Nel's New Day

October 21, 2021

Conservatives Continue COVID Chaos

The Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit against vaccines mandates when Justice Stephen Breyer rejected an emergency appeal from opposition to Maine’s required vaccinations for the state’s healthcare workers. Earlier rejections came for New York City teachers from Sonia Sotomayor and Indiana University staff and students from Amy Coney Barrett.

Florida, however, may get a lawsuit into the U.S. Supreme Court because Clarence Thomas is their justice. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is making school board members pay for their students’ safety by withholding their salaries if they require students to wear masks as well as quarantine after COVID exposure. One member in Leon County, Alva Striplin, wrote she was proud of low COVID rates in the open schools and thanked the community for their patience. The state withheld $17,500 for the month of school board members’ salaries. Teachers are also taking measures. One teacher buys masks for all her students, and others, especially young ones, are resigning. By July, 2,137 teachers left the Orlando-area Orange County school system, and another 493 consider leaving. In August, Florida had vacancies for 5,000 teachers and 3,700 support staff as well as major shortages in teaching substitutes and bus drivers.

Large businesses are also upset about opposition to vaccination mandates that they call “radicalism” by Gov. Greg Abbott and other GOP governors. In a recent survey of CFOs, 80 percent “totally support” Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for companies over 100 employees, and many of these companies already have these requirements. Yet Abbott blocks all vaccination mandates in Texas. During the 1950s, businesses accepted progressive taxation and strong labor unions, but Ronald Reagan led them back with his tax cuts and deregulation. Now businesses realize they need investment in infrastructure, something Republicans oppose.  

A Waco (TX) editorial calls Abbott’s prevention of business mandates for vaccination an example of socialism:

“Bowing to the whims of a radicalized Republican Party of Texas in a state where 69,000 of our friends, co-workers and neighbors have died of COVID-19, Abbott played socialist tyrant last week, ordering that ‘no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer.’ In short, he demands that businesses cease protecting via private vaccine mandates their own employees—and thus risk company efficiency, productivity and viability…

“Abbott is trashing the formerly Republican principle that businesses should be free of burdensome government regulations that interfere with a vibrant capitalist society. Many businesses on their own are mandating vaccinations because they want environments where employees are significantly protected against spread of a highly contagious, potentially disabling virus…

“For all but the blind, it’s obvious what’s going on. We marvel at the pace with which the Republican Party continues to place on the funeral pyre its conservative tenets, one by one. Abbott’s order is clearly issued in his dread of Allen West, 2022 primary election challenger and right-wing rabble-rouser lately hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, likely rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and now busy undermining public safety throughout the Sunshine State.

“And if the lives of Abbott’s constituents must be placed on the pyre for his political ambitions, so be it…

“For those of us who grew up in Republican environments where personal freedom was neatly balanced with the public good, one increasingly wonders if the Republican Party can rally from the socialist malignancy that now infects it.”

After being hospitalized with COVID after refusing to be vaccinated, Texas’ GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen West asserted he was “even more dedicated to fighting against vaccine mandates.” Touting monochlongal antibody infusion therapy costing the government 20 times more than a vaccination, West said he was opposed to “enriching the pockets of Big Pharma and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.”

The lack of healthcare guidelines in Florida and Texas may have put 95,000 people in the hospital and killed 22,000 victims of COVID. By emulating the best-performing states of Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island—all with an average of 74 percent vaccinated adults by July 31, the two southern states would also have had about 1,311,900 fewer COVID cases.

Republicans claim big companies don’t need mandates while they lambast President Joe Biden’s requiring vaccines or have weekly testing. Last week, Tucker Carlson pushed the lie that the Fox network requirement for vaccine or weekly testing isn’t a mandate but attacked Biden’s identical requirement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led the charge in praising Delta Air Lines for its policy, instituted in August, of vaccine-or-test. Delta went farther by also charging employees opting for the test a $200-per-month health surcharge to cover the financial risk for hospitalizations. Cruz maintains that Delta managed a 90-percent vaccination rate without “the federal vaccine mandate. According to him, the addition of the $2,400 annual fine for weekly testing “respect[s] the right of their employees to make their own personal decisions.” Cruz’s former chief of staff, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) called Delta’s rules a “better answer” although it is far tougher than Biden’s requirement.

The first airline to mandate the vaccine, United, has a 99.5 percent vaccination rate, despite naysayers claiming that mandates won’t work. Hospitals across the nation are touting the vaccine mandate, saying that they are losing only one or two percent of employees. In the military, 92 percent have been vaccinated.

Fox network used the tragic death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s death from COVID-related reasons to support anti-Vaxxers. Powell suffered from multiple myeloma, a cancer of blood significantly weakening the immune system. He may have contracted COVID from people around him, possibly those who had refused to be vaccinated. Yet Fox host Will Cain used an isolated death to rant about COVID hospitalizations and deaths despite vaccinations, and John Roberts tweeted Powell’s death proved the vaccines’ waning efficacy. He later deleted the tweet after ridicule from other reporters. The more rabid anti-Vaxxers clamed Powell could have been saved by the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. Major media sources failed to include information about Powell’s severely-compromised immune system. Newsweek’s headline referred only to “vaccines, age, [and] race” while leaving his illness to “other risk factors.”

Led by Tucker Carlson, Fox network’s tirades occur as often as 99 percent of the days on air. At least two Fox hosts, Neil Cavuto and John King, have contradicted this message. After contracting breakthrough COVID, Cavuto urged his audience to be vaccinated “for yourself and everyone around you,” explaining “I’m surviving because I got the shot.” King, immunocompromised with multiple sclerosis, thanked co-workers for being vaccinated and encouraged people in the U.S. to “man up or shut up” about vaccinations.

Science education failed the Miami private school Centner Academy when it fired teachers if they were vaccinated and then mandated 30 days at home after students received vaccinations. The “school” follows the debunked disinformation that vaccinated people “shed” the virus. Vaccines have no live virus; therefore their components cannot be transmitted. Co-founder David Centner said the school was operating on “anecdotal” information, and his dedicated anti-Vaxxer wife, Leila Centner, explained students are taught to operate on “emotional intelligence”—for almost $30,000 a year. Teachers are discouraged from wearing masks, but Centner list his top priority as “our students’ well-being and their sense of safety within our educational environment.”

In the U.S., infections in schools mimic the surrounding community with less transmission because of mitigation measures, according to Dr. Sean O’Leary, a University of Colorado pediatrics professor. In Kentucky, 45 of the state’s 171 schools had to close at least once since the beginning of this school year; the state has among the highest rate of cases with just over 50 percent of the population vaccinated. Texas bans mask-wearing mandates, and Livingston closed schools for Labor Day week after over 10 percent of the 600-member faculty became infected. Livingston recorded more positive cases among both children and teachers during the first few weeks of school than all of last year. San Francisco and Los Angeles, with masks, ventilation, and high vaccination rates, had zero to few cases in the first few weeks, and California, its population of 40 million almost ten times that of Kentucky, had under half the number of school or district closures as in Kentucky.

A Wisconsin brewer is working to get students vaccinated. The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC gives money to a class-action lawsuit filed against the Waukesha School Board for refusing to follow CDC guidelines for COVID school protocols. The company’s founder and owner, Kirk Bangstad, promised the Super PAC will fund actions “against every school board in Wisconsin that isn’t mandating masks for kids too young to get the vaccine and not following CDC guidelines for students while in school to protect against the deadly Delta variant.” Bangstad that he’s taking this action because those who should be responsible aren’t stepping up to do it. He stated:

“Many school districts have dropped all forms of Covid mitigation that were in place last year due to the shrieking hordes of Tucker Carlson-watching zombies separated from their cerebrums and driven only by their lizard brains.”

Wisconsin is home to Sen. Ron Johnson, the most vociferous voice of COVID disinformation in Congress.

September showed the greatest growth of COVID cases and deaths among children with 1.1 million testing positive from September 3-30 out of the six million since the pandemic began. In the week ending October 7, another 148,222 cases in children, one fourth of all cases, were reported.

October 18, 2021

Racist Problems Caused by Legislature

Southlake (TX), population 32,376, has a Black percentage of 1.7 percent and a household median income over $240,000; most students attend schools in the Carroll ISD. The idyllic community became the focus of an NBC documentary, Southlake: Racial Reckoning in a Texas Suburb, after a video of students shouting racial slurs led to students sharing accounts of racism and discrimination. A school board attempt to address the problem caused a culture war about the non-existent teaching of GOP-invented issue of “critical race theory (CRT)” when the vast majority of White conservatives decided to wipe out any mention of racism with the help of new Texas legislation. 

A new superintendent in the school district of 8,400 students developed a plan to work on the problems of racism, but wealthy conservative parents elected school board members to quash support for anyone except white students. Again, Southlake stories went viral. First, the school board voted 3-2 to reprimand a fourth-grade teacher, named the school’s teacher of the year, for having the book This Book Is Anti-Racist in her classroom. Parents of one child who donated $1,000 to elect the school board members complained the book was against their “morals and faith.” In over 5,000 reviews, the book had received an average of 4.35 stars out of five.

The reprimand came from the demand that any classroom libraries had to “give deference to both sides” of historical topics. In a “training” of book content, a top district administrator mandated the new requirement for classroom libraries, even books about the Holocaust when German Nazis killed over 6 million people, primarily Jews, in concentration camps during the 1940s. A secret recording of the training also went viral.  

Despite the recording, the school district claimed that the media was wrong about these statements: Carroll ISD claimed that “our district has not and will not mandate books be removed, nor will we mandate that classroom libraries be unavailable.” Written materials from the district ordered teachers to have mandatory training about new rules and directions for getting rid of books that don’t meet the “deference” rule. Teachers are to discard books that present singular, dominant narratives “in such a way that it … may be considered offensive.” The purpose is to avoid any lessons that make students (presumably White) feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race. According to the school district reprimand, one parent can cause the elimination of instruction or teaching materials. One teacher asked:

“How am I supposed to know what 44 sets of parents find offensive? We’ve been told: ‘The parents are our clients. We have to do what they want.’ And this is what they want.”

For their libraries, teachers have used yellow caution tapes or black sheet of paper with a sign reading, “You can’t read any of the books on my shelves.” 

Among the books that teachers are afraid to keep in the classroom:

  • Separate Is Never Equal: a picture book by Duncan Tonatiuh about a Mexican American family’s fight to end segregation in California in the 1940s.
  • A Good Kind of Trouble: Lisa Moore Ramée book about a girl involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • The Hate U Give: ” Angie Thomas’ book depicted radicalized reactions to a policy shooting.
  • All books by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

Censorship attempts by White parents in other places also want to eliminate any non-White books:

  • Franklin (TN): Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington (Frances E. Ruffin), The Story of Ruby Bridges (Robert Cole) about the 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a Louisiana public school in 1960, and several others.
  • York County (PA): After the school district voted to censor books recommended by the district’s diversity committee, national protest including that from Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Berniece King caused the district to reverse their censorship.
  • Katy Independent School District (TX): award-winning graphic novels about the lives of young Black men by Jerry Craft.

Earlier this year the Carroll ISD had told teachers they could not use Scholastic News, a current events magazine for youth from one of the largest and most reputable publishers in the United States, after parents said its articles had a liberal bias. A teacher in the district described the driving forces behind determining “both sides” are fear, ignorance, and racism. The person said teachers are not “asked to have opposing views on colonization. We’re not being asked to have opposing views on Christopher Columbus Day or Thanksgiving.” Educators’ lives are at risk, according to the teacher, who reported threats against teachers who speak out “to destroy their lives, to come for their license, to go after their families.”

Southlake’s problems are not going away. During tonight’s school board meeting with over 50 speakers, a former student described the anti-Semitic bullying he experienced in the Carroll ISD that made him consider suicide. Teachers said they felt unsupported and under attack. A Jewish parent, descendent of Holocaust survivors, said his family is thinking about moving from Southlake. Some parents condemned the advice for “opposing” perspectives on the Holocaust but defended the district administrator who gave these orders.

Another Texas law goes into effect in December about social studies curriculum restrictions to the state’s “understanding of the fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government; the history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States; the structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels.” This curriculum can come only from the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, writings of the founding fathers of the United States, the history and importance of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 13th, 14th, and 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Missing are the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing voting by Blacks, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Requirements cut from the state standards include “the history of Native Americans,” “[founding] mothers and other founding persons,” and topics such as slaves by George Washington (Ona Judge) and Sally Hemmings (Thomas Jefferson). Frederick Douglass’s writings, the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcing indigenous Americans off their southeastern lands, and Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists defending the separation of church and state have disappeared as have “historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations” about the Chicano movement, women’s suffrage and equal rights, the civil rights movement, indigenous rights, and the U.S. labor movement. White supremacy, eugenics, the Ku Klux Klan, and the importance of the civil rights movement are gone.

If teachers voluntarily address controversial issues and current events, they must address all perspectives and not “choose sides.” Teaching about “courage” can use “George Washington crossing the Delaware, or William Barret Travis defending the Alamo,” according to a member of the state board of education. The bill specifically removes a requirement to teach about slavery and how it is morally wrong, women’s suffrage, equal rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stated:

“Parents want their students to learn how to think critically, not be indoctrinated by the ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.”

Schools in other states are also permissive about racism. In Rome (GA), Black students were singled out for punishment when a diverse group of students—Black, Latinx, and White—at Coosa High School protested the school’s failure to discipline White students using racial slurs against Black students and waving a Confederate flag at them. All students were warned against the protest where they only had flyers, but only Black students were suspended. A White student pointed out she escaped any punishment “because I’m white.” Public school students have a constitutional right to protest.

A Dallas Morning News editorial “blame[s] legislative meddling” for the Southlake chaos—and probably the racist laws in other Republican states which are described as protecting students from the non-existent CRT education.

“If any American community embodies the national frenzy about how we teach race in schools, it’s Southlake. The acrimony over Carroll ISD’s diversity plan to tackle racism reshaped the school board, drew unflattering headlines, and inspired a podcast by NBC News…

“What happened in Southlake this month is the unfortunate outcome of a new and misguided state law against critical race theory that passed earlier this year. While the law doesn’t define the term or even mention it, it was crafted by legislators in the context of a national panic about how our country confronts racism…

“There should be no moral confusion in our schools about the evils of the Holocaust, of slavery, of white supremacy… There have been more than enough incidents to make it clear why many students and families feel less than welcome in Southlake, so it should be equally clear why the community needs honest and civil discussions about a diversity and inclusion plan.

“The Texas Legislature has made it harder for Southlake to find a path toward reconciliation. Our lawmakers should be joining us in these difficult conversations instead of dividing us.”

Amen. The Southlake debacle is about far more than the Holocaust, but it’s a beginning to address the rampant pro-racism laws being passed in red states.

October 17, 2021

Manchin Determined to Destroy West Virginia

In the past, I have complained about how a Republican senator blocked confirmation of a nominee or an entire bill because of Senate rules. With a Democratic “majority”—meaning 50 Democrats plus a swing voter of Democratic VP Kamala Harris—a “Democrat” has decided to block any possibility of slowing down the climate warming.

Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) refused to consider any infrastructure program that includes clean electricity to replace the U.S. coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy, a provision costing only $15 billion a year. Manchin makes millions from fossil fuels, including the coal company he owns, other coal companies that pay him, and campaign donations. The legislation is now being rewritten without the clean electricity provision just to please one senator. The provision would have been the strongest climate change policy enacted in the nation and drastically reduce greenhouses gasses heating the planet, according to experts. Manchin falsely claimed he didn’t want to pay companies to do something they are already doing, but they aren’t.

In two weeks, President Joe Biden participates in a major UN climate change summit in Glasgow and will be forced to face this setback.  The U.S. is the biggest emitter of planet-warming pollution, and Biden promised to cut its emissions 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) made the countries of the world uncertain about any U.S. commitment in attacking global warming after he ridiculed climate change science and pushed policies for more drilling and use of fossil fuels.

Yet a scientific report released in August described the increasing catastrophes of severe drought, heat waves, water shortages, storms, and rising seas recently experienced. Knowing this, other Democrats said they will withdraw their votes if the infrastructure bill is rewritten in this fashion to satisfy Manchin. Manchin originally supported the clean electricity provision but has now changed his opinion. The infrastructure bill still includes $300 billion extending tax credits for utilities, commercial businesses and homeowners using or generating electricity from zero-carbon sources, $13.5 billion for electric car stations, and $9 billion to update the electric grid. That would cost under $45 billion a year, three times the eliminated provision.

Manchin took umbrage at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointing out how the proposed infrastructure bill, which Manchin blocks, would help Manchin’s constituents. Last Friday, Manchin called Sanders an “independent socialist” and wrote:

“This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state.”

West Virginia has a high number of people in poverty and desperately needs Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms. The proposed bill has a high popularity rating, including in Manchin’s state, and over two-thirds of the U.S. wants tax increases on wealthy people and big business.

The wealthy West Virginia senator, whose daughter is a wealthy pharmaceutical officer, has taken at least $1.5 million for his campaign from businesses and trade groups at the forefront of blocking Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure bill.  

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America donated $1,525,700 to Manchin for him to shave $2 trillion off his party’s legislation. The Chamber of Commerce, another Manchin donor, has members from ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and Facebook—all determined in the failure of Biden’s domestic policy initiatives, and other leadership boards of big corporations such as Shell Oil, Microsoft, and Honeywell donated $565,700 to Manchin. Twelve corporations from the Business Roundtable gave $245,500 to Manchin, and leading corporate members of the National Association of Manufacturers gave him $487,000.

In response to Manchin’s insistence on removing a key part of the infrastructure bill, House and Democrats are considering a tax on carbon dioxide pollution. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he’s been waiting for three years to present a carbon pricing bill. Unfortunately, industries would pass their higher costs to customers. The tax would be on coal mining companies, large natural gas processing plants and oil refiners, but oil refiners would not be charged for producing gasoline, protecting pump prices. Revenue would go for tax rebates or checks for poor and work-class people, especially those employed by fossil fuel industries.

Manchin has told colleagues that he will support only one of three family-related proposals: extended child tax credit, paid family leave, or funding for childcare. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that conservative Democrats want to “to either feed your kid, recover from your c-section, or have childcare so you can go to work — but not all three. All three makes you entitled and lazy.” Rep. Jamaal Boman (D-NY) wrote, “Responsible governing isn’t about pitting women, children, and families against each other.”

Dropping $2 trillion from the infrastructure bill, making it $150 billion a year for the next decade, would lose almost two million jobs than the $3.5 trillion bill would have, cutting them from every 435 congressional district in the 50 states. West Virginia alone would lose 900 manufacturing jobs, 400 construction jobs, and 3,800 healthcare and social assistance jobs while not being any better off with more jobs in fossil fuel industries. Arizona would lose 35,564 jobs if Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema, who represents the people in the state, wins her crusade to remove $2 trillion from the bill.  

The argument Manchin gives for not spending the $3.5 trillion is its high cost because he wants to support “essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare.” Yet the annual $350 billion that the bill costs covers “social programs” such as Medicare, childcare, etc. Manchin has always voted in favor of the military, including an additional $24 billion raise last year. In the last decade of Manchin’s votes, he has endorsed at least $9.1 trillion in 2012 dollars.

The highly entitled Manchin also argues against the infrastructure bill on grounds that he doesn’t want an “entitlement mentality.” Thirteen years ago, as West Virginia governor, he pushed for a huge Wall Street bailout funneling hundreds of billions of dollars from taxpayers to banks after they self-created financial crisis destroyed the global economy and brought over 15,000 foreclosures to West Virginia as well as $350 million in lost equity throughout the state. The same banks paid themselves massive government-subsidized bonuses and later bankrolled Manchin’s political campaigns. Manchin and then-Gov. Rick Perry of Texas wrote senators demanding Congress deliver the cash to bank executives:

“There is a time for partisanship and there is a time for getting things done. No one likes the hand they’ve been dealt, and now is not the time to assign blame. Americans across the country and in every demographic are feeling the pinch. If Congress does not act soon, the situation will grow appreciably worse. It’s time for leadership. Congress needs to act now.”

Newspapers wrote that the letter helped create momentum for the Senate to immediately pass the measure. A few years after Manchin helped effect the bailout, his wife was named to the board of a mortgage bank which had received $10 billion from his promoted bailout. Manchin also demanded the preservation of special tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry which returned the favor of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. While Manchin was governor, the state’s Public Service Commission bailed out the power plant buying waste coal from Manchin’s family coal brokerage, Enersystems. Although the company is currently in a blind trust, he and his wife each hold between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems that brought $1.1 million last year.

While Manchin scuttles the climate portion of the infrastructure bill, West Virginia is going underwater—literally. Homes in his hometown of Farmington (WV), known for the 1968 Mine Disaster, are being inundated by storms swelling Buffalo Creek that also overwhelms the town’s sewage treatment systems. More frequent and intense rainfall comes from warmer air allowing it to hold more moisture. No state in the lower 48 states is more exposed to flood damage than West Virginia. Jim Hall, married to Manchin’s cousin, told about when rescue workers used a rope to get him and his wife from their house in 2017. This flood and others like it are omitted from FEMA’s flood maps because they come from creeks and streams. [Right: This summer’s flooding in Tunnelton, 44 miles from Farmington.]

First Street Foundation estimated the upcoming risks in West Virginia:

  • 61 percent of the power stations, the highest nationwide and over twice the average.
  • 46 percent of the roads being inundated.
  • 57 percent of fire stations, the highest number in the U.S.
  • 50 percent of police stations.
  • 38 percent of schools.
  • 37 percent of commercial properties.

Creeks and rivers are less able to hold large volumes of water because surface mining for coal removed soil and vegetation and stream corridors have filled with sediment and debris. Near Farmington, Morgantown, home of Manchin’s alma mater West Virginia University, received two inches of rain in less than an hour in June. Floods turning the main street, Patteson Drive, into a river reversed the sewers and pushed waste into basements. The same thing happened in July, only with over three inches an hour. The stories of disaster continued, especially after Hurricane Ida.

Manchin’s fear of entitlement for the afflicted won’t save them from the cataclysm. Instead, he’s determined to contribute to the destruction.   

October 16, 2021

Oddities of the Past Week – October 16

Scott Pio, a DDT pick for the Virginia state legislature, has—“just a thought, not a statement”—to lower the sea level: take “all the boats out of the water” and tweeted an illustration from marinetraffic.com of ships in the Pacific Ocean. Pio formerly worked with a task force to get support for DDT when he golfs in Virginia. An engineer explained that the impact of each boat on the sea level is “about six microns, which is slightly more than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.” The oceans rise about .13 inch each year from global warming, and removing all ships from the ocean would cover a one-day gain. Surging sea levels come from human-caused climate warming—additional water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and seawater expansion from warming.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, is known for her quick answers to reporters who try to throw her off-guard, but one of her best is the answer to a question concerning President Joe Biden’s decision to release records connected to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The reporter was checking for any concern that a future president would release records to weaponize Biden. White House Counsel Dana Remus justified the “unique and extraordinary circumstances” presented by the worst attack on America’s legislature since Major General Robert Ross led the British Army’s burning of Washington in 1814. 

Reporter: Has there been any concern about what might happen one day when the shoe is on the other foot?

Psaki: I can assure you that this President has no intention to lead an insurrection on this nation’s Capitol.

White House Counsel Dana Remus attributed the release of papers to the “unique and extraordinary circumstances” presented by the worst attack on the U.S. legislature since Major General Robert Ross led the British Army’s burning of Washington in 1814. She wrote that Biden had “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States” because the committee “is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities.”

Michael Angelo Riley, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police force, has been indicted for obstruction of justice after repeatedly warning a person on Facebook to take down the photos and accounts of being in the Capitol on January 6. One message read:

“[I’]m a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building they are correctly investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out!”

Once he got caught, he took down his warnings, but they had already been copied. He knew the “friend,” referred to as “Person 1,” only through their FB exchanges. The man is Jacob Hiles, a Virginia fishing charter boat operator who already pled guilty to “illegally parading in the Capitol” although he wrote he didn’t think he did anything wrong. Riley finally wrote him that a video showed him that Hiles’ excuse getting “pushed in the [Capitol] with no other choice now seems not only false but a big lie. I feel like a moron believing you.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud thought he was doing the state a favor when he notified it that the website from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had published over 100,000 teacher, counselor, and administrator Social Security numbers. All anyone had to do was press the link for “View Sources.” The paper notified the state government, and the glitch was fixed. Yet Missouri Gov. Mike Parson threated to prosecute Renaud for “hacking” the website to “steal personal information and harm Missourians.” Parson referred the “case” to a prosecutor and asked the state highway patrol to investigate.

Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), who teaches a class in fundraising at Arizona State University, is practicing on a trip to London and Paris. Asking for foreign donations there is legal as long as only U.S. citizens make contributions. Sinema, who said she wanted to be a maverick like former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is a favorite of Republicans because she blocks funding for climate change and family assistance in the Democratic infrastructure bill. Against several hypothetical opponents in a 2024 primary Democratic contest, Sinema would get no more than 25 percent of the votes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has gone off on a rant about 40,000 Brazilians “headed for Connecticut wearing designer clothes and Gucci bags.” In August, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported San Diego agents encountered about 7,300 Brazilian nationals—nothing about designer clothes, Gucci bags, and an extra 32,700 Brazilians. Last year, he was proudly photographed with a leader of the white supremacist Proud Boys at a restaurant, and a year earlier he was pictured with far right wing politician Geert Wilders, “a controversial Dutch parliamentary leader with anti-Islam and anti-immigrant views.”

Bill Pryor, a George H.W. Bush-appointed judge on the 11th Circuit Court serving Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, has a new clerk with a racist past. In late 2017, Crystal Clanton, conservative Turning Point USA national field director, sent a text to her co-workers:

“I hate Black people. Like fuck them all.… I hate blacks. End of story.”

No one at the 11th Circuit, including Pryor, is answering requests for comment. Federal clerks write opinions making law and affecting litigants as well as move on prestigious law careers, including the federal bench.

DDT supporters are teaching children many expletives that teachers and parents may not appreciate. Protesters gathering outside politicians’ homes yell extreme profanity so loudly and constantly that children can clearly understand the words. Last Friday, protesters collected close enough to a Connecticut child development center where President Joe Biden went to speak with children that the objectionable language was clearly understood by the little ones. They repeatedly chanted “F**k Biden” and waved flags with the same message for older children who could read. Mainstream media ignored the hecklers’ comments although the local Fox station called protesters a “loud crowd.”

On October 3, 2021, a woman woke up in Golden, BC (Canada) after an explosive bang and debris scattered over her while she was in bed. She leaped up and turned on a light. A 2.8-pound rock about the side of a fist was between the pillows next to where her head had been. A nearby construction company reported “a bright light in the sky that had exploded and caused some booms.” On the same night, other Canadians heard two loud booms and saw a fireball streaking across the sky. Some of them filmed the phenomenon. The conclusion was the rock had come from space as do thousands of space rocks striking the Earth as meteorites. 

 

 

Conservative lies about a “war on Christmas” have taken a new stance this year. Always searching for mythical complaints against Democrats, Republicans are attacking Biden for holiday gifts not arriving on time because the supply chain delays. They say that Christmas will be ruined without all those things people want to buy. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ex-wrestling coach who refused to report sexual abuse against his athletes, tweeted that presents were always on time during DDT’s term. Princeton historian Kevin Kruse added to Jordan’s tweet with a copy of the December 24, 2020, headline, “More than one million packages will not reach their destinations this Christmas.” It’s not even Halloween yet, but the Fox network has mentioned Christmas at least 106 times in one day, not including reruns.

The Wisconsin ballot count may be an even bigger farce than the one in Arizona. The former Supreme Court justice, Michael Gableman, has already proved his own claim that he doesn’t have “any understanding of how elections work,” but the mistakes build. He sent a subpoena to an official who doesn’t oversee elections and misspelled a Latin phrase demanding records and testimony. Then he backed off his subpoenas before telling a radio host that the officials would still be required to testify. In Michigan, DDT is pushing rallies to advocate for ballot counts, and Republicans have replaced election officials believing in the “stolen” election lie for 8 of the 11 largest counties.

DDT made news this last week when he issued this statement:

“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”

The obvious reason is undermining faith in democracy and elections, but DDT runs the risk of his followers doing what he says—as they always have. Maybe gerrymandering, new anti-voting laws, and DDT’s followers running local elections might help the Republicans, but those who want to get voted are going into a panic. So are his followers who split about whether they will vote next year. Meanwhile, DDT is now sticking to endorsing candidates; his advisers may have gotten to him. It will be a long 14 months until the 2022 elections.

October 14, 2021

Supply Chain Problems: Shop Now

Over a year ago, people still struggled to buy toilet paper and paper towels with store restrictions in purchases for these items lasting well into fall 2020. A year later, the specter of shortages again rises in the United States. The news started with warnings about winter holiday items, including toys, not arriving in the U.S. and expanded to the same simple food products missing—flour, yeast, cocoa, etc.—not being available soon. Diapers are already in short supply, and the aluminum shortage could make pharmaceutical packaging a problem.

Shipping blockages from foreign harbors to U.S. rail yards and warehouses exist. The average anchorage time at the Port of Los Angeles is now over 11 days. Shipping from China to the U.S. which used to take four to six weeks now requires 12 to 16 weeks. Shortages also come from goods in the wrong places with a shortage of shipping containers coming from the shortage of truck drivers.

Savings from forced inactivity during the pandemic plus the distribution of money from federal stimulus checks vastly increased the demand for goods such as exercise bikes, patio furniture, etc. The damaged supply chain kept warm weather items from arriving in time for the season, and winter items are not yet available. 

People may be recovering from the pandemic in wealthier countries where 98 percent of vaccinated people live, but under one-third of the people in the world have the same advantage. In manufacturing areas as Vietnam, Malaysia, India, and Mexico, low vaccination levels cause production delays and reduced capacity. Vietnam, a key region for apparel and footwear, comes in second only to China, and factories are shuttered from outbreaks and lockdowns for a long period of time. Under 12 percent of its population in Vietnam is fully vaccinated.

At the worst of the pandemic, empty containers were stranded at sea or stacked up without being returned full. Their unavailability made rates spike.  The same thing is happening again: 56 ships are backed up at Los Angeles at any time, and some of them don’t even wait to be refilled before heading back out. About 80 percent of traded goods arrive in shipping containers. Last year, one 40-foot steel container cost $1,920 to transport. This year the cost increased to over $14,000. 

Another reason for price increase was last year’s energy grid failure in Texas, one of the largest producers of plastics in the U.S. After the factories shut down, the country never caught up from the shortage of packaging products, and the cost of polyethylene for milk jugs and vinegar bottles skyrocketed as did the PVC for tamper-resistant lids and breath mint packs and low-density polyethylene for six-pack soda can rings and grocery stores’ produce bags.

The shortage of wooden pallets from the mills’ shutting down last spring still affect prices, and food companies suffer higher costs in boxing, canning, and packaging products from the high prices of corrugated cardboard.

Prices for poulty and meat, especially beef and pork, have topped the inflation at a rise of 15.7 percent since 2019. Some of the increase may be from severe heat and drought in the U.S. during the past few months killing hay and making water prohibitively expensive. Many ranchers sold their animals or slaughtered early, predicting fewer animals next year. Pork producers struggled with a labor shortage and a workforce suffering from COVID. A hog processor in Missouri, Triumph Foods, had to increase its wages by $2.75 an hour to find employees. A possibility of higher meat prices may be 80 percent of cattle slaughter monopolized by only four companies and 70 percent of the U.S. hog market by four companies. Tyson poultry faced a price-fixing case.

Produce faces less inflation although Washington’s sweet onions were decimated from heat waves, and California tomatoes and melons expired in heat and drought. In the state’s Central Valley, cotton, wheat, and alfalfa may disappear because farmers diverted water to irrigate tree nuts. Next year will probably have a 20-percent cost increase in japonica (sushi) rice, and wine from Napa and Sonoma valleys will be more expensive because of lessened grape crops. People eating at home during the pandemic bought more fruits and vegetables, leaving less for frozen products, purées, and juices. Inflation in 2022 should go down to 1.5 and 2.5 percent, compared to 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2021.

Shortages resulted in growing inflation—a leap of 5.4 percent Consumer Price Index (CPI) in September. [Note that the actually 0.4 percent during the month increased the possibility of 5.4 percent inflation increase for 2021 over 2020.] Much of this surge came from car costs after the lack of computer chips delaying production caused the leap in prices.

This week, President Joe Biden openly tackled the ongoing supply chain problems with an announcement with solutions. To increase capacity at major California ports and large goods carriers, the Port of Los Angeles agrees to change to 24/7 operations as the Port of Long Beach began a few weeks ago. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will work extra shifts. These two ports handle 40 percent of container traffic entering the U.S. Walmart, FedEx, and UPS, three of the biggest goods carriers, may move to the 24/7 operations.

Soon after his inauguration, Biden signed an executive order to review products in short supply such as semiconductors and pharmaceutical ingredients. A new task force created during the summer addressed the most urgent shortages and assigned President Obama’s transportation official, John Porcari, as “ports envoy” to see that goods flow. He helped broker the deal with the union and the ports.  

A June 22, 2021 photo of backlogged cargo containers stacked at Yantian port in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province. 

One suggestion to help the supply chain crisis is lifting  tariffs on $350 billion of Chinese-made goods that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created. U.S. importers paid over $106 billion to cover that cost thus far as they now face huge shipping costs. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the U.S. could begin a targeted tariff exclusion process while leaving the majority of tariffs in place. 

DDT placed tariffs on the majority of goods shipped from China to the U.S. with an average rate of 19 percent, over six times higher than before the beginning of the trade war in 2018. All the costs go to the purchasers. DDT used tariffs to hurt China’s economy and pressure the country into agreeing to a new trade deal.

Some product shortages may lessen if people start spending money on entertainment and travel as COVID subsides, and Asian factories may open when severe weather no longer causes energy shortages. Some companies either use airlines instead of ships, but they may leave toys in China until costs come down. Walmart, Target, Costco, and Home Depot are among retailers paying for their own chartered ships, an advantage that small retailers lack. This tactic will increase the prices of goods but help the bottlenecks if cargo goes to less congested docks such as Portland (OR), Oakland (CA), and East Coast destinations. 

The shortage of truck drivers is one of the weakest links to the supply chain, and Biden may relax regulations for them. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated a review for allowable hours for drivers to get more of them on the road, but safety issues must be considered. He also communicated with local Departments of Motor Vehicles to expedite processing of commercial driver’s licenses.

Conservative media outlets love to blame Biden for the supply chain problems, but a large portion of the problem lies with companies who moved all their business offshore to find cheaper costs. The U.S. share of world manufacturing shrank from 15 percent to 10 percent between 2004 and 2017 with a doubled reliance on Chinese inputs, costing 3.7 million jobs since 2000. DDT couldn’t get basic medical equipment such as masks for the first few months of the pandemic. This year a drought in Taiwan caused a shortage of semiconductors, blocking auto productions. Almost all supply chain executives believe their supply chains are too vulnerable, and up to 70 percent of firms surveyed are “likely” or “extremely likely” to re-shore in the future. Some of these have begun; i.e., Black & Decker, Whirlpool, GE, Apple, Caterpillar, Goodyear, GM, and Polaris. The current disaster could be more effective in returning manufacturing to the U.S. than DDT’s tariffs.

 

October 11, 2021

Celebrations on October 11, 2021

For the first time in U.S. history, a president turned from the tired trope of Columbus discovering America and officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Last Friday, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation “to honor Native Americans, their resilience and their contributions to American society throughout history, even as they faced assimilation, discrimination and genocide spanning generations,” according to NPR’s Emma Bowman. Mandy Van Heuvelen, the cultural interpreter coordinator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from South Dakota, said commemoration of the day can be through reflection, recognition, celebration, and education.

In his proclamation for Columbus Day, Biden stated:

“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past—that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them.” 

The first proposal for an Indigenous People’s Day occurred at a 1977 UN conference to address discrimination against Natives, and in 1989 South Dakota was the first state to replace the traditional Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. To date, another 13 states and over 100 cities celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day, a federal holiday. Other states such as California, Maine, Ohio and Maine have proposed legislation to legally replace the holiday, and some states, including California, Tennessee, and Washington state, celebrate Native American Day in September or November.

The celebration of Christopher Columbus, rapist, enslaver, and murderer who landed in the Bahamas and abused its natives, began in 1792 but was formally politicized in 1892 when President Benjamin Harrison wanted support from Italian Americans. The year before, rioters in New Orleans lynched 11 Italian immigrants in anti-immigrant discrimination after the murder of a police chief. Italy recalled its ambassador in Washington and broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. After nine months, Harrison called the murders “a most deplorable and discreditable incident”; five months later he paid a $25,000 indemnity, now worth $760,000, to survivors of three victims who were citizens of Italy. Harrison encouraged Congress to celebrate Columbus in a one-time holiday on October 21 in 1892.

In 1934, Congress, lobbied by the Knights of Columbus, authorized President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare October 12 officially recognizing Columbus Day. Thirty Native Americans in San Francisco protested, and the leader, wearing a Chippewa tribe ceremonial headdress, called Columbus Day a day of mourning for Indians until “we are given the same opportunity to achieve the same social, economic and educational levels as the rest of those who call themselves Americans.” President Lyndon Johnson signed off on Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1968 to be effective in 1971.

Italian Celia Viggo Wexler explained why Christopher Columbus is not a good role model for herself and all other Italians:

“[Looking for a fast route to China, Columbus] landed in the Bahamas and encountered the Taino people. When he met them, he wrote in his journal that these peaceful Indigenous people had the makings of ‘good servants’ and put them to work mining gold–and facing amputation or death if they came up short. (Columbus was personally entitled to 10 percent of the booty; the rest went to Spain.) Later, he would ship thousands of Taino back to Spain to be sold into slavery, while the diseases the explorers brought decimated the tribe…

“As governor of the West Indies, he imposed such brutal punishments on anyone who got in his way—including the Spanish colonists who tried to defy or belittle him—he was sacked by his royal backers and returned to Spain…

“If I were to nominate a new role model for Italians, it would be Mother Frances Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who in 1946 became the first U.S. citizen to be named a saint. Cabrini, like many immigrants, faced many obstacles and a lack of resources when she arrived, but persevered to help immigrants across the country. It was her work in the American West that prompted Colorado to designate the first Monday in October as Cabrini Day, replacing the state observance of the Columbus Day holiday…

“Columbus never found the route to China and India he was seeking. We shouldn’t make our own wrong turn by continuing to honor his memory.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), removed from all House committees after her strong advocacy of QAnon conspiracy theories, celebrated Columbus Day with this tweet: “Happy Colombus Day!” Happy Grene Day to her.

The homophobic lawmaker failed to wish people “Happy Coming Out Day.” October 11 is also the day encouraging LGBTQ people to come out to friends and family. Biden did remember and released a statement:

“Today and every day, I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community to know that you are loved and accepted just the way you are – regardless of whether or not you’ve come out.” 

In his statement, Biden described his efforts to advance LGBTQ rights and areas still needing work, with promises that he will continue his attempt to make life equal for LGBTQ people. The full statement

In 1988, LGBTQ activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary founded the day on the anniversary of the second “National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights” in 1987. About one-half million people attend the march in 1987 to demand equality and fairness for people in LGBTQIA+ communities and groups. Organizers of the first march in 1979 identified the Five Demands:

  • Pass a comprehensive lesbian/gay rights bill in Congress.
  • Issue a presidential executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Federal Government, the military, and federally-contracted private employment.
  • Repeal all anti-lesbian/gay laws.
  • End discrimination in lesbian mother and gay father custody cases.
  • Protect gay and lesbian youth from any laws which are used to discriminate against, oppose and/or harass them in their homes, schools, jobs, and social environments.

Following marches occurred in 1993, 2000, and 2009. This year, the 33rd  annual Coming Out Day celebrates the theme “Born to Shine.” Expressing an LGBTQ+ identity takes courage.Thanks to people brave enough to come out, more and more LGBTQ people have some rights in many countries around the world.

In another form of bravery, Republicans or former Republicans have op-eds in the New York Times and the Washington Post trying to save democracy in the United States by encouraging GOP members to vote Democratic until the current authoritarian movement has lost its shine. Miles Taylor, a member of the Department of Homeland Security during the administration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), used the name Anonymous when he wrote a critical column about DDT in 2018. Christine Whitman, New Jersey governor from 1994 to 2001, headed George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency. They wrote that “rational Republicans” are losing the GOP’s “civil war” and concluded that Republicans must join Democrats to block Trumpism through electing moderate and “honorable” Democrats to regain the Congress. Unlike the current GOP leadership, they ask Republicans to put country over party and specified several Democrats they support.

Max Boot, a conservative Russian-American specialist in foreign affairs, wrote:

“I’m no Democrat—but I’m voting exclusively for Democrats to save our democracy. I’m a single-issue voter. My issue is the fate of democracy in the United States. Simply put, I have no faith that we will remain a democracy if Republicans win power. Thus, although I’m not a Democrat, I will continue to vote exclusively for Democrats—as I have done in every election since 2016—until the GOP ceases to pose an existential threat to our freedom.”

Boot described the “dueling” reports from the Senate Judiciary Committee about DDT’s attempts to overturn the election by pushing former acting AG Jeffrey Rosen to back the claim of a “stolen” election. According to Boot, the Democrats’ report was evidence-based; the Republicans, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), maintained DDT didn’t abuse his office because he didn’t really replace Rosen. Grassley turned from condemning DDT in January to groveling for his endorsement last week, and DDT didn’t replace Rosen because the DOJ leadership threated to resign in mass protest.

As in DDT’s first campaign, the mainstream media is largely ignoring the danger DDT presents to the nation. Such an attitude could get him elected in 2024, and Republicans loyal to the United States want to block him. Maria Ressa, winner of a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize described the problem with journalism in the U.S. as it fails to protect democracy:  

“[Disinformation] is how you transform a democracy. This is death by a thousand cuts. …The goal of influence operations or information operations is to seed it, repeat it, incite hate and…change the way real people think, and that impacts the real world. This is happening all around the world. That’s what the research has shown us, that’s what the data shows us.” 

Happy Coming Out Day and Indigenous People’s Day! And vote Democratic.

October 10, 2021

Hopeful Signs from Courts, Biden’s Administration

Disinformation dissemination lost twice last week when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones lost two defamation lawsuits from parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. After repeatedly telling his Infowars audience the event was a “hoax” by “crisis actors,” Jones refused to provide a judge’s demand for information. Jones’ claims led to harassment, stalking, and death threats against the victims’ families. In their attacks on reality, conspiracy theories lead to violence such as that at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Logic and proof refuting these theories only lead to their spread and faith in false information. The internet is the prime source for false information although online misinformation about election fraud declined 73 percent after Twitter banned DDT. Defamation suits are one way to discourage the creation and amplification of conspiracy theories.

A federal judge ruled that Brian Newby, then-executive director of the independent federal agency Election Assistance Commission, violated federal law in 2016 by changing the national voter registration form to require documentary proof of citizenship in Alabama, Georgia, and Alabama. A federal appeals court earlier blocked the requirement enforcement. Kansas law requiring citizenship proof was also found unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to intervene. Other courts had maintained that the requirement, while not stopping fraud, denied voting rights to thousands of Kansas citizens. The law’s supporter, Chris Kobach, is running for Kansas attorney general in 2022. Because of the lawsuit and other unethical reasons, Newby was removed from his position in Fall 2019 and moved on to become North Dakota’s election director.

A federal judge blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order stopping the transport of migrants through the state and authorizing state troopers to pull over vehicles suspected of doing so until judicial decision. DOJ AG Merrick Garland called the order “dangerous and unlawful.”

A federal judge rejected permits for an oil project planned for Alaska’s North Slope because of DDT’s faulty environmental impact, including its harm on polar bears. Alaska Natives had sued to stop the ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, and the judge ruled the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to show how the operation would not harm polar bears, a threatened species, and their critical habitat. The Bureau of Land Management also used a model for estimating gas emissions already rejected in another case.

In an amended lawsuit, New York AG Letitia James declared the NRA must be dissolved because it failed to clean up financial and managerial misconduct, despite its claim last year to do so. Descriptions of some of the NRA’s corruption.

Bayer has lost its third appeal against its herbicide Roundup verdicts. In 2019, a jury awarded a couple $2 billion who claimed it made them sick, the eighth-largest product-defect award in U.S. history, but the trial judge dropped the amount to $86.7 million. Bayer had set aside another $4.5 billion for the thousands of Roundup lawsuits for a total of over $16 billion. A fourth Roundup trial began this month.

The U.S. has returned to taking action against companies responsible for killing wild birds if it can be prevented, in reversal of DDT’s permission for the killing from chemical poisonings, oil spills, etc. which primarily benefited the oil and gas industry. The rule returns penalties for causing bird deaths through drilling, construction, and other activities as decreed in the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  It also restores protections which prohibit the “take” of migratory bird species—hunting, killing, capturing, selling, or otherwise hurting them. The new rule was announced on the same day as the declaration that 23 more species, including the Ivory-billed woodpecker, became extinct in the wild.

The EPA is planning to address “inadequate” regulations on PFAS, toxic chemicals, that disproportionately affected “vulnerable groups.” PFAS, linked to kidney and testicular cancer, is found in nonstick cookware, food packaging, firefighting foam and drinking water. They are called “forever chemicals” because they accumulate in the human body and the environment and persist for long periods of time. A 2015 study found PFAS in 97 percent of people in the U.S.

Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide causing neurological damage, will be banned for fruits and vegetables after DDT permitted it. When ingested or inhaled, the chemical can result in headaches or blurred vision; exposure during pregnancy can lead to memory loss and other cognitive issues in children. Several states, Canada, and the European Union are phasing out the insecticide use on farms. It can still be used on growing cotton and treating golf courses until another review by the EPA.

In August, President Joe Biden increased monthly SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) by 27 percent on average, compared to pre-COVID levels after DDT’s insistence to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serving 41.8 million people. Over two-thirds of them live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Before the pandemic, SNAP averaged under $1.40 per meal; currently 38.6 million adult workers, including 11.2 million parents, make under a living wage.

Biden has signed a law, Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act (PAWS), for a five-year pilot program connecting veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder with service dogs. Up to 30 percent of veterans serving in conflicts have PTSD, and an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day. Calls to the veterans’ crisis line increased by over 15 percent last year, and PTSD is underreported. Veterans may adopt the dogs after training them to protect veterans from overwhelming crowds or wake them from nightmares.

The DOJ has declared Missouri’s state law nullifying federal firearms law is unconstitutional and blocks law enforcement official efforts’ working with state and local police. The state law tries to prevent the DOJ trafficking task force tracing origins of guns to commit crimes. In August, the DOJ filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit in Cole County (MO) along with a statement from Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Frederic Winston who said the new law “has already had a significant impact on ATF’s partnerships with state and local law enforcement offices.” Twelve of 53 state and local officers withdrew from ATF task forces since the law’s enactment.

The secret Pentagon pilot program created three minutes before Biden’s inauguration,  giving management of a large portion of the Internet to a Florida company, has ended with the Defense Department taking back 175 million IP addresses. DDT’s action gave Global Resource Systems almost six percent of IPv4 with unused IP addresses worth billions of dollars. The company was created only four months earlier and had no physical address. The program remains a mystery, but traffic through the Internet addresses lead to the same place as they did with the private company, a computer router in Ashburn (VA). Global Resource Systems does not seem to have an Internet presence at this time.

Furious parents at school board meetings have gotten so out of control that AG Merrick Garland has requested federal law enforcement authorities federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district in the next 30 days to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats” against school administrators, board members, educators, and staff. The purpose is to deal with what he called a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence.” Last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) asked Biden for federal help in dealing with threats mainly coming from anti-maskers and parents who falsely believe their kids are being taught critical race theory. The NSBA suggested school board members faced actions “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.”

In Tennessee, protesters surrounded a doctor testifying for mask-wearing and shouted “child abuser” at him as well as “We know who you are” and “You’ll never be allowed in public again.” San Diego County anti-mask protesters tried to swear themselves in as new unelected school board members, and North Carolina parents proclaimed that they had “overthrown” the school board. Faces covered, Proud boys appeared twice at Nashua (NH) school-board members. Other Proud Boys forced a lockdown of Vancouver (WA) schools. The school-board chair was forced to stop a Loudoun County (VA) meeting for the police to clear the room.

Conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation, are hoping the violent protests will lead to more parental rights and liberties. Yet the protesters refuse to civilly debate ideas; instead they ridicule and threaten anyone who disagrees with them. In Murfreesboro (TN), audience members laughed at a high school junior who talked about his grandmother dying of COVID. GOP lawmakers who support the threats of violence to put DDT back into the White House, such as Rep. Josh Hawley (R-MO), complain about Biden “deploying the FBI” to deny the rights of parents. Florida’s Gov Ron DeSantis, who prevents schools from mandating masks by taking salaries from school officials, accused Garland of intimidation.

Parents also physically attack teachers and principals for following mask-wearing and quarantine mandates as well as threaten them with a “citizen’s arrest.”

Mainstream Republicans in Idaho are so desperate to elect a hardline conservative as governor in the next election instead of the radical far-right woman running for the job that they are asking for help from Democrats and unaffiliated voters. To save the state’s economy, they want everyone, no matter what party, to register as Republican for the May primary and put in conservative for governor.  

 

October 9, 2021

Reversing DDT’s Policies

Today in Iowa, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) ranted about his lost election, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who condemned DDT less than a year ago, stood beside him, hoping to be re-elected next year at the age of 89. Meanwhile, the U.S. is quashing DDT’s push to destroy protections for U.S. residents.

Twenty state attorneys general have filed a joint complaint against DDT’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for his new crippling rules to delay mail delivery including elimination of working hours, slower first-class mail delivery, and removal of equipment, delaying delivery of prescriptions, bills, Social Security checks, rent payments, etc. DeJoy’s 10-year plan to use trucks for hauling mail instead of airplanes would be accompanied by changing post office locations and increase postal rates. Thirty percent of standard mail delivery would drop from a 3-day maximum to five days, increase the cost of every piece of mail an addition three percent to nine percent, and not reduce the USPS budget deficit. AGs maintain the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), providing independent oversight of the USPS, permitted the new harmful plans to go into effect without appropriate review. The independent postal services is the only federal agency required to be self-sustaining.

DeJoy is making money off a $120 million contract between XPO Logistics, which he led, and USPS. Former White House chief ethics lawyer testified to Congress that DeJoy probably violated federal conflict of interest rules “unless he has recused from so many matters at the USPS that he is not fully functioning as Postmaster General.” DeJoy also bought stocks in Amazon at a lower price with options, another conflict of interest because of the company’s shipping arrangement for the USPS. The FBI is also investigating DeJoy for potentially pressuring his former employees at XPO Logistics to donate to GOP candidates before using his company funds to reimburse them.

Wisconsin is heading into a fake “audit” of the 2020 presidential election ballots with no evidence of any fraud. No Cyber Ninjas this time—instead GOP legislators picked former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a “Stop the Steal” activist, to oversee the probe. Gableman went not only to Arizona to look at the event but also to South Dakota to attend the “symposium” run by conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, My Pillow’s CEO. At the same time Gableman is subpoenaing mayors and elections for readily available information, he announced he has no “understanding” of how elections should run. The subpoenas are for “all documents contained in your files and/or in your custody, possession,” millions of pages from the state and its five biggest cities. Wisconsin taxpayers are $680,000 for ignorance and failure for Gableman’s “audit.”

Lindell also caused the audit of three Idaho counties which he claimed had fraudulent votes. Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck is billing Lindell for the $6,500 cost. Lindell accused all 44 Idaho counties of “electronic manipulation,” but at least seven counties don’t use this method. He also declared votes in every county in Idaho, which supported DDT by 31 percent, and every county in the nation was off by 8.4. The audit found a 0.1 percent of margin of error in all three counties. Alabama dismissed a Lindell’s claim that the state had 100,000 votes switched from DDT to President Joe Biden.

The Education Department will relax rules retroactively for its Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan, allowing student loans for 22,000 people to be automatically erased. Another 27,000 borrowers could have debts erased if they prove they worked in public service when making payments previously declared ineligible. In the past, loan payments were disqualified for either being received late or slightly different from the required amount, even by a few cents. Different payment plans will also count toward forgiveness because of misleading information from the federal government and loan companies. Over 550,000 borrowers may now fast-forward their path to loan forgiveness.

After a Senate hearing, the Department of Justice is reviewing two former FBI agents accused of mishandling the sexual abuse investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar against at least 330 girls and women. Four famous female gymnasts testified to the FBI’s lack of accountability and inaction. It is highly unusual for the DOJ to consider reopening a case without charges, but the department’s Inspector General found major missteps by the FBI in 2015 which permitted Nassar to victimize scores more patients before state authorities arrested him the next year. According to the report, Supervisory Special Agent Michael Langement, fired a month ago, lied to the inspector officer’s officer in interviews during 2020 and 2021. W. Jay Abbott, the head of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, also talked to Stephen Penny, the president of the USA Gymnastics, about getting a job with the Olympic Committee during the Nassar allegations in late 2015. Later Abbott lied to the inspector general about seeking the job, and Penny resigned from his job and was charged with evidence-tampering regarding sex abuse. The FBI also failed to alert state authorities about Nassar’s possible sex crimes against children. Nassar, 58, was sentence to 40 to 175 years in prison.  

DDT kept trying to drop salaries for federal employees, but Biden plans to raise wages an average of 2.7 percent on January 1 and signed an executive order directing federal contractors to pay employees a minimum wage of $15 by March 30, 2022.

Changes by the Federal Emergency Management Agent (FEMA) will ease the method for verifying ownership for disaster relief applicants who lack certain legal documents for inherited property. The former system discriminated against Blacks in the Deep South who need help to rebuild after catastrophic storms such as Hurricane Ida. Many Blacks informally inherited property without written wills, a process known as heirs’ property, previously denied under FEMA rules. FEMA will now send inspectors to people without the documentation for property ownership. In majority-Black counties, FEMA’s denial rate regarding “title issues” is twice the national average. Other people suffering from FEMA’s former rules include Native Americans, people in Appalachia, and those in communities near the U.S.-Mexico border.

By the end of the year, the Commerce Department will shut down its 15-year-old security unit illegally making criminal investigations and collecting information on hundreds of its employees and other citizens. With no oversight, the 13-person Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) opened cases against people who simply wrote innocuous letters to the department’s top official. Because almost no case was closed, people in almost 2,000 cases continued to be classified as still under scrutiny. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called the ITMS a “rogue, unaccountable police force” that “opened frivolous investigations on a variety of employees without evidence suggesting wrongdoing.” The unit covertly searched offices at night, ran broad key word searches on emails, and examined social media accounts for critical comments about the census.

A federal judge tossed DDT’s rule scaling back protections for streams, marshes, and wetlands, saying that it could lead to “serious environmental harm.” The ruling from the District of Arizona applies nationwide and protects drinking water for millions of people and thousands of wildlife species depending on U.S. wetland acreage. Since a 1972 law prohibited the pollution of “waters of the United States” without a permit, courts and agencies have debated which waterways. Agencies will now return to water protections of the 1980s, less restrictive than those of President Obama but far more expansive than DDT’s guidelines. The judge’s ruling requires a permit for strip-mining for titanium in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp.  

Four years ago DDT reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase in half, the biggest reversal of U.S. land monument protections in history. Biden restored Bears Ears to 1.36 million acres and Grand Staircase to 1.87 million acres, both areas having cultural and religious importance for Native American tribes. A lawsuit by environmental and tribal leaders against DDT has been on hold since Biden issued an executive order in January to examine the matter. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, threatens to sue Biden for his action.

Biden has also announced his plan to restore climate change protections to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and return the requirement for federal agencies to “evaluate all the relevant environmental impacts of the decisions they are making” for projects such as highways, mines, gas pipelines and water infrastructure. DDT’s removal of these mandates caused confusion and litigation.

In another reversed DDT rule, Biden will no longer prevent clinics receiving Title X family planning aid from advising people about terminating their pregnancies starting November 8. Under DDT’s rule preventing information about abortions, Title X grants served 2.4 fewer patients. The Hyde Amendment blocks federal money from directly paying for abortions, but DDT stopped clinics from sending patients where they can receive abortions. Biden also lifted the “Mexico City Policy” preventing worldwide nonprofit organizations from receiving any U.S. global family aid if they perform or promote abortions. DDT had expanded the ban to all U.S. international aid.

The Bureau of Land Management is returning to Washington, D.C. DDT’s decision to move the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction (CO), causing almost 90 percent of the 328 former headquarters staff to retire, quit, or leave for other jobs. Ultimately, only three people relocated to the West, leaving 80 vacancies.  

The Washington, D.C. District Court ordered the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to take action by the end of the month on complaints against the NRA for its shell companies coordinating campaign spending with federal candidates. In the past, Republican FEC board members blocked the commission from asking the FBI to look into the NRA laundering Russian money into DDT’s campaign.

October 8, 2021

GOP Works against People Much of the Time – October 8, 2021

Republicans have no platform other than pleasing Deposed Donald Trump and keeping their base. All their actions in the past week head in that direction.

Two judges on a 5th Circuit Court panel returned vigilantism to Texas by overturning a Texas judge’s temporarily blocking the unconstitutional law allowing lawsuits from anyone in the world against a person “helping” a person get an abortion after the fetus reaches a six-week development. Anti-choice, pro-vigilante judges are Catharina Haynes, appointed by George W. Bush, and James Ho, DDT’s appointment. Judge Carl Stewart, appointed by Bill Clinton, dissented. Two days ago, the former judge put the law on hold until it could go through the judicial process.

Once Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the muzzles off GOP senators, 11 of them decided not to destroy the United States—for now. They voted to permit a vote on a two-month extension of the debt ceiling deadline and increased it by $480 million until December 16. That amount, less than 6.2 percent of the deficit ratcheted up during DDT’s term, will allow the government to pay its debts until December 3, about two weeks short of the deadline. The final bill passed 50-48 with no GOP votes. 

Republicans gave no reasons to block the debt ceiling increase other than hoping to take over the government in the next elections, but the snowflakes who wanted the U.S. to default on its debts expressed hurt feelings about Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) comments:

“Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work. For the good of America’s families, for the good of our economy, Republicans must recognize in the future that they should approach fixing the debt limit in a bipartisan way.”

GOP senators, who blocked the bill, claimed they were generous in helping Democrats “solve a problem” and called Schumer “combative,” “unnecessarily partisan,” and “classless.” McConnell called Schumer’s statements “a rant that was so partisan, angry, and corrosive that even Democratic Senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him” and referred to the words as “hysterics.” He called the debts run up by Republicans and DDT as “Democratic mismanagement” and promised he would not “provide such assistance again.” He took credit for “leadership [to] protect our citizens.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said, “Our guys … hate debt-limit votes,” but he wasn’t referring to those under DDT, Bush, and Reagan.

To all lawmakers, including my current U.S. representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) who oppose price controls on drugs: take note. Merck is charging $712 for a five-day oral treatment of molnupiravir which supposedly cuts hospitalizations and deaths in half for moderate or mild COVID, 40 times the cost of $17.74 for its production. The drug company works with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a small Miami-based company that licensed the medicine from Emory University in 2020 and two months later sold worldwide rights to the drug to Merck. Emory received $29 million to develop the drug, but the two private companies will reap the rewards—billions of dollars within a short time. Merck stock is also going up. The company is licensing its rights to a generic form of the drug with five Indian companies which will market it outside the U.S. for $12 for a five-day course.

The White House has refused DDT’s request to withhold documents about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol from congressional investigation. DDT claimed executive privilege, but the president of the United States has the final word. White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives, stating that President Joe Biden “has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents.” Remus added:

“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances. Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”

Congressional requests include everything from tweets, phone and visitor logs, and videos and photos of events in which DDT participated as well as documents and communications about then-VP Mike Pence’s movements and security. The rally at the Ellipse and the subsequent violent riot at the Capitol were included as was planning for the ceremonial event for counting electoral votes during the joint congressional session.

Deposed during a $2 million lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, DDT’s former layer Rudy Giuliani declared he was only following orders when representing DDT in election fraud lawsuits and stating that the election was stolen from DDT. He said he represented DDT’s campaign with no compensation because “the president ordered me to do it.”

Four subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol have passed the deadline for response. DDT’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, refuses to comply, claiming DDT’s nonexistent executive immunity, but former chief-of-staff Mark Meadows and Kashyap Patel, chief-of-staff to former-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, have “engaged” with the committee. Leaders Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) didn’t comment on DDT’s former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino because he is in hiding to not receive a subpoena. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said the four witnesses have not provided the committee with any “written communication.” DDT has told all four of these subpoenaed witnesses to fight against the requirement to meet with the committee.

More subpoenas this past week include ones for members of the right-wing Stop the Steal group, including Ali Alexander, listed as Ali Abdul Akbar, and Nathan Martin as well as records from the group. Akbar and Martin are connected to a permit for the January 6 rally from a group, One Nation under God, discovered to be connected to Stop the Steal. Before the rally, Alexander called for violence and praised congressional members, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who attended the event. Last week, subpoenas went 11 people, including Maggie Mulvaney, niece of DDT’s former adviser Mick Mulvaney, and DDT’s 2016 campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson.

A 27-page letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has revealed the tip of DDT’s corruption with financial information about his Washington, D.C. hotel.  Some of the findings from the federal agency managing DDT’s lease on the property: 

  • Foreign governments paid $3.7 million to stay at DDT’s hotel between 2017 and 2020, equal to 7,433 Nights at the hotel, violating the U.S. constitution.
  • Officials in domestic corporations also paid to stay at DDT’s hotel while seeking favors from him, for example T-Mobile’s $26-billion merger with Sprint.
  • DDT lied when he said he made a profit of $156 million on the hotel, but instead lost over $70 million since it opened in 2016.
  • Another part of Trump Organization loaned the hotel $27 million, but that money wasn’t repaid.
  • DDT renegotiated a $170-million loan with Deutsche Bank in 2018 that permitted him to make no payments on the principal on his loan for six years—until the year he hopes to be re-elected to the White House.
  • DDT withdrew $31 million from the Deutsche Bank construction loan in August 2016, one month before the hotel opened, but DDT did not disclose how the money was used or accounted for on financial statements.

The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report, “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and his Allies Pressured DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election,” showing how close the U.S. came to a constitutional crisis before DDT left the White House. Although the 394-page document is heavy reading, a summary is under “Recommendations” and the timeline at the end. One focus of the report comes from the actions of former Acting Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark to be DDT’s Big Lie Lawyer in pressuring his colleagues to overturn the 2020 election. The report is destined to make waves for DDT and Republicans.

Several North Carolina state representatives demanded the resignation of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson after he called the LGBTQ community “filth” in a video of his speech at the Asbury Baptist Church (Seagrove) in June. On the video, he referred to “transgenderism” to make being transgender sound like a condition. The majority of his constituents disagree with Robinson: this year, ten municipalities passed protections protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in  public accommodations, employment, etc., and 67 percent of voters in the state support this legislation including 50 percent of Republicans.

Every time the Idaho governor leaves the state, he turns authority over to the lieutenant governor, currently Janice McGeachin. When Gov. Brad Little headed south to investigate immigration issues on the Mexican border, McGeachin ordered the state National Guard to that border and banned mandates of COVID vaccination proof at schools, colleges, and universities. The commanding general of the Idaho National Guard told McGeachin she couldn’t activate the troops, and Little said he will reverse the vaccine order when he gets back. The last time Little left the state, McGeachin banned any mask mandates which Little also rescinded.

October 6, 2021

Facebook Faces Congress, McConnell Blinks, Texas Loses

Congressional lawmakers have investigated Facebook for almost five years for such issues as privacy abuses, foreign disinformation, and a historic Federal Trade Commission antitrust case. In 2019, the company paid a record-setting $5 billion fine for privacy abuses. This week brings more confrontations. Sunday, the CBS news show 60 Minutes featured a whistleblower about the company’s internal activities; Monday, the entire Facebook system went down for six hours; and Tuesday, the whistleblower testified at a Congressional hearing about Facebook’s policies.   

First, the massive outage. Starting before noon EST on Monday, the outage also took Facebook’s Instagram, WhatsApp, and other apps for its 2.85 billion active users. Loss of ad revenue cost the company $60 million, and the five-percent drop of stock shares, $326.23 per share, caused the owner, Mark Zuckerberg, to lose $7 billion. Because Facebook controls all its workers’ technology—including cellphones and computers—employees couldn’t even get into their office because their cards wouldn’t work in the locks.

 

Facebook explained the outage was self-inflicted, probably accidentally. “Configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers” blocked communication and set off a series of network failures. Basically, the failure of the system stopped in the internet from recognizing online domain names and couldn’t send any information. Other organizations were disrupted and slowed because billions of devices kept looking for the coordinates of Facebook and its apps. As annoying as the outage was for pleasure users, businesses using the social network lost almost a day of work for advertising, connecting with customers, and selling products and services. Facebook has an e-commerce platform, Facebook Marketplace.

Second, the whistleblower. In last month’s “Facebook Files,” the Wall Street Journal exposed documents about the company’s willingness to do anything to make money. “Whitelisted” high profile users were exempted from regular users’ rules. Instagram pushes ideal air-brushed female body images, emotionally damaging teenage girls. Criminals including human traffickers and drug smugglers are making more and more use of Facebook without being stopped despite it being reported. 

Polarizing messages, including those encouraging the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and less restrictions on disinformation were pushed to increase business. New York Times technology journalist Kevin Roose reported the laxness on Facebook’s desire to attract more customers. The departure of younger users to other sites such as TikTok while older people stay with Facebook, could cause a 45-percent possible drop in the next two years.

The anonymous whistleblower who leaked tens of thousands of pages of company research outed herself on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes as former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. She told interviewer Scott Pelley that Facebook misled investors about their lack of efforts to eliminate violence, disinformation, and other harmful content. The company constantly wants to maximize profits over verifying disinformation, and Haugen’s lawyers have filed at least eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Haugen stated Facebook took measures to prevent disinformation before the 2020 election but dropped protections after the election “to prioritize growth over safety.” She added, “That really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.” Haugen said she didn’t realize how much Facebook’s disinformation fomented violence and other problems in the world before she went to work for them.

During her 60 Minutes interview, Haugen explained the connection between Instagram and teen girls’ emotional problems:

“As these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. And it actually makes them use the app more. And so, they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more.”

Facebook tried to defend itself. Before 60 Minutes, the company’s vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg told CNN that Facebook causing the January 6 violence “ludicrous.” He blamed “the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including then-President Trump and candidly many other people in the media who were encouraging the assertion that the election was stolen.” He claimed Facebook was not to blame for pushing the same information. 

At the same time as the Facebook outage, Facebook’s Antigone Davis appeared live on CNBC to defend the company against the whistleblower’s negative remarks on 60 Minutes. Davis had earlier testified to Congress against the “Facebook Files,” including the company’s research showing Instagram made teen girls’ body image issues worse. 

Third, Haugen’s testimony Tuesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about her knowledge regarding Facebook policies. About Facebook’s research, she said Instagram made body issues worse for 1 in 3 teenage girls, information the company decided not to share. Despite Facebook touting its methods to stop disinformation, its own algorithms not only addressed one percent of hate violent speech but also pushed disinformation.

Haugen also had specific answers to questions such as the decisionmaker for such concepts as an Instagram for children, an idea dropped after backlash and the research about Instagram already damaging teenagers. Last week, Davis, a Facebook executive, avoided a question about who would make decisions, but Haugen said, “The buck stops with Mark [Zuckerberg].” She explained that no other powerful company is controlled as Facebook is, with Zuckerberg holding over 55 percent of the company’s voting shares.

The testimony brought an unusual bipartisan response from lawmakers because “every part of the country has the harms that are inflicted by Facebook and Instagram,” according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) slammed lobbyists for the lack of progress in updating privacy laws, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called for swift congressional action. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) backed the reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) stated Congress will take action whether Facebook cooperates or not. Lawmakers accused Facebook of concealing its own research and said they would further investigate.

During Haugen’s testimony, Facebook employees texted lawmakers with smears against Haugen who had been a data scientist with the company. They claimed she had not directly worked on child safety or Instagram, which Haugen had already established, and called her untrustworthy. Other employees denied Haugen’s testimony. CEO Zuckerberg wrote, “We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health.”

The question is whether conservative lawmakers will take any action. The FTC could force Facebook to sell off holdings such as Instagram but cannot force a change in the company’s business practices. If Zuckerberg doesn’t like changes in the law, he can just move Facebook and its information to any other country in the world. For the moment, Zuckerberg is being cautious—stopping research which could cause problems and using “reputational reviews” for potential changes. People have short memories and may move on to other scandals.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Frances Haugen isn’t done. In an interview today, her lawyer said, “There’s more to come.” He also said his legal team has seen a “surge” in the number of whistleblowers from the tech industry, some of it about the January 6 insurrection. With support from “Whistleblower Aid,” Haugen will also be making more appearances, if her website is any indication.

The Senate has briefly averted another disaster: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave Republicans permission to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling—until December. Maybe because President Joe Biden supported doing away with the filibuster, the century-old, Senate-created rule mandating 60 votes to debate any measure. Without the filibuster, Democrats could pass bills with a simple majority. Earlier Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had offered Democratic votes in a straight up-and-down vote without a filibuster, but McConnell turned it down. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government runs out of money on October 18 without raising the debt ceiling.

Republicans have consistently lied about their not being to blame for the $7.8 trillion debt they and Deposed Donald Trump incurred during his four-year term. McConnell may have “blinked” on his former refusal to allow Republicans to vote for an increase because he figured out that Republicans might be smarter than he figured—that people who lost their unemployment, food stamps, Social Security, etc. might realize the GOP was to blame. The past week has also seen horrific instability in the U.S. stocks hitting the middle-class and wealthy, and business leaders have also been pressuring McConnell to raise the debt ceiling.

One glitch in a bipartisan vote is McConnell’s $300 billion cap on the debt ceiling increase, less than four percent of the debt increased during DDT’s term. McConnell wants Democrats to use their chance to pass a reconciliation on raising the debt ceiling, which would keep them from using that process for the infrastructure bill. 

In a victory for human rights, a federal judge in Texas blocked the unconstitutional anti-choice law invoking the assistance of vigilantes around the world to stop abortions after six weeks of human fetal development. The Supreme Court has already refused to stop the law until it goes through the judicial process. The judge’s order blocks any officer of the state, including state court judges and court clerks, from enforcing the abortion ban in any way. It also ordered Texas to take proactive steps to inform all court officials and private individuals that the law is currently blocked. The ruling follows a refusal from the Supreme Court to stop the law until it goes through the judicial process.

While Texas appeals the ruling, Whole Women’s Health will resume providing abortions after six weeks according to federal law although a reversal of the law by a higher court could be a legal risk to clinics. The Department of Justice is also bringing a lawsuit against Texas.

And tomorrow is another day.

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