Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson



  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 20, 2022 (Wednesday)

    Today, documents released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee confirmed that the Trump administration’s attempt to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census was a strategy to skew population data to benefit Republicans. Trump had refused to turn over the documents, but the Biden administration agreed to allow the House committee to see them.

    U.S. censuses, which are required every 10 years under our Constitution, have always counted “persons,” and both voting and public monies are proportioned according to those numbers. Under Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration wanted to include a question about citizenship, and administration officials first suggested that they would count citizens, rather than legal residents and undocumented immigrants, for purposes of representation, and then said they needed citizenship information to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Opponents claimed the proposed new question was designed to scare immigrants, who tend to vote Democratic, away from being counted, which would have shifted representation and government monies toward Republicans.

    A district court said Secretary Ross’s action was “arbitrary and capricious, based on a pretextual rationale, and violated certain provisions of the Census Act,” and the Supreme Court added that the administration’s claim to need citizenship information to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act was “contrived.” It blocked the administration from including that question on the census.

    Now, we have documents showing that Ross and other Trump administration officials actively sought to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census in the hope that their erasure would also make legal immigrants avoid being counted, and thus cut representation for and funding to Democratic districts. One handwritten note suggests using the Voting Rights Act as cover.

    This is a stark example of the dangers of turning our government over to an authoritarian leader who will use our fundamental governmental systems to draw power to himself. This census question had the potential to affect our governmental system profoundly. Even without the census question, the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2022 said a quality check revealed that Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, and Hispanic or Latino Americans were undercounted in 2020, while white inhabitants and Asian inhabitants were overcounted.

    This is just the latest example of Trump and his allies trying to use our government to cement their power, among others that reached from Trump’s attempt to weaponize funds approved by Congress for Ukraine to fight off Russian incursions so as to damage likely Democratic opponent Joe Biden, to the January 6 attempt to stop Biden's certification as president-elect.

    These attempts appear to have reached deep into the Secret Service as well, and today we learned that the Department of Homeland Security itself might have played along. Carol D. Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post today reported that whistleblowers have revealed that DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari, a Trump appointee, learned in February that nearly all text messages from around the time of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol had been deleted from Secret Service agents’ cell phones but elected to keep that information from Congress. The inspector general’s office also declined to tell Congress that the Secret Service was refusing to turn over records from that period.

    And yet, for all the efforts of officials in the Trump administration to seize power by compromising our national systems, a Trump-era White House aide who testified before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol claimed that it is he and his colleagues who are victims of a strong state. In a webcast after his testimony, Garrett Ziegler, an aide to trade advisor Peter Navarro who appears to have been the person who admitted Trump allies to the White House for the shocking meeting of December 18 where they discussed martial law, continued to claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

    As for the January 6 committee: “They're Bolsheviks,” he said, in an echo of Republican rhetoric calling all opponents communists, "so, they probably do hate the American Founders and most White people in general. This is a Bolshevistic anti-White campaign. If you can't see that, your eyes are freaking closed. And so, they see me as a young Christian who they can try to basically scare, right?" He attacked the women who have cooperated with the committee with offensive language.

    Meanwhile, the January 6 committee continues to bear down on the Trump administration. Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and Paul Kane of the Washington Post reported tonight that at tomorrow night’s public hearing, the committee is planning to show outtakes from Trump’s reluctant video of January 7, when there was talk of removing him from office.

    While the struggle between the Trump team and those trying to bring them to justice continues, President Biden is trying to move the country forward to address the existential crisis of climate change. Europe is suffering under a terrible heat wave; Britain has declared a climate emergency and, with airstrips softened by extreme heat, grounded the Royal Air Force; and 100 million Americans are under emergency heat warnings.

    On Monday, the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, warned world leaders gathered at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, where they are gathered to advance multilateral climate negotiations: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction…. What troubles me most is that, in facing this global crisis, we are failing to work together as a multilateral community. Nations continue to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future. We cannot continue this way,” he said. “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

    In the U.S., the recent West Virginia v. EPA decision of the Supreme Court, weakening the ability of the government to shift the country toward clean energy by regulating carbon dioxide emissions, has limited the government’s ability to address climate change. So, too, has the insistence of Republican senators, as well as Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, that short-term economic interests outweigh the imperatives of climate change. Days ago, Manchin said he would not support new investment in clean energy out of concern over inflation. Without him, the Democrats' plans for addressing climate change through legislation can't move forward, since no Republicans are on board.

    So President Biden is working around them. Today, he traveled to Somerset, Massachusetts, to reiterate that climate change is an emergency and to illustrate that combating it offers us a new, innovative economy. As National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy explained to reporters, until 2017, Somerset was the site of one of the biggest and oldest coal-fired power plants in New England. Now that plant will be making cable to anchor offshore wind turbines.

    Hoping to bring that innovation to the nation more widely, Biden noted that extreme weather events—wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and floods—cost the U.S. $145 billion last year alone. They damage our economy and our national security. “As President, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger,” he said today. “And that’s what climate change is about. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger.”

    Biden is planning to invest more than $2 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $385 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help people cool their homes. In early June, Biden used the Defense Production Act to speed up the domestic manufacture of solar equipment. The bipartisan infrastructure law has added $3.1 billion to the mix to weatherize homes and make them more energy efficient, and the American Rescue Plan provided $16 billion to clean up methane leaking from capped oil wells, abandoned when they stopped making money.

    Biden vowed that addressing the climate crisis would provide good manufacturing jobs, repair supply chains, and clean up the environment. He promised to use the power of the presidency to do what Congress currently is not. “[I]n the coming weeks, I’m going to use the power I have as President to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders, and regulatory power that a President possesses,” he said.

    “[W]hen it comes to fighting…climate change, I will not take no for an answer. I will do everything in my power to clean our air and water, protect our people’s health, to win the clean energy future,” he said. “We have an opportunity here.”


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  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 37,703
    Got my sneak preview via email of today's letter and it is particularly inspiring.  <3
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 21, 2022 (Thursday)

    Tonight’s public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol laid responsibility for the crisis at the Capitol on former president Trump.

    The committee’s chair, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), is isolating with Covid, so Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) presided over the hearing. She began with a tribute to Representative Thompson. Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, noted that “the Democratic chair of the committee just gracefully, and with full confidence, turned over the running of tonight’s hearing to the vice-chair, who happens to be of another party, and they spoke with mutual trust and respect. That’s how it’s supposed to go.”

    The representatives running the hearing were also from different parties, and they referred to each other during the evening not just as colleagues but as friends. With the focus tonight on Trump’s dereliction of duty and violation of his oath of office, two representatives who are also veterans ran tonight’s hearing. Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA) spent 20 years as an officer of the U.S. Navy; Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) joined the U.S. Air Force in 2003 and continues to serve in the Air National Guard.

    The committee focused on the 187 minutes—over three hours—between the end of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse in which he urged “an angry armed mob” to march on the Capitol, at a time when it was already under siege, to the moment when he finally told the mob to go home. Within 15 minutes of his speech, Trump had been informed that the Capitol was under attack, and the White House knew some of the rioters were armed. (This keeps tripping me up. If Secret Service agents knew there were weapons near the president, why on earth didn’t they lock the place down rather than let the president just go back to the residence?)

    For the next 2.5 hours, Luria pointed out, Trump “did not call Vice President Pence, senior law enforcement officials, military leaders, or DC government officials.”

    Instead, as the crisis unfolded, Trump watched coverage of the Capitol riot on the Fox News Channel in the White House dining room. The committee noted that there are no official records from that time. The call logs are blank. The presidential daily diary is blank. The White House photographer was told she couldn’t take pictures. Witnesses, though, have established that advisors, members of Congress, media personalities, and family members all begged him to call off the violent mob he had sent to the Capitol, but he refused. Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone told the committee that none of the White House staff wanted the riot to continue, wording that statement in such a way that he left the impression that the president himself did want it to.

    Trump did not fail to act to end the siege, the committee said; he chose not to act. He let the violence continue because the armed mob was giving him what he wanted: the delaying of the electoral count. While he did not call law enforcement officers or other officials to restore order during those 187 minutes, he did talk to lawyer and loyalist Rudy Giuliani, and to senators to get them to slow down the counting of the electoral votes.

    Not only did Trump not stop the violence, he tweeted out a link to his Ellipse speech at 1:49, just as police were declaring a riot at the Capitol. Then he “poured gasoline on the fire,” witnesses said, with his 2:24 tweet accusing Pence of cowardice, putting a target on his own vice president’s back, as the committee put it. That tweet led to an immediate escalation in the violence, and at 2:26, Pence had to be evacuated to an even more secure location. He came within forty feet of the rioters, and the situation was so dangerous that Secret Service agents were calling their families to say goodbye.

    At 2:38, Trump responded to his advisors’ urging to call off his supporters by tweeting: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Rioters noted that he told them only to respect the police, not lawmakers, and that he did not tell them to go home. At that point, lawmakers were hiding in the House chamber with gas masks.

    The hard fighting continued until 4:17, when Trump finally released the video telling the mob, “Go home, we love you, you’re very special.” The committee established that he released the video only after law enforcement was deployed and was gaining control of the Capitol, making it clear the violent insurrection would not succeed. And, as aides had been saying all day, as soon as Trump told the crowd to go home, it began to disperse. “That’s an order,” one rioter said, although fighting did continue for a while. At 6:01, Trump tweeted that the attackers were “great patriots.”

    It was not until January 7, with talk of removing him from office swirling around the White House, that Trump issued a three-minute video saying that he was “outraged by the violence” and that anyone who had broken a law the day before would be prosecuted. He reassured the country that there would be an orderly transition of power. But outtakes from that taping show Ivanka coaching him and Trump saying he was still unwilling to give up the Big Lie. “I don’t want to say the election is over,” he said. “I just want to say Congress has certified the results.”  

    And, of course, Trump has never stopped insisting that he won the election and thus continues to threaten our democracy. As Kinzinger said, “The forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away. The militant, intolerant ideologies. The militias, the alienation and the disaffection. The weird fantasies and disinformation. They're all still out there. Ready to go."

    In addition to bringing the story of Trump’s attempt to steal the election to its finale, the hearing seemed designed to loosen the loyalty of Trump supporters to the man who had, as Cheney said, taken advantage of their love of country to use them to overturn our democracy.

    The committee contrasted Trump’s behavior with that of then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and then–Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who were determined to resume the joint session and count the electoral votes. They also held up then–Vice President Pence as a model, showing him working to get the crisis under control even while being held in a secret location that looked much like a parking garage to stay out of the hands of the people calling for his death. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley told the committee that Pence was issuing orders to the acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller. (Why were people following Pence’s orders?)  

    The committee’s witnesses tonight, former deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger and former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, were staunch Trump supporters who found the 2:24 tweet so offensive they resigned that night. The committee has heard almost exclusively from loyal Republicans, a strategy designed to undercut Trump’s cries that it is being run by Democrats. It also played several clips of McConnell and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blaming Trump for the insurrection (there is a barb for McCarthy because he has switched back to Trump’s support and turned against Cheney over it).

    Outtakes of the January 7 video recording tonight punctured Trump’s image as a strong leader: he repeatedly mangles simple language and takes out the word “yesterday” because it is a “hard word for me.” He repeatedly hits the podium in frustration. CNN’s chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins tweeted that multiple sources said it took Trump about an hour to record the three-minute video. His obstinacy made him look isolated and unreasonable; the outtakes made him seem pathetic and childish.

    For all that, Trump fared better than Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), the first senator to say he would empower the House Trump loyalists by contesting some of the state votes, who famously raised a fist in solidarity with the protestors on the morning of January 6. The committee showed the image of Hawley raising his fist…and then showed footage of him running at top speed through the Capitol when the rioters broke in. Across the internet, users have been poking fun at Hawley, who has recently been on a crusade to launch what he calls an imperative “revival of strong and healthy manhood in America” and “traditional masculine virtues.” They have been posting pictures of the video to the theme from the running movie Chariots of Fire, for example, and pictures of running chickens. As journalist Adam Serwer tweeted, “Hawley riling up the mob and then fleeing in terror is an incredible political metaphor.”

    At the end of the hearing, Cheney praised the witnesses, especially the women. She offered special thanks to Cassidy Hutchinson, who “knew all along that she would be attacked by President Trump, and by the 50-, 60-, and 70-year-old men who hide behind executive privilege,” but had courage to testify nonetheless. Cheney mentioned the female witnesses by name, saying they were “an inspiration to American women and to American girls.”

    Cheney then spoke to Trump supporters, reminding them that the testimony had come from Republicans who supported Trump. She played the recently discovered audio clip of Trump confidant Stephen K. Bannon on October 31, 2020, four days before the election, explaining with laughter that Trump would simply declare victory even if he lost. Cheney explained to supporters that they had been set up.

    Flattering them, she said Trump knew he could convince his supporters that the election was stolen because he knew they loved their country and that they would put their lives at stake for it, “preying on their patriotism…on their sense of justice.” “On January 6th, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution.”

    Speaking especially to the American women whose votes will be key to the upcoming election, she noted that the room in which they were meeting was where the committee on women’s suffrage met in 1918. We… “have a solemn obligation not to idly squander what so many Americans have fought and died for.”

    Cheney noted that the hearings have brought new information. "Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” she said. The committee will hold more public hearings in September.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 22, 2022 (Friday)

    Too much posting after 3 a.m. this week, and I'm going to go to bed and see if I can catch up.

    I love that this bridge exists in the twenty-first century. It always makes me imagine I'm paddling about 150 years back in time, and that just on the other side of this bridge there will be piles of sawdust, teams of horses pulling wagons stacked with logs, and the old mill, still sawing wood.

    Drifting to a dreamy place seems like an excellent image for tonight.

    I'll see you tomorrow.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 23, 2022 (Saturday)

    Thursday’s public hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol brought to its logical conclusion the story of Trump’s attempt to overturn our democracy. After four years of destroying democratic norms and gathering power into his own hands, the former president tried to overturn the will of the voters. Trump was attacking the fundamental concept on which this nation rests: that we have a right to consent to the government under which we live.

    Far from rejecting the idea of minority rule after seeing where it led, Republican Party lawmakers have doubled down.

    They have embraced the idea that state legislatures should dominate our political system, and so in 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws to restrict access to voting. On June 24, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, the Supreme Court said that the federal government did not have the power, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to protect the constitutional right to abortion, bringing the other rights that amendment protects into question. When Democrats set out to protect some of those rights through federal legislation, Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly voted to oppose such laws.

    In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans.

    They voted against the right to use contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans.

    They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 didn’t vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans.

    They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to travel across state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 out of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 didn’t vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans.

    Sixty-two percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal. Seventy percent support gay marriage. More than 90% of Americans believe birth control should be legal. I can’t find polling on whether Americans support the idea of women being able to cross state lines without restrictions, but one would hope that concept is also popular. And yet, Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the firm will of the people. The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

    When he took office, Democratic president Joe Biden recognized that his role in this moment was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government.

    Rising autocrats have declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to respond to the rapid pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s focus on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and ethnic or racial similarities. Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports so enthusiastically that he is speaking on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which will explicitly not treat everyone equally and will rest power in a single political party.

    Biden has defended democracy across the globe, accomplishing more in foreign diplomacy than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less than a year after the former president threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken pulled together the NATO countries, as well as allies around the world, to stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The new strength of NATO prompted Sweden and Finland to join the organization, and earlier this month, NATO ambassadors signed protocols for their admission. This is the most significant expansion of NATO in 30 years.

    That strength helped to hammer out a deal between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations yesterday to enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to developing countries that were facing famine because of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. An advisor to the Ukrainian government called the agreement “a major win for Ukraine.” When a Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa today put that agreement under threat, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink called the attack “outrageous.”

    Biden has also defended democracy at home, using the power of the federal government to strengthen the ability of working Americans to support their families. As soon as Biden took office, Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to rebuild the economy. It worked. The U.S. has added 10 million new jobs since Biden took office, and unemployment has fallen to 3.6%. That strong economy has meant higher tax revenues that, combined with the end of pandemic spending, have resulted in the budget deficit (the amount by which the government is operating in the red each year and thus adding to the national debt) dropping considerably during his term.

    The strong economy has also led to roaring inflation, fed in part by supply chain issues and high gas prices. During the pandemic, as Americans turned to ordering online at the same time that factories closed down, shipping prices went through the roof. In the past year or so, outdated infrastructure at U.S. ports has slowed down turnaround while a shortage of truckers has slowed domestic supply chains. Biden’s administration worked to untangle the mess at ports by getting commitments from businesses and labor to extend hours, and launched new programs to increase the number of truckers in the country.

    While oil companies are privately held and thus have no obligation to lower their prices rather than pocket the record profits they have enjoyed over the past year, Biden has nonetheless tried to ease gas prices by releasing oil from the strategic reserve and by urging allies to produce more oil for release onto the world market. Gas prices have declined for the past month and now average $4.41 a gallon, down from a high of more than $5 last month.

    Last month, on June 25, Biden signed into law the first major gun safety bill in almost 30 years, having pulled together the necessary votes despite the opposition of the National Rifle Association. On July 21, he signed the bipartisan FORMULA (which stands for “Fixing Our Regulatory Mayhem Upsetting Little Americans”—I’m not kidding) Act to drop tariffs on baby formula for the rest of the year to make it easier to get that vital product in the wake of the closure of the Sturgis, Michigan, Abbott Nutrition plant for contamination, which created a national shortage. The Biden administration has also organized 53 flights of formula into the country, amounting to more than 61 million 8-ounce bottles.

    While we have heard a lot about Biden’s inability to pass the Build Back Better part of his infrastructure plan because of the refusal of Republicans and Democratic senator Joe Manchin (WV) to get on board, Biden nonetheless shepherded a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through this partisan Congress, investing in roads, bridges, public transportation, clean energy, and broadband. Last Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that 1 million households have signed up for credits to enable them to get broadband internet, a program financed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

    Love or hate what Biden has done, he has managed to pull a wide range of countries together to stand against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian attack in Ukraine, and he has managed get through a terribly divided Congress laws to make the lives of the majority better, even while Republicans are rejecting the idea that the government should reflect the will of the majority. That is no small feat.

    Whether it will be enough to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government is up to us.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     July 24, 2022 (Sunday)

    On Friday, Axios began to publish a deeply researched and important series by Jonathan Swan, explaining that if former president Trump retakes power, he and allies like his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), and head of Trump’s social media network Devin Nunes are determined to purge our nonpartisan civil service and replace it with loyalists. In a normal administration, a new president gets to replace around 4000 political appointees, but most government employees are in positions designed to be nonpartisan. Trump’s team wants to gut this system and put in place people loyal to him and his agenda.

    When he campaigned for the presidency, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of officeholders who, he suggested, were just sucking tax dollars. Once in office, though, Trump grew increasingly angry at the civil servants who continued to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia, insisting that figures like former FBI director Robert Mueller and former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, were Democrats who wanted to hound him from office. (They were, in fact, Republicans.)

    Trump’s first impeachment trial inflamed his fury at those he considered disloyal. The day after Republican senators acquitted him on February 6, 2020, he fired two key impeachment witnesses: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top expert on Ukraine at the National Security Council. Ironically, Vindman had testified in the impeachment hearings that he had reassured his father, who had lived in the Soviet Union and was worried about Vindman’s testifying against the president, not to worry because in America, “right matters.” Trump fired Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, at the same time, although he had nothing to do with the impeachment.

    A Trump advisor told CNN the firings were intended to demonstrate that disloyalty to the president would not be tolerated.

    Within days, Trump had put fierce loyalist John McEntee in charge of the White House office of personnel, urging him to ferret out anyone insufficiently loyal and to make sure the White House hired only true believers. McEntee had been Trump’s personal aide until he failed a security clearance background check and it turned out he was under investigation for financial crimes; then–White House chief of staff John Kelly fired him, and Trump promptly transferred McEntee to his reelection campaign. On February 13, 2020, though, Trump suddenly put McEntee, who had no experience in personnel or significant government work, in charge of the hiring of the 4000 political appointees and gave him extraordinary power.

    Trump also wanted to purge the 50,000 nonpartisan civil servants who are hired for their skills, rather than politics. But since 1883, those jobs have been protected from exactly the sort of political purge Trump and McEntee wanted to execute.

    A policy researcher who came to Trump’s Domestic Policy Council from the Heritage Foundation, James Sherk, found that employees who work in “a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating” job can be exempted from civil service protections.

    On October 21, 2020, Trump signed an executive order creating a new category of public servant who could be hired by agency heads without having to go through the merit-based system in place since 1883, and could be fired at will. This new “Schedule F” would once again allow presidents to appoint cronies to office, while firing those insufficiently loyal. One Trump loyalist at the Office of Management and Budget identified 88% of his agency as moveable to Schedule F.

    Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order on January 22, 2021, just two days after taking office.

    According to Swan, Trump has not forgotten the plan. Since the January 6 insurrection, he has called those former colleagues who did not support his coup “ungrateful” and “treasonous.” In a new administration, he would insist on people who had “courage,” and would reinstate the Schedule F plan in order to purge the career civil service of all employees he believes insufficiently loyal to him.

    The idea of reducing our professional civil service to those who offer loyalty to a single leader is yet another fundamental attack on democracy.

    Democracy depends on a nonpartisan group of functionaries who are loyal not to a single strongman but to the state itself. Loyalty to the country, rather than to a single leader, means those bureaucrats follow the law and have an interest in protecting the government. It is the weight of that loyalty that managed to stop Trump from becoming a dictator. He was thwarted by what he called the “Deep State,” people who were loyal not to him personally but to America and our laws. That loyalty was bipartisan.

    Authoritarian figures expect loyalty to themselves alone, rather than to a nonpartisan government. To get that loyalty, they turn to staffers who are loyal because they are not qualified or talented enough to rise to power in a nonpartisan system. They are loyal to their boss because they could not make it in a true meritocracy, and at some level they know that (even if they insist they are disliked for their politics).

    Between 1829 and 1881, all but the very highest positions throughout the government were filled by the president on the recommendations of officials in his party, so every change of administration meant weeks of office seekers hounding the president. After the Civil War, the numbers of federal jobs climbed, until by 1884 there were 131,000 people on the federal payroll. Assignment of these jobs was based not on the applicants’ skills, but on their promise to bring in votes or money for their party. Once a man scored a government job, he was expected to return part of his salary to the party’s war chest for the next election.

    And then, on July 2, 1881, a man who had expected a government job and didn’t get it retaliated for his disappointment by shooting the president, President James A. Garfield, in the back as he walked up the stairs of a train station in Washington, D.C. The assassin expected that Garfield’s successor, Chester A. Arthur, would reward him with a job.

    Horrified, Americans recognized that a government that was for sale by the political party in charge created men who saw government only as a way to make money and were willing to tear the entire system down to get their cut. Even though they hoped no one else would go so far as Garfield’s assassin did, they could see that such a system attracted those who could not get a decent job on their actual merits.

    So in 1883, Congress passed and President Arthur signed An Act To Regulate and Improve the Civil Service of the United States, more popularly known as the Pendleton Civil Service Act. It guaranteed the government would have skilled workers by requiring applicants for positions to pass entrance exams, and then protected them from being fired by an incoming president of the opposite party. At first, only a few jobs were covered, but presidents expanded the system quickly. Our government employees became highly qualified, and loyal to the country rather than to a president.

    That seems likely to change if Trump gets back into office.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 25, 2022 (Monday)

    President Joe Biden’s doctor says the president’s symptoms from Covid have "almost completely resolved.” The president spoke to two different groups today, virtually, and those two speeches indicated both that the January 6 hearings have weakened Trump and that Biden continues to try to rebuild the American middle class.

    First, in a speech to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Biden called out Trump directly for his inaction on January 6 as “brave law enforcement officers” dealt with “medieval hell for three hours, dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage, face to face with a crazed mob that believed the lies of the defeated president.” "You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop," Biden told them. "You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-American."

    There are signs that the public hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol have weakened the former president, and it appears that Biden is reminding law enforcement, which has been blaringly quiet about condemning the attacks on officers on January 6, on which side real Americans should stand. At least 19 current or former officers have been charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol.

    While all the public hearings have been damning, last Thursday’s look at Trump’s actions on January 6 seems to have turned some of his former enablers into deer in the headlights. One of the shocking pieces of that evidence was Trump’s changes to the speech prepared for him on January 7. Today Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA) provided an image of those edits, showing that Trump cut out the words: “I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must send a clear message—not with mercy but with JUSTICE. Legal consequences must be swift and firm.” He also cut out the line directed at the rioters: “I want to be very clear you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement.”

    What was left was a speech that could have been sympathetically interpreted as an attack on the “Antifa” fighters on whom Trump tried to pin the insurrection, especially when Trump refused to say the election was over. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted that the video of Trump editing the speech as he tried to deliver it didn’t “sound like someone who truly believes he won the election. Trump is calmly making deliberate, strategic choices about what to say & what not to say. And prosecutors can ask jurors to draw that inference.”

    That brazenness appears to have shocked those who had previously tried to look away. “No matter your views of the Jan. 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering,” wrote the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal on Friday. “The most horrifying to date came Thursday in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help.”

    Trump’s star appears to be dimming, and there are more clouds on the horizon. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice chair of the January 6 committee, said yesterday that the committee is hoping to talk with Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who has been associated with the attempt to overturn the election. And today we learned that Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, testified last week before the federal grand jury investigating the attack. Short told ABC News that “if the mob had gotten closer to the Vice President…there would have been a massacre in the Capitol that day.”   

    Americans are sliding away from Trump, as well as from the extremism of the Republican Party, creating a problem for the Republican lawmakers who want to continue to appeal to their extremist base while also seeming to stay within the bounds of normal politics.

    In Florida, Republican lawmakers stood adamant against Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and yet now are claiming credit for the money it has brought to the state. In Ohio, news broke today that Republican candidate for the Senate J.D. Vance last September told an audience at a Christian high school that people nowadays get divorced too easily—although divorce rates are actually at a 50-year low—and that they should stay in bad marriages, even violent ones, for the sake of the children. As gun safety advocate Shannon Watts pointed out, this theory is at odds with the reality that “[e]ach month, 70 women are fatally shot by intimate partners in the US, and 1 million women alive today have been shot or shot at by intimate partners.”

    And news broke today that Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA), who voted last week against the Respect for Marriage Act protecting gay marriage, this weekend attended his son’s wedding to another man. His spokesperson said the congressman and his wife were “thrilled to attend and celebrate their son’s marriage.”

    With Trump and his allies weakening, it appears former supporters are looking for other candidates to take his place before 2024. The Wall Street Journal editorial board praised then–vice president Mike Pence’s behavior on January 6. Pence was set to speak in Washington, D.C., tonight at the Heritage Foundation a day before Trump returns to the city to give what his allies insist is a policy speech. (Trump’s team has hinted that that policy focuses on “law and order,” which is fully in keeping with his authoritarian messaging in the past, and which Biden just undercut.) But storms kept Pence out of Washington, and his speech will be rescheduled, giving him the last word after the former president.

    Meanwhile, the Fox and Friends show on the Fox News Channel highlighted today that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is polling higher than the former president in all age groupings, earning them an angry rebuke from Trump. On his social media network, he insisted that the hosts had botched his poll numbers on purpose, and accused the show of having gone to the “dark side.”

    In his other speech today, to business CEOs and labor leaders, President Biden talked about the importance of passing the new Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, a bill that would spend $52 billion to encourage the manufacture of semiconductor chips in the U.S. Chips are imperative to many of the products we use, including cars, medical equipment, and computers, and bringing their manufacture back home would help rebuild the domestic economy and fix supply chains. It would also help America stand against other nations, especially China, in the race for new technologies. The CHIPS measure has bipartisan support and appears to have a chance of passing the Senate, giving Biden another victory in his attempt to move the country forward into a new era.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     July 26, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Today began with Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater at the New York Times reporting on previously undisclosed emails from the weeks before the January 6 insurrection, in which advisors openly referred to the slates of alternative electors they had prodded supporters to produce as “fake.”  

    “We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” Arizona lawyer Jack Wilenchik wrote on December 8, 2020, to Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn. Later, Wilenchik suggested that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes.” He then added a smiley face.

    Wilenchik also said he and Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward had discussed keeping the plan quiet so that “we can can try to ‘surprise’ the Dems and media with it,” and that Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) had asked him to testify at a Senate hearing put together by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).

    The emails appear to show connections between Epshteyn and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as Epshteyn and John Eastman, the author of the memo calling for alternate slates of electors. Further, they show that Mike Roman, who was director of Election Day operations for Trump’s campaign, organized ways to overturn the election. Epshteyn and Roman corresponded with Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis and Bruce Marks, deputy director of Election Day campaign operations Gary Michael Brown, and Christina Bobb then at One America News Network.

    In an echo of the shadow operation Guiliani ran to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to smear Hunter Biden, those trying to overturn the election did not share their conversations with the White House legal counsel’s office, whose lawyers had made it clear there was no evidence for any of their accusations of a stolen election. Haberman and Broadwater remind readers that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has established that Trump knew about the plan to create fake electors. So, too, did Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. In Pennsylvania, the point person to organize fake electors was Doug Mastriano, who is now the Republican nominee for governor.

    On Twitter, lawyer George Conway wrote: “If you had asked me to hypothesize, for illustrative purposes, a set of emails that prosecutors would find helpful in proving a fake-elector fraud conspiracy, I would not have come up with anything nearly as incriminating as the emails that the Times just reported on today.”

    Then the January 6th committee released footage from their interview with former acting defense secretary and Trump loyalist Christopher MIller, who took office on November 9, 2020, after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. In the clip, Miller contradicted a statement Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows made on the Fox News Channel in February 2021. Meadows claimed that Trump had ordered 10,000 troops to be ready on January 6. Miller said he had received no such order.

    Meanwhile, President Joe Biden continues to try to break Trump’s support. Biden’s predecessor was in Washington today and was expected to lay the groundwork for a “law and order” campaign. In the end, it turned out he mostly rehashed his disproven claims about the 2020 election, but he did promise to execute drug dealers and put homeless people in camps on the outskirts of cities.

    Biden responded by taking the fight right to Trump and the right wing: “Here’s something else wrong with the ex-president’s record on crime,” Biden tweeted; “he opposes action on assault weapons. These military-style weapons kill cops—and they kill school kids. We need to stop selling them in America.” Yesterday he warned law enforcement that supporting insurrection was anti-cop and anti-American; today he is expanding that to support for assault-type weapons, an argument that resonates after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 376 law enforcement officers declined to confront an 18-year-old gunman equipped with AR-15 style rifles.

    While Biden is trying to break Trump supporters away from the former president, the American right wing is doubling down on authoritarianism.

    On July 15 the European Commission announced that it would sue Hungary over an anti-LGBTQ law and its refusal to renew the license of a broadcaster critical of the government, and today one of Hungarian president Viktor Orbán’s longtime advisors resigned over what she called his recent “pure Nazi” speech about “mixed-race” nations. "I don't know how you didn't notice that the speech you delivered is a purely Nazi diatribe worthy of Joseph Goebbels," she wrote. And yet, Orbán is still scheduled to speak next month at the August 4 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas.

    Finally, the day ended with a blockbuster story from Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Spencer S. Hsu at the Washington Post. Basing their story on conversations with four sources, they reported that the Department of Justice is investigating former president Trump as part of its criminal investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

    The Department of Justice has already charged more than 850 people in the events surrounding Trump’s attempt to remain in power, but there has been much speculation over whether Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department were willing to let the former president skate free. There are two possible avenues of criminal prosecutions on the table. One is that Trump participated in the attempt to delay or obstruct an official proceeding, which is the crime for which other participants in the events of January 6 have been indicted. The other is the fraud of setting up the fake electors from the states.  

    Conversations with their sources, who have shared the questions they have been asked, have led the Washington Post reporters to conclude that Trump is, in fact, under criminal investigation. Prosecutors are asking questions about the former president and members of his inner circle, about their meetings to overturn the election. And, in April, Justice Department investigators got the phone records of Trump administration officials, including Meadows, which means they convinced a judge they had good reason to look at them.

    Attorney General Garland has said he would “pursue justice without fear or favor.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 27, 2022 (Wednesday)

    President Biden tested negative for coronavirus today and is back at work in public. He used the opportunity to reiterate the importance of vaccines (in a way that certainly irritated the former president, who always hated the idea he was weak or sick):

    "When my predecessor got COVID,” Biden said, “he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered. When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House… for the five-day period. The difference is vaccinations, of course, but also three new tools, free to all and widely available. You don't need to be president to get these tools to use for your defense. In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home tests, the same treatment that I got is available to you."

    Today was a huge day in the Senate.

    First, the Senate passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) bill, which appropriates $280 billion to speed up the manufacturing of semiconductors in the U.S. and to invest in scientific research and development in computers, artificial intelligence, and so on. The pandemic made it clear that permitting chip manufacturing to migrate to Asia left the U.S. at a disadvantage when supply chains are disrupted. Chip shortages caused shortages of a wide range of products that use electronics, and the shortages have been key in driving up the prices that are feeding inflation.

    The investment will boost manufacturing and scientific industries, providing good jobs. It appropriates $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for chip manufacturing and $200 billion for research and development. It includes workforce training and educational emphasis on computer training, and it sanctions China for human rights and cybersecurity offenses. The measure passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote of 64 to 33, giving it the 60 votes it needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Seventeen Republicans joined the Democrats to pass the bill, either because they are worried about competing with China or because they are eager to increase production in the U.S.

    The bill was a top priority for the Biden administration, and it looks as if the House will pass it and send it to the president’s desk.

    Negotiations over the bill have been going on since May and appeared to be on track until the end of June, when Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) threatened to pull all Republican support for it unless Democrats abandoned the idea of passing provisions for lower drug prices, taxes on the very wealthy, and climate proposals through a procedure called reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered.

    That issue appeared solved on July 15, when Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he would not support either climate measures or tax changes until the newest inflation numbers were released. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), a co-sponsor of the bill with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) whipped Republicans to get the necessary votes, and today, McConnell voted in favor of the CHIPS bill.

    Later today, Manchin released a statement announcing that he and Schumer had reached an agreement on a new piece of legislation called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Framing the legislation largely as designed to address the deficit, Manchin’s statement also addressed the issues of taxes and climate change.

    “Tax fairness is vital to our nation’s economic future,” he wrote, and it is “wrong that some of America’s largest companies pay nothing in taxes while freely enjoying the benefits of our nation’s military security, infrastructure and rule of law. It is commonsense that a domestic corporate minimum tax of 15 percent be applied only to billion-dollar companies or larger ensuring that America’s largest businesses are no longer able to operate for free in our economy.” He also spoke out against the carried interest loophole, which permits investment managers to take their compensation as capital gains rather than income, giving them a much lower tax rate. (Researchers suggest this could yield as much as $18 billion a year to the Treasury.)

    Details on the new measure are still emerging, but it appears to be a $739 billion bill that includes price reforms for certain prescription drugs, lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act, money for the IRS to enforce tax laws, a corporate minimum tax, $369 billion of investment in climate and energy, and dramatic investment in reducing the deficit. There are no new taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year.

    Manchin went out of his way to insist that Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan was dead and this was the new way forward. It seems likely Manchin was signaling to his red state constituents that he had not signed on to a program Democrats like, but there is much here that sounds like Biden, especially the tax plan. What is notably missing is investment in the social infrastructure of our nation that largely impacts women: childcare and eldercare.  

    After the Democratic senators were briefed on the proposal, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii said the measure would be “by far, the biggest climate action in human history. Nearly $370 billion in tax incentives, grants, and other investments in clean energy, clean transportation, energy storage, home electrification, climate-smart agriculture, and clean manufacturing makes this a real climate bill. The planet is on fire. Emissions reductions are the main thing. This is enormous progress. Let’s get it done.”

    Biden immediately endorsed the measure. “This afternoon, I spoke with Senators Schumer and Manchin and offered my support for the agreement they have reached on a bill to fight inflation and lower costs for American families,” he said in a statement.
    “With this agreement, we have a chance to make prescription drugs cheaper by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices and we can lower health insurance costs for 13 million Americans, by an average of $800 a year, for families covered under the Affordable Care Act.  

    “We will improve our energy security and tackle the climate crisis—by providing tax credits and investments for energy projects. This will create thousands of new jobs and help lower energy costs in the future.

    “This bill will reduce the deficit beyond the record setting $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction we have already achieved this year, which will help fight inflation as well.
    “And we will pay for all of this by requiring big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, with no tax increases at all for families making under $400,000 a year.

    “This is the action the American people have been waiting for. This addresses the problems of today—high health care costs and overall inflation—as well as investments in our energy security for the future.
    “I will have more to say on this later. For now, I want to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin for the extraordinary effort that it took to reach this result.

    “If enacted, this legislation will be historic, and I urge the Senate to move on this bill as soon as possible, and for the House to follow as well.”

    Tonight, Senate Republicans unexpectedly killed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which would have provided medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 84 to 14 in June and had been sent back to that body for a procedural cleanup after the House passed it with the expectation that it would repass easily. Tonight’s vote is being widely interpreted as revenge for the resurrection of the reconciliation package.

    Attacking our veterans out of spite might not be a winning move.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 28, 2022 (Thursday)

    Today saw widespread outrage that Senate Republicans sank the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) bill—a bill they had already agreed to by a strong margin—out of spite over the resurrection of a reconciliation package that would make drugs cheaper, plug tax loopholes for corporations and the extremely wealthy, and invest in switching the economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. The PACT bill would provide medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service.

    Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that he would not permit the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) bill, which appropriates $280 billion to speed up the manufacturing of semiconductors in the U.S. and to invest in scientific research and development in computers, artificial intelligence, and so on, to pass unless Democrats gave up their larger plan. Yesterday, the Senate passed the CHIPS bill, and shortly after, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had agreed to much of what McConnell objected to. They introduced a new bill, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, to pass through reconciliation.

    Although the CHIPS Act was a popular bipartisan bill, Republicans claim the Democrats’ political hardball in passing it before turning to other, also popular measures like lower prices on prescription drugs, was a betrayal of the Republican Party.

    In retaliation, besides blocking the PACT bill, Republican leaders whipped their caucus in the House against voting for the CHIPS bill. In addition, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who has been working to find votes in the Senate to protect gay marriage, told Jonathan Nicholson of HuffPost that Senate Republicans now would be unlikely to agree to that protection. That bill reflects the fact that 70% of Americans support gay marriage. It seemed as if the Senate might agree to it (the House has already passed it), but Republicans seem to be backing away from it out of anger that the Democrats want to pass measures that are actually quite popular.

    Trying to demonstrate a party’s power to kill popular legislation is an interesting approach to governance. Right now, the Republicans are getting hammered, primarily for their refusal to repass the PACT bill, which is a real blow to veterans. Veterans’ advocate and comedian Jon Stewart has been especially vocal today, calling out Republican senators at the Capitol and then on a number of media shows, going “nuclear,” as the Military Times put it, over the undermining of medical treatment for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. “[I]f this is America First,” he said, “then America is f*cked.”

    At the end of the day, it is still possible that the bill will pass, but it will not come up until Schumer reschedules it, meaning the Republicans are simply going to have to endure the hits they are taking for this fit of pique until he decides to give them some cover.

    Indeed, the demonstration that Republican leadership wants power to kill popular legislation creates an opening for Democrats and Republicans eager to break away from the party’s current extremism.

    That showed in today’s vote in the House on the CHIPS bill, when 187 Republicans voted no but 24 Republicans, including Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), both of whom sit on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, joined the Democrats to vote yes. The 24 representatives did so despite the fact that Republican leadership was urging them to vote no, and although the Democrats all hung together and therefore Republican votes were not necessary to pass the measure.

    The momentum growing behind the Democrats as Republicans begin to buck House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems as if it might reflect the realization that more information will be coming from the January 6th committee and that it is unlikely to be the sort of information that reinforces faith in the Republican Party.

    News broke today that U.S. Secret Service director James Murray, who resigned with a plan to leave at the end of the month, has now delayed his retirement from the force as it is under investigation. Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti also broke the news that it is not just the texts of Secret Service agents that are missing from the days before January 6. Also gone are text messages from Trump’s acting secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli, also lost in a “reset” of their phones.

    CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig noted: “Every federal law enforcement agency—including DHS / Secret Service—is fully aware that it must retain emails and texts, and has internal policies and technology to ensure compliance. You don’t get to say ‘technology upgrade’ and just toss everything out. They know this.”

    Those who can get out in front of the January 6 mess are doing so. Members of the January 6th committee are interviewing Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and are negotiating with Trump’s Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well. As legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted: “At this point, it’s becoming a race to get to testify in front of the January 6 Committee.”

    Vance explained: “[Representative] Liz Cheney said during last week’s hearing that the dam is breaking. Prosecutors recognize that moment in a long-term investigation. It’s when the bad guys realize they have lost and begin to try to cut their losses."

    Tonight, Kyle Cheney reported in Politico that the January 6th committee is handing 20 witness interviews over to the Department of Justice, and yesterday, we learned that the Department of Justice has obtained a warrant to search the phone of John Eastman, who wrote the memo outlining the plan for Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to recognize certified electors for President-elect Joe Biden.  

    Today, Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez of CNN reported that a former Department of Justice staffer who worked with Jeffrey Clark, the man whom Trump considered installing as attorney general to further his attempt to overturn the election, has been fully cooperating with the Department of Justice. The staffer is Ken Klukowski, and he has turned his electronic records over to the Justice Department.

    Perez and Polantz also reported that prosecutors from the Department of Justice are planning court fights to get former White House officials to testify about Trump’s actions around January 6.

    Vox correspondent Ian Millhiser, who is a keen observer of American politics, commented tonight: “This was a good week for the United States of America and I may be coming down with a case of The Hope.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      July 29, 2022 (Friday)

    Democrats continue to illustrate the difference between them and the Republicans in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms. Today, Americans continued to spit fury over the Republican senators’ destruction of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) bill, which would provide medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service, after previously passing the measure.

    That destruction has added to the growing list of unpopular positions Republicans are taking as Democrats are forcing votes on them. Republicans have voted against protecting the right to abortion, the right to use birth control, the right to cross state lines to obtain reproductive health care, and gay marriage, all of which are very popular.

    Today, the House of Representatives passed a measure to ban assault weapons. The vote was 217 to 213, mostly along party lines: two Republicans voted yes, and five Democrats voted no.. Since the horrific massacre of 19 schoolchildren and 2 of their teachers, along with the wounding of 17 others, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, support for a ban on assault-style weapons has climbed to 67%.

    Also today, oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron reported historic profits from the last three months. Exxon made $17.9 billion (not a typo) last quarter, up 273% from the same time last year, while Chevron made $11.6 billion. Exxon’s rate of income was $2,245.62 every second of every day for the past 92 days; Chevron made $1,462.11 per second. Together, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies are expected to announce $60 billion in profits for the past three months. They plan to spend much of the profit not on reinvesting in their businesses, but on stock buybacks, which drives up the price of the stock.

    These record profits came at the same time that American consumers were staggering under high gas prices, which made up almost half of the increase in inflation of the past few months.   

    The record profits of oil companies made a perfect backdrop to early discussions of the Inflation Reduction Act advanced by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). If passed, that measure will be a sea change in the nation’s economic policy. Its $385 billion devoted to addressing climate change will be the nation’s largest ever investment in clean energy, and it will incentivize cutting carbon emissions, delivering 40% cuts by 2030, which is close to Biden’s stated goal.

    The Inflation Reduction Act will also expand healthcare subsidies, lowering healthcare premiums, and will enable Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain drugs with pharmaceutical producers.

    It calls for a 15% corporate minimum tax, the closure of the carried interest loophole, and increased spending on the IRS so it can enforce tax laws. It leaves Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest individuals because Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) insisted they stay in place. But the measure would raise about $470 billion, about $300 billion of which would go toward reducing the federal deficit over the next decade. After decades of tax cuts that have helped wealth to concentrate among the very wealthy, this measure would set out to begin the process of restoring fairness in our revenue system.  

    Another gulf between Republicans and Democrats is their approach to the events of January 6, 2021. Tonight Maria Sacchetti and Carol D. Leonnig of the Washington Post reported  that the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph V. Cuffari, who was appointed by Trump, knew last December that the texts between Secret Service agents had been deleted. Not only did he neglect to tell Congress that those messages were missing, but also when his investigative team set out to recover the messages, he told them not to. Moreover, he neglected to tell Congress that the text messages from the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, and acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, from that same period were also missing.

    Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, today said in a statement: “The destruction of evidence that could be relevant to the investigation of the deadly attack on our Capitol is an extremely serious matter.  Inspector General Cuffari’s failure to take immediate action upon learning that these text messages had been deleted makes clear that he should no longer be entrusted with this investigation.” Durbin says he has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to get to the bottom of what happened to the missing messages and hold those responsible accountable.

    Finally, today, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov of Moscow, who, along with at least three other Russian officials, it says “engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States.” Allegedly, Ionov recruited political groups in the U.S. and, with the supervision of the Russian government, illegally used their members to “sow division and spread misinformation inside the United States.” The targeted groups were located in Florida, Georgia, and California, and Ionov allegedly worked closely with them, directing and controlling their leaders, who appear to have been aware of his connection to the Russian government, since at least December 2014.

    FBI special agent in charge David Walker today told reporters that Ionov’s actions were “some of the most egregious and blatant violations that we’ve seen by the Russian government in order to destabilize and undermine trust in American democracy.... The Russian intelligence threat is continuing and unrelenting.”

    “This indictment is just the first of our responses, but it will not be the last,” Walker said, and before the day was over, the U.S. State Department had placed sanctions on two people and four entities that work with the Russian government to influence other countries and interfere in their elections. These sanctions are separate from those related to the sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

    “The Russian Federation has demonstrated determination in its attempts to undermine the democratic processes and institutions essential to the functioning of our democracy and that of other countries. It is crucial for our democracy, and democracies around the globe, to hold free and fair elections without malign outside interference,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

    The new sanctions come a day after the State Department offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm linked to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and other Russian entities and individuals “for their engagement in U.S. election interference.” The Internet Research Agency, the State Department spokesperson said, “is a Russian entity engaged in political and electoral interference operations. Beginning as early as 2014, IRA began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with a strategic goal to sow discord.” The reward offer “is part of [the] United States Government’s wider efforts to ensure the security and integrity of our elections and protect against foreign interference in our elections.”

    “The United States will continue to act to deter and disrupt these efforts [in order] to safeguard our democracy, as well as help protect the democracies of our allies and partners,” Blinken said.


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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     July 30, 2022 (Saturday)

    This morning, Jon Swaine and Dalton Bennett of The Washington Post reported that on October 11, 2019, at Trump’s National Doral golf resort in South Florida, Danish filmmakers caught an unguarded conversation between Trump allies talking about their legal exposure because of their work for the president.

    Recording a documentary about Trump’s friend and operative, Roger Stone, the filmmakers caught Stone and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Stone’s lapel microphone talking about Stone’s upcoming trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Federal prosecutors said that before the 2016 election, Stone repeatedly reached out to WikiLeaks “to obtain information…that would help the Trump campaign and harm the campaign of Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.” Campaign officials “believed that Stone was providing them with nonpublic information about WikiLeaks' plans. Indeed, [Trump advisor and campaign chief executive Steve] Bannon viewed Stone as the Trump campaign’s access point to WikiLeaks.” Stone lied to Congress five times, interfering with their Russia investigation, and threatened another witness to try to keep him from exposing Stone’s lies.

    At the time the new tape was recorded, Stone was complaining that prosecutors were pressuring him to turn on Trump, and on the tape, said he might “have to appeal to the big man.” Gaetz can be heard agreeing that Stone was “f*ck*d,” but Gaetz didn’t think he would “do a day” in prison. Claiming he had heard it directly from Trump, Gaetz said: “The boss still has a very favorable view of you,” and continued, “I don’t think the big guy can let you go down for this.” “I don’t think you’re going to go down at all at the end of the day,” Gaetz told Stone.

    Gaetz sits on the House Judiciary Committee and thus had seen portions of the redacted sections of Special Counsel Muller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the committee members were prohibited from talking about it except among themselves, Gaetz talked with Stone about it, telling him that he was “not going to have a defense.”

    Stone told Gaetz he had seen the entire report himself thanks to a ruling from Judge Amy Berman Jackson, although when he had asked for such access, she had given him access only to some of it, so it is unclear what he meant. He, too, was not supposed to discuss that material.

    The two men briefly discussed a photograph of the two of them with Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg that Stone said had “come back to bite us in the a**”; months later Greenberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to six charges including sex trafficking a minor. Greenberg is cooperating with authorities. Stone and Gaetz also discussed the outcry over the FBI raid of Stone’s house: media were at the raid, and Stone accused the FBI of tipping them off. Gaetz guessed the tip came from Stone himself. “Innocent until proven guilty,” Stone replied.

    As the two men expected, on November 15 a jury found Stone guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

    And then, when it came time for his sentencing, events played out as Gaetz suggested they would.

    On February 10, prosecutors wrote to Judge Jackson to recommend jail time of 7 to 9 years for Stone, noting that his crime was about the integrity of our government. "Investigations into election interference concern our national security, the integrity of our democratic processes, and the enforcement of our nation's criminal laws,” they wrote. “These are issues of paramount concern to every citizen of the United States. Obstructing such critical investigations thus strikes at the very heart of our American democracy." Their recommendation fell within standard department guidelines.

    Immediately after the sentencing recommendation, though, Trump tweeted that it was “horrible and unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice.” The Justice Department, operating under Attorney General William Barr, then reversed itself, saying its own prosecutors had failed to be “reasonable.”

    In response, all four of the federal prosecutors responsible for Roger Stone’s case withdrew. The administration also abruptly pulled the nomination of the former U.S. attorney who oversaw the Stone prosecution for a top position in the Treasury Department.

    It appeared that the prosecutors were right and the case was actually about the integrity of our democratic processes. It also appeared that Barr had hamstrung the Department of Justice to make sure that no one could touch the president.

    Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted.”

    Days before Stone was due to report to prison in July to serve 40 months, Trump commuted his sentence, thus removing his jail time, supervised release, and a $20,000 fine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Trump’s move “an act of staggering corruption,” and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it “a real body blow to the rule of law in this country.”

    Then, on December 23, 2020, Trump pardoned Stone, as Gaetz had predicted, rewarding his personal loyalty.

    Two weeks later, on January 6, 2021, Stone was back in Washington, D.C.

    Once again, the Danish film crew was filming and, after the events of that day, recorded Stone asking again for a presidential pardon. This time, Gaetz apparently wanted one, too.

    When White House counsel Pat Cipollone prevented Trump from issuing those pardons, Stone told a friend that Trump was “a disgrace…. He betrayed everybody.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     July 31, 2022 (Sunday)

    Here in the midst of high summertime, I am finishing a book and burning the candle at both ends.

    Going to take an early night and be back at it tomorrow.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 1, 2022 (Monday)

    Tonight, President Joe Biden announced that a drone strike managed by the Central Intelligence Agency at 9:48 Eastern time on Saturday killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, 71, who took control of al-Qaeda after the death of leader Osama bin Laden. The precision strike hit Zawahiri as he stood on a balcony in a prosperous section of Kabul, Afghanistan. There were no civilian casualties.

    Zawahiri believed that attacking the U.S. and allied countries was essential to undermining the pro-Western Arab regimes that were standing in the way of uniting Muslims around the world. In 1998, he wrote, “To kill Americans and their allies—civilian and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in every country in which it is possible to do it.” In that year, he was a senior advisor to bin Laden when al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people and wounding more than 4500 others. He planned the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded dozens more. He helped to plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

    Under the Doha Agreement of February 29, 2020, negotiated by the Trump administration and the Taliban without the involvement of the then-Afghan government, the U.S. agreed to withdraw all its forces so long as the Taliban promised not to permit terrorist organizations to operate within their territory. And yet the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan a year ago provided Zawahiri with the ability to operate comfortably in that country.

    When President Biden withdrew remaining troops from Afghanistan in August of last year, he said the U.S. would be better served by fighting terrorism with “over-the-horizon” attacks rather than with soldiers on the ground. The elimination of Zawahiri proved his point. “No matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” Biden said.

    Meanwhile, in Washington, Judge Dabney Fredrich sentenced Capitol rioter Guy Reffitt to more than 7 years in prison, 3 years of probation, $2000 in fines, and mental health treatment. In March, a Washington, D.C., jury found Reffitt guilty of five charges in connection with the events of January 6, including obstructing an official proceeding and threatening his children to keep them from reporting him to law enforcement officials. Reffitt was a recruiter for a militia gang. He brought a gun to the riot, boasted of leading the charge into the Capitol, and threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. He had been eager to take his case to trial, but after being found guilty, he said he was a “f*ck*ng idiot” who was parroting “founding fathers and stupid sh*t like that” around the time of the riot.

    Prosecutors wanted to attach penalties for terrorism to the sentencing, but Fredrich declined, sayng that would create an “unwarranted disparity” between his sentence and those of other rioters.

    The cargo ship Razoni left Odesa today on its way to Lebanon with 26,000 tons of corn from Ukraine. On July 22 the United Nations and Turkey signed agreements with Russia and Ukraine to open Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea to allow exports of grain to relieve a growing food shortage. Ukraine and Russia export billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural products, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cut off exports and sent food prices soaring.

    Ukraine's infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, wrote on Facebook that Ukraine’s ports would be fully operational in a few weeks, and cheered the help for the global food shortage. Meanwhile, Russia bought into the deal because it allows Russia to export grain and fertilizer, which western sanctions have frozen.  

    Still, Russia has repeatedly bombed the region around Odesa since the deal was signed.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 2, 2022 (Tuesday)

    Today, voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have stripped it of protections for abortion rights. With 86% of the vote in, 62% of voters supported abortion protections; 37% wanted them gone. That spread is astonishing. Kansas voters had backed Trump in 2020; Republicans had arranged for the referendum to fall on the day of a primary, which traditionally attracts higher percentages of hard-line Republicans; and they had written the question so that a “yes” vote would remove abortion protections and a “no” would leave them in place. Then, today, a political action committee sent out texts that lied about which vote was which.

    Still, voters turned out to protect abortion rights in such unexpectedly high numbers it suggests a sea change.

    It appears the dog has caught the car, as so many of us noted when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision on June 24. Since 1972, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Republican politicians have attracted the votes of evangelicals and traditionalists who didn’t like the idea of women’s rights by promising to end abortion. But abortion rights have always had strong support. So politicians said they were “pro-life” without ever really intending to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Dobbs decision explicitly did just that and has opened the door to draconian laws that outlaw abortion with no exceptions, promptly showing us the horror of a pregnant 10-year-old and hospitals refusing abortion care during miscarriages. Today, in the privacy of the voting booth, voters did exactly as Republican politicians feared they would if Roe were overturned.

    But this moment increasingly feels like it’s about more than abortion rights, crucial though they are. The loss of our constitutional rights at the hands of a radical extremist minority has pushed the majority to demonstrate that we care about the rights and freedoms that were articulated—however imperfectly they were carried out—in the Declaration of Independence.

    We care about a lot of things that have been thin on the ground for a while.

    We care about justice:

    Today, the Senate passed the PACT Act in exactly the same form it had last week, when Republicans claimed they could no longer support the bill they had previously passed because Democrats had snuck a “slush fund” into a bill providing medical care for veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the bill was unchanged, and Republicans’ refusal to repass the bill from the House seemed an act of spite after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on a bill to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs, invest in measures to combat climate change, raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, and reduce the deficit. Since their vote to kill the measure, the outcry around the country, led by veterans and veterans’ advocate Jon Stewart, has been extraordinary. The vote on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 tonight was 86 to 11 as Republicans scrambled to fix their mistake.

    In an ongoing attempt to repair a past injustice, executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force Michelle Brané says it has reunified 400 children with their parents after their separation by the Trump administration at the southern border. Because the former administration did not keep records of the children or where they were sent, reunifying the families has been difficult, and as many as 1000 children out of the original 5000 who fell under this policy remain separated from their parents.

    And we care about equality before the law:

    Today, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News reported that a federal grand jury investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has subpoenaed Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone for testimony.

    Yesterday, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), sent a letter to Homeland Security inspector general Joseph Cuffari expressing “grave new concerns over your lack of transparency and independence” in his inspection of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Secret Service texts and texts from the two top political officials in the Department of Homeland Security, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, were erased, and a memo criticizing the department for not complying with requests for their disclosure was changed to praise their compliance. Maloney and Thompson asked Cuffari to recuse himself from the investigation and to provide them with documents and testimony.  

    At CNN, Tierney Sneed and Zachary Cohen broke the news that it is not just the Secret Service phones and acting DHS secretary’s and deputy secretary’s phones that were wiped of information from the days around January 6, 2021. The Defense Department wiped the phones of officials from the Army and the Defense Department who left at the end of the Trump administration. Those include the phones of former acting secretary of defense Christopher Miller, former chief of staff Kashyap Patel, and former secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. Miller, Patel, and McCarthy were involved in the military response to the events of January 6.

    The erasures came to light in a lawsuit brought by American Oversight, a nonprofit government watchdog group formed in 2017, in early 2021. The Pentagon acknowledged the Freedom of Information Act request from American Oversight on January 15 and yet apparently wiped the phones anyway. Our laws say that official records are supposed to be retained, and a former Department of Defense official from a past administration told Sneed and Cohen that communications are always archived. Heather Sawyer, the executive director of American Oversight, told Sneed and Cohen that the erasure “just reveals a widespread lack of taking seriously the obligation to preserve records, to ensure accountability, to ensure accountability to their partners in the legislative branch and to the American people.”

    McCarthy was a Trump appointee who played a key role in the deployment of National Guard troops on January 6; there have been conflicting explanations for the three-hour delay before they arrived at the Capitol. Trump put acting secretary of defense Miller into office after losing the 2020 election; Miller took office on November 9. Kashyap Patel was an aide to then-representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) when the two fought to strangle the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2020 election; he went from there to the National Security Council and then in November 2020 became Miller’s chief of staff in the Pentagon. Both Miller and Patel were accused of blocking the transition of the Pentagon to the incoming Biden administration, and on December 18, 2020, Miller abruptly halted the transition meetings, saying that the halt was because of a “mutually-agreed upon holiday.” Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham told reporters, "Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break."

    White House call logs and diaries are also missing, and Cassidy Hutchinson, former chief aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, allegedly told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that she saw Meadows burn papers after meeting with Representative Scott Perry (R-PA). Perry later asked Trump for a presidential pardon for his actions in trying to overturn the election.

    Perry was apparently not the only one concerned about his actions. Today, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater reported in the New York Times that two of the Arizona Republicans producing a slate of fake electors giving Arizona’s electoral votes to Trump contacted Trump’s lawyer Kenneth Chesebro with their concern that what they were doing “could appear treasonous.” (Chesebro put the word “treasonous” in bold.) The two were Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward and Arizona state senator Kelly Townsend. Ward has since doubled down on Trump: on July 19 she led the state party to censure Arizona house speaker Rusty Bowers after his testimony before the January 6 committee that Trump and his supporters showed no evidence that he had, in fact, won the election.

    If the majority is speaking up for our rights and freedoms, it seems the Republican Party is doubling down on extremism. Today, Bowers lost the Republican primary in a bid to move to the state senate. His opponent, who won by a large margin, was endorsed by former president Trump.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 3, 2022 (Wednesday)

    I have spent the day rereading the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the news of the day has heightened its relevance.

    During the Trump administration, after an extensive investigation, the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”

    But that effort was not just about the election. It was “part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society…a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood…the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” It was “a sustained campaign of information warfare against the United States aimed at influencing how this nation's citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.”

    That effort is not limited to foreign nationals. This week, Alex Jones, a purveyor of conspiracy theories and false information on his InfoWars network—the tagline is “​​There's a War on For Your Mind!”—is part of a civil trial to determine damages in his defamation of the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in which 26 people, 20 of them small children, were murdered.

    Jones claimed that the massacre wasn’t real, and his listeners harassed the grieving families. A number of families sued him. In the case currently in the news, Jones refused for years to comply with orders to hand over documents and evidence, so finally, in September, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas, issued a default judgment holding him responsible for all damages. Since the judge has repeatedly had to reprimand Jones for lying under oath during this trial, it seems that Jones intended simply to continue spinning a false story of his finances, his business practices, and his actions.

    The construction of a world based on lies is a key component of authoritarians’ takeover of democratic societies. George Orwell’s 1984 explored a world in which those in power use language to replace reality, shaping the past and people’s daily experiences to cement their control. They are constantly reconstructing the past to justify their actions in the present. In Orwell’s dystopian fantasy, Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite history for the Ministry of Truth to reflect the changing interests of a mysterious cult leader, Big Brother, who wants power for its own sake and enforces loyalty through The Party’s propaganda and destruction of those who do not conform.

    Political philosopher Hannah Arendt went further, saying that the lies of an authoritarian were designed not to persuade people, but to organize them into a mass movement. Followers would “believe everything and nothing,” Arendt wrote, “think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” “The ideal subject” for such a dictator, Arendt wrote, was not those who were committed to an ideology, but rather “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist.”

    It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

    But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’s attorney accidentally shared a digital copy of two years’ worth of the texts and emails on Jones’s phone and, when alerted to the error, didn’t declare it privileged. Thus Bankston is reviewing the material and has said that Jones lied under oath. This material includes both texts and financial reports that Jones apparently said didn’t exist.

    This is a big deal for the trial, of course—perjury is a crime—and it is a bigger deal for those who have believed InfoWars, since it reveals how profitable the lies have been. Bankston revealed that for all of Jones’s claims of low income, in 2018 InfoWars made between $100,000 and $200,000 a day, and some days they made $800,000. But there is more. People calculating the math will note that if indeed there are two years of records on that phone, the messages will include the weeks around the events of January 6, 2021.

    Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone report that the January 6th committee will request the text messages and emails, which should cover the period around January 6. Jones, who has already spoken with the committee, played a role in the events of that day, whipping up supporters and speaking at a rally on January 5. He is also close to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who appeared often on Jones’s InfoWars show and provided Jones’s security. When he testified before the committee, Jones invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.

    The January 6 insurrection relied on the Big Lie that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election, a lie that has dramatically destabilized our country. Republicans have only deepened their commitment to that lie since January 6. After yesterday’s Republican primaries, in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, all key states for 2024, election deniers have clinched the Republican nomination for secretary of state—the person in charge of elections—or the governor who would appoint that officer.

    In Arizona, Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake claimed there was fraud in her election, without evidence and even before the votes had been counted. “I’m gonna go supernova radioactive,” she told supporters. “We’re not gonna let them steal an election.” (Lake’s election is still unresolved as ballots are being counted.)

    If indeed Jones’s phone turns out to have key texts that go to the January 6 committee, it might provide more facts that will help to diminish the Big Lie. Tonight another piece of information about that lie came from Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, who reported who reported in the New York Times that John Eastman, the lawyer who produced the memo explaining the plan to have then–vice president Mike Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, told Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that they must continue to fight even after January 6, suggesting they contest Georgia’s election of Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in the hope that those races might yield the evidence of voter fraud that until then they hadn’t found. “A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” he wrote.

    Eastman also asked Giuliani to help him collect a $270,000 fee from the Trump campaign for his work on overturning the election, and he implied that the effort could be ongoing.

    Way back in 2004, an advisor to President George W. Bush told journalist Ron Suskind that people like Suskind were in “the reality-based community”: they believed people could find solutions based on their observations and careful study of discernible reality. But, the aide continued, such a worldview was obsolete. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore…. We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    I wonder if reality is starting to reassert itself.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 4, 2022 (Thursday)

    Congress established the Department of Justice in 1870, overseen by the attorney general, to protect civil rights in the southern states after state legislators and state law enforcement officers refused to treat their Black neighbors as equals. If the states would not honor the principle of equality before the law, the federal government would.

    The importance of federal protections for equal rights is today’s central story.

    Today, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced federal charges against four Louisville, Kentucky, police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor in 2020. Taylor was killed in a raid on March 13, 2020, in her apartment after law enforcement officers broke in looking for a drug suspect while she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, slept.

    When the police broke in, Walker fired a single shot from his handgun—which he owned legally—hitting an officer in the thigh. Officers shot back, firing 32 times. Six shots hit Taylor.

    This morning, the FBI arrested 40-year-old former Metro Police detective Joshua Jaynes, who lied on the search warrant for the raid and was subsequently fired. Sergeant Kyle Meany, 35; Officer Kelly Hanna Goodlett, 35; and former detective Brett Hankison, 46; were also charged with offenses including, variously, lying on the search warrant and obstructing investigators.

    Jaynes, Meany, and Goodlett are charged with lying to get the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment, thus violating Taylor’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure..

    Hankison was charged with reckless gunfire that endangered Taylor’s neighbors and with using “unconstitutionally excessive force.” He, too, was fired from the department after bullets from his gun, shot randomly into Taylor’s apartment, went through the walls into the neighboring apartment. A Jefferson County jury acquitted him on state charges of wanton endangerment earlier this year. He was the only officer previously charged in Taylor’s death. State attorney general Daniel Cameron’s office did not recommend charges against any others, and Cameron said the grand jury chose not to indict other officers. Some jurors later said that was not true.

    The Justice Department did not charge the officers whose shots hit Taylor because they did not know the search warrant was based on false statements.

    The Department of Justice is also suing the state of Idaho to protect abortion rights. In 2020, state legislators passed a so-called trigger law to go into effect if—and now, when—the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision of June means the new law will go into effect later this month, creating an almost total ban on abortion. The Justice Department is suing on the grounds that a federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA), requires any hospital that takes Medicare money to “provide medical treatment necessary to stabilize that condition before transferring or discharging the patient," thus requiring doctors to treat patients with ectopic pregnancies or other emergency medical issues.

    Idaho attorney general Lawrence Wasden said the lawsuit was "politically motivated," but Garland pointed out that with the Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court turned the issue of abortion over to the people’s elected representatives and that Congress, which passed the EMTLA, certainly qualified. Garland pointed to the supremacy clause of the Constitution, which directs that federal laws take precedence over state laws, as proof of the justice of the government’s position.

    The supremacy clause reads: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    But as journalist Brian Tyler Cohen noted today, the people who killed Breonna Taylor “wouldn’t have been charged and arrested if Trump won in 2020. Voting has consequences.” He meant that presidents choose the attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice, and their appointees are not always dedicated to the law.

    The truth of Cohen’s statement showed today when in a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray told Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that the Trump White House oversaw the background investigation of then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The more than 4500 tips about him sent to an FBI hotline were separated out and sent to the White House without investigation, and the FBI interviewed only the people the White House asked them to. They completed a supplemental background check in four days after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault, and they did not interview either him or the woman who publicly accused him.

    Wray insisted this sort of limitation is standard practice under both Republican and Democratic presidencies, but an examination last year suggests that the memorandum of understanding on which Wray apparently relied does not give the White House the power to limit such investigations.

    The dangers of a justice system under the control of one man became clear today when a Russian court sentenced American women's basketball star Brittney Griner to 9.5 years in a penal colony for drug smuggling after authorities allegedly found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner was arrested on March 6, just ten days after Russia invaded Ukraine, and her arrest, conviction, and sentence appear to be a way to pressure the U.S. administration.

    Biden’s Justice Department does, in fact, appear to be adhering to the idea that we must all be equal before the law. An exclusive story from CNN today said that Trump’s lawyers are in talks with the Department of Justice about a criminal probe of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But, as legal analyst Teri Kanefield points out, the leak of this information is almost certainly coming from the Trump camp, which seems to think an indictment might be coming and wants to get out in front of the story. Kanefield might well be right. Tonight, Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham, who was in contact with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows during the January 6 crisis, ran a graphic suggesting the Department of Justice was playing politics rather than defending the law. It said: “If you can’t beat him, indict him.”


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  • tempo_n_groovetempo_n_groove Posts: 32,645
    edited August 5
    "Unconstitutionally excessive force"  Cops are taught to empty a clip.  Not sure how that one sticks.  Everything else I would agree with in that case, that one?  No.

    With Griner, I thought her pleading guilty was a move to exchange her for Russian prisoners?

    Edit: I was hoping she would talk about Chinas missile exercises near Taiwan.
  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 5, 2022 (Friday)

    On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a new tax law to help fund the United States government during the Civil War. Far more than writing a traditional revenue act to address the catastrophic war that had demonstrated its horrors just two weeks earlier at the Battle of Bull Run, Congress deliberately constructed the law to shift ownership of the American government away from the bankers who had previously provided Treasury funds, to the American people.

    Over the next four years, the Republican Congress would put taxes on virtually every product in the country and then, to guarantee that “the burdens will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them,” as Senate Finance Committee chair William Pitt Fessenden (R-ME) put it, they invented the nation’s first income tax.

    In 1861, Congress levied a 3% tax on income over $800; in 1862, concerned that the level of  taxation necessary to pay for the war would be too much for most Americans to bear, Congress placed a general tax at 3% and created a progressive income tax. It taxed income over $600 at 3% and income over $10,000 at 5%. “The weight must be distributed equally,” Representative Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) said, “not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.” In 1864, Congress revised those numbers upward. They put general taxes at 5% and raised the income tax brackets to 5% for income from $600 to $5,000 and 7.5% for income from $5,000 to $10,000.

    Morrill thought it was important for the federal government to collect the tax directly to illustrate that people were supporting the United States of America, not individual states, as they might think if states collected the taxes. The federal government had a right to “demand” 99% of a man’s property for an urgent necessity, he said. When the nation required it, “the property of the people…belongs to the Government.”

    Indeed, the new taxes cemented loyalty to the United States. With their money behind the war effort, Americans became more and more committed to their cause. As the war costs mounted, far from objecting to taxes, Americans asked their congressmen to raise them, out of concern about the growing national debt. In 1864, Senator John P. Hale (R-NH) said: “The condition of the country is singular…I venture to say it is an anomaly in the history of the world. What do the people of the United States ask of this Congress? To take off taxes? No, sir, they ask you to put them on. The universal cry of this people is to be taxed.”

    Enlisting more than 2 million soldiers and sailors into the war effort, moving them, equipping them, and arming them eventually cost the United States more than $5 billion. Taxes paid for about 21% of that cost.

    This day in history seems relevant again in 2022 as today’s Republicans stand united against the Inflation Reduction Act.

    This new bill, announced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on July 27, will invest $386 billion into addressing climate change and new energy development, and $100 billion in new health care spending, including extending subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. The measure will raise about $790 billion in savings and revenue over a decade. It will save money by enabling Medicare to negotiate the prices for certain prescription drugs and by beefing up funding for the IRS to enforce existing tax laws. It also will raise revenue by requiring corporations to pay a minimum tax of 15%. The measure is projected to raise about $50 billion a year for 9 years, which will be used to reduce the federal deficit by $300 billion.

    Last night, Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, the last Democratic holdout on the bill, said she would support it if leaders added drought money for Arizona and removed the carried interest loophole that lowers taxation for certain wealthy hedge fund managers. The carried interest loophole would have raised $14 billion, but Democrats instead added a 1% tax on stock buybacks, which is expected to make up that money.

    The measure is expected to pass the House but can make it through the Senate only because Democrats will pass it under the system known as reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. Republicans are dead set against the measure, although all of its pieces are widely popular. Indeed, the Inflation Reduction Act seems to reflect the sort of government the Republicans constructed during the Civil War: one that answered to the American people, and one in which the government is making an effort to distribute the costs of that government among people according to their ability to pay.

    Today’s Republicans reject the idea. Instead, echoing Republican rhetoric since the 1980s, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken the position that taxes do not build the country, but destroy it. He says that Democrats “want to pile on giant tax hikes that will hammer workers and kill many thousands of American jobs.”

    And yet, in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton economics professor Alan S. Blinder, who served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 1994 to 1996, points out that the proposed tax changes “are tiny compared with the Trump tax cuts,” which “slashed the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and allowed more items to be expensed.”

    What is at stake in this contest is the same issue Republicans grappled with in the 1860s, guaranteeing that “the burdens [of taxation] will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them.” Now, though, it is the Democrats taking up that cause.

    The Senate will work on the bill this weekend.

    The introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act caps what has turned out to be a spectacular week for the Biden administration. Jobs numbers out today showed not the downturn that many expected, but instead the addition of 528,000 new jobs, restoring the U.S. job numbers to where they were before the pandemic and putting unemployment at 3.5%, the lowest rate in 50 years. The United States Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) and the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) have both passed Congress. The president authorized and troops achieved the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. And gas prices have hit a 50-day low.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 6, 2022 (Saturday)

    On this day in 1880, the Republican candidate for president, James A. Garfield, spoke to thousands of supporters from the balcony of the Republican headquarters in New York City. Ten years before, in 1870, Americans had added the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, making sure that Black men could vote by guaranteeing that “the 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.”

    As soon as the amendment was ratified, though, white southerners who were dead set against their Black neighbors participating in their government began to say that they had no problem with Black men voting on racial grounds. Their objection to Black voting, they claimed, was that poor, uneducated Black men just out of enslavement were voting for lawmakers who promised them public services, like roads and schools, that could be paid for only with taxes levied on people with the means to pay, which in the post–Civil War South usually meant white men.

    Complaining that Black voters were socialists—they actually used that term in 1871—white southerners began to keep Black voters from the polls. In 1878, Democrats captured both the House and the Senate, and former Confederates took control of key congressional committees. From there, in the summer of 1879, they threatened to shut down the federal government altogether unless the president, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, agreed to end the federal protection of Black Americans in the South.

    The congressional leader who eventually forced them to back down was James A. Garfield (R-OH). Impressed by his successful effort to save the country, in 1880, party leaders nominated him for president.

    Garfield was a brilliant and well-educated man and had served in the Civil War himself. On August 6 in New York City, he singled out the veterans in the crowd to explain how he saw the nation’s future.

    “Gentlemen,” he said, “ideas outlive men; ideas outlive all earthly things. You who fought in the war for the Union fought for immortal ideas, and by their might you crowned the war with victory. But victory was worth nothing except for the truths that were under it, in it, and above it. We meet tonight as comrades to stand guard around the sacred truths for which we fought.”

    “[W]e will remember our allies who fought with us,” he told them. “Soon after the great struggle began, we looked beyond the army of white rebels, and saw 4,000,000 of [B]lack people condemned to toil as slaves for our enemies; and we found that the hearts of these 4,000,000 were God-inspired with the spirit of liberty, and that they were all our friends.” As the audience cheered, he continued: “We have seen white men betray the flag and fight to kill the Union; but in all that long, dreary war we never saw a traitor in a black skin.” To great applause, he vowed, “[W]e will stand by these [B]lack allies. We will stand by them until the sun of liberty, fixed in the firmament of our Constitution, shall shine with equal ray upon every man, [B]lack or white, throughout the Union.” As the audience cheered, he continued: “Fellow-citizens, fellow-soldiers, in this there is the beneficence of eternal justice, and by it we will stand forever.”

    Garfield won the presidency that year, but just barely. The South voted for his Democratic opponent, and in the years to come, white northerners looked the other way as white southerners kept Black men from voting, first with terrorism and then with state election laws using grandfather clauses that cut out Black men without mentioning race by permitting a man to vote if his grandfather had voted, literacy tests in which white registrars got to decide who passed, poll taxes that were enforced arbitrarily, and so on. States also cut up districts unevenly to favor the Democrats, who ran an all-white, segregationist party. In 1880, the South became solidly Democratic, and with white men keeping Black people from the polls, it would remain so until 1964.

    But then, exactly 85 years after Garfield’s speech, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The need for the law was explained in its full title: “An Act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, and for other purposes.”

    Black Americans had never accepted their exclusion from the vote, and after World War II, they and other people of color who had fought for the nation overseas brought home their determination to be treated equally. White reactionaries responded with violence, but Black Americans continued to stand up for their rights. In 1957 and 1960, under pressure from President Dwight Eisenhower, Congress passed civil rights acts designed to empower the federal government to enforce the laws protecting Black voting.

    In 1961 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) began intensive efforts to register voters and to organize communities to support political change. Because only 6.7% of Black Mississippians were registered, Mississippi became a focal point, and in the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, volunteers set out to register voters. On June 21, Ku Klux Klan members, at least one of whom was a law enforcement officer, murdered organizers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and, when discovered, laughed at the idea they would be punished for the murders.

    That year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened voting rights. On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, marchers led by John Lewis (who would go on to serve 17 terms in Congress) headed for Montgomery to demonstrate their desire to vote. Law enforcement officers stopped them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and beat them bloody.

    On March 15, President Johnson called for Congress to pass legislation defending Americans’ right to vote. "There is no constitutional issue here,” he told them. “The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states' rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights." Congress passed the measure. And on this day in 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

    “Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield,” he told the country. “I pledge [to] you that we will not delay, or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same right as all others to share in the process of democracy.”

    “[M]en cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it,” he said. “The central fact of American civilization…is that freedom and justice and the dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them. Under all the growth and the tumult and abundance, we believe. And so, as long as some among us are oppressed—and we are part of that oppression—it must blunt our faith and sap the strength of our high purpose.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 7, 2022 (Sunday)

    “The yeas are 50; the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the bill, as amended, is passed.”

    So spoke Vice President Kamala Harris this afternoon as, after an all-night session, her vote passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 through the Senate. It will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass.

    The measure devotes more than $300 billion to addressing climate change and energy reform, the largest federal investment in climate change in U.S. history. It will make it easier and cheaper to get electric cars and to heat and cool homes without fossil fuels—Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan says families will save an average of $500 a year on energy costs—while also creating new jobs in these fields.

    It extends for three years the subsidies for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act that Congress originally passed during the pandemic.

    It will invest about $300 billion toward reducing the deficit.

    The money for these programs will come from several places. The bill will lower the cost of certain prescription drugs by enabling the government to negotiate the prices of expensive drugs for Medicare, a policy most nations already have. It also caps the cost of insulin at $35 a month for people on Medicare (Republicans stripped out of the bill a similar protection for those on private insurance).

    It makes corporations making $1 billion or more in income pay a 15% minimum tax, and it will tax stock buybacks at 1%.

    And it will invest more than $100 billion in enforcing the existing tax laws on the books, laws that are increasingly ignored as the IRS has too few agents to conduct audits of large accounts.

    Senate Democrats passed the measure by using the process of budget reconciliation, which covers certain revenue measures and which cannot be filibustered. Although the pieces of the measure have bipartisan support in the country, every Republican voted against the bill; Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it an “economic disaster” that will exacerbate inflation (the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office disagrees).

    Republicans used reconciliation to pass their own signature measure in December 2017: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This law cut the corporate tax rate from about 35% to 21% with the now-traditional Republican expectation that such a cut would spur economic growth, although the Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would add about $2 trillion to the national debt over ten years. The Tax and Jobs Act did not increase employment or wages as the Republicans expected; those actually dipped slightly as corporations used the tax cuts primarily to buy back their stock, making it more valuable. That measure was the signature piece of legislation during the Trump administration.

    In contrast, in the past 18 months, Democrats have rebuilt the economy after the pandemic shattered it, invested in technology and science, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, pulled troops out of Afghanistan, passed the first gun safety law in almost 30 years, put a Black woman on the Supreme Court, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, addressed the needs of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and invested in our roads, bridges, and manufacturing. And for much of this program, they have managed to attract Republican votes.

    Now they are turning to lowering the cost of prescription drugs—long a priority—and tackling climate change, all while lowering the deficit.

    Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted accurately today that what these measures do is far more than the sum of their parts. They show Americans that democracy is messy and slow but that it works, and it works for them. Since he took office, this has been President Joe Biden’s argument: he would head off the global drive toward authoritarianism by showing that democracy is still the best system of government out there.

    At a time when authoritarians are trying to demonstrate that democracies cannot function nearly as effectively as the rule of an elite few, he is proving them wrong.

    This is a very big deal indeed.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 8, 2022 (Monday)

    It’s been quite a day.

    It began with Axios sharing photos of what purported to be White House toilets with torn up paper in them. The notes on that paper appear to have former president Trump’s distinctive handwriting on them. Axios got them from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who has previously reported that Trump used to get rid of documents by flushing them. (By law, all presidential records must be retained.)

    I am skeptical of these photos, myself—they seem a bit too perfect—but I do find the timing significant. If the photos are real, someone has had them for a long time but now feels that it is worth sharing them. If they are fake, they nonetheless demonstrate that Trump is a significantly diminished figure.

    Next came news from the 2016 Trump campaign. Trump’s 2016 campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has written a book, and to sell it, he gave a long interview to Mattathias Schwartz of Insider. In the interview, Manafort admitted what the Senate Intelligence Committee said in their report about Russian interference in the 2016 election: he gave internal polling data from the Trump campaign to Konstantin Kilimnik, who, according to the Senate report, was a Russian intelligence agent. Manafort had previously denied this story.

    Manafort told Schwartz that he was not trying to swing the election but hoped to convince pro-Russian oligarchs to do business deals with him by showing that he had access to Trump and that Trump could beat Democratic presidential candidate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Manafort says he didn’t know Kilimnick worked for Russian intelligence. Reached for the story, Kilimnick says he is a victim of people’s dislike of Russia.

    Then, Trump’s presidency. In the New Yorker today, Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker revealed that Trump and the generals of the United States Army were fundamentally at odds about how they viewed the United States. Trump wanted the generals to be loyal to him, as he believed “the German generals in World War II” were loyal to Adolf Hitler. (In fact, they tried repeatedly to assassinate him.) Trump tried to pack the military with loyalists; military leaders insisted that the military must not be taken over by a single leader.

    After June 1, 2020, when Trump had nonviolent protesters cleared from Lafayette Square with tear gas and batons, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley drafted a resignation letter in which he told Trump, “It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country” with his actions over the past weeks.

    Milley explained that our Constitution means that “[a]ll men and women are created equal, no matter who you are, whether you are white or Black, Asian, Indian, no matter the color of your skin, no matter if you’re gay, straight or something in between. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, or choose not to believe. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter what country you came from, what your last name is—what matters is we’re Americans. We’re all Americans.”

    But Trump, he said, was siding with “tyrannies and dictatorships,” “fascism,” “Nazism,” and “extremism” and “ruining the international order” that the Greatest Generation defended in World War II.

    While Milley did not, in the end, resign, he did take a public stand against Trump’s use of the military against Americans.
    The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was also in the news today: CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that two years of text messages to and from conspiracy theorist and January 5 rally speaker Alex Jones have been sent to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Jones’s lawyer had inadvertently sent the messages to opposing counsel during his recent trial.

    And then, although the Department of Justice (DOJ) didn’t tip off anyone about this, even after it had begun, Trump tonight released a statement saying that the FBI was raiding Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, property. “They even broke into my safe!” he complained. He called it “an attack by Radical Left Democrats” and said it was a sign that America has become a third-world country. But Trump himself appointed the current director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, after firing former director James Comey for investigating the ties of his 2016 campaign to Russia. Wray is hardly a “Left Democrat”; he served in the George W. Bush administration and is a member of the Federalist Society.

    Legal analyst Joyce White Vance reminded people on Twitter: “We don't know yet what crimes the FBI had sufficient evidence of to convince a federal judge there was probable cause to search Trump's residence, but the execution of a search warrant isn't a raid. It's a judicially overseen process.” It appears that the search was about Trump’s removal of classified documents from the White House. (I told you: no one with any brains at all ever messes with archivists.)

    As legal analyst Asha Rangappa noted, “a search warrant has to demonstrate probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found in the places and things searched.” And legal analyst Renato Mariotti adds that the Department of Justice doesn’t usually prosecute cases unless the material was deliberately transferred to a third party, and that it is unlikely DOJ would have obtained a search warrant if it did not expect to pursue a case.

    Tonight, chief White House correspondent for CNN Kaitlan Collins reported that in early June, investigators had gone to Mar-a-Lago to learn more about the materials Trump had taken when he left the White House. They asked to see where the documents were stored, and Trump’s lawyers took them to a basement room. The search warrant executed today included a safe in Trump’s office, and journalist Laura Rozen reported that agents suspected that Trump had taken and was holding other classified documents after he returned many of them.

    Political commentators noted that the law disqualifies from “holding any office under the United States” anyone who “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies or destroys…any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk of officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States.”

    Tonight, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is expressing outrage, the Fox News Channel is talking about Hunter Biden, and Trump’s base is calling for war, but Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is silent. For his part, Trump is fundraising off the executed search warrant.

    One final story from today illustrates a central principle of democracy: the principle of accountability.

    Today, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced the men who stalked and murdered Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020 as he was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. She sentenced Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael to an additional life sentence in prison on federal hate crime charges. Unlike the other two, their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan did not bring a gun to the scene, a fact the judge noted when she sentenced him to 35 years. They will serve their sentences in state prison, although they asked for federal custody, saying they feared for their lives in state prison.

    Accountability is not only about justice; it’s about deterrence.

    On this day in 1974, President Richard Nixon announced that he would resign the office of the presidency the next day at noon. He did not admit wrongdoing in the Watergate scandal, although the House Judiciary Committee had voted to impeach him, the full House was sure to follow, and Republican senators warned him the Senate would vote to convict.

    He never did admit wrongdoing, and he was never held accountable. Instead, the next president, Gerald R. Ford, pardoned him. And here we are, 48 years later, with a president and his followers outraged that he, like everyone else, must abide by the law.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 9, 2022 (Tuesday)

    This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

    Perry was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He connected former president Trump with Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ) who supported Trump’s claims and who would have become acting attorney general if the leadership of the DOJ hadn’t threatened to resign as a group if Trump appointed him. Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

    The DOJ searched Clark’s home in June. On the same day, it seized the phone of John Eastman, the author of the memo laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to refuse to count presidential electors for Democratic candidate Joe Biden and thus throw the election to Trump.

    Eastman sued to get his phone back and to force the government to destroy any information agents had taken from it; the Department of Justice says the phone was obtained legally and that purging it would be “unprecedented” and “would cause substantial detriment to the investigation, as well as seriously impede any grand jury’s use of the seized material in a future charging decision.” A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for early September.

    Trump and his supporters have spent the day complaining bitterly about yesterday’s search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, painting it an illegal “witch hunt” and threatening to launch a “revolution” over it. A search warrant requires a judge to sign off on the idea that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that a search will provide evidence of that crime. While the FBI cannot release the search warrant, Trump has a copy of it and could release it if he wanted to.

    Legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at the Department of Justice, pointed out on Twitter that the law requires the FBI to give Trump an inventory of what they found. If indeed he wants to claim the search was a witch hunt and he had no government property in his home, he should release the search inventory.

    Kyle Cheney at Politico noted that on January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump revoked the authority he had previously given and named seven new loyalists as his representatives to the National Archives with regard to his presidential records. They were Meadows; then–White House counsel Pat Cipollone; then–deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin; lawyer John Eisenberg, who as legal advisor to the National Security Council tried to keep the story about Trump’s call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky under wraps; Scott Gast, also of the White House counsel’s office during Trump’s term; lawyer Michael Purpura; and lawyer Steven Engel, who argued that Congress could not subpoena White House advisors.

    Meanwhile, Sadie Gurman, Alex Leary, and Aruna Viswanatha of the Wall Street Journal reported today that the Mar-a-Lago search came out of the concern of federal agents that Trump had not returned all the classified documents he took from the White House. In January of this year, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of material, including records that had been torn into pieces. Yesterday, federal officials retrieved about 10 more boxes.   

    Tonight, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) told Fox News Channel personality Laura Ingraham that 12 Republican members of the House of Representatives met with Trump tonight, told him they stand with him, and urged him to run for president in 2024. They want to see Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker of the house and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) as chair of the Judiciary Committee.

    Three judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a ruling from a lower court that said the House Ways and Means Committee can see Trump’s tax returns. The committee began the journey to look at them back in 2019. Trump can appeal to the full bench or to the Supreme Court. The House Ways and Means Committee said it expects “to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately.”

    Today, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 into law. The new measure will provide $52.7 billion in subsidies to semiconductor production in the U.S. and invest in science and technology. Biden noted that with signing of the bill into law, Micron would announce a $40 billion investment in new chip-manufacturing facilities in the United States through the end of the decade, and GlobalFoundries and Qualcomm “announced yesterday a $4 billion partnership to produce chips in the U.S. that would otherwise have gone overseas.”

    “Fundamental change is taking place today—politically, economically, and technologically—change that can either strengthen our sense of control and security, of dignity and pride in our lives, in our nation; or—or change that weakens us so that people are left behind, causing them to question whether or not the very institutions—our economy, our democracy itself — can still deliver for them, for everybody,” Biden said.

    Pleased to be signing the bill that invests in our technological future into law, Biden said: “[D]ecades from now, people are going to look back at this week, with all we’ve passed and all we’ve moved on, that we met the moment at this inflection point in history—a moment when we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves, and recaptured the story, the spirit, and the soul of this nation. We are the United States of America, a singular place of possibilities…. I promise you, we’re leading the world again for the next decades.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
      August 10, 2022 (Wednesday)

    Today, President Joe Biden signed into law the now-bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022. It will expand medical coverage for veterans exposed to burn pits during their service. This law is named for Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, an Ohio Army National Guardsman who was diagnosed with a rare cancer after his service, during which he was exposed to toxic substances in the burn pits. He died in 2020, leaving behind his wife and his 8-year-old daughter.

    This law is personal for President Biden. His son Beau also came home from military service that had exposed him to toxic burn pits in Iraq, and he, too, died of cancer—brain cancer, in his case—at the age of 46.

    Also today, the Department of Labor released a report showing that there was zero inflation last month (expectations were for an increase of 0.2%). That means that dropping prices, primarily for gasoline, canceled out the price of other things rising. In addition, core inflation, which excludes food and energy—always volatile—dropped significantly for the first time in months. Inflation for the year remains at a high 8.5%.

    Biden was pleased enough about the new numbers that he talked about them before his remarks at the bill signing. Putting the lower inflation numbers together with last week’s booming report of 528,000 new jobs last month and 3.5% unemployment—the lowest in decades—“it underscores the kind of economy we’ve been building,” he said. “That’s what happens when you build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out. The wealthy do very well, and everyone has a chance. It gives everyone a chance to make progress.”

    Today, the Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of plotting to murder Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, likely in retaliation for the January 2020 killing of Qasem Soleimani. “The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said. Bolton issued a statement thanking the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Secret Service.

    Federal investigators also delivered subpoenas today to several Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, not necessarily because they are targets of an investigation, but because they may have important information surrounding the efforts of Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) to gather fake electors to overturn the 2020 election. Perry announced yesterday that the FBI had taken his phone.

    The fallout continues from the FBI search of former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. Trump and his supporters have begun to circle around the idea that the FBI agents “planted” evidence while they were there, which suggests they’re afraid of what’s going to turn up. While right-wing figures are saying Trump’s lawyers were not present during the search, two of them—Christina Bobb and Lindsey Halligan—confirmed to Politico that they were there. Remember, while the Department of Justice can’t say what was in the warrant or what they took, Trump could but is choosing not to.

    Meanwhile, there are reports that a close associate flipped on Trump to tell the Department of Justice what was at Mar-a-Lago that they might want to see. It is crucial to remember that anything we hear is coming from Trump supporters; the Department of Justice is not talking. So rumors are just that—rumors—although this one has been reported in multiple places, so I am making a note of it.

    What is not just a rumor is that Trump testified under oath today in the civil case being investigated by New York attorney general Letitia James regarding the widely different valuations of Trump’s properties for purposes of taxes versus security for loans. Trump answered a single question only about his name, then pleaded his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid incriminating himself. He said he “declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.” Then, from about 9:30 to around 3:00, aside from breaks, he responded to questions with “Same answer.”

    Like his father, Eric Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment during his October 2020 deposition in the same case, pleading the Fifth more than 500 times.  

    In civil cases, jurors can make negative inferences from an invocation of the Fifth Amendment. If James brings charges, today’s deposition will strengthen her case.

    More than that, though, Trump made history today by becoming the first U.S. president to plead the Fifth. It is an astonishing thing to see that a former president, the person who was responsible for faithfully executing the laws of our nation, has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 11, 2022 (Thursday)

    Since Monday’s search of former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property by the FBI, Trump, Trump supporters, and right-wing media have all been accusing the government of executing a political vendetta and speculating that FBI agents might have planted evidence on the property.

    This afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a brief press conference in which he announced that the unjustified attacks on the Department of Justice (DOJ) have led it to file a motion to unseal the search warrant the FBI used and a redacted version of the receipt for the things removed from the premises. He also confirmed that copies of the warrant and the property receipt were left with Trump, as regulations require. Had Trump wanted to release them, he could have…and he still can, at any time.

    Contrary to right-wing reports, Trump’s lawyer was at Mar-a-Lago during the search, which a federal court authorized after finding probable cause. Garland said that he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant, and he also pointed out that the Department of Justice did not publicize the search; the former president did. Because of the public interest in the matter—and to clear up confusion over it—the department is asking a judge to unseal the documents.

    Garland also defended FBI agents against attacks on them, saying, “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves.”

    Garland explained the principle at stake. “Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Under my watch that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law, to due process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.”

    He also reminded people that “the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work.”

    The DOJ motion to unseal the search warrant tells us a bit more. It was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and by Jay Bratt, the chief of the department’s counterintelligence section. The motion also throws the ball into Trump’s court, saying “the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections….” This boxes Trump in. He and his supporters have been demanding the documents be released, although  the DOJ cannot release them and Trump can. This motion means that the DOJ has made a strong case to get permission to release them…unless Trump objects. Essentially, the DOJ just called his bluff.

    At the New York Times, Katie Benner reported that already “Trump allies are discussing the possibility of challenging the Justice Department’s motion to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. They have contacted outside lawyers about helping them.”

    This should play out quickly: a judge this afternoon told the DOJ to discuss with Trump’s lawyer whether Trump objects to unsealing the documents and to let the judge know by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Tonight, Trump said he would not oppose the document’s release, but he didn’t release them himself, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

    Another right-wing talking point about the search fell apart today as well. Fox News Channel personalities have argued that the Justice Department should simply have issued a subpoena for the material. “Get a subpoena, he will give it back,” Jesse Watters said. “It’s not like Trump won’t cooperate.” But in fact it turns out the DOJ did deliver a subpoena two months ago, and the former president did not comply.

    For all the loud protests of Trump supporters over the search, other Republicans—even ones who were previously Team Trump—seem to be backing away. Today, Fox News Channel contributor and former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush Ari Fleischer tweeted: “One thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back? Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.”

    For his part, Trump tried to suggest his own retention of documents was not nearly as bad as that of former president Barack Obama, who, Trump alleged, took “33 Million pages of documents…to Chicago.” He is referring to the materials for the Obama presidential library, which have been moved from the National Archives and Records Administration with its permission and cooperation.

    Tonight, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein, and Shane Harris at the Washington Post broke the story that the FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago were looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons, underscoring that the search was imperative. We don’t know any more than that, and heaven knows that’s bad enough.

    But what springs to mind for me is the plan pushed by Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and fundraiser and campaign advisor Tom Barrack, to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, whistleblowers from the National Security Council worried that their efforts might have broken the law and that the effort to make the transfer was ongoing. The plan was to enable Saudi leaders to build nuclear power plants, a plan that would have yielded billions of dollars to the investors but would have allowed Saudi Arabia to build nuclear weapons.

    Meanwhile, Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel, Sara Murray, and Pamela Brown of CNN report that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has interviewed the former secretary of transportation in the Trump administration, Elaine Chao, and is in discussions with former education secretary Betsy DeVos and former national security advisor Robert O’Brien. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo met with the committee on Tuesday. At least nine Cabinet-level officials either have talked to the committee or are negotiating the terms of interviews. One of the topics has been the attempt to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment after the events of January 6.

    The lies about the FBI and the January 6th attack on the Capitol came together today and took a life. Ricky Walter Shiffer, who appears to have been at the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, shot into the FBI field office in Cincinnati with a nail gun this morning while brandishing an AR-15-style weapon. After the attack, he took refuge in a cornfield, where law enforcement officers killed him this afternoon.


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  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain.Posts: 37,703
    ^^^ Quite a good read tonight!

    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 12, 2022 (Friday)

    Today, the House of Representatives passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping bill that will invest more than $430 billion in climate change and extended subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. It will raise about $737 billion over the next ten years by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, adequately staffing the Internal Revenue Service after years of cuts so it can catch people cheating on their taxes, and raising the tax rate on rich corporations to require them to pay a minimum of 15%.

    The vote was 220 to 207, along party lines, although the measures in the bill are widely popular. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) didn’t lose a vote, even among those Democrats concerned the measure doesn’t go far enough. For their part, Republicans have been misrepresenting the bill to justify their opposition: Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) has called it a “war on seniors” because he says it cuts Medicare spending. That’s a misleading read on a provision that is expected to save $265 billion by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

    This bill is a huge deal for the country and for the Biden administration, launching us into a new era in which we take serious steps to address climate change, start to rein in the costs of healthcare, and begin again to ask the very wealthy to pay their share of the costs of running our country, and yet it has been overshadowed by today’s other big story.

    After days of attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department by former president Trump and his supporters for the Monday search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, today a federal judge unsealed the search warrant and the property receipt for that search. The warrant shows that agents were investigating whether Trump violated the Espionage Act.

    The property receipt reveals that agents reclaimed for the United States more than 26 boxes of documents, including ones labeled “classified/TS/SCI,” which means “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” This is highly classified material that is available only to those necessary to the project, and must be discussed, used, and stored only in secure locations because its release to the public would cause “exceptionally grave” damage to our national security.

    Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb, who is also an anchor for the right-wing One America News Network, signed the property receipt.

    Even before the release of the warrant, Trump had offered a number of excuses for taking documents to Mar-a-Lago and then keeping them despite a subpoena for their return. First, he blamed FBI agents for planting them on the premises, riling up his base against the FBI. That effort continued today: before the judge unsealed the documents, it appears Trump leaked them to Breitbart, which published them without blacking out the names of the agents who executed the search warrant, evidently intended to menace them.

    Then he claimed that while he had taken only a few documents, former president Barack Obama had taken 33 million. This afternoon, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) put out a statement clarifying that it took possession of all Obama’s presidential records when he left office in 2017 and that it moved about 30 million unclassified pages of them to a “NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA. Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the P[residential] R[ecords] A[ct], former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his administration.”

    Now he and his allies are saying that he declassified all the documents he took out of the Oval Office, so the recovered documents were no longer classified. The fact they were not marked declassified, as required, was simply because White House counsel didn’t get the paperwork done.

    But there is a process for declassification; a president can’t just say something is declassified. Further, as legal analyst and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa clarified, a president cannot unilaterally declassify nuclear secrets.

    Legal analyst Joyce White Vance said, “Even if this is true & it holds up (I’ve got significant doubts) what does it say that Trump declassified materials that put our national security in grave danger? And that the Republican Party continues to support him?”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 13, 2022 (Saturday)
    Since it seems clear we will be deciding whether we want to preserve the Social Security Act by our choice of leaders in the next few elections, I thought it not unreasonable to reprint this piece from last year about why people in the 1930s thought the measure was imperative. There is more news about the classified material at Mar-a-Lago, but nothing that can’t wait another day so I can catch this anniversary.

    By the time most of you will read this, it will be August 14, and on this day in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. While FDR’s New Deal had put in place new measures to regulate business and banking and had provided temporary work relief to combat the Depression, this law permanently changed the nature of the American government.

    The Social Security Act is known for its payments to older Americans, but it did far more than that. It established unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services. It was a sweeping reworking of the relationship between the government and its citizens, using the power of taxation to pool funds to provide a basic social safety net.

    The driving force behind the law was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for having the longest tenure in that job: she lasted from 1933 to 1945.

    She brought to the position a vision of government very different from that of the Republicans who had run it in the 1920s. While men like President Herbert Hoover had harped on the idea of a “rugged individualism” in which men worked their way up, providing for their families on their own, Perkins recognized that people in communities had always supported each other. The vision of a hardworking man supporting his wife and children was more myth than reality: her own husband suffered from bipolar disorder, making her the family’s primary support.

    As a child, Perkins spent summers with her grandmother, with whom she was very close, in the small town of Newcastle, Maine, where the old-fashioned, close-knit community supported those in need. In college, at Mount Holyoke, she majored in chemistry and physics, but after a professor required students to tour a factory to observe working conditions, Perkins became committed to improving the lives of those trapped in industrial jobs. After college, Perkins became a social worker and, in 1910, earned a masters degree in economics and sociology from Columbia University. She became the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for the workers who made the products they were buying.

    The next year, in 1911, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in which 146 workers, mostly women and girls, died. They were trapped in the building when the fire broke out because the factory owner had ordered the doors to the stairwells and exits locked to make sure no one slipped outside for a break. Unable to escape the smoke and fire in the factory, the workers—some of them on fire—leaped from the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the building, dying on the pavement.

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire turned Perkins away from voluntary organizations to improve workers’ lives and toward using the government to adjust the harsh conditions of industrialization. She began to work with the Democratic politicians at Tammany Hall, who presided over communities in the city that mirrored rural towns and who exercised a form of social welfare for their voters, making sure they had jobs, food, and shelter and that wives and children had a support network if a husband and father died. In that system, the voices of women like Perkins were valuable, for their work in the immigrant wards of the city meant that they were the ones who knew what working families needed to survive.

    The overwhelming unemployment, hunger, and suffering caused by the Great Depression made Perkins realize that state governments alone could not adjust the conditions of the modern world to create a safe, supportive community for ordinary people. She came to believe, as she said: “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

    Through her Tammany connections, Perkins met FDR, and when he asked her to be his Secretary of Labor, she told him that she wanted the federal government to provide unemployment insurance, health insurance, and old-age insurance. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

    Creating federal unemployment insurance became her primary concern. Congressmen had little interest in passing such legislation. They said they worried that unemployment insurance and federal aid to dependent families would undermine a man’s willingness to work. But Perkins recognized that those displaced by the Depression had added new pressure to the idea of old-age insurance.

    In Long Beach, California, Dr. Francis Townsend had looked out of his window one day to see elderly women rooting through garbage cans for food. Appalled, he came up with a plan to help the elderly and stimulate the economy at the same time. Townsend proposed that the government provide every retired person over 60 years old with $200 a month, on the condition that they spend it within 30 days, a condition designed to stimulate the economy.

    Townsend’s plan was wildly popular. More than that, though, it sparked people across the country to start coming up with their own plans for protecting the elderly and the nation’s social fabric, and together, they began to change the public conversation about social welfare policies.

    They spurred Congress to action. Perkins recalled that Townsend “startled the Congress of the United States because the aged have votes. The wandering boys didn't have any votes; the evicted women and their children had very few votes. If the unemployed didn't stay long enough in any one place, they didn't have a vote. But the aged people lived in one place and they had votes, so every Congressman had heard from the Townsend Plan people.”

    FDR put together a committee to come up with a plan to create a basic social safety net, but committee members could not make up their minds how to move forward. Perkins continued to hammer on the idea they must come up with a final plan, and finally locked the members of the committee in a room. As she recalled: “Well, we locked the door and we had a lot of talk. I laid out a couple of bottles of something or other to cheer their lagging spirits. Anyhow, we stayed in session until about 2 a.m. We then voted finally, having taken our solemn oath that this was the end; we were never going to review it again.”

    By the time the bill came to a vote in Congress, it was hugely popular. The vote was 371 to 33 in the House and 77 to 6 in the Senate.

    When asked to describe the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins mused that its roots came from the very beginnings of the nation. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in 1835, she noted, he thought Americans were uniquely “so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed.” “Well, I don't know anything about the times in which De Tocqueville visited America,” she said, but “I do know that at the time I came into the field of social work, these feelings were real.”

    With the Social Security Act, Perkins helped to write into our laws a longstanding political impulse in America that stood in dramatic contrast to the 1920s philosophy of rugged individualism. She recognized that the ideas of community values and pooling resources to keep the economic playing field level and take care of everyone are at least as deeply seated in our political philosophy as the idea of every man for himself.

    When she recalled the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins recalled: “Of course, the Act had to be amended, and has been amended, and amended, and amended, and amended, until it has now grown into a large and important project, for which, by the way, I think the people of the United States are deeply thankful. One thing I know: Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat Posts: 25,790
     August 14, 2022 (Sunday)

    A calm sunrise seems like a good omen these days... or at least a welcome respite.

    Let's take the night off and get back to work tomorrow.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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    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: 25,790
      August 15, 2022 (Monday)

    Today, President Joe Biden congratulated the people of India on their 75th anniversary of independence, calling out the relationship between “our great democracies” and “our shared commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity.”

    Yesterday, he lamented the recent knife attack on writer Salman Rushdie, calling out Rushdie’s “insight into humanity,…his unmatched sense for story,…his refusal to be intimidated or silenced,” and his support “for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression.”   

    But the news today is full not of the defense of democracy, but of those trying to overthrow it.

    Emma Brown, Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, and Amy Gardner of the Washington Post broke the story that after the 2020 election, as part of the effort to overturn the results, Trump’s lawyers paid computer experts to copy data from election systems in Georgia. The breach was successful and significant, although authorities maintain the machines can be secured before the next election. Led by Trump ally Sidney Powell, the group also sought security data from Michigan and Nevada, although the extent of the breaches there is unclear. They also appear to have worked on getting information from Arizona.

    Georgia prosecutors have told Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he is a target in the criminal investigation of the attempt to alter the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, letting him know it is possible he will be indicted.  

    Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has tried to quash a subpoena requiring his testimony before a Fulton County grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, but today a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May, said he must testify. She said that “the District Attorney's office has shown ‘extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham's testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia's 2020 elections.’"

    And yet, the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election is still spreading. Amy Gardner in the Washington Post reports that 54 out of 87 Republican nominees in the states that were battlegrounds in 2020 are election deniers. Had they held power in 2020, they could have overturned the votes for Biden and given the election to Trump. In the 41 states that have already winnowed their candidates, more than half the Republicans—250 candidates in 469 contests—claim to believe the lie that Trump won in 2020.

    In the issue of Trump’s theft of classified documents from the National Archives and Records Administration when he left office, over the weekend, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush reported in the New York Times that last June, one of Trump’s lawyers signed a statement saying that all classified documents that had made it to Mar-a-Lago had been given back to the National Archives and Records Administration. But, of course, the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last Monday revealed that assertion to be incorrect.

    The statement was made after Jay I. Bratt, the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence officer, visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3. The House and Senate intelligence committees have asked Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines to provide the committees with a damage assessment of how badly Trump’s retention of top secret classified documents in an insecure location has damaged national security.

    Today, the Department of Justice has asked a judge not to unseal the affidavit behind the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, saying that it “implicates highly classified materials,” and that disclosing the affidavit right now would "cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation." CNN, the Washington Post, NBC News, and Scripps all asked the judge to unseal all documents related to the Mar-a-Lago search. But, “[i]f disclosed,” the Justice Department wrote, “the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps.”

    Legal analyst and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe commented: “This suggests [the Department of Justice] wasn’t just repatriating top secret doc[ument]s to get them out of Trump’s unsafe clutches but is pursuing a path looking toward criminal indictment.”


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