo.

Texas can be hard to get your mind around. However, having lived there two different times, taught at University of Texas-Austin, and traveled everywhere reporting for Texas Monthly magazine, I've always felt an intoxicating sense of possibility. If I hadn't basically married Arkansas, I'd probably live somewhere near Austin.

To give you some idea, I interviewed a priest in Orange who sponsored two dozen Vietnamese immigrants, covered the great Rockdale football mutiny (undefeated state champs who went on strike against their coach), and hit the road with the Corpus Christi Seagulls, a minor league baseball team. I interviewed migrant workers outside Amarillo, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at UT-Austin, studied the heavens at the university's observatory in the Davis Mountains, and learned to handle a pistol from an ROTC instructor at Rice University. (Bottom line: don't.) I made pilgrimage to Alvin to interview the great Nolan Ryan.

You don't meet a lot of shy, retiring Texans. Willie Nelson is your classic example, also The Eagles' Don Henley. Buddy Holly, Beyoncé, Waylon Jennings and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Jerry Jeff Walker was raised in upstate New York, but his rendition of Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues," may be the purest example of slide guitar Texas nationalism extant.

Texas is filled with writers and journalists I admire, from Lawrence Wright and my pal Stephen Harrigan to the late Larry McMurtry. I once drove from Cody, Wyoming to Little Rock listening to Lonesome Dove and was tempted to carry on to Memphis just to finish the story.

Coming to the point, Texas was also home to two of the strongest American women of my own or anybody else's generation: Gov. Ann Richards and the inimitable Molly Ivins, the wittiest American journalist since H.L. Mencken.

Molly once observed of a Dallas congressman that "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day." She described Bill Clinton as "weaker than bus station chili" -- unfair, in my view, but definitely memorable.

One can only imagine what either woman would have made of Texas' current Gov. Greg Abbott—a poser last seen vowing to protect the state from imaginary invasion during "Operation Jade Helm." Austin's own native hoaxer Alex Jones had persuaded thousands of dupes that networks of secret tunnels were being dug between vacant Walmart stores to help ISIS fighters infiltrate. Christian patriots would be imprisoned in FEMA re-education camps.

Sure enough, the invasion never came. Fresh from that mighty triumph, Abbott has now succeeded in passing an idiotic law empowering every testosterone-challenged goober in Texas to carry a gun anywhere: no lessons or permit necessary. That will cost dozens of lives, but it's the abortion law that's getting all the attention.

Look, there has been a strong undercurrent of authoritarianism in Texas culture since slavery times. But this takes it further: If a 13 year-old child gets impregnated by her uncle, Texas now demands that she bear a child. Otherwise, a vindictive relative or nosy neighbor can collect a $10,000 state bounty for filing a lawsuit against an abortion provider, putting them out of business.

It's like the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act on steroids. Already, a self-described "Christian" group has put up a website, ProLifeWhistleblower.com, inviting people to inform on anybody obtaining or facilitating abortions. The cheapest form of cheap grace imaginable.

Anyway, it's official: Every Texas woman's womb belongs to the state. What's more, thanks to the cunning and cowardice of the US Supreme Court, every state where fundamentalist Bible Beaters hold sway will soon rush to enact it—even if it ultimately means political disaster, which I think it does.

Because Americans just won't stand for turning embittered ex-husbands and vengeful mothers-in-law into bounty hunters. So spare me the theological and biological fundamentalism. Nobody thinks abortion is a good thing; but it's sometimes the least-bad option. Other people's intimate life decisions are nobody else's business, in Texas or anywhere else.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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