An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, January 18, 2021
Table of contents:
Again failed to wrap this up on Sunday. Even a day late, I'm faced with a choice between cutting it loose now or writing some introductory comments, which I actually had given some thought to. I think I'll cut it loose, if for no other reason than that Tuesday promises to reveal a hundred-plus pardons for the highest bidders -- yet another story one can't omit. Then on Wednesday, Trump will supposedly fly off for Florida, while Biden is inaugurated in a secure bunker in Washington, DC, to be witnessed by crowds even smaller than Trump's in 2016. I guess he gets the last laugh on that score.
Congress reconvenes on Tuesday, so conceivably the Senate could vote to convict and remove Trump, although no one expects that to actually happen. Of course, I sympathize with Charles Pierce: Donald Trump cannot be allowed to be the President* of the United States for a single second longer, but I'm used to disappointments in political life, and I'm patient enough to give Trump one last day in office, knowing that will be the end of it, and thinking rationally that even though he could do something truly horrific with that day, most likely he'll dedicate it to graft and ego-stroking.
Nothing below on Martin Luther King Day. I wasn't even aware of the holiday until I leafed through the paper this morning. By then, I had put two discs from Rhino's superlative The R&B Box into the changer. They were brilliant, and I was deeply touched by the occasion. It reminded me that a huge slice of what's great and glorious in America has been the work of African-Americans. While music has long stood out among those contributions, the one I'm even more thankful for today was providing the margin to defeat Donald Trump. Black lives not only matter; they're often our salvation.
I originally thought I'd combine insurrection and impeachment into a single section, but a quick glance at the first batch of articles suggested splitting them. Although insurrection led to impeachment, the latter was narrowly political, based on the House Democrats' slim majority and their felt compulsion to do what they could when they could to register how profoundly they were unsettled by the president's mob's violent uprising against democracy. If Democrats didn't have a House majority, they wouldn't have impeached Trump, no matter how much they wanted to. And, as usual, impeachment is little more than a hollow political gesture. On the other hand, the insurrection was rooted in a broader conception of politics, rooted in the "culture war" Trump has spent his entire political career stoking. Moreover, insurrection is still ongoing, as the planned "demonstrations" in DC and at 50 state capitols attests. Moreover, there is no reason to doubt that the hard core of pro-Trump militants will stop after January 20. Many of these same people were responsible for the uptick of right-wing violence after Obama was elected in 2008. They became Trump's people in 2016, and he has done nothing but encourage them over the last four years. They started forming militias by the 1980s and 1990s, so expect some of them to go underground and dedicate themselves to guerrilla war against the democratic state and its soft targets. Therefore, we need to look at last week's insurrection as a prelude not just to this week's but to months and years of "domestic terrorism" if not outright civil war.
Devlin Barrett/Matt Zapotosky: FBI report warned of 'war' at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence.
Dalton Bennett, et al: 41 minutes of fear: A video timeline from inside the Capitol siege.
Kyle Cheney/Sarah Ferris: Mikie Sherrill says unidentified lawmakers led 'reconnaissance' tours ahead of Capitol attack.
Sean Collins: Lawmakers are testing positive for Covid-19 after the Capitol lockdown: "At least five."
Jesselyn Cook/Nick Robins-Early: Online police communities are rife with conspiracies and support for the Capitol riot.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook: Arizone GOP chair urged violence at the Capitol. The Mercers spent $1.5 million supporting her.
Jerusalem Demsas: The online far right is angry, exultant, and ready for more.
Elizabeth Dias/Ruth Graham: How white evangelical Christians fused with Trump extremism: "A potent mix of grievance and religious fervor has turbocharged the support among Trump loyalists, many of whom describe themselves as participants in a kind of holy war."
Hilary George-Parkin: Insurrection merch shows just how mainstream extremism has become.
Fiona Hill: Yes, it was a coup attempt. Here's why. "What Trump tried is called a "self-coup," and he did it in slow motion and in plain sight."
Mara Hvistendahl: Capitol mob has roots in anti-lockdown protests: "Reopen and anti-mask groups were a crucial recruiting ground for the 'Stop the Steal' effort that culminated in last week's deadly siege."
Joshua Kaplan/Joaquin Sapien: "No one took us seriously": Black cops warned about racist Capitol police officers for years.
Kimberly Kindy/Kim Bellware/Mark Berman: Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now police are turning in their own.
Luis Feliz Leon: Chickens coming home to roost: Far right storms US Capitol: "The Capitol Riot recalls right-wing counterinsurgencies the US has sponsored in the Dominican Republic and around the world."
David A Lieb/Adam Geller: Pro-Trump protests fizzle out at Capitol buildings across the US.
Luke Mogelson: Among the insurrectionists: "The Capitol was breached by Trump supporters who had been declaring, at rally after rally, that they would go to violent lengths to keep the President in power. A chronicle of an attack foretold." Also: A reporter's footage from inside the Capitol siege.
Olivia Nuzzi: What Madison Cawthorn saw at the insurrection: "The youngest member of Congress is invigorated by the mob he helped incite."
Benjamin Parker: The alt-right is now the entire right: "The voices of reason, reality, and responsibility are a cowering minority in the Republican party."
Liz Scheltens: The warning signs before the Capitol riot. Video, cites sources:
Adam Serwer: The Capitol rioters weren't 'low class': "The business owners, real-estate brokers, and service members who rioted acted not out of economic desperation, but out of their belief in their inviolable right to rule."
Richard Silverstein: At MAGA rally, Israeli flag and neo-nazis co-exist, awkwardly.
Stuart A Thompson/Charlie Warzel: They used to post selfies. Now they're trying to reverse the election. "Right-wing influencers embraced extremist views, and Facebook rewarded them."
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The long prologue to the Capitol Hill riot.
I spent much of last week's Weekend Roundup doubting that impeaching Donald Trump would be worth the trouble, but the House Democrats (plus 10 Republicans) went ahead and did it anyway. Bully for them. Now I doubt that it's worth the trouble for the Senate to try him, especially as the trial won't start until he's out of office. (There's some debate below on whether trying him after he's gone is even legal, but my point is that there's more urgent work for the new Democratic Senate to do.) One argument in favor of trial is that conviction will bar Trump from running again, but I don't see that a Trump 2024 campaign is much to worry about. (Indeed, precluding that could be a big reason for Republicans to step up.)
Even without a Senate conviction, Trump is likely to face consequences for his many offenses. Some are noted below.
Perry Bacon Jr: Trump has been rebuked like no other president -- but really only by Democrats. On the other hand, I'd argue that partisan opposition to Trump is not unprecedented, and possibly not as nasty and vituperative as the Republican attacks on Bill Clinton. One should also note that the precedent for using impeachment as a narrow partisan cudgel was set by Newt Gingrich against Clinton. Pelosi has wound up using it twice, but only in response to much more serious offenses than Clinton's petty lie. Indeed, if Pelosi had tried to impeach Trump every time he lied, she'd never have had time for anything else. Ultimately, Trump was "rebuked like no other president" because he behaved like no other president. The real shame is that only Democrats could see and act on that.
Zack Beauchamp: The case for consequences: "Why Republicans have to be held accountable for the attack on Capitol Hill."
Jerusalem Demsas: A fight over metal detectors reveals how broken Congress really is.
Ross Douthat: Could Mitch McConnell get to yes? "Why the Republican leader should be tempted by the Senate's opportunity to bar rump from running for president again." I can't imagine why anyone would take McConnell's suggestion that he might be open to convicting Trump at face value, but then few pundits are more credulous when it comes to Republican motivations than Douthat. A long Senate trial would be the perfect excuse for McConnell to avoid dealing with Biden's appointments and initial legislative proposals. The real question is whether McConnell decides to repeat his extreme obstructionism from 2009 (his vow to make Obama a one-term president). I can think of several reasons why that not play so well this time. But one thing you can be sure of is that no matter which way he plays it, it won't be because he's grown a conscience about the tattered state of American democracy, or that he's developed the slightest care about what's best for the country.
Melinda Fakuade: A running list of corporate responses to the Capitol riot.
Anita Kumar/Daniel Lippman: 'Supremely self-absorbed': Isolated Trump unlikely to mount an aggressive impeachment defense.
J Michael Luttig: Once Trump leaves office, the Senate can't hold an impeachment trial. This argument makes sense to me: there's no point removing from office someone who's already left office. But the wrinkle here is the possible banning of Trump from ever holding office again -- that would still seem to be a consideration even after Trump departs. Still, I'm surprised to hear so little about this position. Laurence H Tribe argues otherwise: The Senate can constitutionally hold an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office.
Ian Millhiser: New poll shows Trump's support dropping sharply among Republicans. Cites polling from Pew showing Trump's approval rating dropping to 29% -- Biden begins presidency with positive ratings; Trump departs with lowest-ever job mark. I think "lowest-ever" means for Trump -- as I recall, GW Bush got down around 21% (and Cheney 9%). Although Trump has lost support among Republicans, his current approval number is still 60%, down from 77% before the election and 85% peak (he got a little bump early in the pandemic, when it wasn't yet clear how badly he blew it; at that point, Democratic approval also peaked at 12%, down to 4% now). More:
Michael S Rosenwald: There's an alternative to impeachment or 25th Amendment for Trump, historians say: Having recently read Eric Foner's book on the Reconstruction amendments (The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution), section 3 of the 14th Amendment was something I recognized, but while it was clear who it applied to then, I couldn't recall how new people could be declared insurrectionists and stripped of their political rights. I still don't quite get it. Moreover, I think we need broader and deeper democracy, so I don't see how that's advanced by excluding people we don't like (even if the reason we don't like them is that they're trying to take away our rights).
Philip Rucker/Josh Dawsey/Ashley Parker: Trump to flee Washington and seek rehabilitation in a MAGA oasis: Florida. Headline reads like he's looking for a comeback, perhaps as governor. But then the article veers to his children buying property in Florida, and speculates that Ivanka might run for Marco Rubio's Senate seat.
Emily Stewart: Corporate America takes away Trump's toys: "America's elites got what they wanted from Donald Trump. Now they're walking away."
Li Zhou: Here are the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. Notes that that's all it took to make this the most bipartisan impeachment ever. Still, that's less than 5% of the Republican caucus.
Jonathan Zimmerman: Impeach Trump but not for what he said on January 6th: Well, there are so many things Trump could (and should) be impeached for that the debate has always been more practical: what charges stand the best chance of widespread support and possible conviction? Polls have often shown a majority in favor of impeachment, but no issue has ever stood a chance of conviction. Given that's the case, I have to ask: why bother? Maybe you can use impeachment as a "teachable moment" to advance the political critique of Trump, and perhaps you'll score a point or two as Republicans are forced to defend unpopular positions (like insurrection) in order to protect political power. But the inevitable fruitlessness of impeachment makes me wonder whether the effort wouldn't be better spent elsewhere. That leaves me ambivalent: on the one hand, I wouldn't impeach Trump for anything, but I'd never miss a chance to vote against him. Zimmerman's point is somewhat different: he worries that impeaching Trump over a speech could be used to suppress further speech. I don't feel like going into that.
Politico: 30 things Donald Trump did as president you might have missed: This gives you a pretty good idea of the range of things Trump's administration touched. I would edit this to make it significantly more critical (e.g., Trump's efforts to repeal Obamacare did make it more popular, but he still managed to undermine the law, especially by keeping more people uninsured); the obvious point on Defense spending isn't that he did an audit, which for sure showed gross mismanagement of funds, but that he wound up spending more than ever, while filling the Department with industry lobbyists.)
New York Times: The business rules the Trump administration is racing to finish: Bullet points:
All these are in addition to the already staggering list of rules and rollbacks the Trump administration has issued. See: The Trump administration is reversing more than 100 environmental rules. Here's the full list.
Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman/Annie Karni: Pence reached his limit with Trump. It wasn't pretty. "After four years of tongue-biting silence that critics say enabled the president's worst instincts, the vice president would not yield to the pressure and name-calling from his boss."
Julian E Barnes/Michael S Schmidt: NSA installs Trump loyalist as top lawyer days before Biden takes office: "The acting defense secretary ordered the spy agency to appoint Michael Ellis, who has been accused of having a hand in one of the Trump administration's most contentious legal decisions."
Laura Bassett: All that's left of Trumpism is hilariously stupid, deadly serious social media stunts: "MAGA nation's thirst for viral clout is going to get more people killed."
Chuck Collins/Omar Ocampo: Trump and his many billionaire enablers. Includes a list of billionaire doors to the Trump Victory Fund, where Sheldon Adelson ranked a mere 8th.
McKay Coppins: The coming Republican amnesia: "How will the GOP recover from the Trump era? Pretend it never happened."
Elizabeth Dwoskin/Craig Timberg: Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump and some allies: "Zignal Labs charts 73 percent decline on Twitter and beyond following historic action against the president."
Richard Fausset/Danny Hakim: Atlanta prosecutor appears to move closer to Trump inquiry: "The Fulton County district attorney is weighing an inquiry into possible election interference and is said to be considering hiring an outside counsel."
Scott Galloway/James D Walsh: The most important takeaways from big tech's deplatforming of Trump. Starts with "Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey didn't kick Trump off Facebook and Twitter, respectively; Stacey Abrams did."
Peter Jamison/Carol D Leonnig/Paul Schwartzman: The $3,000-a-month toilet for the Ivanka Trump/Jared Kushner Secret Service detail. Jeffrey St Clair pointed me to this article, after noting that Ivanka had tweeted: "Disrespect for our law enforcement is unacceptable."
Carol D Leonnig/Josh Dawsey/Rosalind S Heiderman: Trump prepares to offer clemency to more than 100 people in his final hours in office. Looks like this will be his last act as president. Some more pardon pieces:
Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein: Abandon Trump? Deep in the GOP ranks, the MAGA mind-set prevails.
Nancy LeTourneau: To no one's surprise, Trump is still lying.
Eric Lipton/Ben Protess/Steve Eder: An urgent reckoning for the Trump brand: "Companies and institutions are shunning President Trump and some associates after the attack on the US Capitol. The Trump family business, built on luxury hospitality, is contemplating a reinvention."
Martin Longman: When a lie gets too big.
Andrew Marantz: The importance, and incoherence, of Twitter's Trump ban. It's been about a week since Trump was booted off Twitter, and it already counts as possibly the best quality-of-life move in some while. Not only does it make it harder to Trump to impinge on your life, its absence means the media and late night comics have to dig a little deeper for stories (and jokes).
Nick Martin: Trump's four-year drilling binge has done irreparable damage. True enough, but nothing here on Obama's eight-year drilling binge, which had more dramatic effect, reversing the declining production since Hibbert's Peak in 1969, not only making the US the world's largest oil producer but wiping out the trade deficit in oil. Sure, Trump has been even more lax on the environmental front (but most of Obama's production gains were through fracking, which has its own environmental problems). The big difference was probably that Obama took over after record high prices under Bush, so the industry was more inclined to invest. Those prices dropped first with the recession (which both reduced demand and stopped the banks from speculating on futures), then with the glut, and lower prices (and more "green" competition) have depressed investment. Trump's own efforts to prop up prices have concentrated on banishing low-cost producers Iran and Venezuela.
Dylan Matthews: The F word: "The debate over whether to call Donald Trump a fascist, and why it matters." Cites a letter by Robert Paxton (author of The Anatomy of Fascism):
For more on the 1934 crisis, see Wikipedia. Matthews also quotes from Paxton's book:
The problem with applying this definition to Trump has been the relative lack of organized violence, although I've long suspected that this is due less to beliefs and desires than to the constraints that have thus far limited Trump's power: the more power you give him, the more likely he is to rival Hitler. Even so, Trump is likely to be limited by his incompetence, his vanity, and the historical untenability of racism, imperialism, and war. Still, a fascist doesn't have to be as disastrous as Hitler to be a fascist. It would be wise to detect the impulses before they get out of hand -- as they did with the Capitol insurrection.
One more question is why does it matter whether people make the link between Trump and pre-WWII fascists? It all depends on who you are talking to. The US fought WWII specifically against fascism, and that resonates even today. To say Trump is a fascist emphasizes how he runs counter to American political traditions -- an appeal not just to liberals but to conservatives who value the freedom secured by American democracy. Such people have had a peculiar sense of when fascism needs to be opposed. They coined the term "premature anti-fascists" to describe leftists who recognized the danger of fascism long before the US government felt the need to fight fascism in WWII. For leftists, Trump's fascist affinities were recognized early -- long before the attack on the Capitol. But the charge of fascism has always been a heuristic (a pattern through which various perceptions come into focus). It may (or may not) make practical sense to use the term, as opposed to the many other ways one might talk about Trump's bad deeds. But Trump's fomenting of mob violence against Congress certainly expanded the circle of people willing to talk about Trump's fascism.
Nicole Narea: Trump's border visit was a desperate attempt to preserve his legacy on immigration. When I first heard of this, I thought maybe Trump was making some kind of grand tour of his accomplishments, but then I remembered he didn't have any -- at least not ones he'd like to draw attention to.
Sabrina Rodriguez: Trump's partially built 'big, beautiful wall': In the end, President Donald rump built a mere fraction of what he promised."
Austin Sarat: Trump targeted the mentally ill with his lame duck execution spree. This ranks high on the list of disgusting things Trump has done (not that I have the stomach to try ranking them). I've long thought that the key question on capital punishment is not whether the covict has done something deserving of death but whether the state should have the power to kill securely incarcerated people in cold blood. I can think of lots of reasons to say no, including the fact that the other nations who still slaughter prisoners are the world's leading human rights abusers, which come to think of it is why the US is one of them. But another is that the punishment is applied so inconsistently and haphazardly, as is clear from this tendency to single out the most helpless prisoners available. Also note that while many of Trump's orders can (and will) be reversed, his killings are final -- the one part of his legacy he can always look back on and relish. Related:
Emily Stewart: Why the MyPillow guy was at the White House, explained as best as we can: Mike Lindell.
See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees. Also: Who Joe Biden picked to fill his cabinet.
David Dayen: How Biden can move on from the Obama era: "The American Economic Liberties Project's 'Courage to Learn' report explains Obama's failures on competition policy, and a path forward for the new president." It's hard to think of anything the Obama administration did a poorer job of than antitrust ("if you block the last two companies in the economy from merging, that's not a successful antitrust policy" -- and that only happened toward the end of the second term).
Connor Echols: Biden's hidden hawks: This singles out several "particularly concerning" second-tier appointees, "both for their lack of repentance for past sins and their potential to do harm going forward."
Dino Grandoni/Juliet Eilperin: Biden swells the ranks of his White House climate team.
Nicholas Kristof: When Biden becomes . . . Rooseveltian! Seems premature, but the conditions are ripe, even if there's never been any reason to think the man might rise to the occasion. Starts with a famous story:
Soon after Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, a visitor assessed the stakes of his New Deal proposal.
Paul Krugman: Four rules that should guide Bidenomics: Ugh! Can we start by banning the personalized term? Call it "Democratic economic politics" if you must, as it's a shared set of precepts and policies which can be meaningfully contrasted to "Republican economic politics" -- and that wouldn't surrender the concept of an economic science separate from partisan preference (not that academic economists don't have their partisan loyalties). Still, let's list the rules:
Nancy LeTourneau: The attacks on Biden's Civil Rights Division nominee have already started. Kristen Clarke. You may recall that Republicans singled out Clinton's and Obama's nominees for this position (Lani Guinier, Debo Adegbile). They get nervous at the prospect of the Civil Rights Division being led by someone serious about civil rights.
German Lopez: Biden's plan to fix the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained. Bullet points:
Ian Millhiser: McConnell is already sabotaging Biden's presidency: "The Senate hasn't held a single confirmation hearing on Biden's nominees. That's not normal."
Nicole Narea: What we know about Biden's inauguration plans.
Bill Scher: It's time for a domestic terrorism law: Filed this under Biden because "Joe Biden's transition team was already working on a domestic terrorism law before the insurrection." I've been worried about right-wing violence at least since the 1990s (remember Oklahoma City?), and of course I know it wasn't newly minted then: the practice of violence is deeply embedded in the DNA of conservatism. I would even venture that aside from 9/11, I doubt there's ever been a year since the 1990s where Islamic terrorists (or "antifa" or "eco-terrorists") have killed more Americans in America than right-wingers have. Still, it's unclear to me that new anti-terrorism laws are either needed or useful. On the other hand, I can understand the fear, as I expect right-wing terror is going to get much worse before the "fire and fury" Trump (and Fox) stoked burns itself out. Some debate:
Jon Walker: Democrats must federalize Medicaid. Well, sure, but while the states bear a lot of responsibility for not expanding Medicaid per the ACA, a more fundamental problem is having a second-class Medicare-for-some in the first place.
Alex Ward: Biden taps Bill Burns, a career diplomat, to lead CIA. Note that Robert Wright/Connor Echols gave Burns a relatively decent mark on their Grading candidates for Biden's foreign policy team.
Latest map and case count: 23.9 million+ cases (14 day change +9%, total up 1.5 million in last week), 397,566 deaths (+27%), 126,139 hospitalized (+5%). While today's numbers are down a bit from the peak, the 14-day changes are still rising, giving us The worst week for deaths since the pandemic began. Monday will probably top the 400,000 deaths mark.
According to Bloomberg's Covid-19 vaccine tracker, the US has administered 14.7 million doses. The number of people who have received two doses is still very small.
Marc Fisher/Lori Rozsa/Mark Kreidler/Annie Gowen: 400,000: The invisible deaths of covid-19: "It took just over a month for the US coronavirus death toll to clib from 300,000 to nearly 400,000" (see chart).
Dhruv Khullar: Five countries, five experiences of the pandemic.
Ezra Klein: Biden's Covid-19 plan is maddeningly obvious: "It is infuriating that the Trump administration left so many of these things undone."
William LeoGrande: Putting Cuba on the terrorism list is unjustified and unwise.
James North: Pompeo's lie of al-Qaeda link raises risk of conflict with Iran. More on Pompeo:
Yumna Patel: In 'watershed' moment, B'Tselem labels Israel 'apartheid regime'. More comments, and more on Israel:
Charles Pierson: A Yemeni famine made in Washington and Riyadh.
William Astore: We're all prisoners of war now: "When will America free itself from war?"
William Grimes: Phil Spector, famed music producer and convicted murderer, dies at 81: "Pop genius and NRA poster-boy" is the way I'd put it. On the former, see Jon Pareles: Phil Spector: Listening to 15 songs from a violent legacy. Those songs range 1958-80, with the string most associated with him ending in 1966 with "River Deep, Mountain High." The murder occurred in 2003. Spector had long been fascinated with guns, liked to bring them out and play around with them, and eventually killed an actress named Lana Clarkson. At the time, he claimed it was an accident, but it was the sort that seemed bound to happen, and he was convicted of 2nd degree murder. Hardly a loss to music at that point, but a cautionary tale about guns. Also see:
Robert D McFadden: Sheldon Adelson, billionaire donor to GOP and Israel, is dead at 87. New York Times obituary, so not the most critical, but a fair place to start. Adelson was an extreme example of how someone who was extremely rich ("$34.9 billion at the time of his death") could exert extraordinary political influence. He was Trump's top financial backer in 2016, and contributed much more in 2020: "about $250 million in checks to support Trump and GOP House and Senate candidates." He had so much influence over Republicans that in 2016 there was much talk of a "Sheldon Adelson primary," where hopefuls trekked to Las Vegas to beg for his support. Although he embraced most of the political causes of the very rich, his overriding issue was support for Israel and its racism and militarism, and he may have had even more influence there, both through his direct control of much Israeli media (see How US billionaire Sheldon Adelson is buying up Israel's media) and his political contributions, especially his sponsorship of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For some more on Adelson:
Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Do me two times, I'm goin' away. Makes fun of Biden for calling Trump "an embarrassment." Of course, there are worse things you can (and should) charge Trump with, but embarrassment is the common denominator, something we should (if not can) all be able to agree on.
Dorothy Wickenden: The pre-Civil War fight against white supremacy: "In a country riven by racial politics, three women strove for a just society." Frances Seward, Martha Coffin Wright, Harriet Tubman.