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Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson



  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 5, 2021 (Wednesday)
    Today, clashes between anti-government protesters and state forces in Kazakhstan have forced Central Asia into an unexpected crisis. Kazakhstan has about 19 million people and is the ninth largest country in the world. After years of smaller protests, this week’s protests began on January 2, sparked by a rise in fuel prices, but spread rapidly across the oil-rich country, where an authoritarian government has enriched cronies, ignored the economic needs of the people, and rigged elections so that only pro-government candidates can win.

    The country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has dismissed his government, declared a state of emergency, and vowed to “act as tough as possible.” It appears he also shut down the internet, making it difficult to know exactly what is going on in the country.
    Still, it appears that as protesters took control of a key airport and government offices, set fire to the presidential palace, and pulled down statues of regime leaders, some security forces joined them, while others loyal to the president shot protesters. Members of the country’s wealthy political class who could, appear to have fled the country in private jets before protesters took over the airport.  

    Russia analyst Julia Davis reported that the uprising against corruption and kleptocracy in Kazakhstan has worried Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, both of whom spoke to Tokayev today. By the end of the day, Tokayev had asked for help from security forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of some of the former Soviet states, in putting down what he called “a terrorist threat” from outside agitators.

    Of those states, Russia and Belarus are the two with the most military power, but Russia currently is holding troops in Belarus on the border of Ukraine and so has less flexibility than normal, especially if the protests spread to Belarus. Still, the CSTO allies, led by Russia, have agreed to send a “peacekeeping force” to Kazakhstan to stop “outside interference.” Peter Spiegel of Financial Times notes that Putin likely fears the protests are a warning that citizens will not tolerate autocracies forever.
    The U.S. says it is watching the situation and has called for authorities and protesters to exercise restraint and to “respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights, and media freedom,” while searching for “a peaceful resolution.”
    So, we are watching people in Kazakhstan try to recover the right to have a say in their own government on the anniversary of the day that Americans came perilously close to losing that right.
    A year ago, forces marshaled by then-president Donald Trump tried to overturn the legitimate results of an election and install Trump against the will of the majority. They failed on that day, but their efforts have not stopped. In the past year, 19 Republican-dominated states have reworked their election systems to suppress Democratic voting and to give control of election results to partisan Republicans. They have purged from office election officials who refused to overturn the election results, and NPR’s Miles Parks reported today that Republicans who continue to deny that Biden won the 2020 election—against all evidence—are running to become their state’s top election officials in at least 15 states in 2022.
    Today, former president Jimmy Carter, who co-founded the Carter Center with his wife Rosalynn to promote democracy and human rights, published an op-ed in the New York Times titled: “I Fear for Our Democracy.”

    “I have... seen how…democratic systems…can fall to military juntas or power-hungry despots,” he wrote. He urged Americans to respect free and fair elections, refuse violence, pass election reforms that would make it easier to vote, and ignore disinformation. “Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss,” he wrote. “Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy.”

    Today, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol. He reassured those frustrated that prosecutors have so far charged only the rioters themselves, while those who planned and then incited the insurrection still walk free. Garland explained that large investigations always begin with the smaller, easier cases while the department builds a timeline and gathers evidence. He promised that the Justice Department will follow the facts and that it will hold “all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”

    He called attention to the fact that the Department of Justice has issued more than 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, seized around 2,000 devices, watched more than 20,000 hours of video, and searched through 15 terabytes of data. It has arrested and charged more than 725 defendants.

    And then he gave an eloquent defense of democracy and the voting rights on which it depends. After all, Congress established the Department of Justice in 1870 to protect the civil rights promised in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments by protecting the right of Black Americans to vote and so have a say in their government.

    Those who wrote the Reconstruction Amendments believed that voting was central to the concept of self-government, a belief Congress reinforced in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act that gave the Department of Justice new tools to protect the right to vote. But in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, the Supreme Court gutted that law. Immediately, states began to pass laws to restrict voting. Lately, that push has gotten even stronger.

    Garland promised that the Justice Department will continue to do all it can with the powers it has, but he called it “essential” for Congress to give the department the power it needs to guarantee that “every eligible voter can cast a vote that counts.”

    What is at stake today in America is the nature of our government. Will we accept an authoritarian government like that currently under attack in Kazakhstan, in which an autocratic leader funnels money to his cronies while ordinary people struggle, unable to fix the system that is rigged against them until finally they lay down their lives to change it? Or will we restore the principles on which the Founders based this nation: “that all men are created equal” and that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed….”?


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 6, 2022 (Thursday)

    Just before sunrise on a November day in 1861, Massachusetts abolitionist Julia Ward Howe woke up in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. She got out of bed, found a pen, and began to write about the struggle in which the country was engaged: could any nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” survive, or would such a nation inevitably descend into hierarchies and minority rule?  

    Howe had faith in America. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” she wrote in the gray dawn. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.”

    She thought of the young soldiers she had seen the day before, huddled around fires in the raw winter weather, ringing the city to protect it from the soldiers of the Confederacy who were fighting to create a nation that rejected the idea that all men were created equal: “I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps; They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps, His day is marching on.”

    Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic became inspiration for the soldiers protecting the United States government. And in a four-year war that took hundreds of thousands of lives, they prevailed. Despite the threats to Washington, D.C., and the terrible toll the war took, they made sure the Confederate flag never flew in the U.S. Capitol.  

    That changed a year ago today.

    On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists determined to overturn an election and undermine our democracy carried that flag into the seat of our government. Worse, they did so with the encouragement of former president Trump and members of his party.

    This morning, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol tweeted out a brief timeline of what happened:

    At 8:17 in the morning, Trump lied that states wanted to correct their electoral votes and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to send the electoral votes back to the states. If Pence would cooperate, he tweeted, “WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

    Starting at 12:00 noon, Trump spoke for an hour to supporters at the Ellipse, telling them, "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country any more.” He urged them to march to the Capitol.

    Between 12:52 and 1:49, pipe bombs were found near the Capitol grounds at Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters. (We learned today that Vice President–elect Kamala Harris, then a senator from California, was in the DNC at the time.)

    At 1:00, Congress met in joint session to count the certified electoral ballots, confirming Biden as president. Pence began to count the ballots. He refused to reject the ballots Trump wanted thrown out, writing in a letter before the joint session, “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

    From 1:00 to 1:13, the mob began to charge the Capitol.

    Between 1:30 and 1:59, Trump supporters continued to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol, overwhelming the Capitol Police, who were ordered to pull back and request support.

    Between 2:12 and 2:30, the mob broke into the Capitol building, one man carrying the Confederate battle flag. Both the House and the Senate adjourned, and members began to evacuate their chambers.

    From 2:24 to 3:13, with the rioters inside the Capitol, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done…. USA demands the truth!” and then “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement…. Stay peaceful!” (One of Trump’s aides today revealed that the former president did not want to tweet the words “stay peaceful” and was "very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.")

    At 4:17, shortly after Biden had publicly called on Trump to end the siege, Trump issued a video insisting that the election was fraudulent but nonetheless telling the mob to “go home. We love you, you’re very special.”

    At 5:20, the first of the National Guard troops arrived at the Capitol. Law enforcement began to push the insurrectionists out of the building and secure it.

    At 8:06, the building was secured. Pence reopened the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reopened the House.

    When the counting of the ballots resumed, 147 Republicans maintained their objections to at least one certified state ballot.

    Early on the morning of January 7, Congress confirmed that Joe Biden had been elected president with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. It was not a particularly close election: Biden’s victory in the popular vote was more than 7 million.

    For almost a year, President Joe Biden has tried to weaken Republican insurrectionists by ignoring Trump and working to create a bipartisan majority devoted to ending the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding the economy. But Republican leaders have refused to abandon the Big Lie and have prolonged the pandemic by undercutting attempts to get Americans vaccinated.

    Although he continued to pledge that he would always work with Republicans who believe in “the rule of law and not the rule of a single man,” today Biden called out former president Trump and his loyalists for the insurrection.

    “Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so” acted “not in service of America, but rather in service of one man” who “has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election…because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.”

    Biden urged Americans not to succumb to autocracy, but to come together to defend our democracy, “to keep the promise of America alive,” and to protect what we stand for: “the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.” “This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats,” he said. “We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.”

    “I will stand in this breach,” Biden vowed. “I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.” He urged Americans to defend the principles of equality and the rule of law. “Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible;... today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 7, 2022 (Friday)

    Today, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, as he jogged through a primarily white neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan chased Arbery in their trucks, cornering him on a suburban street. Travis McMichael shot and killed the unarmed Arbery, while Bryan filmed the encounter from inside his truck.  

    While the men were convicted of several different crimes, all three were convicted of felony murder or of committing felonies that led to Arbery’s death. Under Georgia law, they each faced life in prison, but the judge could determine whether they could be paroled. Judge Walmsley denied the possibility of parole for the McMichael father and son, but allowed it for Bryan. Under Georgia law, that means he will be eligible for parole after 30 years.

    The state of Georgia came perilously close to ignoring the crimes that now have the McMichaels and Bryan serving life sentences.

    Gregory McMichael was connected to the first two district attorneys in charge of the case, both of whom ultimately recused themselves, but not until they told law enforcement that Georgia’s citizens arrest law, dating from an 1863 law designed to permit white men to hunt down Black people escaping enslavement, enabled the men to chase Arbery and that they had shot him in self-defense. In late April, the state’s attorney general appointed a third district attorney to the investigation. “We don’t know anything about the case,” the new district attorney told reporters. “We don’t have any preconceived idea about it.”

    On April 26, pressure from Arbery’s family and the community had kicked up enough dust that the New York Times reported on the case, noting that there had been no arrests. Eager to clear his name, and apparently thinking that anyone who saw the video of the shooting would believe, as the local district attorneys had, that it justified the shooting, on May 6 Gregory McMichael arranged for his lawyer to take the video to a local radio station, which uploaded it for public viewing.

    The station took the video down two hours later, but not before a public outcry brought outside oversight. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and two days later, on May 7, GBI officers arrested the McMichaels. On May 11, the case was transferred to Atlanta, about 270 miles away from Brunswick. On May 21, 2020, officers arrested Bryan.

    On Wednesday, November 24, a jury found the three men guilty of a range of crimes on the same day that the first district attorney turned herself in to officials after a grand jury indicted her for violating her oath of office and obstructing police, saying she used her position to discourage law enforcement officers from arresting the McMichaels.

    The Arbery case echoes long historical themes. Arbery was a Black man, executed by white men who saw an unarmed jogger as a potential criminal and believed they had a right to arrest him. But it is also a story of local government and outsiders, and which are best suited to protect democracy.

    From the nation’s early years, lawmakers who wanted to protect their own interests have insisted that true American democracy is local, where voters can make their wishes clearly known. They said that the federal government must not intervene in the choices state voters made about the way their government operated despite the fact that the federal government represents the will of the vast majority of Americans. Federal intervention in state laws, they said, was tyranny.

    But those lawmakers shaped the state laws to their own interests by limiting the vote. They actually developed and deployed their argument primarily to protect the institution of human enslavement (although it was used later to promote big business). If state voters—almost all white men who owned at least some property—wanted to enslave their Black neighbors, the reasoning went, the federal government had no say in the matter despite representing the vast majority of the American people.

    After the Civil War, the federal government stepped in to enable Black men to protect their equality before the law by guaranteeing their right to vote in the states. But it soon abandoned the effort and let the South revert to a one-party system in which who you knew and what you looked like mattered far more than the law.

    After World War II, returning veterans, civil rights lawyers, and grassroots organizers set out to register Black and Brown people to vote in their home states and got beaten and murdered for their efforts. So in 1965, Congress stepped in, passing the Voting Rights Act.

    It took only about 20 years for states once again to begin cutting back on voting rights. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and states promptly began to make it harder to vote. Since the 2020 election, 19 Republican-dominated states have made it even harder. Many of those states are now functionally one-party states, in which equality before the law matters less than belonging to the dominant group.
    Now, once again, right-wing leaders are trying to center our government on the states. Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments about the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement for businesses that have more than 100 employees. (Ironically, two of the lawyers arguing against the mandate had to appear virtually because they had tested positive for Covid and the Supreme Court protocols prohibited them from the court.)

    A majority of the justices indicated they thought such a mandate was government overreach. Knowing that Republicans in the Senate would never permit similar legislation, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the pandemic “sounds like the sort of thing that states will be responding to or should be, and that Congress should be responding to or should be, rather than agency by agency the federal government and the executive branch acting alone.”

    But states that are restricting the vote almost certainly will not respond to the pandemic in a way that represents the will of the majority, and Republicans are trying to guarantee that the federal government cannot protect voting. Just last Tuesday, January 4, 2022, Republican senators reiterated their opposition to the Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act.
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters that there was no need for federal election protections because states would never overturn the counting of votes after an election (although a number of state legislators tried to do just that in 2020). “The notion that some state legislature would be crazy enough to say to their own voters, ‘We’re not going to honor the results of the election’ is ridiculous on its face,” he said. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “is using the false narrative that our states cannot protect voters’ access to voting.”

    They can, of course. The problem is that historically, many of them do the opposite. And the minority rule that results not only results in poor governance, it leads to the sort of society in which three men can hunt down and shoot an unarmed jogger and, unless outsiders happen to step in, run a good chance of getting away with it.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 8, 2022 (Saturday)

    I'm going to turn it over to Buddy on this cold night and go catch up on my sleep.

    I'll see you tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 9, 2022 (Sunday)

    There are two big stories for the coming week: diplomatic conversations with Russia and the passage of voting rights legislation in America. The two are related.

    In the last several months, Russia has massed nearly 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine, and its president, Vladimir Putin, has threatened to invade the independent country again, as Russian troops did in 2014. Ukraine amended its constitution in 2019 to enable the country to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), through which Europe joined together to oppose first the USSR, and then the rising threat of Russia.

    Putin insists that Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO threatens Russia’s security. He is demanding that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, that no European country house missiles that could reach Russia, and that no former Soviet satellite country that has joined NATO house weapons or troops that could threaten Russia. This would essentially dismantle the security structure Europeans built after the fall of the USSR.

    The U.S. and its allies in Europe and in NATO reject those demands, noting that the main threats to Europe for the past twenty years have come from Russia and its allies, who have invaded and occupied their neighbors, interfered in elections (including our own), assassinated opponents, and violated arms treaties.

    This week, members of the Biden administration will meet with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, Switzerland, to try to deescalate the situation, although the U.S. has made it crystal clear that these talks are exploratory only and that they will not be making any firm commitments.

    Today, on two talk shows—CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, and ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos—Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out the principles on which the Biden administration is acting. International peace and security relies on “the principle that one country can’t change the borders of another by force, the principle that one country can’t dictate to another its foreign policy and…its choices including with whom it will associate, the principle that one country can’t exert a sphere of influence to subjugate its neighbors.”

    The State Department and the Biden administration have worked hard to rebuild the alliances that frayed under Trump, and now NATO is standing so strong that non-NATO countries like Finland and Sweden are discussing whether they might like to join the coalition. Blinken emphasized that the U.S. will not act unilaterally; it is standing with its allies to push back against Russian aggression.

    That coalition will exert pressure on Russia through the economic strength of the U.S. and its allies. “The G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, made clear there would be massive consequences for renewed Russian aggression,” Blinken said, “So has the European Union, so has NATO.”

    While he declined to identify exactly what he meant by “economic, financial, other measures,” he said that “Russia has a pretty good idea of the kinds of things it would face if it renews its aggression.” Observers speculate that Blinken is alluding to shutting Russia out of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, which facilitates international banking transfers.

    Blinken and President Joe Biden have made it clear since the beginning of Biden‘s term that they see the defense of democracy as being global as well as local. Blinken has said that in our era, “distinctions between domestic and foreign policy have simply fallen away. Our domestic renewal and our strength in the world are completely entwined.”

    The weakening of democracy stems in part from the shifts caused by the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, almost exactly 30 years ago, after the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine announced they were creating a new Commonwealth of Independent States. When almost all the other Soviet republics announced that they were joining the new alliance, the leader of the USSR, president Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down, handing power to the president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin.

    The new republics quickly fell under the control of oligarchs who looted the formerly communist countries and laundered their illicit money in the U.S. and the U.K., which were deregulating their financial systems under the conviction that the ideology of free enterprise had bested that of communism, and releasing it from all constraints would only strengthen the winners of the Cold War.

    In the 1990s, Vladimir Putin was consolidating power in Russia, and by the 2000s, Ukrainian interest in joining NATO and working with Europe worried him. In 2010 a Russian-backed politician, Viktor Yanukovych, won the Ukraine presidency (with the help of Paul Manafort—honestly, if you wrote this story as a spy novel, no one would believe it) on a platform of rejecting NATO.

    Immediately, Yanukovych turned Ukraine toward Russia. In November 2013, he pulled Ukraine out of the process of joining the European Union, sparking popular protests that threw him from power in 2014. He fled to Russia.

    Shortly after Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and annexed it, prompting the United States and the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Russia itself and also on specific Russian businesses and oligarchs, prohibiting them from doing business in United States territories. These sanctions froze the assets of key Russian oligarchs. Manafort went to work for candidate Donald Trump in 2016, apparently working with Russian operatives to get Trump elected and get rid of the sanctions.

    Biden’s election changed the international equation. Concerned by the erosion of democracy at home and abroad, Biden vowed to rebuild democratic alliances and to fight the corruption that has strengthened oligarchs overseas and permitted their money to corrupt American politics. He has pulled democratic countries together to crack down on money laundering, used sanctions to paralyze those trafficking in illicit money, and beefed up enforcement mechanisms.

    This crackdown on money laundering and illicit funds threatens to destabilize oligarchies that rest on great wealth, while it also strengthens American democracy internally by slowing the flow of illicit money into our political system.

    And our democracy remains unstable.

    This morning, Hugo Lowell of The Guardian reported that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is looking into whether Trump was the head of a criminal conspiracy to stop Congress from declaring Biden the president. They are looking not just at his communications with lawmakers, but also at whether he was part of an effort to coordinate the attack on the Capitol with the counting of the certified ballots.

    Later today, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) rejected the request of the January 6 committee to cooperate with its investigation, regurgitating right-wing talking points and calling the investigation a “partisan witch hunt.” Jordan has acknowledged that he spoke with Trump a number of times on January 6, although says he cannot remember exactly when. As Just Security has outlined, Jordan more than any other Republican member of Congress backed the Big Lie and sought to overturn the election.

    On CBS News’s Face the Nation this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  will push in the next two weeks. ​​“What the Republicans are doing across the country is really a legislative continuation of what they did on January 6, which is to undermine our democracy, to undermine the integrity of our elections, to undermine the voting power, which is the essence of a democracy,” she said.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 10, 2022 (Monday)

    Today, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta held a hearing in Washington, D.C., to determine whether three lawsuits against former president Trump and a number of his loyalists should be permitted to go forward.

    The lawsuits have been filed by Democratic members of the House and Capitol Police officers injured on January 6 against Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), and others. The plaintiffs are trying to hold Trump and his team liable in a civil suit for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

    But the questions in these three cases mirror those being discussed by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and touch on whether the former president committed a crime by inciting insurrection or by standing back while the rioters stopped the official proceedings of Congress (which itself is a crime).

    Most significantly, Judge Mehta grappled with the meaning of Trump’s refusal to call off the rioters for 187 crucial minutes during the insurrection as they stormed the Capitol. This is a key factor on which the January 6th committee is focused, and Mehta dug into it.

    While Trump’s lawyer tried to argue that the president could not be in trouble for failing to do something—that is, for failing to call off the rioters—the judge wondered if Trump’s long silence indicated that he agreed with the insurrectionists inside the Capitol. “If my words had been misconstrued…and they led to violence, wouldn’t somebody, the reasonable person, just come out and say, wait a second, stop?” he asked.

    The judge also tried to get at the answer to whether the actions of Trump and his loyalists at the rally were protected as official speech, or were part of campaign activities, which are not protected. Brooks told the judge that everything he did—including wearing body armor to tell the crowd to fight—was part of his official duties. The Department of Justice said this summer that it considered the rally a campaign event and would not defend Brooks for his part in it.

    Trump’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, argued that Trump is absolutely immune from any legal consequences for anything he said while president. “So the president, in your view, is both immune to inciting the riot and failing to stop it?” Mehta asked.

    When Binnall suggested the judge was holding Trump to a different standard than he would hold a Democrat, Mehta called the charge “simply inappropriate.”

    For all their bluster before the media, key figures in the events of January 6 appear to be increasingly uncomfortable. Last night, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) joined other Trump administration figures when he announced that he would not appear before the January 6th committee. It has asked him to testify voluntarily, since he has acknowledged that he spoke to Trump on January 6, and since the committee has at least one text from him appearing to embrace the theory that the election results could be overturned.

    Jordan claimed that the committee has no legitimate legislative purpose, although a judge has said otherwise.

    Observers today noted that Jordan is denying that he recognizes the authority of Congress, and pointed out that in 2015, then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, in fact, recognize that authority when she testified for 11 hours before ​​a Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi.

    Today, establishment Republicans showed some resistance to Trump’s attempt to remake the Republican Party as his own when they made a desperate push to stop litigating the 2020 election and instead to move forward. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) appeared Sunday on ABC News, where he said the 2020 election was “fair” and that Trump lost. “We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency,” he said. The former president then issued a rambling statement asking: “Is he crazy or just stupid?”

    Rounds retorted that the party must focus on “what lies ahead, not what’s in the past.” Senator MItt Romney (R-UT) jumped aboard, tweeting that Rounds “speaks truth knowing that our Republic depends upon it.” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski actually made fun of Trump on Friday with a local political news outlet, mocking his endorsement of the Alaska governor’s reelection only if the governor did not endorse Murkowski.

    In North Carolina today, eleven voters filed a challenge with the State Board of Elections to Madison Cawthorn as a candidate for reelection on the grounds that he is disqualified by the third section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits from holding office anyone “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

    North Carolina law says “[t]he burden of proof shall be upon the candidate, who must show by a preponderance of the evidence of the record as a whole that he or she is qualified to be a candidate for the office.”

    In late December 2021, Cawthorn told supporters to “call your congressman and feel free—you can lightly threaten them…. Say: ‘If you don’t support election integrity, I’m coming after you. Madison Cawthorn’s coming after you. Everybody’s coming after you.’” Cawthorn spoke at the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally before the crowd broke into the Capitol, suggesting he supported the attack, then voted against accepting the certified ballots from certain states. Cawthorn continues to question the legitimacy of Biden’s election and, last summer, warned there could be “bloodshed” over future elections.

    The group filing the challenge promised it would be the first of many.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 11, 2022 (Tuesday)

    The United States came perilously close to losing its democracy in 2020, when an incumbent president refused to accept the results of an election he lost and worked with supporters to declare himself the winner and remain in power.

    We are learning more about how that process happened.

    Yesterday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol revealed that it has been looking not just at attempts to overturn the election at the state level as well as the national level. It has gathered thousands of records and interviewed a number of witnesses to see what Trump and his loyalists did to overturn the 2020 election in the four crucial states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

    In those states, officials generally tried to ignore the pressure from Trump and his loyalists to overturn the election. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, was uncomfortable enough with a call from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on the subject that he recorded a call in which Trump urged him to “find” the votes Trump needed to win the state.

    In Pennsylvania, right-wing Republican Representative Scott Perry tried to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes for Biden and to replace Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen (who took over when Attorney General William Barr resigned on December 23) with Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who promised to challenge the election results.

    But it turns out there was more. Yesterday, public records requests by Politico revealed that Trump loyalists in Michigan and Arizona actually submitted false certificates to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) declaring Trump the winner of Michigan’s and Arizona’s electoral votes. In Arizona, they actually affixed the state seal to their papers. NARA rejected the false certificates and alerted the secretaries of state. (Shout-out here to the NARA archivists and librarians, who are scrupulous in their roles as the keepers of our national history.)

    Today, the committee issued more subpoenas, this time for documents and testimony from Andy Surabian, Arthur Schwartz, and Ross Worthington. Surabian and Schwartz were strategists communicating with Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle about the rally on the Ellipse on January 6 before the crowd broke into the Capitol. Worthington helped to write the speech Trump gave at the rally.

    The committee today also debunked a story circulating on right-wing media that government agencies rather than Trump loyalists were behind the January 6 insurrection. Arizona resident Ray Epps was captured on video in Washington on January 5 and 6, and Trump allies, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have argued that he was a government agent trying to entrap Trump supporters. The committee says that it interviewed Epps and that he had told the members “he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on January 5th or 6th or at any other time, and that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.”

    “Sorry crazies, it ain’t true,” committee member Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeted.

    As the attack on our country has become clearer, the determination to restore our democracy has gained momentum.

    Today, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took to the road to champion voting rights. They went to the district of the late Representative John Lewis, the Georgia congressman for whom one of the voting rights bills before the Senate is named.

    Lewis was beaten by mobs and arrested 24 times in his quest to regain the vote for Black Americans. On March 7, 1965, as Lewis and 600 marchers hoping to register African American voters in Alabama stopped to pray at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, named for a senator at the turn of the last century who was a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, mounted police troopers charged the marchers, beating them with clubs and bullwhips. They fractured Lewis’s skull.

    The attacks on the Selma marchers prompted President Lyndon Johnson to call for federal legislation defending Americans’ right to vote. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. The VRA became such a fundamental part of our system that Congress repeatedly reauthorized it, by large margins, as recently as 2006.

    But in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court gutted the provision of the law requiring that states with histories of voter discrimination get approval from the Department of Justice before they changed their voting laws. Immediately, legislatures in those states, now dominated by Republicans, began to pass measures to suppress the vote. Now, in the wake of the 2020 election, Republican-dominated states have increased the rate of voter suppression, and on July 1, 2021, the Supreme Court permitted such suppression with the Brnovich v. DNC decision.

    Speaking in Lewis’s Atlanta district, Biden called out the people behind the events of January 6 as “forces that attempted a coup—a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people—by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.”

    “They want chaos to reign,” he said. “We want the people to rule.”  

    After Selma, “Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic…voting rights legislation,” Biden said. He reminded his audience that Congress repeatedly reauthorized the VRA, most recently in 2006 with a vote of 390 to 33 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate.

    Sixteen Republican senators who voted to reauthorize the VRA are still in the Senate, now united against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that restores the protections the Shelby v. Holder decision stripped from the VRA. Republicans also oppose the Freedom to Vote Act, hammered out by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and a team of other Democrats and Independent Angus King of Maine, which would make it easier to register and to vote, stop partisan gerrymandering, and prohibit the partisan changes Republican-dominated state legislatures have made to guarantee their states go Republican in the future.  

    Biden called Republican senators out. “Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote,” he said. “Not one.”

    Biden called for rebuilding our democracy and for passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. And he came out for a reform of the filibuster to enable the Democrats to get the bills to the Senate floor for debate, a step Republicans have been obstructing. With states able to pass voting restrictions with simple majorities, he pointed out, “the United States Senate should be able to project voting by a simple majority.”

    The next few days will mark a turning point in this nation’s history, Biden said. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy…?”

    “I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?”

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says Republicans have until Monday, January 17, the holiday celebrating the birth of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., to drop their opposition to a debate and a vote on the measure. If they refuse, the Senate will begin to debate changing the rules of the filibuster.   

    Voting rights journalist Ari Berman noted that even as Biden was speaking, a state court in North Carolina upheld redistricting maps that are so extreme they would give Republicans 71–78% of the seats in a state Trump won with just 49.9% of the vote. This, Berman notes, “is exactly the kind of partisan & racial gerrymandering [the] Freedom to Vote Act would block[.]”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 12, 2022 (Wednesday)

    The struggle between the Trump-backed forces of authoritarianism and those of us defending democracy is coming down to the fight over whether the Democrats can get the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate.

    It’s worth reading what’s actually in the bills because, to my mind, it is bananas that they are in any way controversial.

    The Freedom to Vote Act is a trimmed version of the For the People Act the House passed at the beginning of this congressional session. It establishes a baseline for access to the ballot across all states. That baseline includes at least two weeks of early voting for any town of more than 3000 people, including on nights and weekends, for at least 10 hours a day. It permits people to vote by mail, or to drop their ballots into either a polling place or a drop box, and guarantees those votes will be counted so long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive at the polling place within a week. It makes Election Day a holiday. It provides uniform standards for voter IDs in states that require them.

    The Freedom to Vote Act cracks down on voter suppression. It makes it a federal crime to lie to voters in order to deter them from voting (distributing official-looking flyers with the wrong dates for an election or locations of a polling place, for example), and it increases the penalties for voter intimidation. It restores federal voting rights for people who have served time in jail, creating a uniform system out of the current patchwork one.

    It requires states to guarantee that no one has to wait more than 30 minutes to vote.

    Using measures already in place in a number of states, the Freedom to Vote Act provides uniform voter registration rules. It establishes automatic voter registration at state Departments of Motor Vehicles, permits same-day voter registration, allows online voter registration, and protects voters from the purges that have plagued voting registrations for decades now, requiring that voters be notified if they are dropped from the rolls and given information on how to get back on them.

    The Freedom to Vote Act bans partisan gerrymandering.

    The Freedom to Vote Act requires any entity that spends more than $10,000 in an election to disclose all its major donors, thus cleaning up dark money in politics. It requires all advertisements to identify who is paying for them. It makes it harder for political action committees (PACs) to coordinate with candidates, and it beefs up the power of the Federal Election Commission that ensures candidates run their campaigns legally.

    The Freedom to Vote Act also addresses the laws Republican-dominated states have passed in the last year to guarantee that Republicans win future elections. It protects local election officers from intimidation and firing for partisan purposes. It expands penalties for tampering with ballots after an election (as happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, where the Cyber Ninjas investigating the results did not use standard protection for them and have been unable to produce documents for a freedom of information lawsuit, leading to fines of $50,000 a day and the company’s dissolution). If someone does tamper with the results or refuses to certify them, voters can sue.  

    The act also prevents attempts to overturn elections by requiring audits after elections, making sure those audits have clearly defined rules and procedures. And it prohibits voting machines that don’t leave a paper record.

    The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) takes on issues of discrimination in voting by updating and restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013 and 2021. The VRA required that states with a history of discrimination in voting get the Department of Justice to approve any changes they wanted to make in their voting laws before they went into effect, and in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck that requirement down, in part because the justices felt the formula in the law was outdated.

    The VRAA provides a new, modern formula for determining which states need preapproval, based on how many voting rights violations they’ve had in the past 25 years. After ten years without violations, they will no longer need preclearance. It also establishes some practices that must always be cleared, such as getting rid of ballots printed in different languages (as required in the U.S. since 1975).

    The VRAA also restores the ability of voters to sue if their rights are violated, something the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision makes difficult.

    The VRAA directly addresses the ability of Indigenous Americans, who face unique voting problems, to vote. It requires at least one polling place on tribal lands, for example, and requires states to accept tribal or federal IDs.

    That’s it.

    It is off-the-charts astonishing that no Republicans are willing to entertain these common-sense measures, especially since there are in the Senate a number of Republicans who voted in 2006 to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act the VRAA is designed to restore.  

    McConnell today revealed his discomfort with President Joe Biden’s speech yesterday at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, when Biden pointed out that “[h]istory has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights. And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.” Biden asked Republican senators to choose between our history’s advocates of voting rights and those who opposed such rights. He asked: “Do you want to be…on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

    Today, McConnell, who never complained about the intemperate speeches of former president Donald Trump, said Biden’s speech revealed him to be "profoundly, profoundly unpresidential."

    The voting rights measures appear to have the support of the Senate Democrats, but because of the Senate filibuster, which makes it possible for senators to block any measure unless a supermajority of 60 senators are willing to vote for it, voting rights cannot pass unless Democrats are willing to figure out a way to bypass the filibuster. Two Democratic senators—Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—are currently unwilling to do that.

    Nine Democratic senators eager to pass this measure met with Sinema for two and a half hours last night and for another hour with Manchin this morning in an attempt to get them to a place where they are willing to change the rules of the Senate filibuster to protect our right to vote. They have not yet found a solution.

    This evening, Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he would bring voting rights legislation to the Senate floor for debate—which Republicans have rejected—by avoiding a Republican filibuster through a complicated workaround. When the House and Senate disagree on a bill (which is almost always), they send it back and forth with revisions until they reach a final version. According to Democracy Docket, after it has gone back and forth three times, a motion to proceed on it cannot be filibustered. So, Democrats in the House are going to take a bill that has already hit the three-trip mark and substitute for that bill the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. They’ll pass the combined bill and send it to the Senate, where debate over it can’t be filibustered.

    And so, Republican senators will have to explain to the people why they oppose what appear to be common-sense voting rules.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
    yes mitch. entirely unpresidential for a president to defend small d democratic ideals. the fucking nerve.

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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 13, 2022 (Thursday)

    While all eyes today are on the fight over the newly combined voting rights bill before the Senate—it is now the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act”—there are plenty of stories out there right now that make clear what is at stake if the Republicans are permitted to rig the rules so that they will win the next election.

    Today the Department of Justice acknowledged that there was a seditious conspiracy behind the January 6 insurrection against our government.

    The Justice Department indicted Oath Keepers leader [Elmer] Stewart Rhodes III and 10 other members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right antigovernment militia that specializes in recruiting veterans, for a number of crimes including seditious conspiracy in relation to the January 6 insurrection. Sedition is the crime of inciting a revolt against the government, and these men allegedly established training sessions and areas for staging equipment around Washington, D.C., before the insurrection to support an attack on that day. They also brought knives, tactical vests, radio equipment, and so on, to the Capitol on January 6.

    Rhodes stated that, should Biden assume the office of the presidency, “We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.” He wanted Trump to use military force to stop the transfer of presidential power. On Christmas Day, he messaged his co-conspirators about the January 6 joint session of Congress, “We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away…. I think Congress will screw him [Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is [sic] they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.” On December 31, he wrote: “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”

    Officials produced a lot of evidence from encrypted messaging channels—suggesting they have access to encrypted messages—to support their argument that the conspirators intended to overturn the government. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” one messaged another; and “We aren’t quitting!! We are reloading!!” They plotted going to Washington, D.C., getting hotel rooms, and stashing weapons, and then continued to communicate as they stormed the Capitol, evidently seeing themselves as the modern-day version of the patriots of the American Revolution (calling to mind Representative Lauren Boebert’s [R-CO] tweet the morning of January 6 that “Today is 1776.”).

    After the insurrection, the conspirators continued to stockpile weapons and prepare for “next steps.” On January 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration, one messaged another: “After this…if nothing happens…its [sic] war…Civil War 2.0.”

    The Oath Keepers provided security to Trump loyalist Roger Stone on January 5 and January 6. Stone has denied any involvement in the insurrection.  

    Tess Owen of Vice reported on January 5 about a similar right-wing gang active at the Capitol. Owen said that after the January 6 insurrection, for which nearly 50 members of their gang have been charged, the neofascist street-fighting gang the Proud Boys turned from the national stage to local right-wing culture wars. From January 6 to December 21, 2021, the Proud Boys appeared in uniform at least 114 times in 73 cities and 24 states, working to embed among local activists opposing critical race theory and vaccine mandates in order to expand their base of support. The Proud Boys are the gang Trump told to “stand back and stand by,” when reporter Chris Wallace, then of the Fox News Channel, asked him to condemn white supremacists.

    It was not just members of street gangs who were involved in overturning the 2020 election. Last week, a new website called Insurrection Index, published by the voting rights organization Public Wise, established that more than 1000 people in elective office or positions of public trust around the country either spread the Big Lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent or participated in the January 6 insurrection.

    Over the past several days, news has broken that lawmakers or partisan officials in various states forged documents claiming that Trump won the 2020 election. This links them to the insurrection; as conservative editor Bill Kristol of The Bulwark notes, false electoral counts were part of Trump’s plan to get then–Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count a number of Biden’s electoral votes on the grounds that the states had sent in conflicting ballots.

    Interestingly, on December 17, 2021, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that in four states there were an “alternate slate of electors voted upon that Congress will decide in January.” McEnany talked to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday.

    The January 6th Committee also asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) yesterday to testify. He promptly refused, saying the committee is illegitimate (a court has said it is legitimate). The committee’s 6-page letter requesting McCarthy’s voluntary cooperation made it clear they have a lot of information.

    In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, New York University School of Law professor Ryan Goodman suggested that McCarthy might be able to shed light on whether Trump believed the rioters were helping his effort to overturn the election. Lawmakers who talked to McCarthy in January about his expletive-laden conversation with Trump as McCarthy tried to get him to call off the rioters reported that Trump’s answer to McCarthy was: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

    Sargent’s article suggests that, among other things, the committee wants to know if Trump tried to make a deal with McCarthy or others, indicating that he would call off the rioters if the Republicans either overturned the election results or delayed the count.

    House Republicans have already begun to map out how they will retake the government, planning to investigate the Biden administration aggressively if they win control of the House in 2022, trying to stoke the culture wars before the 2024 election.

    Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said on a podcast that the Republicans might well impeach Biden if they retake the House in 2022, “whether it’s justified or not.” He claimed the Democrats had “used [impeachment] for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him,” and that there would be “enormous pressure on a Republican house to do the same.”

    Democrats impeached Trump, of course, not over policy differences but over two extraordinary acts. The first was Trump’s July 2019 attempt to strongarm Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into smearing Trump’s leading challenger for the presidency, withholding congressionally appropriated money for Ukraine’s defense against Russia until Zelensky would agree to tell media that he was launching an investigation into Biden’s son. (It would be ironic if the Republicans acquitted Trump of just such a quid pro quo with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky only to have him suggest a similar quid pro quo over their own lives.)

    The second was inciting the January 6 insurrection.

    And yet, despite all this, the Republican Party is lining up behind Trump’s wishes. Today the Republican National Committee announced that it plans to change its rules, refusing to permit any of its candidates to participate in debates run by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission was founded by the Republicans and Democrats in 1987 to make formal debates part of the election process, and is actually supposed to arrange the debates with candidates, not party officials. Debates are not Trump’s strong suit, and he insists the commission is biased against him.

    Tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has adjourned the Senate tonight out of concerns about Covid and an upcoming storm. It will reconvene on Tuesday to debate voting rights.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 14, 2022 (Friday)

    Yesterday, by a vote of 6 to 3, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s requirement that businesses with more than 100 employees address the coronavirus pandemic by making employees either get vaccines or, if they choose not to be vaccinated, to test weekly and wear a mask at work. Employees who work exclusively at home or mostly outside were exempted from the requirement, as were those with a religious exemption.

    President Joe Biden took office vowing to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. By April 2021, his administration’s efforts to make vaccines available and get them into people’s arms were so successful that in early May he vowed to reach a 70% vaccination rate among those then eligible for the vaccine by July 4. Promptly, political opponents began to undermine confidence in the vaccine, and vaccination rates fell off dramatically.

    In July, the administration tried to encourage vaccinations by requiring vaccines or testing for federal workers and for those contracting with the federal government. In November, the administration expanded those requirements with a new one under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), established in the Department of Labor under Republican President Richard M. Nixon in 1970 to "assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance." OSHA announced a vaccine or testing requirement for businesses with more than 100 employees.  

    The mandate would have covered about 84.2 million Americans (our population is about 332 million). OSHA estimated (before Omicron) that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over a six-month period.

    Employers claimed that the mandate would cost billions of dollars to implement and hundreds of thousands of employees would quit (although the actual numbers of those quitting their jobs over vaccine mandates turned out to be significantly lower than threatened). A number of Republican-dominated state legislatures, including those of Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee, fought the mandate by extending unemployment benefits to those fired for refusing to get the vaccine.

    Those objecting to the mandate got the extremely conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and which Trump skewed even more extremely to the right, to stop it.  

    The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, also right-leaning but less extreme, lifted the stay, permitting the rule to go into effect. Now, in a case titled National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the Supreme Court has restored the stay.

    The six justices in the majority ruled that OSHA did not have the authority to require vaccinations or masks and testing because the coronavirus is not specific to the workplace. OSHA’s responsibility is only to make sure that conditions related to the workplace are safe; it cannot regulate a workplace for a virus that is everywhere, even if people catch it at work.

    The three justices who dissented, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed incredulous:

    “COVID-19 poses grave dangers to the citizens of this country—and particularly, to its workers,” they wrote. “The disease has by now killed almost 1 million Americans and hospitalized almost 4 million. It spreads by person-to-person contact in confined indoor spaces, so causes harm in nearly all workplace environments. And in those environments, more than any others, individuals have little control, and therefore little capacity to mitigate risk. COVID-19, in short, is a menace in work settings. The proof is all around us: Since the disease’s onset, most Americans have seen their workplaces transformed. So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in workplaces did what Congress commanded it to: It took action to address COVID-19’s continuing threat in those spaces.”

    At stake in the case is not only many thousands of American lives and restoring the stability of society, but also the same issue at the heart of our current struggle over voting rights: the relationship of the federal government to the states.

    Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito began their decision opposing the mandate by saying, “The central question we face today is: Who decides?” Can a federal agency charged with workplace safety mandate vaccines, or should the work of combating coronavirus belong to state and local governments and Congress?

    The right-wing justices came down firmly against the federal government, using two doctrines that, if fully deployed, will destroy the modern U.S. system.

    In his opinion, Gorsuch explicitly raised the concept of the “nondelegation doctrine” and the related concept of the “major questions doctrine.” The nondelegation doctrine relies on our government’s separation of powers. It says that, as its own branch of government, Congress cannot delegate regulatory authority to the executive branch, where agencies like OSHA live.

    But, since Congress has, in fact, been delegating authority to the executive branch since the administration of President George Washington, those who want to reduce federal authority sometimes rely instead on the more limited major questions doctrine, which says that although Congress can delegate minor authority to administrative agencies, it cannot delegate major questions (although just how to define a major question is unclear).

    A recent study by University of Southern California professor of public policy Dr. Pamela Clouser McCann and University of Michigan professor of social science Dr. Charles R. Shipan, both experts on intergovernmental delegation, found that 99% of today’s federal laws involve delegation. Unwinding them and requiring Congress to make all its own regulatory decisions would paralyze the modern government.

    Those who support the idea of nondelegation argue that it guarantees government by the people rather than by an unelected bureaucracy, and this is a worthy thought. But unfortunately, it depends on the goodwill of those elected to state legislatures, and because those lawmakers also get to decide who votes in their states, that goodwill can be thin on the ground.

    At heart, this is the same states’ rights argument that the U.S. has grappled with since the 1830s. Since that time, while some state legislatures have used their power to reflect the will of the people, others have limited the vote, putting a small group of people into power. Once in power, they have used the state government to promote their own interests. States’ rights advocates have consistently said that any federal interference with a state’s unfair laws is tyranny.

    Since the 1930s, though, lawmakers have used the federal government to combat unfair state laws. They have regulated businesses when state lawmakers wouldn’t, protected civil rights from discriminatory state laws, and, ultimately, guaranteed the right to vote in states that kept their citizens from the polls, with the expectation that if everyone could vote, they would, indeed, create state governments that reflected the will of the majority.

    The Supreme Court—which, in an ironic echo of Gorsuch’s complaints about unelected bureaucrats, is not elected—is working with today’s Republicans to dismantle this modern system, yesterday embracing the nondelegation doctrine to undercut federal regulation, even though this decision clearly will cost American lives.

    Also yesterday, the court upheld a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring vaccination for healthcare workers in facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are funded by the federal government. It supported that mandate only by a vote of 5 to 4; four of the justices did not believe the Department of Health and Human Services has the right to require vaccines in a healthcare facility.

    Meanwhile, Biden is deploying another 1000 military personnel to hospitals, which are overwhelmed with unvaccinated coronavirus patients.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 15, 2022 (Saturday)

    Already asleep in my chair. Will turn it over to my friend Peter on this cold January night with an image of his that is one of my favorites. It really does look like this around here in the winter-- quite different than the summer, but just as pretty.

    Sleep well, everyone.

    [Photo, "Island Farm," by Peter Ralston.]


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 16, 2022 (Sunday)

    Republicans say they oppose the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act because it is an attempt on the part of Democrats to win elections in the future by “nationalizing” them, taking away the right of states to arrange their laws as they wish. Voting rights legislation is a “partisan power grab,” Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) insists.

    In fact, there is no constitutional ground for opposing the idea of Congress weighing in on federal elections. The U.S. Constitution establishes that “[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.”

    There is no historical reason to oppose the idea of voting rights legislation, either. Indeed, Congress weighed in on voting pretty dramatically in 1870, when it amended the Constitution itself for the fifteenth time to guarantee that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In that same amendment, it provided that “[t]he Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

    It did so, in 1965, with “an act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution,” otherwise known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law designed to protect the right of every American adult to have a say in their government, that is, to vote. The Supreme Court gutted that law in 2013; the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is designed to bring it back to life.

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a response to conditions in the American South, conditions caused by the region’s descent into a one-party state in which white Democrats acted as the law, regardless of what was written on the statute books.

    After World War II, that one-party system looked a great deal like that of the race-based fascist system America had been fighting in Europe, and when Black and Brown veterans, who had just put their lives on the line to fight for democracy, returned to their homes in the South, they called those similarities out.

    Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York had been far too progressive on racial issues for most southern Democrats, and when Harry S. Truman took office after FDR’s death, they were thrilled that one of their own was taking over. Truman was a white Democrat from Missouri who had been a thorough racist as a younger man, quite in keeping with his era’s southern Democrats.

    But by late 1946, Truman had come to embrace civil rights. In 1952, Truman told an audience in Harlem, New York, what had changed his mind.

    "Right after World War II, religious and racial intolerance began to show up just as it did in 1919,” he said. ”There were a good many incidents of violence and friction, but two of them in particular made a very deep impression on me. One was when a Negro veteran, still wearing this country's uniform, was arrested, and beaten and blinded. Not long after that, two Negro veterans with their wives lost their lives at the hands of a mob.”

    Truman was referring to decorated veteran Sergeant Isaac Woodard, who was on a bus on his way home from Georgia in February 1946, when he told a bus driver not to be rude to him because “I’m a man, just like you.” In South Carolina, the driver called the police, who pulled Woodard into an alley, beat him, then arrested him and threw him in jail, where that night the police chief plunged a nightstick into Woodard’s eyes, permanently blinding him. The next day, a local judge found Woodard guilty of disorderly conduct and fined him $50. The state declined to prosecute the police chief, and when the federal government did—it had jurisdiction because Woodard was in uniform—the people in the courtroom applauded when the jury acquitted him, even though he had admitted he had blinded the sergeant.

    Two months after the attack on Woodard, the Supreme Court decided that all-white primaries were unconstitutional, and Black people prepared to vote in Georgia’s July primaries. Days before the election, a mob of 15 to 20 white men killed two young Black couples: George and Mae Dorsey, and Roger and Dorothy Malcom. Malcom had been charged with stabbing a white man and was bailed out of jail by Loy Harrison, his white employer, who had with him in his car both Malcom’s wife, who was seven months pregnant, and the Dorseys, who also sharecropped on his property.

    On the way home, Harrison took a back road. A waiting mob stopped the car, took the men and then their wives out of it, tied them to a tree, and shot them. The murders have never been solved, in large part because no one—white or Black—was willing to talk to the FBI inspectors Truman dispatched to the region. FBI inspectors said the whites were "extremely clannish, not well educated and highly sensitive to 'outside' criticism,” while the Blacks were terrified that if they talked, they, too, would be lynched.

    The FBI did uncover enough to make the officers think that one of the virulently racist candidates running in the July primary had riled up the assassins in the hopes of winning the election. With all the usual racial slurs, he accused one of his opponents of being soft on racial issues and assured the white men in the district that if they took action against one of the Black men, who had been accused of stabbing a white man, he would make sure they were pardoned. He did win the primary, and the murders took place eight days later.

    Songwriters, radio announcers, and news media covered the cases, showing Americans what it meant to live in states in which law enforcement and lawmakers could do as they pleased. When an old friend wrote to Truman to beg him to stop pushing a federal law to protect Black rights, Truman responded: “I know you haven’t thought this thing through and that you do not know the facts. I am happy, however, that you wrote me because it gives me a chance to tell you what the facts are.”

    “When the mob gangs can take four people out and shoot them in the back, and everybody in the country is acquainted with who did the shooting and nothing is done about it, that country is in pretty bad fix from a law enforcement standpoint.”

    “When a Mayor and City Marshal can take a…Sergeant off a bus in South Carolina, beat him up and put out…his eyes, and nothing is done about it by the State authorities, something is radically wrong with the system.”

    In his speech in Harlem, Truman explained that “[i]t is the duty of the State and local government to prevent such tragedies.” But, as he said in 1947, the federal government must “show the way.” We need not only “protection of the people against the Government, but protection of the people by the Government.”

    Truman’s conversion came in the very early years of the Civil Rights Movement, which would soon become an intellectual, social, economic, and political movement conceived of and carried on by Black and Brown people and their allies in ways he could not have imagined in the 1940s.

    But Truman laid a foundation for what came later. He recognized that a one-party state is not a democracy, that it enables the worst of us to torture and kill while the rest live in fear, and that “[t]he Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws clearly place on the Federal Government the duty to act when state or local authorities abridge or fail to protect these Constitutional rights.”

    That was true in 1946, and it is just as true today.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 17, 2022 (Monday)

    In this moment of struggle over voting rights in America, it is important to distinguish between voter fraud, which is vanishingly rare and has not affected the outcome of elections, and election fraud, which is coming to characterize a number of our important elections.

    Voter fraud is about an individual breaking the law and is almost always caught. It is not a threat to democracy.

    Election fraud means that people in power have rigged the system so that the will of the voters is overturned. When it happens, it threatens to destroy our nation.

    Now, as the contours of what happened on January 6, 2021, are becoming clearer, they appear to show a number of different schemes to overturn the election through fraud. At least one of those schemes appears to have been a coordinated attempt by members of the Trump administration and sympathizers around the country to overturn our government by committing election fraud.

    As early as November 6, 2020, three days after the presidential election but before it had been decided, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who handled communication with the president, texted with a member of Congress about appointing alternate electors in certain states. Meadows told the lawmaker: “I love it.”

    Biden was declared the winner of the election on November 7, 2020. That day, Meadows received an email suggesting “the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a 'direct and collateral attack' after the election.”

    On December 1, 2020, then–Attorney General William Barr undercut Trump’s claims of voter fraud by telling the Associated Press: “[W]e have not seen fraud on a scale that could have [caused] a different outcome in the election.”

    The true electors met in the states on Monday, December 14, 2020, and cast their ballots for Biden’s victory. Their states certified those ballots.

    On the same day, on Fox & Friends, Trump advisor Stephen Miller announced that the campaign would overturn the election results and certify Trump as the winner. “As we speak today,” he said, “an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote, and we’re going to send those results up to Congress.” Ultimately, fake electors in seven states—New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin—sent fake ballots to Washington. Election law experts dismissed the possibility that these fake electors could accomplish anything; the certified ballots were the true ones.

    That same day, December 14, 2020, Trump announced that Attorney General William Barr was resigning. His last day at work was December 23, 2020.

    Barr’s deputy, Jeffrey A. Rosen, stepped up to become the acting attorney general. Meanwhile, at the Department of Justice, the freshly appointed acting head of the civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulated a draft letter written to officials in Georgia, dated December 28, 2020, claiming falsely that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the State of Georgia.” The letter attempted to make that charge seem real by calling for an investigation (a technique Republican candidates have used since 1994 to allege voter fraud when they lost elections). The letter claimed that two sets of electors had met “in Georgia and several other States… and that both sets of those ballots have been transmitted to Washington, D.C., to be opened by Vice President Pence.” The letter asked the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature to choose which set of electors was the right one after taking the alleged voter fraud into account.

    Clark circulated the draft letter to Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, asking them to agree to it. “I think we should get it out as soon as possible…. Personally, I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter," he wrote. "I put it together quickly and would want to do a formal cite check before sending but I don't think we should let unnecessary moss grow on this." Clark told them he wanted to send similar letters to “each relevant state.”

    Several days later, Donoghue responded: "There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.” He rejected Clark’s allegations: “[T]he investigations that I am aware of relate to suspicions of misconduct that are of such a small scale that they simply would not impact the outcome of the Presidential Election." Later, Rosen wrote: “I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign such a letter."

    In early January, Clark talked to Trump, who decided to fire Rosen and put Clark into Rosen’s place as acting attorney general. The remaining leaders in the Justice Department promised to resign all together if he did any such thing, and Trump backed down.

    If the states themselves could not be used to invalidate the legitimate Biden electors, though, Vice President Mike Pence could. As vice president, Pence would be responsible for counting the states’ certified ballots on January 6. Lawyer John Eastman of the conservative Claremont Institute (and former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) wrote a memo suggesting that Pence, “or Senate Pro Tempore [Chuck] Grassley, if Pence recuses himself,” could claim that “because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States.” Rejecting them would mean there were only 454 legitimate votes, and 228 would make up a majority.

    In that scenario, “[t]here are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden,” Eastman wrote. “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

    Eastman’s memo continued: “Howls… from the Democrats…. So Pence says, fine…. [Since]... no candidate has achieved the necessary majority,” the matter goes to the House of Representatives, where each state gets a single vote. “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations…. Trump is reelected there as well.”

    Eastman concluded: “The main thing… is that Pence should do this without asking for permission…. Let the other side challenge his actions in court,” where he expected the lawsuits would get thrown out because courts refuse to decide political questions.

    The fly in this ointment turned out to be Pence, who, after conferring with advisors, steadfastly refused to act the part he had been assigned, a part that would have made him the leader of an insurrection and the obvious fall guy if things didn’t go as the conspirators had planned.

    He also, though, refused to step aside, although there were clearly plans to make him do so. On January 5, Senator Grassley (R-IA) told a reporter that “we don’t expect [Pence] to be there,” and that he, Grassley, would “be presiding over the Senate.” His staff immediately walked that announcement back, saying it was a “misunderstanding.”  

    But Grassley’s statement reveals that the plan was widely known. Senior legal affairs reporter for Politico Kyle Cheney noted this weekend that Pence undercut those pushing him to deal with the fake electors by changing the language that explained what would be counted. The law says that the vice president must introduce all “purported” electoral votes. Pence added to the standard language that had been used for decades, saying that, according to the parliamentarian, the only votes that could be considered “regular in form and authentic” were those that had official state certification. Surely he would not have made such a change unless he felt the need to push back on those who would demand he acknowledge the fake ballots.

    Frustrated by the vice president, Trump called on his followers who had planned a violent attack on the Capitol, possibly hoping to put enough pressure on Pence that he would change his mind; or to hold the lawmakers hostage until they agreed to his plan; or to slow down the process enough that the election would go to the House; or to slow it down enough that the Supreme Court, to which he had appointed three justices from whom he expected loyalty, would decide in his favor. At least four times on January 6, Trump tweeted about counting the forged ballots.

    Miraculously, the plan failed, but Trump loyalists have been working ever since to make sure a repeat will not fail, passing new laws to suppress Democratic voters and take the counting of electoral votes out of the hands of nonpartisan officials and give it to Trump supporters.

    This weekend, Trump told Republicans in Pennsylvania why he is focusing on races for supervisor of elections in 2022. “We have to be a lot sharper the next time when it comes to counting the vote,” he said. “There’s a famous statement: ‘Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate,’ and we can’t let that ever, ever happen again. They have to get tougher and smarter.”

    Voter fraud in America is vanishingly rare and has not affected the outcome of elections, and it is almost always prosecuted. But Trump loyalists used cries of voter fraud as an excuse to commit election fraud. Whether they will be prosecuted for it is an open question.


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  • Merkin BallerMerkin Baller Posts: 6,341
    Great one this morning.... while people wring their hands over negligible or even non-existent voter fraud, election fraud is happening right out in the open. 

    Propaganda works. 
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 18, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Three big chunks of news today focus on voting rights before the Senate, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the January 6 committee.

    First, voting rights: Today, the Senate began to debate the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act to protect voting rights. Not a single Republican spoke up for the bill. All 48 Democrats and the 2 Independents who caucus with them—who together represent 40.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans do—support the voting rights bill, but two senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), do not support a carve-out for the voting rights bill so that it can avoid a filibuster by the Republicans.

    That is, by demanding a supermajority to pass the bill, Republicans can stop the Democrats from passing voting rights measures that are so popular that, as Jane Mayer outlined in a March 2021 New Yorker article based initially on a leaked phone call, Republicans’ own polls told them they could not convince voters to oppose them, so they had better rely on the filibuster.

    The Democrats caucused this evening, and observers expect that they will call a roll call vote on the voting rights bill tomorrow. The Republicans are expected to filibuster the bill. Then the Democratic leadership is expected to try to change the filibuster rules to a talking filibuster with some percentage of the senators present, a return to what the filibuster looked like for most of its history and a measure that should answer the concerns Manchin and Sinema had about getting rid of the filibuster altogether. The Republicans will likely vote against that change. Whether Manchin and Sinema will side with the Democrats in favor of voting rights or with the Republicans against them is the key question.

    If this measure doesn’t pass, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) says the Democrats will break it up into individual pieces, forcing senators to take positions against the various pieces of the law, all of which are popular.

    Next, Russia: A senior official in the State Department gave a briefing today to say that Russia is moving troops into Belarus and it is unclear who is currently in charge of that country. The official said that Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has become so weak at home that he has turned to Russia for support, and now Putin is calling in the IOUs. The two countries are currently engaging in “joint exercises,” but they might well be a ruse to move troops into Belarus for an attack on Ukraine.

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today, and the two agreed to meet Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, after Blinken travels to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday and Berlin, Germany, on Thursday. The U.S. and its allies are trying to pull Russia back from again invading Ukraine. The U.S. has threatened massive economic retaliation for such an invasion and has marshaled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries—members of a defensive organization designed to hold the line first against the USSR, and now against Russia—to stand firm to protect the right of countries to self-determination.  

    Today, Germany’s new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, spoke with Lavrov before reporters in Moscow, firmly placing blame for escalating tensions at the feet of the Russians and insisting on the rule of law.

    And yet, here at home, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson is echoing Russian propaganda, suggesting that the U.S. is the aggressor against Russia rather than that Russia is moving against Ukraine without provocation. He appears to be taking a stand against the U.S. president, who is standing with NATO and our traditional democratic allies, and instead standing with Russia much as Trump did.

    January 6 investigation: Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn, who were allegedly present in the “War Room” planning the January 6 insurrection, as well as Trump’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who were active in trying to overturn the election with accusations of voter fraud.

    “The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote. The committee has asked for documents and depositions.

    On January 13, the committee issued subpoenas to four social media companies. It had asked for cooperation but felt the companies were responding inadequately. Thompson wrote: “Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps—if any—social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence.” The subpoenas went to Alphabet, which is the parent company of YouTube; Meta, the parent company of Facebook; Reddit; and Twitter.

    CNN reports that the January 6 committee has subpoenaed and obtained phone records for Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump, Jr. Both were involved in the January 6 rally at the Ellipse before the attack on the Capitol. This appears to be the committee’s first subpoena to a member of the Trump family, although Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows voluntarily handed over text records from Donald Trump, Jr.

    Last week, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a Constitutional law professor and a member of the January 6 committee, said that the committee hearings, planned for later this year, will “blow the roof off the House.” "This is the most bipartisan committee I've ever been on, with a great Democratic chair and a great Republican vice chair and what I see is constitutional patriots working every single day and every single evening to get the truth out to the American people before it's too late,” Raskin said.

    A statement by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) on NBC yesterday suggests that Raskin’s predictions are right. Romney called the January 6 investigation an "important and legitimate effort," countering the Trump loyalists who are calling it illegitimate and perhaps getting ahead of whatever is going to turn up.

    Finally, the case against one of Trump’s key loyalists, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has been under investigation for sex trafficking, appears to have gotten hotter. His ex-girlfriend, who was with him and the underage girl alleged to have crossed state lines with Gaetz for sexual predation, has received immunity in exchange for her testimony before a federal grand jury.

    The Senate will resume debate on the voting rights bill tomorrow morning at 10:00.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 19, 2021 (Wednesday)

    Just before midnight last night, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office has “uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years” and is taking legal action “to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation.” She concluded: “No one is above the law.”

    James is overseeing a civil case against the Trump organization and is cooperating with a criminal case overseen by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who recently took over from Cyrus Vance, Jr. When Eric Trump testified in the investigation overseen by James, in 2020, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions.  

    This morning, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that the news of James’s insistence that he and his family testify has pushed former president Trump to decide to run for president in 2024. CNN’s Jim Sciutto pointed out Trump seems to think that so long as he is running for office, he can persuade people that investigations are all political. In addition, since the Department of Justice decided internally in 1973 that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, it is reasonable to assume he thinks that the White House would protect him from ongoing civil or criminal lawsuits.

    Those lawsuits might well include some related to the events of January 6. Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas to Nicholas J. Fuentes and Patrick Casey. The two men are leaders of the “America First” or “Groyper” movement, extremist white nationalists trying to inject their views into mainstream politics through trolling and provocation. Both spread lies about election fraud and were at the January 6 insurrection.

    The committee’s letter to Fuentes notes that he urged his followers to “storm every state capitol until January 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years,” and told supporters to show up at the homes of politicians to push their views. Fuentes received more than $250,000 in Bitcoin from a French computer programmer; Casey received $25,000 from the same donor. The FBI is interested in those donations.

    This evening, the Supreme Court denied Trump’s request to block the National Archives and Records Administration from sending documents from the Trump administration concerning the January 6 insurrection to the January 6 committee. The vote was 8 to 1. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Ginni, supported the January 6 rallies, was the dissenting vote.

    The Big Lie from the former president that he had won the 2020 election and been cheated of victory led to the January 6 insurrection; it has now led to a crisis in voting rights, as Republican-dominated state legislatures have rewritten their laws since the 2020 election to suppress Democratic votes and hand election counting over to partisan Republicans.
    That, in turn, led the Democrats to try to establish a fair baseline for voting rights in the United States by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. The new bill would end partisan gerrymandering, stop dark money in elections, establish early and mail-in voting systems, provide for online registration, and make sure votes are counted fairly. It would modernize and limit the protections for minority voting that Congress first established in 1965 and the Senate renewed unanimously as recently as 2006.

    The bill became a lightning rod, as it illustrated the gulf today between Democrats, who want to use the federal government to regulate business, protect civil rights, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure, and Republicans, who want to stop those things and throw the weight of governance back to the states. If Republican-dominated state legislatures are permitted to keep the laws they have passed limiting voting, they will continue to pass discriminatory laws, including ones that limit women’s constitutional rights, stop the teaching of any material that legislators see as “divisive,” and so on.

    Today, the voting rights bill was before the Senate, which is evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. While the numbers of senators on each side are equal, the numbers of constituents are not: the Democrats and Independents represent 40.5 million more people in our nation of about 332 million than the Republicans do.

    But the changing Senate rules have permitted Republicans to stop any legislation they dislike with a mechanism called the filibuster, which means that it takes 60 votes to bring any measure to a vote. This essentially requires a supermajority for any legislation to pass the Senate. But there is a loophole: financial bills and judicial appointments—the two things Republicans care about—have been exempted from the filibuster. That leaves Democrats fighting to find ways around Republican obstructionism to pass the measures they care about.

    Today marked the showdown between these two visions. It was instructive first because it was an actual Senate debate, which we haven’t seen for years now as Republicans have simply dialed in filibusters. When debate began this morning, while few Republicans showed up, most Democrats were present.

    It was instructive also because Democrats defended the right to vote in a democracy, while Republicans insisted that the Democrats were trying to get a leg up over the Republicans by grabbing power in the states (although the federal government protected voting rights in the states until 2013). Passionate speeches by Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Angus King of Maine, Amy Klobuchar of Wisconsin, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and all their Democratic colleagues, sought to bring Republicans around to defending the right to vote.

    It didn’t work. Tonight, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act from advancing to a final passage by a vote of 49 to 51, with all Democrats except Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voting yes (he voted no for procedural reasons). But when Schumer brought up a vote to change the filibuster to a talking filibuster for this bill, meaning that Republicans would actually have to debate it rather than just saying no to it, Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined the Republicans to kill the measure. In addition to stopping this law, they badly undercut Biden and the Democrats who have wasted months negotiating with them.

    Voting rights journalist Ari Berman noted that the 48 senators who voted to reform the filibuster represent 182 million Americans, 55% of the United States population, while those 52 senators who upheld the filibuster represent 148 million Americans, 45% of the country.

    After the vote, Republicans lined up on the Senate floor to shake Sinema’s hand, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) assured reporters that concerns about Black voting were misplaced because: “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

    Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who has struggled mightily for voting rights for many months and who was a reluctant but firm convert to the talking filibuster, fought hard today to rally support for voting rights and filibuster reform. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln’s warning to lawmakers during the Civil War that “we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves…. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.”

    In light of the vote’s outcome, though, perhaps more to the point was something King said to David Rohde, published in the New Yorker today. In 1890, the Senate rejected a measure designed to protect the voting rights of Black men in the South, where southern legislatures had forced most of them from the polls. Southern Democrats and their northern allies killed the proposed law.

    King told Rohde, “The result was seventy-five years of egregious voter suppression in the South. That was a mistake made by a few senators. I honestly feel that we may be at a similar moment.” He added, “I’m afraid we’re making a mistake that will harm the country for decades.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 20, 2022 (Thursday)

    In the year that it has been in office, the Biden administration has had to deal with something unprecedented in our history: a former president who refused to admit he lost the election and who has worked ever since, alongside allies, to undermine the administration of his successor.

    Trump’s plot to overturn the election and undermine our democracy continues to become clearer. This morning, The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell revealed that former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was Melania Trump’s chief of staff before resigning on January 6, had news for the House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. She told the committee that in the days before the insurrection, then-president Trump held secret meetings in the White House residence. Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, arranged the meetings, and the former chief usher, a Trump loyalist named Timothy Harleth, would send the participants upstairs.

    The committee wants to know whether Trump actually planned to walk to the Capitol with the rally attendees as he promised. If he told the crowd he was going but did not actually intend to go, it would offer evidence that he was hoping to incite an insurrection. Grisham told them the president was deeply involved in the plans for the rally and that any plan to walk to the Capitol would be outlined in the presidential line-by-line, a document sent to the Secret Service.

    The January 6 committee is also focusing on who originated and executed the plan to create seven fraudulent slates of electors on December 14, 2020. At the time, that effort seemed frivolous, but the events of January 6, when Trump and his allies tried to make Vice President Mike Pence reject the real electors on the grounds there were competing slates, made it clear that the false documents were part of the plot to overturn the election.  

    Both CNN and the Washington Post reported today that the Trump campaign was behind the effort to create the fake electoral slates. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, helped on at least one occasion by Christina Bobb, an anchor from the right-wing network One America News, distributed language for the drafts, found people to replace real electors who refused to participate in the forgeries, and helped electors get into state capitols to craft the false documents.

    The co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock, was recorded speaking to a group about the election, attributing the push for the fake documents to the Trump campaign. Another one of the 16 Republicans who signed Michigan’s fake document, Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, told the Detroit News that he had gotten a call asking him to go to Lansing and sign the document; he believed the call came from a lawyer working for the Trump campaign.

    Today the January 6 committee asked Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the former president, to testify voluntarily about the events surrounding January 6. The committee’s 8-page letter laid out more information about those days, demonstrating that it has heard quite a bit about her presence in the White House on January 6 and that Trump’s loyalists that day thought that she alone had the influence to get her father to call the rioters off.

    The letter from the committee explained how, exactly, electors are certified. Then, it laid out the White House plan to overturn that legal system, a plan that has led lawyer John Eastman, who outlined it, to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than testify about it because he fears criminal prosecution.

    The committee said it knew that “in the days before January 6th, a member of the House Freedom Caucus with knowledge of the President’s planning for that day sent a message to the White House Chief of Staff with this explicit warning: ‘If POTUS [meaning President Trump] allows this to occur…we’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic….’”

    The committee called attention to Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet saying, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” It listed statements from rioters describing how that tweet set them off: “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like officially, the crowd went crazy….” “Then we heard the news on pence… And lost it… So we stormed.”

    The committee asked Ivanka about discussions in the White House after that tweet, as she allegedly tried to get her father to tell the rioters to stop. Why, the committee asked, “didn’t White House staff simply ask the President to walk to the briefing room and appear on live television—to ask the crowd to leave the Capitol?” An interview with someone who had been there suggested, the committee wrote, “certain White House staff believed that a live unscripted press appearance by the President in the midst of the Capitol Hill violence could have made the situation worse.”

    The committee noted that when Trump did speak in a video from the Rose Garden, released at 4:17, he told the rioters “We love you, you’re very special….” The committee wants to know what Ivanka has to say about the process of getting Trump to deliver that message.

    Committee members also want to know more about Trump’s lack of effort to deploy the National Guard to protect the lawmakers in the Capitol. “Acting Secretary Chris Miller, who was in the chain of command and reported directly to the President, has testified under oath that the President never contacted him at any time on January 6th, and never, at any time, issued him any order to deploy the National Guard,” it wrote. Apparently, Miller did speak with Pence that day, but not with Trump.

    Finally, the committee provided more information about the degree to which Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity participated in White House planning. The information it revealed emphasized the gulf between the support Trump loyalists have shown for the former president in public and their deep concerns in private.

    Hannity texted both White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany describing his conversations with Trump, warning: “No more stolen election talk,” and “impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit….” (The 25th Amendment provides for the emergency removal of an incapacitated president.) McEnany responded: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce….”

    When Hannity texted to McEnany, “Key now. No more crazy people,” McEnany answered: “Yes 100%.”

    On January 10, Hannity wrote to Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH): “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”

    The committee has proposed February 3 or 4 as the date for Ivanka’s testimony.

    The January 6 committee is only one of the investigations into Trump’s attempt to steal the election. Today, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani T. Willis asked the chief judge of Fulton County’s Superior Court to convene a special grand jury to help in her investigation of whether former president Trump and his loyalists committed crimes when they pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win the state. Burned when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham denied having made a similar phone call, Raffensperger recorded the call with Trump and his allies, creating a damning piece of evidence.

    Willis asked for the special grand jury because a “significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony,” including Raffensperger.

    Legal analyst and former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance noted that one of the advantages of a special grand jury is that it has an assigned judge who knows the case and “can be available to make prompt rulings if any witnesses defy subpoenas.”

    After news of Willis’s request broke, Trump issued a statement calling the investigation a witch hunt and continuing to insist—despite all the recounts—that the vote in Georgia in 2020 was characterized by “massive voter fraud.” He said: “my phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia was perfect, perhaps even more so than my call with the Ukrainian President, if that’s possible.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 21, 2022 (Friday)

    On Wednesday, January 19, by a vote of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court refused to block the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) from releasing documents produced by the Trump White House to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Last night, NARA handed over hundreds of pages of documents to the committee. Today, Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico published one of them.

    Hoo, boy.

    It was an unsigned executive order dated December 16, 2020, just two days after the false Trump electors in seven states executed documents falsely saying Trump had won the election in their states. The executive order charges that there is “evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 3, 2020, election.” It went on to echo the lies that the campaign peddled after Trump’s loss.

    Those complaints were used to justify using the National Guard to seize the nation’s election machines (ironically, the most intrusive possible federal interference in state elections from the leader of a party that just killed a voting rights bill on the alleged grounds it was federal overreach).

    The order told the secretary of defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records” from the election. It gave the defense secretary power to call up the National Guard to support him and told the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security to provide support from the Department of Homeland Security.  

    The secretary of defense had 60 days to provide an assessment to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, suggesting that the process would continue after Inauguration Day.

    The executive order also provided for “[t]he appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected and provided all resources necessary to carry out her duties consistent with federal laws and the Constitution.”

    Aside from the eye-popping content, the executive order gives us some hints of who was behind it.

    The document cites two National Security Presidential Memoranda—numbers 13 and 21—to justify the emergency powers Trump planned to assume. That citation revealed that this was no run-of-the-mill bananas proposition: the existence of Memorandum 21 was not publicly known. Its inclusion in this document suggests the author had access to sensitive government secrets. Tonight, Hugo Lowell of The Guardian noted that the National Security Council would not say anything about what National Security Presidential Memo 21 authorizes.

    The proposed special counsel was likely Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who was lobbying to become a special counsel at the time this executive order was drafted. Indeed, she may have had a hand in drafting it, although lawyer Rick Petree noted that the important role of the secretary of defense suggests that Trump loyalist Kash Patel might have been involved as well. After he lost the election, Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, making Patel Miller’s chief of staff where he exercised unusual authority.

    Washington reporter for Reuters Brad Heath noted that people close to Sidney Powell said Trump authorized this executive order before his staff talked him out of it.

    Tonight, Trump lawyer Boris Epshteyn, who was subpoenaed by the January 6 committee on January 18 along with Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, told MSNBC’s Ari Melber that he and “the Trump legal team” were part of the plan to create the false electors. While he claimed that what they did was legal, he pushed responsibility for the plan onto Giuliani as the one in charge.

    And today the election threats task force in the Department of Justice launched its first case against a man accused of threatening lawmakers. Today, the FBI arrested 54-year-old Chad Christopher Stark of Leander, Texas, who posted a message on Craigslist on January 5, 2021, offering $10,000 to kill Georgia lawmakers. He wrote: “Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors.” “[I]t’s time to put a bullet” into certain officials, because “[i]t’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force we can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts.” In language that echoes that of genocidal movements, he wrote: “If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people.”

    He concluded: “Remember one thing local law enforcement… we will find you oathbreakers and we’re going to pay your family to visit your mom your dad your brothers and sisters your children your wife… we’re going to make examples of traitors to our country… death to you and your communist friends.”

    The story of January 6 came perilously close to a different ending.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
     January 22, 2022 (Saturday)

    Joe Biden’s presidency is just over a year old.

    Biden has embraced the old idea, established by the Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Republicans under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that in a democracy, the federal government has a responsibility to keep the playing field level for all. It must regulate business to maintain competition and prevent corporations from abusing their employees, protect civil rights, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure.

    Our forty-sixth president came into office in the midst of crisis. The coronavirus pandemic had killed more than 407,000 Americans, and the previous president’s quest to radicalize voters in spring 2020 had led to angry mobs rejecting the preventive measures other countries took. The economy was bottoming out as the pandemic killed workers, discombobulated workplaces, and disrupted supply chains. And the previous president was so determined not to give up power that he had incited his followers to attack Congress and the U.S. Capitol during the formal ceremony acknowledging Biden’s victory.

    Even after the horrors of that day, 147 members of the Republican Party doubled down on the lie that Trump had really won the election. And when the Democratic House impeached Trump for inciting the insurrection, ending our country’s 224-year tradition of a peaceful transition of power, Republican senators acquitted him.

    Republican lawmakers’ support for the Big Lie indicated how they would approach Biden’s presidency. They stand diametrically opposed to Biden, rejecting Democrats’ vision of the federal government. They are eager to return power to the states to do as they will, recognizing that the end of federal regulation will give far more freedom to people of wealth and that the end of federal protection of civil rights will, in certain states, permit white evangelical Christians to reclaim the “traditional” society they crave.

    Biden set out to use government to make people’s lives better and, apparently, believed that successful policies would bring enough Republicans behind his program to ease the country’s extreme partisanship.

    He fought the pandemic by invoking the Defense Production Act, buying more vaccines, working with states to establish vaccine sites and transportation to them, and establishing vaccine centers in pharmacies across the country. Vaccinations took off, and he vowed to make sure that 70% of the U.S. adult population would have one vaccine shot and 160 million U.S. adults would be fully vaccinated by July 4th.

    At the same time, Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to jump-start the economy by putting money into the pockets of ordinary Americans.The new law cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. It expanded access to the Affordable Care Act, enabling more than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured to get healthcare coverage and bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million.

    Money from those programs bolstered household savings and fired up consumer spending. By the end of the year, U.S. companies were showing 15%  profit margins, higher than they have been since 1950. Companies reduced their debt, which translated to a strong stock market. In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; by December it had dropped to 4.2%. This means that 4.1 million jobs were created in the Biden administration’s first year, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined.

    Then, in November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it.

    U.S. economic output jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades, and higher than any other country in the world. Despite the increased spending, the federal budget deficit in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 dropped 33% from that of 2021. The downside of this growth was inflation of up to 7%, but this is a global problem and exactly why it’s happening is unclear—increased spending has created pent-up demand, and prices have been unstable because of the pandemic.
    Biden reoriented U.S. foreign policy to defend democracy. He immediately took steps to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, and he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken worked hard to rebuild the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to replace our outdated focus on combating terrorism on the ground with combating it by defunding terrorists. Biden ended the unpopular 20-year war in Afghanistan and negotiated the exit of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, where we had been for more than 18 years. About 2500 U.S. personnel remain alongside their Iraqi counterparts to hold back remaining ISIS terrorists.
    The end of those wars has also given Biden the room virtually to eliminate the U.S. use of drone strikes and airstrikes. In Trump’s first 11 months he authorized more than 1600 airstrikes; Biden has significantly tightened the process of authorization and has authorized 4.
    Instead of focusing on soldiers, Biden dramatically increased the use of economic sanctions on international criminals and prosecutions for international criminal behavior to stop the flow of money to terrorists. Biden’s Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, also helped to hammer out an international minimum tax that will help to close foreign tax shelters.
    Biden is turning to these financial tools and the strength of NATO to try to stop another Russian incursion into Ukraine. He has warned Russian president Vladimir Putin that military aggression into a sovereign country will lead to crippling economic backlash, and U.S. ally Germany has put off approval of the valuable Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline Russia has constructed to Europe, worth tens of billions of dollars.
    By any historical measure, Biden’s first year has been a roaring success, proving that democracy can, in fact, provide better lives for its people and can protect the rule of law internationally. And yet Biden’s popularity hovers in the low 40s.
    Biden’s worldview demands that government accomplish things; the Republicans simply have to say no. They have focused on stopping Biden and the success of his view of government, and because it is only the Democrats who are in the arena, as President Theodore Roosevelt put it, Democrats are bearing the weight of popular discontent.
    When the withdrawal from Afghanistan initially produced chaos as the Afghan government collapsed, Republicans hammered on the idea that Biden—and by extension a Democratic government—was incompetent. His numbers began to plummet, and the subsequent success of the largest human airlift in history did not change that narrative.
    If Afghanistan happened organically, criticism of government could also be manufactured. In July, as the vaccination program appeared to be meeting Biden’s goals, Republicans began to insist that government vaccine outreach was government tyranny. Vaccination rates began to drop off just as the contagious Delta variant began to rage. When Biden tried to address the falling vaccination rates by requiring that federal workers and contractors, health care workers, and workers at businesses with more than 100 employees be vaccinated or frequently tested, Republicans railed that he was destroying American freedom.  
    Their argument took hold: by early December, 40% of Republican adults were unvaccinated, compared with fewer than 10% of adult Democrats, making Republicans three times more likely than Democrats to die of Covid. Rather than ending and giving Biden a historical success, the pandemic has continued on, weakening the economy and sparking chaos over masks and school reopenings as Republicans radicalize. Just last week, a woman in Virginia threatened to come to her child’s school with “every single gun loaded and ready” if the school board required masks.
    That radicalization, stoked by Republican leaders, is at the point of destroying, once and for all, the idea of a government that works for the people. Republican leaders have stood by as Trump and his lackeys goaded followers into believing that Democratic governance is illegitimate and that Democrats must be kept from power. Following a playbook Republicans have used since 1994, Trump and his loyalists insisted—and continue to insist—on ongoing “audits” of the 2020 vote, knowing that seeing such “investigations” in the news would convince many voters that there must be something there, just as the 2016 ruckus over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails convinced many Americans that she had done something illegal.

    It has worked. Although there is zero evidence of significant voter fraud, so far, 19 Republican-dominated states have passed 33 laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote, or to turn over the counting of votes to partisan Republicans. When Democrats tried to stop such a takeover of our democracy, all 50 Republicans in the Senate opposed federal protection of the right to vote. (Two Democrats joined them in refusing to overrule the filibuster, thus dooming the law to fail.) Now Republicans in three states have proposed election police forces to stop what they continue to insist—without evidence—are voting crimes.

    And so, at the end of Biden’s first year—a year that by any standard must be called a success—Republicans are at the verge of achieving, at least for now, the end of the liberal democracy Americans have enjoyed since FDR and the Democrats embraced it in the 1930s, instead eroding the federal government and turning power over to the states.

    In a two-hour press conference at the end of his first year, Biden said he did not anticipate the degree of obstruction he would face, and he expressed regret that he hadn’t “been able to…get my Republican friends to get in the game of making things better in this country….” “Think about this,” he said, “What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.”

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that Senate Republicans will offer no legislative agenda before the 2022 elections and that he is “100 percent” focused “on stopping” Biden.

    From the other side, Biden’s inaugural committee is celebrating the president’s first year in office with a video narrated by actor Tom Hanks in which ordinary Americans try to reclaim an older vision of an America in which we worked together for the good of all. They talk about how in the past year more than 200 million Americans have been vaccinated, how we have created more jobs in 2021 than in any year in the previous 80, how we lifted children out of poverty and are rebuilding roads and bridges, and how, historically, America is strong, courageous, resilient, and optimistic and can do anything, if only we will work together.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 23, 2022 (Sunday)

    Check out the neighbors who stopped by yesterday as we drank our morning coffee!

    The bald eagles started to come back here about 15 or so years ago, and seeing one never gets old.

    I'm going to close the laptop tonight and take a break.

    I'll be back tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 24, 2022 (Monday)

    Today, the Pentagon ordered up to 8500 troops to go on standby in case they are needed to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. The troops have not been activated. If they are, they will deploy to nations allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), nations like Poland or Lithuania or Latvia, to provide help with logistics, medical needs, intelligence, and so on. If activated, the troops will not be authorized to enter Ukraine.

    Here’s the story of how we got here:

    The USSR dissolved in 1991 under pressure from a new alliance of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, joined by most of the other Soviet republics. Quickly, well-connected businessmen in those former republics began to amass wealth and power. At the same time, the fall of the Soviet Union prompted lawmakers in the U.S. to champion the free enterprise they were convinced had sunk the Soviets. They deregulated the U.S. financial industries just as rising oligarchs in Eastern Europe were eager to launder illicit money.

    In 1999, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, all former satellites of the USSR, joined NATO over the protests of Russia, which was falling under the control of oligarchs who opposed western democracy. More countries near Russia joined NATO in the 2000s.

    Russia set out to keep control of Ukraine. In 2004, it appeared to have installed a Russian-backed politician, Viktor Yanukovych, as president of Ukraine, but Yanukovych was rumored to have ties to organized crime, and the election was so full of fraud—including the poisoning of a key rival who wanted to break ties with Russia and align Ukraine with Europe—that the government voided the election and called for a do-over.

    In 2004, Yanukovych began to work with U.S. political consultant Paul Manafort, who was known for managing unsavory characters, and in 2010, Yanukovych finally won the presidency on a platform of rejecting NATO. Immediately, Yanukovych turned Ukraine toward Russia. But in 2014, after months of popular protests, Ukrainians ousted Yanukovych from power in what is known as the Revolution of Dignity. He fled to Russia.

    Shortly after Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea and annexed it, prompting the United States and the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Russia itself and also on specific Russian businesses and oligarchs, prohibiting them from doing business in U.S. territories. Since Russians had been using U.S. financial instruments to manage their illicit money, these sanctions froze the assets of key Russian oligarchs.

    Putin wanted to get the sanctions lifted. At the same time, with Yanukovych out of power, Manafort was out of a job and in debt to his former friends. In summer 2016, Manafort began to manage the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump. Shortly afterward, the Trump campaign changed the Republican Party’s 2016 platform to weaken its formerly strong stance against Russia and in defense of Ukraine.
    Trump won the election, of course, and an investigation by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Russia had worked to get Trump elected and that Manafort had shared campaign information with his own former partner, a man the senators identified as a Russian operative.

    Under Trump, American policy swung Putin’s way as Trump attacked NATO and the European Union, weakened our ties to our traditional European allies, and threatened to withdraw our support for Ukraine.

    That policy changed when Biden took office. His administration renewed support for Ukraine and its move toward stronger ties to NATO and the European Union. At the same time, it has dramatically cracked down on money laundering, shell companies, and the movement of illicit money.
    The U.S. began to take note that Russia was massing troops on its border with Ukraine last November. Rather than act unilaterally, the Biden administration immediately reached out to European allies and sent senior U.S. officials to Russia to meet with officials there, at the same time reassuring Ukraine officials that the U.S. would continue its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. When Putin worked with Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko to destabilize Poland by pushing migrants over the border, he helped to strengthen NATO’s unity, until now countries like Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members, are considering joining.

    The question at home is whether today’s Republicans will stand with Ukraine, NATO, and the rule of law that says sovereign countries have the right to determine their own alliances. If they support another Russian invasion of Ukraine, they will weaken NATO and the stands the U.S. and the European Union have taken to clean up global finances to stop oligarchs from amassing the power that comes from illicit money.

    Since November, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has led the U.S. defense of Russia, echoing Russian talking points and suggesting that there is no reason for the U.S. to support Ukraine. (In November, when he asked of Representative Mike Turner (R-OH) why the U.S. should side with Ukraine over Russia, Turner noted that Ukraine is a democracy, “Russia is an authoritarian regime,” and that America is “for democracy” and “not for authoritarian regimes.”)

    But the Republicans are split on the issue. Many are criticizing Biden not for his stand against Russian aggression, but because they say he has not been tough enough about it. National Review editorialized today that Biden should be moving weapons to Ukraine more quickly, the Wall Street Journal said the same on January 19, and Breitbart has called for impeaching Biden for not pushing back strongly enough against Russia.  

    While the Republicans are focusing on a unilateral military approach to the situation before Putin makes another move into Ukraine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (D-NJ), along with 38 colleagues, has introduced legislation to impose sanctions on the Russian banking sector, senior military and government officials, and Russia’s extractive industries, as well as cut Russia out of the SWIFT global transaction system, if Putin escalates hostilities. It authorizes another $500 million in assistance to Ukraine if Russia reinvades, and it seeks to counter disinformation coming from the Kremlin. Republican lawmakers are in talks with their Democratic counterparts over the bill.

    At stake in this crisis is the concept of the international rule of law. The obvious question is whether nations should control their own borders and governments, or whether larger countries can absorb others in a sphere of influence. But there is also the question of money: oligarchs have risen to power thanks in part to the financial systems that enabled them to amass and launder illicit money that they then used to manipulate the politics of other countries. Under Biden, the U.S. and our allies are trying to strengthen democracies by getting rid of the loopholes that have helped illicit money poison democratic politics. The economic sanctions that Republicans are finding weak sauce might, in the end, reach far beyond Ukraine.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 25, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Tonight is not an imperative read, if you need a break from politics. It just covers details emerging in ongoing stories.

    Today, the White House told reporters that it is preparing severe economic reprisals for any new Russian movement into Ukraine. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Bloomberg Television that the sanctions are prepared. He did not deny that Russia might be expelled from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a system that facilitates international money transfers.

    The White House is also working with energy-producing nations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia to see if it will be possible to ease shortages of liquefied natural gas in Europe if Russia invades Ukraine and sanctions fall into place.

    Administration officials noted that the Russian economy is already taking a hit from the threatened economic measures. Indeed, Russian stocks sank 8% today, and the ruble has dropped to a 14-month low. Today the JPMorgan Chase bank stopped handling the ruble. It closed all its positions in Russian currency, saying that the buildup of troops made the currency too risky. The Moscow Times today reported that Russian businesses are preparing for heavy losses.

    When a reporter today asked President Biden if he would consider placing sanctions on Russian president Vladimir Putin himself if he invaded Ukraine, Biden responded: “Yes. I would see that.”

    There was a sign today that Putin’s position at home is not as strong as his military stance is designed to project. Russian authorities are cracking down on opposition to Putin’s leadership, and now they have added Alexei Navalny and some of his allies to a registry of terrorists. Putin had Navalny poisoned and then, when he survived to return to Russia, had him imprisoned. And yet, despite Navalny's removal from active politicking, Putin appears still to consider him a threat.

    Another major story developing today is the story of the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis last week asked for a special grand jury to investigate former president Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Willis has said she needs the grand jury because a number of potential witnesses to Trump’s actions refuse to testify without subpoenas, which the grand jury can provide. The judges on Fulton County’s Superior Court agreed to a grand jury to be impaneled May 2.

    This is the only investigation we know of that is focusing directly on Trump himself and his part in trying to steal the election. Observers say that he is at risk of being charged with racketeering or conspiracy; Willis hired an outside expert in state racketeering back in March.

    Trump was recorded on January 2, 2021, trying to bully Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to “find 11,780 votes” to override the will of the voters and deliver the state to Trump. A number of people joined then-president Trump on the call, including then–White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several lawyers, among them longtime right-wing attorney Cleta Mitchell, whose law firm distanced itself from her after Raffensperger made the call public (when she resigned days later, she blamed “left-wing pressure groups” for the need to leave).  

    Curiously, Trump released a statement blasting the Georgia investigation and complaining that he is being investigated for “asking an Attorney General…to look for corruption.” But, so far as we know, he was being investigated for pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state. They are two different positions, two different men. Was Trump just confused when he issued the written statement, or was there another conversation?

    The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is also in the news. On Sunday, committee member Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump’s attorney general William Barr had appeared voluntarily before staff attorneys for the January 6 committee. Trump announced Barr’s resignation on Twitter on December 15, 2020, minutes after Congress counted in the Electoral College ballots certifying Biden as president. On December 14, false electors had met in seven states to declare for Trump; the plan to use those false votes to throw out the real ones may have been connected to Barr’s sudden removal.

    Also on Sunday, on the Fox News Channel, former Republican representative from Georgia Newt Gingrich attacked the January 6 committee as a lawbreaking lynch mob and said that when the Republicans retake the house and the Senate in fall 2022, the committee’s members will face “a real risk of jail.”

    And yet, today a federal judge in California strongly rejected the argument that the committee is not legitimate, an argument Trump loyalists have made as they have ignored subpoenas.

    At issue was the attempt of lawyer John Eastman, who wrote the infamous memo outlining how then–vice president Mike Pence could steal the election for Trump, to keep his former employer from turning documents over to the committee. Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment’s right to silence to avoid self-incrimination 146 times in his own responses to the committee, and when it then subpoenaed his former employer, Chapman University, for the material it wanted, Eastman tried to stop the university from turning over nearly 19,000 of his emails that pertain to the insurrection. Eastman argued that the committee was illegitimate.

    Federal Judge David Carter rejected that argument. "The public interest here is weighty and urgent," Carter wrote. "Congress seeks to understand the causes of a grave attack on our nation's democracy and a near-successful attempt to subvert the will of the voter."

    The committee appears to be getting answers. Today, right-wing personality Alex Jones of InfoWars told his followers that he met virtually with the committee on Monday and that he had taken the Fifth “almost 100” times, claiming he was worried he would misspeak and the misstatement would be used against him. He seemed taken aback to learn that the committee had his text messages and emails.

    Today, Jones walked back his rhetoric from early January and appeared to want to distance himself from the events of January 6. “Let's get something clear for the committee and my audience and everybody else,” he said, “I don't want a civil war in this country, and that's a terrible idea…. And I don't want lawlessness by anybody. And I don't want anybody attacking anybody, OK?"


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 26, 2022 (Wednesday)

    Today’s big news is that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer plans to announce this week that he will step down from the court at the end of the term. He is expected to make the announcement tomorrow at an appearance with President Joe Biden. Breyer is 83 years old; he took his seat on the court on August 3, 1994.

    While the recent extremes to which Senate Republicans have gone to dominate the Supreme Court have made the seats seem simply to reflect political parties, in fact Breyer’s history on the court shows how American democracy and, with it, the Supreme Court, have become partisan since the 1980s.

    Breyer has always been adamant that the court must not be political. Instead, he has advanced a strong defense of democracy, arguing that the main achievement of the Constitution was to set up a system that would accommodate the changing needs of the American people. To that end, he is a scholar of administrative law, examining the detailed ways in which our system works.

    Democratic President Bill Clinton appointed Breyer to a seat formerly held by Harry Blackmun, who had been appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon. Blackmun was a justice in the days when it made sense for a Republican to support measures that defended civil rights: he was the author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion. So the seat, itself, has been characterized by pragmatism and moderation, rather than political affiliation, since the 1960s.

    Clinton appointed Breyer to the court after President Ronald Reagan had set out to change the Supreme Court to reorder the nature of the country. From 1954 until 1987, the prevailing principle of the court was that it must protect civil rights, especially when state legislatures discriminated against certain populations. Using the Fourteenth Amendment’s declaration that all Americans should enjoy equal protection under the law and receive due process of the law before losing any rights, the Supreme Court stepped in to try to make sure that all Americans were treated equally before the law.

    Americans who resented the court’s protection of equal rights insisted that the justices protecting civil rights were “legislating from the bench,” or were exercising “judicial activism” by changing laws that the people’s elected representatives had enacted. They insisted that the court must return to enforcing the letter of the law, simply interpreting what the Framers had written in the Constitution, as they had written it. That view of the Constitution would erase the expansion of civil rights—desegregation, interracial marriage, access to birth control, and so on—that the post–World War II Supreme Court had enshrined into law. Those who embraced this literal version of the Constitution called themselves “originalists” or “textualists,” and their intellectual representative was Justice Antonin Scalia, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

    Breyer is an intellectual counterpoint to Scalia. In a book Breyer wrote in 2005, he took on originalism with his own interpretation of the Constitution called “Active Liberty.” Breyer explained that we should approach constitutional questions by starting at the beginning: what did the Framers intend for the Constitution to do? Their central goal was not simply to protect liberties like free speech or gun ownership, he argued; their goal was to promote democracy. All court decisions, he said, should take into consideration what conclusion would best promote democracy.

    The conviction that the point of the Constitution was to promote democracy meant that Breyer thought that the law should change based on what voters wanted, so long as the majority did not abuse the minority. Every decision was complicated, he told an audience in 2005—if the outcome were obvious, the Supreme Court wouldn’t take the case. But at the end of the day, justices should throw their weight behind whichever decision was more likely to promote democracy.

    That idea honored the changing necessities of the modern world and thus stood against the originalists. Although that vision was not always aligned with the Democratic Party, it was firmly rooted in the idea that the point of the Constitution was to anchor a nation in the voice of its people.

    Now, of course, thanks to the three justices former president Donald Trump added to the Supreme Court, originalists have a strong majority of six of the nine seats on the court. Biden will undoubtedly try to counter those originalists with a justice who embraces a vision more like Breyer’s, but it would be a mistake to see this as a question of partisanship so much as a question of what, exactly, the American government should look like.

    Should the federal government be able to protect equality before the law, or should state legislatures be able to do as they wish? In the last year, the right-wing majority on the Court has allowed the state of Texas to undermine the constitutional rights of women, established by Blackmun’s decision in Roe v. Wade, and has indicated it will challenge the ability of Congress to delegate power to regulatory agencies in the executive branch, thus hamstringing the modern government.

    Breyer’s successor will, almost certainly, stand against such “originalism.”

    Already, Republican voices are opposing the idea of Biden appointing a Supreme Court justice. During his campaign, Biden vowed he would appoint a Black woman to a position on the Supreme Court, and today White House press secretary Jen Psaki said he would keep that promise. There are a number of truly exceptional candidates for the post. Nonetheless, Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity tonight called Biden’s promise “unconstitutional discrimination.”

    And yet, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck noted that representation on the Supreme Court has been wildly skewed. Of the 115 Supreme Court justices we have had in our history, we have had 108 white men, 2 Black men, and 5 women (4 white; 1 Latina).

    Breyer has pointed out that there is almost always a tension in our laws. In this case, should we adhere to the ideal that the law should be race and gender blind, or should we work to remedy past wrongs? This seems an excellent example of where the principles of “Active Liberty” are useful: addressing the obvious skewing of representation on the Supreme Court seems like a good way to promote democracy.   

    There is other legal news today, as well.

    In matters close to Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), we learned that Florida shock jock Joe Ellicott has been cooperating with federal prosecutors. Ellicott is friends with Joel Greenberg, the Florida tax official who was friends with Gaetz and who has pleaded guilty to fraud and to sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg has also been talking to prosecutors, and so has Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. Tonight the Daily Beast reported that Ellicott could confirm that Greenberg told Gaetz that they had sex with a minor (Gaetz has denied any such knowledge).

    Former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Richard Signorelli tweeted that the apparent delay in charging Gaetz in the sex-trafficking case may come from the fact that Greenberg was such a problematic witness that the Department of Justice wanted everything corroborated. The news that both Ellicott and Gaetz’s girlfriend have testified might relieve that concern.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 23,864
      January 27, 2022 (Thursday)

    Numbers released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is part of the U.S. Federal Statistical System producing data and official statistics, show that the U.S. economy grew by an astonishing 6.9 percent annual rate from October to December 2021. That puts the growth of the U.S. economy for 2021 at 5.7 percent in 2021. Despite the ongoing pandemic, this is the fastest full-year growth since 1984.

    At the same time, the U.S. added 6 million jobs in 2021, pegging the unemployment rate below 4%.

    Economists predict that in 2022 the economy will continue to grow at a much higher rate than the 1.8% policymakers generally expect, expanding at 3.9%.

    This growth is the outcome of a dramatic change in economic policy launched by the Biden administration through measures like the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure law.

    On January 21, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained to the World Economic Forum that the Biden administration rejected Republican supply-side economics, ushered in during the Reagan administration. That system relied on tax cuts and aggressive deregulation to spark private capital—the supply side—to drive the economy. Supply-side economics has not increased growth, Yellen said, while it has failed to address climate change and has shifted money upward as it moved the burden of taxes from capital and put it on workers.

    Biden’s economic policy, Yellen explained, rejected this philosophy in favor of what she calls “modern supply-side economics.” This term appears to be intended to suggest a middle ground between the supply-side economics of the 1980s, which focused on putting money in the hands of the wealthy, and the post–World War II idea that the government should manage the economy by investing in infrastructure and a social safety net.

    Biden’s plan, Yellen explained, has focused on “labor supply, human capital, public infrastructure, R&D, and investments in a sustainable environment.” Rather than focusing on putting money into the hands of the “demand side” of the economy—consumers—it focuses on developing a strong labor force in a strong democracy to create growth through hard work and innovation.

    In its emphasis on education and access to resources, the Biden administration’s economic policy echoes the ideology Abraham Lincoln articulated in 1859. Wealthy southern enslavers insisted the government should simply defend the property rights of the wealthy, who would amass wealth that they would then put to its best use to develop the country. But Lincoln argued that the government should nurture the country’s laborers, who were the nation’s true innovators and hardest workers and who, if properly supported, would move the country forward much faster than a few wealthy men would.

    Yellen said, “A country’s long-term growth potential depends on the size of its labor force, the productivity of its workers, the renewability of its resources, and the stability of its political systems.” The administration plans to increase growth by increasing the labor supply and productivity while reducing inequality and environmental damage. “Essentially,” she said, “we aren’t just focused on achieving a high topline growth number that is unsustainable—we are instead aiming for growth that is inclusive and green.”

    This new approach is designed to address the problem of a limited labor force. Yellen noted that for decades now, the U.S. has underinvested in public infrastructure, and in education and training for children and for those who are not college-bound. That underinvestment has widened the wealth gap between people with and without specialized training or college degrees. Biden’s policies would address that gap.

    Yellen identified investment in children as central to the administration’s policies. Universal childhood education, a cap on childcare costs, and expanded eldercare to relieve pressures on families are designed to enable younger people to join the workforce and boost growth.

    When the numbers underlining the success of his policies came out today, President Biden tweeted: “Last year, we had the fastest economic growth in 38 years. While there is still more work to do, it’s clear we are finally building an American economy for the 21st century.”

    In contrast, when asked earlier this week about childcare in this moment when the pandemic has created a severe childcare shortage—a gap Biden’s Build Back Better bill is designed in part to address—Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) made it clear that he saw no such role for government. “People decide to have families and become parents, that’s something they need to consider when they make that choice,” Johnson said. “I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.”

    That attitude, the idea behind forty years of supply-side economics and the tax cuts that were its centerpiece, is showing up in opposition to the extension of the Child Tax Credit that lifted more than 30% of America’s children from poverty in the past year. Studies show the Child Tax Credit was enormously effective. It enabled families to buy food and clothing and to pay off debt. But the measure expired in December. Negotiations over the Build Back Better Act continue, but Congress has dropped the Child Tax Credit from the plan. All of the Republicans in the Senate stand against it, as well as at least one Democratic Senator: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who wants a work requirement added before he will agree to an extension of the policy.

    And yet, stories of the end of the new Child Tax Credit system focus not on the Republicans, who oppose it across the board, but on Democrats, who are doing their best to put their new system in place permanently. A piece in Politico today suggested that angry voters who counted on the Child Tax Credit are blaming the Democrats for its demise, and that as families suffer, they too will blame Democrats, who will pay in the 2022 midterms.

    Similarly, the media seems to be downplaying the extraordinary success of the Democratic policies and instead focusing on their possible downsides. Today, the Washington Post ran a story that began: “Even as the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in decades in 2021, the recovery has more recently flashed troubling warning signs, with soaring inflation, whipsawing financial markets and slowing consumer spending complicating the rebound.”

    It was a surprising way to introduce the best economic growth since 1984.


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