Nel's New Day

October 30, 2021

Zuckerberg Faces Big Problems

Mark Zuckerberg has skated along since he was a teenager who used a website for a contest between female classmates and farm animals for desirability and then stole the invention of a social-networking site from other students. At the time, he said he discovered how “voyeuristic” people are and has used that cynicism to make over $120 billion with his Facebook empire.

Throughout his career, Zuckerberg has skirted scandals, but his callous indifference to helping the January 6 insurrection may be the tipping point. After two whistleblowers came forward with testimony and a treasure trove of damning internal documents, 18 news outlets formed the “Facebook Consortium” to report on those documents, called “The Facebook Papers.” The announcement led to Facebook warning staffers about upcoming “bad headlines.” An overview of the news outlets and their reporting.

Multiple articles have resulted in public revelations about Facebook activities:

Promoting the “Stop the Steal” movement lying about the election: FB removed “guardrails” used before the 2020 election to slow the spread of hate and misinformation after Joe Biden was elected president and replaced “only after the insurrection flared up,” according to whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony. Other FB employees maintain leadership decisions helped create conditions for the January 6 attack on the U.S. capitol.

Facilitating human trafficking: FB has known it was responsible for advertising “domestic servitude” for at least three years but didn’t work to correct it until Apple threatened to drop FB and Instagram access to the App store. Yet FB has failed, offering women for physical and sexual abuse, deprived of food and pay, without travel documents for escape.

Stoking political violence: FB employees warned about the company’s failure to incite violence in “at risk” countries such as Ethiopia during its civil war when “problematic actors,” including states and foreign organizations, spread hate speech and discontent against ethnic minorities. FB estimates 72 percent of its 1.84 billion daily active users are outside North America and Europe. Haugen called Myanmar and Ethiopia “the opening chapter” in killing “a large number of people.” In 2018, the UN said FB had “turned into a beast” for promoting violence and hatred against Myanmar’s minority Rohingya population. FB’s permitted disinformation in India resulted in similar hate messages.

Another indictment of FB is Maria Ressa’s Nobel Prize for her independent news outlet, Rappler. She had tried—and failed—to convince Zuckerberg of his social responsibility as she told him about the problems he was causing in her native Philippines by Duterte’s dictatorship and his abuse of her and her reporters. When she told him that he was spreading disinformation to 97 percent of the people in the country, his only response was how to get the other three percent onto FB.

Supporting foreign elections: As FB CEO, Zuckerberg gave Vietnam’s Communist government almost complete control over postings before the country’s elections. Because they could, leaders crack down on dissidents’ free speech ahead. Zuckerberg said he was promoting free speech, but his motivation was the country’s threat to shut down his $1 billion market in Vietnam. 

Permitting QAnon to develop on FB: The company knew the extremists’ false beliefs reached users unchecked for over a year but even created sites from research to promote them.

Pushing people toward radicalizing content for business interest: A FB researcher invented accounts to promote and spread QAnon conspiracies to examine the use of recommendation systems to misinform and polarize users.  

Failing to block disinformation about the pandemic: Internal documents show studies of how damaging the lies about COVID were, but FB refused to remove the instigators except for a few direct complaints.

Allowing foreign troll farms to run top Christian pages: With the knowledge of FB, Eastern European organizations deliberately created conflict and manipulated opinion through coordinated offensive and provocative online posts on 19 of the top FB pages for U.S. Christians in 2019. They reached 75 million users a month, 20 times the next largest Christian FB page.

Fostering rage through algorithms: Using the reaction emoji to push more provocative content, FB weighted the “anger” response at five times more valuable than the ones for “like” or “love.” The method of growth is keeping people engaged, an easier response if they are upset. Researchers discovered that pushing these “controversial” posts could open “the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,” but FB didn’t stop the practice to use hatred and rage in shaping its readership for a much wider audience.

Growing FB at any cost to people: In a reflection of FB’s indifference, Andrew Bosworth, now chief technology officer at the company, sent a memo to employees in 2016 justifying growth at any human cost, connecting people whether they commit suicide, die in a terrorist attack, or suffer other disasters. To Bosworth—and FB—”questionable contact importing practices” and “subtle language that helps people stay searchable” are acceptable growth tactics.

Destroying the environment: This year, Oregon passed a law to regulate submarine cable projects because of FB’s destruction of part of the coastline. The company’s project suffered a massive drilling fluid leak and abandoned tons of abandoned equipment and two sumps while the state receives only $500,000 from the company. Another FB problem for communities is its high level of water for data centers. An internet search finds most articles cover how the company promises to develop water conservation methods in the future, but the reservoir for Prineville (OR), also home to Apple data centers, was at 21 percent of its capacity last summer. 

Zuckerberg denied the accusation in Max Chafkin’s newly published book The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power that he promised DDT he wouldn’t fact-check the campaigner’s political post in exchange for not being regulated, but his actions demonstrate a high level of support for DDT:

  • A secret dinner between the two of them at the White House a week after Zuckerberg promised not to fact-check political ads.
  • Removal of the fact-check of a “partly false” article about climate change published by right-wing news site, The Daily Wire, by top FB official.
  • DDT’s posts calling for violence against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters and his “Big Lie” about the “stolen” 2020 election.

A major complaint from conservatives is that social media favors liberal views, and noted conspiracy theorist Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) complained about his belief during a committee hearing on October 29. Mary Anne Franks, law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, explained the need for regulation of right-wing content because it isn’t covered by constitutional free speech in the case of social media:

“Yes, we do have a First Amendment. We do have a right to free speech but we also know, of course, that private companies are not obligated under the First Amendment to take all comers. They are allowed to make their own decisions about what is considered to be high-quality and low-quality content. They can make any number of decisions and I think we would applaud them in many cases to make those decisions…

“The data actually do indicate that right-wing content is more amplified on these social media platforms than left-wing content and that right-wing content is more disproportionately associated with real-world violence; not hurt feelings, people being upset but, in fact, actual violence, actual armed insurrections, actual notions of terrorism, and anarchy.”

Despite DDT’s complaints about not being allowed on social media, he has effectively skirted that ban as well as the law preventing him for using his current fundraising for another presidential campaign. His primary PAC, Save America, has weekly spend $100,000 in October on Facebook advertising, many of them using the lies about a stolen election for donor requests. The money funds his current political operation—travel, staff, rallies—before he announces a campaign. When he starts fresh with a new account, he can rent the updated donor list collected by the current PAC and transfer the funds to another outside group for his campaigning. By the end of July, his three principal fundraising operations had over $100 million; the next reporting deadline isn’t until January 1, 2022. The ads, news releases, and rallies are ways of lying to the U.S. public.

Avoiding any repair of FB’s toxicity, Zuckerberg plans to change the Facebook name to Meta although he still faces 2018 charges in the District of Columbia for permitting Cambridge Analytic to collect personal data about 87 million users, including over half D.C.’s residents. Although the term “meta” has a rather nebulous definition in current slang—not quite crystalized, as one source wrote—it has a number of other definitions that Zuckerberg might not like: concerned with cultural conventions, reference of oneself in an ironic way, behind or at the back, either of the conical columns at each end of a Roman circus, and, in chemistry, a compound formed by dehydration.       

His new concept is a “metaverse” moving people from reality into emersion of a fabricated dystopian science fiction inside the computer instead of being with actual people—an elaborate, permanent video game. Zuckerberg has faced much ridicule for his new name but now much more in the Jewish community: meta means “dead” in Hebrew.

October 29, 2021

Dangers of COVID Aftereffects

The media focuses on death and hospitalizations from contracting COVID, but a huge danger is the aftermath of the disease. Called “long COVID” or “long-haul COVID,” literally hundreds of disorder symptoms can last indefinitely at this time because people have had the disease less than two years. Some of the problems are simply annoying, such as loss of taste and small—although people may use too much salt to compensate. Others are more debilitating: shortness of breath, hair loss and rashes, exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia, nerve and muscle pain, heart palpitations, impaired metabolic function, and gastrointestinal distress. The CDC also lists cough, chest pain, depression, headache, and intermittent fever. These symptoms, often in a cluster, can occur even after mild or asymptomatic cases when people don’t realize they have had COVID.

Ziyad Al-Aly, a researcher of long-haul patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, said that the virus “can affect nearly every organ system.” People can also suffer from dizziness, numbness, anxiety, and brain fog marked by confusion, memory loss, and inability to concentrate. The aftermath can appear like dementia. In the worst of cases, patients as young as 18 “can’t form sentences,” said Jördis Frommhold, leader of a German study of long COVID. Formerly working on her master’s degree, Cassandra Hernandez, a 38-year-old San Antonio nurse in San Antonio, forgot “how to use a fork” and struggled to read at a fifth-grade level. One study found 60 percent of people recovered from COVID sith signs of ongoing heart inflammation leading to breath, palpitations, and rapid heartbeat—even in those with mild cases who had no prior medical issues.

Leading theories of long-haul COVID include fragments or reserves of the virus lingering in the body and persistent inflammation or damage caused by the initial infection which affect blood vessels, nerve pathways, or other areas of the body. In a dominant theory, long COVID, triggered by an unfamiliar infection, revs up immune systems that continue to attack health tissue despite the disappearance of the initial infection. Another theory is a combination of all these reasons. Long COVID mirrors other idiopathic chronic illnesses triggered by viral and bacterial infections including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

These symptoms sometimes disappear in three or four months whereas improvement can occur with a few lingering issues. In the worst cases, people remain significantly impaired for over a year, struggling to keep a job or becoming homeless. Problems vary from day to day and may be worse after times of stress. Treatment, not necessarily a solution, involves physical therapy, cognitive exercises, etc. The National Institutes of Health began a $1.2 billion initiative to study causes and treatment of long COVID, and the American Medical Association and CDC have initiatives to teach doctors about identifying and treating the disorder. Vaccines may reduce lingering symptoms, but other vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections become long-haulers.

The AMA estimates between 15 percent and 80 percent of patients experience long COVID. The organization has a policy to support “the development of an ICD-10 code or family of codes to recognize Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (‘PASC’ or ‘long COVID’) and other novel post-viral syndromes as a distinct diagnosis.” Devang Sanghavi, MD, listed three categories of long COVID:

  • Lingering or ongoing symptoms from COVID’s direct cell damage.
  • Symptoms caused by chronic hospitalization such as muscle weakness, cognitive brain dysfunction, and psychosocial stress.
  • Interplay between the immune system and inflammatory markers appearing after recovery.

Although most studies have been small and based on self-reporting, U.S. and British researchers found 37 percent of COVID survivors experienced at least one symptom between three and six months after initial diagnosis in an analysis of 270,000 health records for people recovering from COVID. Top symptoms were anxiety or depression (15.49 percent) following by abnormal breathing (7.94 percent), abdominal symptoms (8.29 percent), and fatigue (5.87 percent). Forty percent of long-haulers experienced the first symptoms months after the initial infections.

Another study of 57 studies encompassing over 250,000 people contracting COVID found over half of them had at least one long-haul symptom six months or more after their initial diagnosis. CDC defines long Covid as “a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected.”

Children don’t escape long COVID: their fatigue and difficulty in concentration cause problems in school and learning. Studies about young long-haulers have divergent results: a British study of 1,700 British children found only 4.4 percent having symptoms longer than four weeks and 1.8 percent over eight weeks while a much smaller study in Rome found over half the infected children still had at least one symptom four months later. In the U.S., over 5.7 million children tested positive for the coronavirus as of October 3.

During virtual learning, students with long covid could participate from their beds or lie down during breaks between classes. Now many of them struggle with classrooms and in-person social interactions they considered normal before contracting COVID. Some schools are uncomfortable making accommodations for the syndrome as they also struggle with wearing masks, quarantining, testing, and other healthcare issues. The Department of Education does have guidance about children with the syndrome being eligible for school accommodations, but student support is complicated.

Long-haul COVID should not be surprising. Other viral illness have caused lasting symptoms. The 1918 influenza pandemic caused such symptoms as neurologic problems and personality changes, according to Dr. Michael Brode, medical director of the post-COVID-19 program at UT Health Austin. Yet COVID seems to result in problems on a much larger scale. With the “brain fog,” Brode said, subjects lost an average of seven IQ points, according to one study.

A year ago, people suffering from long COVID failed to receive validation from friends, family, and even their doctors. Much has been learned in that time although treatment is still uncertain. According to the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, federal law may protect long-haulers protected from discrimination. HHS stated long COVID is covered under the American Disability Act, Section 504, and Section 1557 “if it substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Patients must be assessed by professionals to determine if they qualify for a disability.

With the prevalence of long COVID, columnists are coming out of the closet with their own experiences facing chronic illness rejected by medical professionals, including conservative writers Ross Douthat and Megan McArdle. Wikipedia’s excellent overview of long COVID lacks current research, but its details are useful.

The World Health Organization now has official diagnostic criteria for long covid, symptoms appearing months after an initial infection possibly impacting daily functioning. To study the syndrome, WHO has published a clinical case definition for the disorder it calls “post covid-19 condition” which occurs in people with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of their original case. Symptoms fluctuate in severity over time with no alternative explanation to better fit a patient’s illness. WHO conducted a Delphi consensus, gathering the input of relevant experts and other stakeholders on a topic including surveys of WHO staff, outside experts, patients, and patient-researchers in 44 countries across six world regions covered by the WHO.

Acknowledging the WHO’s criteria will change over time with knowledge, the organization calls for countries, researchers, and others around the world to adopt their criteria as a global standard. The CDC has listed a formal diagnostic code for “post covid-19 condition” to the latest edition of the International Classification of Disease, ICD-10, used by doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies for diagnostic and billing purposes.

The U.S. has far more COVID cases, including deaths, because of the sole focus by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) on the election, both before and after, according to emails and testimony obtained by the House select subcommittee probing the government’s coronavirus response. Steven Hatfill, a virologist who advised White House trade director Peter Navarro repeatedly described in emails how “election stuff” took precedence over coronavirus, even as the outbreak surged to more than 250,000 new coronavirus cases per day in January 2021. Hatfill stated he “was disgusted with the destruction of the National Pandemic Plan at the hands of conflicted petty bureaucrats.”

Deborah Birx, DDT’s choice to steer his virus response, told congressional investigators that the DDT’s administration was “distracted” by the election and ignored recommendations to stop the pandemic. Last year, she had told administrators to test younger people, expand virus treatment access, and distribute more vaccine doses in long-term care facilities. Over 130,000 people in the U.S. died because she was also ignored in telling them to use mask mandates, reduction in indoor dining, and education about risks in private home gatherings. Birx said “no” when asked if DDT “did everything he could to try to mitigate the spread of the virus and save lives during the pandemic.” She also faulted Scott Atlas, now adviser to Florida’s Gov. DeSantis, for advocating “dangerous” theories such as deliberate infection for “herd immunity.”   

DDT is still killing people through his disdain for healthcare precautions, including vaccinations, leading supporters to do the same. Thus far, at least 765,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to COVID with hundreds of thousands more probably resulting from the prevalence of the virus. Almost 50 million people have definitely contracted the virus, giving about 15 million “post covid-19 condition” with millions more not identifying their infections. And it’s not stopping with over one million cases in the U.S. in just the past two weeks. 

Conservatives Turned into Snowflakes

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Republicans’ attack on DOJ AG Merrick Garland when he asked law enforcement to investigate protesters’ violence of protesters at school board meetings. I omitted the defense given by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for a man giving a Nazi salute at a meeting and chanted “Heil Hitler.” Cruz tweeted he “was defending the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies” but didn’t respond to questions about his Nazi support. Three years ago, he gave the same support after a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs killed 11 people at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue. Cruz complained that “lefty journos” reporting on his remarks were either “dishonest” or “not very bright.” Formerly Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) compared people supporting President Joe Biden’s vaccine push for vaccinations to “brown shirts.” Texas has seen increasing incidents of anti-Semitism such as a neo-Nazi group, wearing swastikas, who hung an anti-Semitic sign from an Austin freeway overpass and the graffiti of swastikas and racial slurs at an Austin high school with a sizeable Jewish population.

In another bizarre situation, Wisconsin has hired someone to help out with an election “audit” because the former Supreme Court justice, voted out of office, doesn’t understand the election process. Her name is Carol, but no one, including Carol, will give her last name. No one knows if she is a lawyer, administrative assistant, or whatever. The former justice, Michael Gableman, began his job as “audit leader” under an alias and has done his work in secrecy, even using a Gmail account under the name of John Delta. Staff email accounts have only digits, not names, keeping them secret.

Last week, a nonpartisan audit of the 2020 election in Wisconsin found no widespread fraud, and a key Republican legislative leader, Robert Cowles, said the results prove the state’s elections are “safe and secure.” But Republicans say they will review the independent audit. GOP Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ordered the next investigation, now expanded to a cost of over $676,000, because Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) told Vos he was doing too little to probe the election. Vos said the counts will run into 2022–the election year. The legal audit found four people who might have voted twice out of approximately 3.3 million votes with Biden winning by about 21,000 ballots.

Republicans have long called Democrats “snowflakes” because they believe in political correctness—presenting accurate information, not using vicious names for opponents, not hitting them, etc. Today’s Republicans have become the epitome of “snowflakes” such as not having any books available in schools that might make White students “uncomfortable.”

A recent case of GOP snowflakitis comes from the January 6 insurrectionists. DDT supporters have protested the treatment of dozens of the U.S. Capitol rioters held in a Washington, D.C. jail, complaining about civil rights violations. Defendant Christopher Worrell has become famous for right-wingers because of his self-proclaimed health issues. At an October 13 hearing, Worrell’s lawyer said jail officials had not given the defendant medical care for a broken finger that needed surgery. He was also diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and contracted COVID in jail. Prosecutors said Worrell “invented” his medical needs. Other riot defendants complained about their perception of unsanitary or unsafe conditions in the same jail.

Judge Emmet Sullivan explained his awareness of difficulties for defendants to access evidence in their cases to prepare for trial but said the defendants should talk directly to their jail. He said:

“They’re running a jail, not a hotel. Some people want hotel services.”

One doctor called the finger surgery an “elective procedure” because Worrell didn’t like the way a fracture had healed. He added that surgery risks “may outweigh the benefits” and “that ulterior motives are at play.” On May 17, Worrell was treated with a “closed reduction” and a splint for his broken pinky. He has been charged of storming the U.S. Capitol with other Proud Boys and assaulting federal officers with pepper gel spray.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is one of biggest defenders of the January 6 insurrectionists, saying they would be better off at Guantanamo Bay because their treatment would be better there. Describing rioters attempt to overturn U.S. democracy, he’s upset “that American citizens are being treated so much worse than individuals that want to destroy America.” Last May, he said, “Their only crime was supporting Donald Trump” and another time accused Democrats of setting up Capitol rioters. He added that Democrats were trying to “intimidate us from not protesting.” In Summer 2020, Gohmert wanted to use the RICO act against anyone committing criminal offenses during protests.

Minnesota state Sen. Mark Koran (R) is asking for donations for his constituents facing charges in the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He claims four members of the Westbury family are being punished for having “opposing views.” The fundraiser, called “Legal Fees 4 family fighting tyranny 4 you,” is available on the so-called Christian fundraising platform, GiveSendGo. With a goal of $50,000, the site shows about $3,500 raised thus far.

Jurors being considered in the current civil-lawsuit trial are calling the antifa a “terrorist organization” and blaming them for the violence by neofascists at the 2017 “United the Right” rally in Charlottesville (VA) where instigators killed a woman. Attorneys tried to disqualify any jurors who had a favorable view to the antifa movement. One juror who described antifa as “troublemakers” said he heard only about the movement on TV and doesn’t consider anti-Semitism a serious issue. He added it isn’t a problem “where I live.” The judge refused a request to strike the juror describing antifa as a “terrorist organization” as well as jurors with more neutral views.

Of the 25 organizers and participants on trial, Christopher Cantwell (right), is acting as his own lawyer. Christopher Miller described his opening appearance:

“Wearing a blue shirt without a tie or jacket, he proceeded to name-check Mein Kampf, drop the n-word, plug his far-right radio program, call himself ‘good-looking’ and a ‘professional artist,’ and blast antifascist activists all in a matter of minutes. Surprising nobody in the courtroom, Cantwell, who prepared for this moment with help from two other neo-Nazis in prison and spending evenings watching Tucker Carlson, said ‘I’m not a lawyer … [but] I’m the best attorney I could afford.’ He added, ‘And I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.’” 

Also representing himself, another white supremacist, Richard Spencer, was cut off three times in his opening statement, one time when the federal judge stopped him from ranting about the Black Lives Matter protests. The third time was Spencer’s lecture on the importance of his case on the concept of “justice.” In an effort to excuse himself from the lawsuit, Spencer falsely claimed Cantwell was an “acquaintance” and had exchanged only “a few” test messages with him and “ate lunch one time.

Not all Republicans are supporting DDT’s “big lie” of a stolen election. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s GOP Secretary of State, is coming out with a book in November, Integrity Counts, in which he describes how he and his wife were targeted by DDT and his supporters with violent threats. He also criticizes other Georgia Republicans for not speaking out against DDT’s lies about election fraud and for removing him from chairing the Georgia Board of Elections this year. Raffensperger said these Republicans lack “moral courage.”

Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) voted against holding Steven in criminal contempt for refusing the congressional subpoena, but they evidently weren’t happy about their votes. According to McCaul, Republicans protected Bannon because of the “wacko birds” in their party. The comment came during a casual conversation when someone said they hoped Wagner would get a more conservative district from re-districting for an easier re-election. Wagner said she didn’t want a more conservative district because “then you get those wacko birds.” McCaul agreed, saying they were “why we had to vote the way we did today.” This may be the last time McCaul speaks around the press.  

A huge case of GOP snowflakitis comes from the recent book banning. It has become the basis of the GOP candidate’s campaign for Virginia governor after a mother reported the “trauma” her son suffered from reading Nobel-prize winning Toni Morrison’s Beloved. At the time, he was 16 and taking an advance-placement English class. Now recovered, the son is a lawyer working for the Republican party. Less than a year ago, GOP snowflakes were traumatized by the Theodor Geisel Foundation’s decision to discontinue publication of six books by “Dr. Seuss” because of racist portrayals of some characters. Conservatives used the decision to blame Democrats for “cancel culture.” A few months later, the same conservatives demand the censorship of any books they describe part of critical race theory in their attempt to block any view of racism. The protection of Dr. Seuss’ outdated books morphed into the banning of any book that makes White people “uncomfortable,” a term used by an increasing number of laws in red states.

Now the conservative snowflakes are terrified of masks and vaccinations so they bully anyone who tries to protect their own and others’ health. And GOP leaders cannot buck DDT. Who’s the snowflake?

October 27, 2021

Craziness in the Week before Halloween 2021

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) wrote the Wall Street Journal that his former DOJ attorney general Bill Barr rigged the election for Biden in Pennsylvania among 19 other bulleted conspiracy theories about ballot counts. He also falsely claimed Montgomery County showed 98 percent of registered voters participating in the 2020 election; media reported 82 percent. Pennsylvania has four cases of voter fraud among its 9,090,962 votes for the 2020 general election—three of them relatives of dead people and another one attempting to also vote for his son. All four supported Dictator DDT. Audits and courts found no other evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, and Barr was DDT’s faithful lawyer in what should have been an independent agency. 

The debunked material in DDT’s letter in the generally credible conservative publication brought the same backlash as former VP Mike Pence’s op-ed claiming no “Coronavirus ‘Second Wave” because of the “lack of fact-checking and transparency” in the WSJ opinion page. The editorial board then lambasted Pence’s letter as an effort at “cancel-culture pressure.”

GOP senators’ latest attack was against DOJ AG Merrick Garland when they lied about his trying to muzzle protesting parents. Tom Cotton (R-AL) even demanded Garland resign. The attackers’ agenda is to block healthcare mandates surrounding COVID and restrict school education by blocking information about racism, now called critical race theory by ignorant conservatives.

Republicans demanded that Garland retract and apologize for his memo, but Garland said he wished they would read his words which ask federal law enforcement to work with local law enforcement for ways to protect school board members. [Missouri’s Josh Hawley (above right) posed for the camera; photo by Tom Brenner, AP] Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) accused Garland of either being a servant of the White House or “politicizing” the DOJ. Cory Booker (D-NJ) tried to instruct them by reading a list of threats and violence against official from so-called parents, some of whom traveled from state to state to attack school board members.

With DDT’s team of dissidents to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president, John Eastman developed a strategy using vice-presidential duties to put DDT back into the White House if former VP Mike Pence refused to accept the electoral votes. Last week, Eastman declared in an interview with the National Review that the strategy memo with his name “does not accurately represent” his views. He disagreed with his own assertion that the vice-president is the “ultimate arbiter” of deciding to count the Electoral College votes and said that “anybody who thinks that that’s a viable strategy is crazy.”

The day after Eastman’s statements were published, however, he told Lauren Windsor the opposite. An activist journalist known for hidden-camera interviews, Windsor pretends to be a conservative ally to elicit candid comments from the subject. Eastman told Windsor his memo wasn’t “crazy” at all. He bragged that “there’s no question” his memo’s legal reasoning is “solid” and complained that Pence and other Republicans didn’t follow the strategy because they belong to the political “establishment” and enjoy “cushy” lifestyles in Washington. The House January 6 Committee now plans to subpoena Eastman so he can say what he thinks—under oath.

Eastman blamed “FBI plants,” Antifa, and reporters to lure DDT’s supporters into trouble, claiming that the entire insurrection was a “setup” to “trap” DDT’s people into illegal activities. “John Sullivan, Antifa guy, got paid 60,000 bucks by CNN to break in and get video of violence. That is a fact.” Eastman asserted. In another conspiracy theory, he accused FBI agents embedded in right-wing militias Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. “[Militia members] walked into a trap,” he said. As head of Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Eastman spoke to the activist at the right-wing think tank’s annual gala headlined by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Claremont Institute tried to justify Eastman’s memo. Aaron Black explained:

“Essentially, the [Claremont] statement isn’t disputing that Eastman provided a ready-made procedure for Trump and Pence to get the election overturned—he clearly and unambiguously did so—it’s that he didn’t explicitly say Pence should overturn it himself.”

During his career, Eastman clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, worked at the law firm with Ken Starr, and collaborated with Hugh Hewitt on his nationally syndicated radio program. Chair of the board for the National Institute for Marriage fighting marriage equality, he is director with the Public Interest Legal Foundation, created to use frivolous lawsuits to attack elections.

At the age of 17, Kyle Rittenhouse stole a semiautomatic rifle resembling an AR-15 and crossed a state line to shoot and kill two protesters and wound another in Kenosha (WI), but the judge for his trial won’t permit them to be called “victims” because the word is “loaded” with prejudgment. He didn’t object to using “rioters,” “looters,” and “arsonists” for them. The wounded man carried a gun but has not been charged with a crime and had his hands in the air when he was shot. Rittenhouse, who was walking the streets with a group of armed men, is claiming self-defense. In Kenosha, protesters marched because a white police officer shot a Black man seven times in the back.

The judge also prevented the prosecutor from asking about Rittenhouse’s ties to the white supremacist Proud Boys who incite violence at protests. Although Rittenhouse flashed one their hate symbols and posed for photographs with Proud Boys at a Wisconsin Bar, the judge said the connections to the right-wing group weren’t relevant to the case. Known for cruel and capricious rulings, the judge had ordered a 28-year-old woman convicted of shoplifting to announce her criminal record to the store management wherever she went. An appeals court overruled that order. A backlog of cases comes from hundreds of defendants formally requesting a different judge.

Most conservative members of Congress call the January 6 insurrection a “protest” or “innocent tourists” visiting the Capitol, but Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), chief QAnon conspiracy theorist in Congress, admits it’s a riot, as in “just a riot.” The insurrection differed from the racial-justice protests that was “an attack on innocent American people.” She summarized the reason for the Capitol “riot”:

“And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”

The classic statement of today came from a question at a Turning Point USA event in Idaho when DDT-supporter Charlie Kirk was speaking. “When do we get to use the guns?” the audience member queried. The crowd applauded, and the man continued:

“That’s not a joke… I mean, literally, where’s the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?”

Obviously taken aback, Kirk tried to quell the discussion of killing people, not because it was wrong but because it would get the group into trouble. No debunking of a “stolen” election or the errors of violence—just the assertion that people had to stay out of trouble until the United States rejected federalism. He did reassure the audience that “we are going to name the name [of those who] pulled this off in the 2020 election.” (Right: Kirk, another angry leader.)

Like other Republicans, including DDT and others planning the January 6 insurrection, Kirk has fanned the flames of violence. Last summer he said Biden was sending “goons DOOR-TO-DOOR to make you take a covid-19 vaccine.” One of Turning Point’s ads for donations shouted, “LOCK YOUR DOORS, KIDS!!” Kirk’s Arizona chapter brought almost $40 million in donations for the last fiscal year, and he made $330,000 from Turning Point and related organizations. The non-profit claims it “educates students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and capitalism.”

In Texas, state GOP Rep. Matt Krause requires the state’s public school superintendents to scour school libraries for books on a list of 850 titles dealing with issues like race, gender and sexuality. He also demanded to know the cost to the school in buying them and their availability for checking them out. Any books that “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” must be reported to him, according to his letter. Books on the list include not only award-winning authors such as The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron but also ones on “sexuality” such as LGBT Families by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee. Krause is a candidate for the state’s attorney general.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, DDT’s appointee, must go. Now he has suspended first-class package and priority mail services to Australia and New Zealand. No more gifts to the grandkids, art sales, online shopping, etc. because of “freight air capacity issues.” 

And then there’s the insanity of Facebook revelations and the promotion of COVID infections by anti-vaxxing Republican leaders. Plus the games of so-called Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to destroy the jobs (aka infrastructure) bill.

October 25, 2021

More January 6 Info Goes Public

For over nine months, most Republicans in Congress have fought any investigation into the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, intended to overthrow the legal 2020 presidential election of Joe Biden. After rumors about GOP congressional members involved in the attack, a Rolling Stone report substantiates the belief with details from two staffers.

The two sources, identified as a rally organizer and a planner, have listed representatives involved in the planning of the rally at the Ellipse along with the team of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), including his chief of staff Mark Meadows who could have stopped the violence: Andy Biggs (AZ), Lauren Boebert (CO), Mo Brooks (AL), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA). In “dozens” of briefings, the teams not only planned to challenge the electoral votes at the Capitol but also pressured senators to support their actions by planning rallies in specific states represented by key senators who “we considered to be persuadable.”

Gosar suggested a “blanket pardon” in another investigation as a sweetener to plan January 6 protests, insinuating he had talked to DDT for a “done deal.” Both sources were in contact with Gosar on January 6, and his chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein, has been named in the official January 6 Committee in “sweeping” requests for documents and communications from DDT’s administration. Van Flein was part of the discussion about the “blanket pardon” and DDT’s disputing the election, according to the sources.

Obviously ready for combat, Brooks wore body armor when he said at the rally, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Despite the armor, Brooks denied any part in the January events in an interview with a Montgomery (AL) newspaper: 

“If you’re talking about someone participating in meetings, setting the agenda, raising the money, I don’t know of anything that suggests my staff as doing that stuff.”

Earlier, Brooks claimed he just followed DDT’s orders, the January 6 attack was all DDT’s doing, and he spoke at the rally only because DDT ordered him to do so. Brooks has not stopped pushing lies about voter fraud since the November 2020 election, despite no evidence for his declarations, but he denied meeting with DDT and Cawthorn at the rally on January 6. Brooks is seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat which Richard Shelby is leaving.

Boebert, Gosar, and Greene were all billed as speakers at the “Wild Protest,” also on January 6 at the Capitol. Greene’s communications director, Nick Dyer, said the public doesn’t care about January 6 because of Biden’s problems. On a now-deleted livestream broadcast, Ali Alexander, an organizer for the “Wild Protest,” said Biggs, Brooks, and Gosar helped him develop the strategy for the event. The rally planner confirmed the contacts and expect to publicly testify.

Both sources still support DDT’s agenda and maintain DDT lost unfairly, not because of the vote count but because of the “unacceptable” social media censorship of DDT’s allies and the voting rules in connection with the pandemic. They see themselves in a more positive light than their former allies, based on their willingness to cooperate with investigators, particularly with details about funding for the demonstrations and communications between organizers and the White House.

They also implicated Katrina Pierson, a DDT campaign worker in both 2016 and 2020, who acted as key liaison between the organizers of protests against the election and the White House. The rally organizer said, “Katrina was like our go-to-girl [and] primary advocate. According to the sources, participants raised concerns to Meadows about the potential for violence from Alexander’s protest at the Capitol. A third source said key event organizer Kylie Kremer bragged about meeting Meadows at the White House before the rally. Alexander changed the arrangement to protesting at the Capitol, but Meadows ignored all concerns about violence.

The Rolling Stone has been stung before in investigations, specifically in reporting the University of Virginia rape scandal seven years ago. Yet the award-winning non-profit news organization Truthout reports “good reason to believe the Rolling Stone report is sound.” The two sources have cooperated with the January 6 committee and provided specific details without being debunked. At the same time, Washington Post reported details about the use of space within the Washington, D.C. Willard Hotel as a war room for attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. 

“They called it the ‘command center,’ a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard hotel a block from the White House where some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election…. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.”

The Willard team of presidential advisers and lawyers working on a strategy to put DDT back into the White House for a second term was led by DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Some of the 25-30 participants

  • Former DDT adviser Steve Bannon, under criminal charges for refusing a subpoena, sometimes attending.
  • Former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik, convicted for tax fraud, ethics violations, and criminal false statements, as an investigator. Later, DDT’s campaign paid Kerik’s firm $66,371.54 in travel expenses, including $55,295 on the team’s rooms from December 18 to January 8.)
  • John Eastman, who advised former VP Mike Pence to refuse the legal electoral votes.
  • Pence, who listened to Eastman’s arguments, asking former VP Dan Quayle and once a senator from Indiana whether he should reject the electoral votes.
  • Christina Bobb, One America News reporter who later became an instrumental part of Arizona’s fake ballot count.
  • Boris Epshteyn, Russian-American Republican senior campaign aide for DDT and former White House special assistant, who supported Eastman’s position. He said, “I firmly believed then, as I believe now, that the vice president—as president of the Senate—had the constitutional power to send the issue back to the states for 10 days to investigate the widespread fraud and report back well in advance of Inauguration Day, January 20th.”
  • Russell J. Ramsland Jr., co-owner of cybersecurity Allied Security Operations Group to push election fraud conspiracy theories.
  • Philip Luelsdorff, director of the fascist paramilitary security group Business Development for 1st Amendment Praetorian (1AP) providing “security” for far-right politicians and fascist rallies.
  • Joe Oltmann, founder of reactionary Colorado group FEC United (Faith, Education, Commerce United) closely connected to far-right militia United American Defense Force.
  • QAnon member Michael Flynn and DDT’s friend Roger Stone photographed at the hotel.

Among the team’s actions:

Calling members of GOP-dominated legislatures in swing states, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, pressuring them to convene special sessions investigating fraud and reassign electoral votes to DDT from Biden.

Speaking to 300 state legislatures in a conference call with false evidence of fraud as motivation to “decertify” election results. Speakers were DDT, Eastman, and Giuliani.

Sifting through allegations of election fraud by analyzing state data supposedly to show fraudulent voting. Phil Waldron, retired Army colonel specializing in psychological operations, let this team and worked with Russell Ramsland, the Texas Republican spreading election-fraud conspiracy theories.

Promoting the Eastman six-point plan for Pence to control the electoral counting process for DDT to remain in the White House.

Thus far, 19 subpoenas demand testimony from witnesses regarding what they knew about premeditated plans for the January 6 violence and how high the premeditation went in the government. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the January 6 committee chair, has said that there is “no question” the attack that day was premeditated.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called for the expulsion of congressional members identified as aiding far-right organizers of the January 6 insurrection.

“This was a terror attack. 138 injured, almost 10 dead. Those responsible remain a danger to our democracy, our country, and human life in the vicinity of our Capitol and beyond.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) had already called for House members to investigate and possibly expel congressional lawmakers voting against the certification of the electoral results:

“My resolution to investigate and expel the Members of Congress who helped incite the deadly insurrection on our Capitol is just waiting for a vote. It’s inexcusable to wait any longer.”

Candidates appearing at the January 6 rally are searching for a hiding place. In a speech supporting the re-election of New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, President Obama said that speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally means not being a champion of democracy, referring to Murphy’s GOP opponent Jack Ciatttarelli. The former president continued to ridicule Ciattarelli:

“Apparently Phil’s opponent says, well he didn’t know it was a rally to overturn the results of the last election, didn’t know it… When you’re standing in front of a sign that says, ‘Stop the Steal’ and there’s a guy in the crowd waving a Confederate flag, you know this isn’t a neighborhood barbecue. You know it’s not a League of Women Voters rally. Come on! Come on, man! That’s not what New Jersey needs.”

The January 6 Committee is still on target to get documents about DDT surrounding the insurrection events: Biden has rejected another DDT request claiming executive privilege to hide documents from Congress.

October 24, 2021

Evangelical Congregation Collapse

Until the 1970s, evangelical Christians stayed out of politics and concentrated on their religion, helping people and supporting family values. When big business and Bob Dole decided evangelicals could elect Ronald Reagan as president, religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell loved the power of politics and led their flocks with them. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began campaigning in 2015, and they spread hatred of government assistance for the needy, repeating Jerry Falwell Sr. accusation that the “giveaway programs” are “developing a breed of bums and derelicts.

In the Atlantic, Peter Wehner, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, described DDT’s influence over evangelical Christians through insistence on politics in churches, a position that shredded congregations. For example, three elders failed to get 75 percent of the vote for installation in a Northern Virginia megachurch because church members were told the candidates would sell the building to Muslims to convert it into a mosque. A small group of parishioners had already accused the conservative church’s minister of “wokeness” and “left of center.” According to them, he pushed a “social justice” agenda and promoted critical race theory plus attempts to “purge conservative members.”

The situation at McLean Bible Church is not uncommon. Targeted by right-wing elements of the Southern Baptist Convention, theologian Russell Moore and Bible teacher Beth Moore left the church. Wehner wrote:

“The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics. When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.”

Historian George Marsden said:

“When Trump was able to add open hatred and resentments to the political-religious stance of ‘true believers,’ it crossed a line. Tribal instincts seem to have become overwhelming.” [Trump’s Christian followers] have come to see a gospel of hatreds, resentments, vilifications, put-downs, and insults as expressions of their Christianity, for which they too should be willing to fight.

Wehner wrote:

“For many Christians, their politics has become more of an identity marker than their faith. They might insist that they are interpreting their politics through the prism of scripture, with the former subordinate to the latter, but in fact scripture and biblical ethics are often distorted to fit their politics. The former president normalized a form of discourse that made the once-shocking seem routine. Russell Moore laments the ‘pugilism of the Trump era, in which anything short of cruelty is seen as weakness.’ The problem facing the evangelical church, then, is not just that it has failed to inculcate adherents with its values—it’s that when it has succeeded in doing so, those values have not always been biblical.”

Tim Schultz, the president of the 1st Amendment Partnership and advocate for religious freedom, predicted a reckoning for evangelicalism, “held together by political orientation and sociology more than by common theology.” Pastor Timothy Keller called evangelicals some of the most “anti-institutional” religious believers, making them more prone to “insider abuse.” Media, not the church, develop evangelical beliefs, making them unrooted—“susceptible to political idolization, fanatical ideas, and conspiracy theories.” James Ernest, editor at the religious publisher Eerdmans, said:

“The evangelical Church in the U.S. over the last five decades has failed to form its adherents into disciples. So there is a great hollowness. All that was needed to cause the implosion that we have seen was a sufficiently provocative stimulus. And that stimulus came.”

Alan Jacobs, a professor of humanities at Baylor University, spoke about the media influence:

“What all those media want is engagement, and engagement is most reliably driven by anger and hatred. They make bank when we hate each other. And so that hatred migrates into the Church, which doesn’t have the resources to resist it. The real miracle here is that even so, in the mercy of God, many people do find their way to places of real love of God and neighbor.”

In her book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Calvin College history professor Kristin Kobes Du Mez argued that DDT fulfilled many of the White evangelicals’ values. She wrote that they wanted to replace the biblical Jesus with a ruggedly masculine person supporting Christian nationalism, “the belief that America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such.” The nationalism encapsulates evangelical attitudes on non-Christians, immigration, race, and guns. Du Mez explained:

“Evangelicals are quick to label their values ‘biblical. But how they interpret the scriptures, which parts they decide to emphasize and which parts they decide to ignore, all this is informed by their historical and cultural circumstances. More than most other Christians, however, conservative evangelicals insist that they are rejecting cultural influences when in fact their faith is profoundly shaped by cultural and political values, by their racial identity and their Christian nationalism.”

Evangelicalism also defines the role of gender, according to Du Mez, depicting men and women as opposites during the past half century:

“They believe God ordained men to be protectors and filled them with testosterone for this purpose. Men … are to exhibit boldness, courage, even ruthlessness in order to fulfill their God-appointed role.”

In contrast, women, the nurturers, must display the feminine virtues of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.” Men, however, are to fight secular humanism, LGBTQ rights, feminism, radical Islam, elected Democrats, and critical race theory. Evangelical leaders stoke fear in their followers for personal power and interests with a militant response. According to Cherie Harder, Trinity Forum president, “fear and grace … are incompatible”; she quoted the New Testament: “Perfect love drives out fear.” Survival may require some fear, but constant fear is dangerous: “stoking it, cultivating it, and dwelling within it … distorts and deforms.”

The conflagration of fear and polarization within congregations has led to pastors resigning, not only from their churches but also from the ministry. Pastor Scott Dudley said:

“They have concluded that their church has become a hostile work environment where at any moment they may be blasted, slandered, and demeaned in disrespectful and angry ways, or have organized groups of people within the church demand that they be fired.”

Conflicts are not doctrinal but political, stirred up by DDT, the lies about the 2020 election, the January 6 insurrection, protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder and critical race theory, and COVID discord—masks, vaccinations, and lockdowns blocking in-person worship.

In Mark Noll’s new preface to his 1994 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, to be rereleased, he argues that “white evangelicals appear as the group most easily captive to conspiratorial nonsense, in greater panic about their political opponents, or as most aggressively anti-intellectual.” He warned that “the broader evangelical population has increasingly heeded populist leaders who dismiss the results of modern learning from whatever source.”

 The extreme anti-vaccine position of evangelicals supporting DDT, sometimes compared to the MAGA suicidal “death cult,” was expressed by Christian fundamentalist Joy Pullmann on The Federalist website on the day of Collin Powell’s death. She argues about the benefit of COVID:

“For Christians, death is good. Yes, death is also an evil—its existence is a result of sin. But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has redeemed even death. In his resurrection, Christ has transformed death into a portal to eternal life for Christians…. The Christian faith makes it very clear that death, while sad to those left behind and a tragic consequence of human sin, is now good for all who believe in Christ.”

To Pullmann, social distancing is sinful because she translates keeping the Sabbath day holy in the Third Commandment as going to church. She also stated that “our Christian heritage also rejects the avoidance of death at any cost” doesn’t venerate “the millions of martyrs.”

In Robert P. Jones’ White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, he writes about his evangelical childhood, experiencing the “seemingly icy surface of guilt and culpability [over] a deeper current of innocence and entitlement. Individually, I was a sinner, but collectively, I was part of a special tribe. Whatever our humble social stations might be, we white Christians were God’s chosen instruments of spreading salvation and civilization to the world.”

Results of a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the non-profit he founded, from White evangelical Protestants:

  • 61 percent: the 2020 presidential election was stolen from DDT.
  • 68 percent: DDT is a “true patriot.”
  • One-third: “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
  • Over seven in ten: denial that the history of slavery and discrimination in the U.S. has any bearing on economic inequalities between white and Black Americans today.
  • One-fourth: QAnon conspiracy believers.

The faculty at the small nondenominational Christian Cornerstone University may give some hope to evangelical thought; 46 of 62 voted no confidence in the incoming president, Gerson Moreno-Riaño, with 14 abstaining. His history of opposing diversity, equity, and inclusion through a culture of fear caused his firing and dissenting staff and professors with little or no warning. Staff may not use any language related to anti-racism, including “micro-aggressions,” “privilege,” and “unconscious bias,” and official documents censor this language. An intercultural studies lecture series was abruptly canceled. Evangelicals need more open dissent like this.

Congress Needs to Shut Down Corruption

Creeping among all the other stories about fraud during the past week was the indictment of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) for his lying to the FBI about taking $30,000 from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, funneled through Californians and distributed to four politicians. Fortenberry alternately expressed shock, surprise, and expectation to be indicted. He resigned from his leadership on the Agriculture Committee but made a lovely video sitting in his vintage pickup with his wife and dog, cornfields in the background, explaining why he had done nothing wrong. His wife, Celeste, stood by her man, also claiming that her husband didn’t lie to the FBI. Fortenberry used the indictment for fundraiser, calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a “swamp creature.”

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California stated a federal grand jury was charging Fortenberry with “concealing information and making false statements to federal authorities who were investigating illegal contributions made by a foreign national to the congressman’s 2016 re-election campaign.” Charges include one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of knowingly and willingly making false statements and representations to federal investigators. Chagoury has cooperated with the investigation and paid $1.8 million in fines.

It seems that Fortenberry faces at least three false statements charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1001:

  • He was aware after the fundraiser that Chagoury was the real source of the $30,000 he received and were funneled to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and himself.
  • The fundraiser host began cooperating with the FBI in September 2016, and Fortenberry asked him to host another event in 2018. The informant told Fortenberry several times that Chagoury provided the original funds, violating both the ban on foreign campaign contributions and the ban on straw man donors.
  • Fortenberry also lied by saying he ended the phone call with the fundraiser after he made a “concerning comment”: in fact, Fortenberry asked him to host another fundraiser.

During the term of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), two sitting congressional members, both Republicans, were criminally charged: New York’s Chris Collins for insider trading, and California’s Duncan Hunter for stealing over $250,000 from his campaign donations. Both were re-elected but resigned, both were sentenced to prison, and both were pardoned by DDT. If guilty, Fortenberry faces up to five years in federal prison. 

DDT supported Fortenberry by saying:

“Isn’t it terrible that a Republican Congressman from Nebraska just got indicted for possibly telling some lies to investigators about campaign contributions, when half of the United States Congress lied about made up scams.”

Fortenberry belongs to the secretive political evangelical Christian group, The Family, highlighted in Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The organization is tied to the Uganda lawmaker who pressured his country to pass legislation called “Kill the Gays.” The Family supports the bill that sentences people committing homosexual acts with the death penalty. In 2014, the text was softened to “Jail the Gays,” sentencing LGBTQ people to life imprisonment, but the Ugandan Supreme Court invalidated the law. Fortenberry’s chief of staff, Andy Braner, is a fellow insider of The Family. The Family has funded Fortenberry’s multiple events overseas connected to the group. 

Another current GOP may be moving toward toward indictment. The FBI has assigned two more two prosecutors to sex-trafficking probe of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), one expert in child exploitation crimes and the other a leader in the public corruption unit. The sentencing of Joel Greenberg, a witness against Gaetz, has been postponed until March as, according to prosecutors, Greenberg continues to provide valuable assistance in their investigation. Gaetz not only lost money on his “America First” tour around the country with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) but also paid $613,000 in the third quarter of 2021 to get under $500,000 in donations. It has been reported that, before DDT left the White House, Gaetz “privately asked” administrators “for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies.” 

Gaetz can no longer practice law because he failed to pay his license annual dues. For reinstatement he would have to pay the $265, an extra $150 reinstatement fee, and a $50 late fee. In addition, he would need to petition the executive director to be reinstated. Convicted of any felonies, he would be disbarred anyway. 

USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, appointed under DDT, appears intent on running his agency into the ground. He’s raising prices, slowing down delivery, and appears to be steering the government work to his former company. More conflicts of interest have emerged from his and his family’s investments in XPO, where he served as CEO, and 13 other major companies with relationships to the postal services. With a financial interest between $30 million and $75 million in XPO, DeJoy refused to divest himself for months after he was confirmed and has more investments in companies such as AT&T, CVS, Verizon, Lockheed Martin, Discover Financial Services, IBM, and JPMorgan Chase—all with USPS government contracts. Federal law requires government employees, including agency heads, to divest from investments worth more than $15,000 in companies that may be affected by their work.

Also ongoing is a probe into DeJoy’s campaign-finance scandal when he coerced employees to donate to Republican candidates. President Joe Biden cannot fire DeJoy without approval by the USPS governing board, who must also be confirmed by the Senate. Although the board president is a Democrat, he said DeJoy is “the proper man for the job.” Bloom’s tenure on the board expires, however, in December 2021. 

Republicans may give up on DeJoy after he began banking in post offices located in Washington, Baltimore, Falls Church (VA), and the Bronx by accepting paychecks or business checks of up to $500 in exchange for prepaid Visa gift cards. Postal officials plan to expand the program in 2022 with bill-paying services and ATMS in post offices. Republicans still want DeJoy’s campaign donations but don’t like the USPS competing with private financial institutions. In a letter to DeJoy, Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC) wrote that the program “undermines the trust during your engagements with Congress and raises questions as to whether you worked with us in good faith.”

More corruption, money-laundering on a large scale, has been discovered in the Midwest: federal prosecutors seized $12 million allegedly part of “The Shadow Exchange” between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates. Some of the money was used to buy armored vehicles for an illegal drug trafficking operation in Michigan. The money origins were hidden with fake invoices and other documents sent to banks, including major ones in the U.S., through wire transfers. Federal authorities obtained the money in December 2020, January 2021, and May 2021.

Ukrainian banking oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky bought a disintegrating factory Harvard (IL), population 9,281, much to the delight of the depressed community. He did nothing with the factory, originally built in the late 1990s by Motorola before the business failed, and the U.S. has hit him with sanctions for “significant corruption” in Ukraine for overseeing Ponzi schemes. Before Kolomoisky, a Miami investor, Chaim Schochet, purchased the facility on behalf of Optima International, a company buying commercial real estate throughout the Midwest. Both Schochet and Kolomoisky used laundered money and fraudulent loans to buy property and then let it rot. They paid no property taxes, starving the communities, and in 2016 Kolomoisky sold the Harvard property to a Chinese Canadian businessman. After spreading dreams throughout the community for a year, Canadian authorities charged the new owner of a money laundering scheme, and New Zealand detailed how he led a “multi-national pyramid scheme.”   

Money laundering moved to the Midwest from urban areas because they have no laws against anonymous real estate purchases, unlike cities like New York City, Dallas, and Seattle. Desperate for help, places suffering from economic decline are also ripe for this kind of corruption. When Kolomoisky bought up many downtown Cleveland buildings, the Ohio city was helpless when he let them fall apart. Last year, Congress banned anonymous shell company formations, overriding DDT’s veto, and will be debating the Transnational Repression Accountability and Prevention Act to counter authoritarian regimes targeting journalists in democratic countries—if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) permits.  

In an unusual coalition, four members of the House—Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Joe Wilson (R-SC)—are introducing the Establishing New Authorities for Business Laundering and Enabling Risks to Security (ENABLERS) Act closing loopholes foreign kleptocrats use to launder money in the United States. Financial institutions are required to report suspicious transactions; ENABLERS expands that requirement to others such as law and public relations firms, accountants, investment and real estate advisors, and art dealers who allow the secrecy of origins through shell companies, trusts, and other investment vehicles. The four representatives founded the Caucus Against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy recently leading the charge to anti-corruption legislation in the House’s national defense bill.

Now the country needs ten good Republicans in the Senate to fight corruption.

October 23, 2021

DDT’s App Fails, Parnas Convicted, House Investigates

Reddit’s WallStreetBets is playing games with the stock for Digital World Acquisition (DWA), the special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) connected with the new technology effort from Deposed Donald Trump (DDT). The price quadrupled on day, indicating a meme stock false inflationary rise as Reddit did with GameStop. SPACs make money by getting money from investors by going public before finding a private company for a merge. Thus big investors in DWA didn’t know the tie with Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) until the deal was reached. Now DDT wants the invested money to build his new social app, TRUTH Social, in 2022 as a rival to the “Big Tech” companies.

Although people justified voting for DDT as a “smart businessman,” wealthy people in the business world don’t agree. Hedge fund manager Boaz Weinstein took out his investment in DWA after he discovered its connection with DDT’s social media company. The stock is still ten-fold it’s start but heading down.    

Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell called DDT’s project a crude, uncreative knockoff of Twitter:

“The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know ‘who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,’ the social network’s App Store profile states…

“When you publish posts you don’t hit “Tweet” — you hit a button that says ‘TRUTH!’ Every post from every user is a ‘Truth,’ not because of the substance of what someone is saying, but by virtue of where they are saying it.”

“TruthSocial” has already disappeared—at least temporarily—because DDT’s company violated its software licensing agreement. According to a policy fellow of the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), TMTG used the software program Mastoden which didn’t give software users “an opportunity to receive the entire Corresponding Source for the website based on that code.” TMTG tried to hide its use of Mastoden, according to The Verge, and called the service “proprietary,” but the HTML coding and site appearance showed Mastoden’s open-source code. After TMTG was caught, it took down the site with 30 days to make the site available to every user who logs in before its permanently termination. Terms of service on DDT’s “free speech” app states that users may not “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.”

Before DDT’s website was taken down, hackers broke into it and created fake accounts. One posted a defecating pig with the hashtag @donaldjtrump in what it called an “online war against hate.” Hackers noted the ease with which they could gain access to the site.

DDT’s effort is not his first try. The last one, From the Desk of Donald J. Trump, evaporated last June in 29 days to much ridicule. A blog-like webpage sharing his comments required donations for responses. At that time, DDT said he planned join “another social media platform.” DDT’s site attracted fewer visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish. Called a “beacon of freedom” by DDT’s advisers, the effort garnered only 1,500 shares or comments on Facebook and Twitter on its last day.

Lev Parnas, an associate of DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy, Giuliani, was quickly found guilty of using a Russian financier’s campaign donations to influence several state and federal political candidates and lying about it. One was a $325,000 donation in 2018 to a fundraising committee supporting DDT. Parnas faces a second trial in a Manhattan federal court for defrauding investors in his company, Fraud Guarantee, supposedly protecting companies from fraud. In Ukraine, he searched for damaging information on President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for DDT’s 2020 campaign. DDT’s first impeachment trial accused him of withholding congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine if the country’s officials didn’t announce a criminal probe into the Bidens.

Parnas’ guilt is connected to GOP voter fraud. Some of the donation went to Adam Lexalt’s campaign in Nevada. Former state AG Lexalt claimed dead people voted in the 2020 election. The husband of one of the two women cited in the claim called it “sickening” before admitting he had submitted his dead wife’s ballot. He is an executive with a company fined for providing space for DDT’s rally months earlier against state’s limits on crowds. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also took donations from Parnas. 

In more financing issues, the January 6 Committee is investigating any election law violations or financial crimes by domestic terrorists and foreign extremists funding the pro-DDT rallies preceding insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Four different teams are tracking money, participants’ motivation, group coordination, and DDT’s executive authority to pressure lawmakers, former VP Mike Pence, and the DOJ. Buses, meals, hotels, etc. cost millions of dollars with staffing by DDT’s former campaign employees. The committee has hired people such as financial investigators to create a “comprehensive inventory of everything that took place,” according to committee member Jamie Raskin (R-MD). Persons of interest include rally organizers for Women for America First, Amy Kremer and Caroline Wren, the latter a major fundraiser for DDT’s campaign. Other questions are about private security forces, some associated with DDT’s friend Roger Stone and permits for the grounds.

The House may also probe the part of Oath Keepers in the Capitol insurrection, assisted by hackers finding data about almost 40,000 members of the self-described militia who are part of the GOP mainstream. On the list are 48 state and local GOP government officials, ten sitting state lawmakers, two former state representatives, one current state assembly candidate, a state legislative aide, a city council assistant, two town aldermen, state investigators in Texas and Louisiana, a New Jersey town’s public work’s director, a retired Alabama assistant school superintendent, a California award-winning elementary school teacher, and county commissioners, sheriffs, and constables in Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, and Texas. Others are police officers, active military troops, and veterans. State Arizona lawmaker and member Wendy Rogers was active in the fake Arizona ballot count.

Nearly 1,000 people joined the militia or renewed their memberships immediately after the insurrection. The surge included combat veterans, retired servicepersons, at least one serving national guardsman, several members of the clergy, and others involved in security contracting and the firearms industry. The NYPD has started an internal investigation after hackers found two active officers among Oath Keepers members.

Valuable to the Oath Keepers are the almost 200 former and active law enforcement officials who swear allegiance to the group instead of the United States. They present credentials such as law enforcement experience, weapons, etc. and vow to not obey government orders such as disarming people in the U.S. The group’s anti-government conspiracy theories and penchant for violence have led them to armed standoffs with the federal government and a role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The NYPD has started an internal investigation after hackers found two active officers among Oath Keepers members.  

In Oregon, Oath Keepers, including over two dozen current and former law enforcement officers refused any comment and sometimes denied being members but ridiculed indigenous people, ignored inmates’ medical needs, etc. A former military police officer and current corrections officer at Snake River Correctional Institution, one of six current or former correction officers in the militia, posted a Facebook message calling for “all illegals” to be deported, suggested wealthy Democrat George Soros paid protesters “to riot and burn down Ferguson,” and accused congressional Muslims of trying to destroy the country from within.

Founding member and former board member Richard Mack also founded the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in Oregon which believes county sheriffs can ignore state and federal law because they are the highest government authority. Several Oregon sheriffs joined Mack’s group, including then-Linn County Sherriff Tim Mueller who led eight other Oregon counties in sending a letter in 2013 to then-VP Joe Biden, declaring they would not enforce any new federal gun laws. Now, Mack’s sheriffs have told Gov. Kate Brown they will not enforce the state mask mandates, something Brown has not required.

During a campaign speech for election to Congress, Arizona’s state representative Walt Blackman praised the Proud Boys, another far-right extremist group, saying their attending his rallies “was one of the proudest moments of my life.” He called them “the example on how to be an American.” The speech was at a rally organized by Look Ahead America to support insurrections charged in the January 6 riot. He also thanked McCarthy and the NRCC for putting him on the Young Guns program as an “on the radar” candidate. One of Blackman’s GOP opponents is Ron Watkins, a QAnon leader. Congress has also constituted hearings to investigate the number of military-related people attracted to such extremist organizations as the Proud Boys. 

October 22, 2021

House Votes for Bannon’s Criminal Contempt

The U.S. House voted today to hold Steve Bannon, former White House adviser to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), in criminal contempt of Congress because he refused to comply with the subpoena from the January 6 Committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Nine Republicans joined all Democrats for the 229-202 yes vote; seven of the Republicans also voted to impeach DDT the second time. Bannon, who left the White House 3.5 years before DDT did—and before the attack on the Capitol—has claimed protection from DDT’s “executive privilege.” Legal experts, however, state that the claim cannot apply to private citizens. The charge can result in up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

DDT is also using executive privilege to keep the House investigation committee from obtaining archived records surrounding January 6, but he isn’t the executive. President Joe Biden has already approved the request for the records. At her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Bannon reportedly “had specific knowledge about the events of January 6th before they occurred and had multiple roles relevant to the attack and [was] very outspoken about it.”

Last year, Bannon was charged in a fundraising scam supposedly to collect money for DDT’s wall on the southern border in which he took about $1 million. One of DDT’s last acts before leaving the White House was to pardon Bannon, and a judge dismissed that specific fraud case four months later. After Bannon’s conversations with DDT leading up to the attack, he made a January 5 comment on his podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The “hell” included five dead, several of them police officers, and over 140 officers injured with ax handles, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks, and other weapons.

Although the January 6 Committee has two Republicans, House Minority Leader (R-CA) Kevin McCarthy falsely claimed that it represents “the first time in the history of Congress that the minority was not able to participate.” McCarthy pulled all his GOP nominations for the committee after Pelosi refused two of them, one of them being Jim Jordan (R-OH) who may receive a subpoena to testify before the committee. The other one, Jim Banks (R-IN) is still claiming the riot on January 6 was a “permitted political rally” and asked why it needed to be investigated. Both Banks and Jordan voted against creating the committee and to overturn Biden’s presidency on January 6.

Banks also wrote letters signing himself as the “ranking member” of the committee in a letter to the Department of the Interior on September 16 when he requested all information provided to the committee. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy), actually a committee member, called him out for his falsehood on the House floor today. Another committee member, Rep. Jamie Rankin (D-MD) called Banks “not only delusional and fantastical, but it might be some kind of violation of the rules of the House.”

The fireworks were on display both during the debate for the vote and earlier during the Rules Committee hearing when Republicans tried to protect Bannon from the subpoena. The January 6 Committee had unanimously voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt and refer charges to the DOJ, and the Rules Committee met to determine process for the full House vote. Appearing before that committee, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) argued that DDT’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election was legal came to naught when confronted by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a constitutional law professor. Raskin said DDT’s over 60 lawsuits to “prove” a “stolen” election failed courts found no evidence of voter fraud, and Gaetz claimed a need for a legal “remedy.” The law professor responded:

“There’s no remedy because there’s no violation, Mr. Gaetz.”

Gaetz said the courts didn’t “take up the facts” on “jurisdiction or remedy,” and Raskin came back at him:

“You know what? That might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast, but that’s not going to work in the Rules Committee in the United States House of Representatives.”

The discussion went to why Gaetz didn’t want a congressional inquiry into the violent January 6 attack. Gaetz declared the inquiry was “unwarranted,” and Raskin accused him of not wanting “to know the answer.” In denying investigations, Gaetz may have been thinking of the FBI probe into Gaetz’s alleged sex trafficking and other crimes with evidence, including witnesses.

The perpetually angry former assistant wrestling coach who ignored reports of his team doctor’s sexually abusing athletes, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), furiously refused to say the 2020 election was “not stolen” by President Joe Biden. Jordan claims he never said the election was stolen but that it should be investigated, later falsely saying that Republicans “condemned violence every stinking time” although many of his colleagues compared the January 6 attack to “tourists” in the Capitol.

Jordan again displayed his poor memory when he told the Rules Committee he couldn’t remember how many times he talked to DDT on that day. He repeated his statement that “it’s not about me” and testified that he didn’t talk to DDT “before or during” the attack.” Yet he told Politico in August that he was “sure” one of the calls was in the safe room where lawmakers were sequestered during the attack. Democratic lawmakers have suggested that Jordan may also be subpoenaed to testify before the January 6 Committee.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a member of the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, also testified before the Rules Committee:

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do, however, appear to reveal one thing: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th, and this committee will get to the bottom of that.”

Cheney also directly addressed “my Republican colleagues”:

“Almost all of you know in your hearts that what happened on Jan. 6 was profoundly wrong. You know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election; you know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know those claims are false. Yet President Trump repeats them almost daily.”   

McCarthy told all the Republicans to vote against holding Bannon in criminal contempt, but he might also be subpoenaed for testimony regarding his events on January 6. Last month, Sidney Powell, one of DDT’s lawyers to overturn the election, implicated both McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the plot. She suggested the insurrection could delay the election’s certification until DDT’s lawyers could file a 12th Amendment case allowing state electors to change their votes to DDT. Buying time could allow Justice Samuel Alito to block the certification.

In another high-profile subpoena, the January 6 committee summoned Jeffrey Clark, the former little-known DOJ official who tried to overturn Biden’s election. It was the 19th subpoena leading up to the vote on Bannon’s criminal contempt charge. Clark had delivered a letter to George state legislators and others requesting a delay in the election results certification. Despite no evidence of fraud, he also wanted to hold a news conference about allegations of DDT’s claims about a “stolen” election. DDT and Clark discussed ousting the newly-appointed acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to force Georgia to overturn the state’s presidential election results, according to former DDT administration officials.

Clark’s subpoena was the 19th from the January 6 Committee. Fourteen subjects have scheduled depositions, and three are “engaged. George Baron Coleman representing Ali Alexander, head of Stop the Steal, won’t be deposed. Alexander said he planned the January 6 insurrection with the help of Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ).

In the Senate on Wednesday, all 50 Republicans voted against the right for Democrats to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) objected to an earlier voting rights bill and promised to write a bill that Republicans could support. He wrote the bill, it was presented, and Republicans voted down any debate on it in a filibuster for the third time regarding a bill blocking many eligible voters in the nation, primarily low-income and minorities, from democratically voting in elections. House Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the bill permitting eligible voters to participate in elections a “rotten core” and a “radical agenda.” He also claimed that requiring 60 percent of the senators to even discuss a bill came from the “framers,” which it did not. Unlike the past when filibusters required a person’s nonspeaking behavior on the Senate floor, a senator can just call in a filibuster while they are on vacation.

The “rotten core” McConnell claimed: a paper trail for ballots, Election Day a holiday, two weeks of early voting, no permission required for vote by mail, and automatic and same-day voter registration. the bill also prohibits partisan gerrymandering, require transparency in advertising, and protect election officials from attacks. The Federal Election Commission gutted under DDT would be rebuilt. The Senate has an advantage over individual states: the federal lawmakers must have 60 percent to pass a bill whereas state legislatures require only a simple majority. In the U.S. Senate 41 senators represent only 21 percent of the population. 

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.

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