The Jan. 6 attack was a crisis. So why wasn’t it more of a scandal? | Big Indy News
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The Jan. 6 attack was a crisis. So why wasn’t it more of a scandal?



Never underestimate the power of a political scandal. I don’t mean in the gossipy, prurient, sense of the term, like a splashy story about celebrity cheating on a spouse. Rather, I’m talking about an event that provokes such outrage that it can unite previously divided populations and politicians in condemnation. That kind of scandal can change history, opening up paths to political change that may have seemed unimaginable up to that point.

In Chile in 2019, for instance, the president’s decision to call out the army to quell mass protests provoked national fury, uniting the country behind the demonstrators’ demand for a new Constitution. In Guatemala in 2015, a corruption scandal involving President Otto Pérez Molina provoked huge demonstrations, eventually causing his resignation. And in Argentina and Colombia, scandalous incidents of police violence united public opinion, making police reform programs that once seemed politically impossible a reality, Yanilda González, a Harvard political scientist, found.

It seemed, at first, as if the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol would be a similar moment. The attack had little precedent in U.S. history. It was covered live by the news media, beaming images of the deadly violence to the televisions and phones of Americans across the country. The public reacted with shock and anger. A CBS News poll conducted the week after the attack found that 87 percent of Americans disapproved of what had happened. Within days, Congress had impeached President Donald Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection.

But then the outrage seemed to lose momentum, as if the events of Jan. 6 got halfway to being a publicly galvanizing scandal and then became stuck.

Trump was acquitted by the Senate, after all but seven Republicans voted in his favor. And despite sustained media attention and a public congressional investigation that has continued to generate headlines, the attacks have not — at least so far — provoked the kind of mass fervor that leads to real political change. The Republican Party has largely rallied around Trump. His wing of the party is still ascendant.

That relatively muted response stands in sharp contrast to the reaction from prominent Republicans this week after the F.B.I. searched Trump’s Florida home, apparently in order to locate classified documents that the former president may have stored there. In an interview on Fox News, Rick Scott, a Republican Florida senator, compared the F.B.I. action to the activities of Nazi Germany and Latin American dictatorships. Other Republican officials threatened retaliatory investigations of Democrats in the future if they retake control of Congress.

Some Republican leaders have also criticized the Jan. 6 attacks. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, said that the riot “was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election.” But that has not translated into public mobilization.

“It reminds me of the current discussion in U.S. media and among economists about whether we’re currently in a recession,” González told me via email. As with a recession, she said, some of the elements that experts usually look for are present, such as sustained media coverage of the event, and public disapproval of what occurred. But the outcomes that usually follow such elements are bafflingly absent, she told me. “Specifically, it doesn’t seem like there’s much in the way of mass or political mobilization around the issue to hold people accountable or prevent it from happening again.”

It’s always difficult to figure out why something didn’t happen. But the question of this scandal-that-wasn’t seemed important enough to give it a try. So I started calling experts.

Steven Levitsky, a Harvard political scientist who studies democratization and democratic decline around the world, and Lilliana Mason, a Johns Hopkins political scientist who studies American political divisions and political violence, both had the same answer: polarization.

The word can sound like little more than a more technical way of saying that people from different sides of the political spectrum disagree. But the two political scientists were describing something more profound: Mason’s research has documented that American polarization now encompasses not just political beliefs, but social norms, career choices, pop-culture preferences, locations, religious practices and more, dividing the country into two teams that share few points of commonality and regard one another with hostility. That kind of division, Levitsky said, can destroy democracy from within by shredding the political norms required to make democratic systems work.

With such a deep divide, Americans’ loyalty to their political team is so strong that it can shape not just their political views but even their views of reality — including of what was happening in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

For instance, even though an investigation by the Department of Justice during the Trump administration found that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud or tampering in the 2020 presidential election, polls have repeatedly found that a large majority of Republicans still believe the discredited assertion that the election was not valid. A poll by the University of Massachusetts Amherst last December, for instance, found that 71 percent of Republican voters believed that President Biden’s victory in 2020 was illegitimate.

That means that some Republicans likely viewed the violent attack as a justifiable effort to protect democracy. And even Republicans who objected to the violence on Jan. 6 may be balancing it against their belief that Biden took the presidency through fraud and manipulation.

History suggests that citizens who perceive their current government as illegitimate may be willing to tolerate, or even be impressed by, attempts to violently oust it. When Hugo Chávez led a coup attempt in Venezuela in 1992, for instance, he failed to take power but succeeded in launching his political career.

“It did seem to raise his status,” said Erica De Bruin, a Hamilton College political scientist who studies coups and other nondemocratic transitions of power. “Going to jail probably helped in showing that he was willing to take a risk to help undermine the oligarchy, even if it led to his own suffering.”

To Republicans who believe that the election was stolen, Trump’s actions around Jan. 6 may similarly look like evidence of resolve and trustworthiness, she said.

Some research suggests that the Jan. 6 hearings, which have featured Republican officials testifying under oath that the election was not fraudulent, could convince some Republican voters that Biden’s election was legitimate. But that will only work if Republican voters hear about that testimony. In a July NPR/Marist poll, more than half of Republicans said they were paying little or no attention to the hearings.

Democrats, by contrast, rejected the discredited assertions of election fraud and overwhelmingly believe that Biden’s election was legitimate, and are paying close attention to the Jan. 6 hearings, according to the same University of Massachusetts and NPR/Marist polls. But there has still been relatively little mobilization on the left around the issue: no mass demonstrations calling for Trump to be indicted, for instance. And the story has not dominated the public consciousness the way that, for instance, the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has in recent months.

One reason may be that there has been enough accountability to defuse any particular demand or grievance. The Justice Department has prosecuted numerous participants in the riot. The congressional hearings are still underway and gathering evidence. Biden was able to take office — in the most important sense, the Jan. 6 attack failed.

And the hearings are not over yet. What looks like the lack of a scandal may just be one that is still building, Mason said. The hearings may generate more outrage as time goes on.

Crisis fatigue may also be a factor, Mason told me. “People are just tired of bad news, and we keep getting it. There’s a global pandemic. We’re watching democracy fall apart. And it’s just exhausting,” she said.

“Nobody wants to think about it. I mean, I don’t want to think about it, and this is what I do for my living.”

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills



The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists



This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’



Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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