Nel's New Day

January 31, 2022

Youngkin Follows Trump’s Path

Presidential competition in 2024 for Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, may be from Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, who took over the office in office a little over two weeks ago. As a candidate, Youngkin appeared to be DDT-Lite, his primary campaign platform putting parents into control of school curriculum and banning books. His executive orders on his first day of office, however, show the “Lite” is gone. He went full-blown Trumpism, signing 11 executive orders and saying, “The work is only beginning,” meaning his control of education, more police, fewer regulations, and “making government work for the people.” 

One order blocked mask requirements in public schools. He admitted that “the governor cannot ban mask mandates. Schools make those decisions. We will in fact, then, also make sure that schools allow parents to exercise their rights for what’s best for their children, to opt-out of those mandates.” For no reason. Almost half of Virginia’s schools are suing Youngkin, stating his order is unconstitutional and pointing out that Youngkin’s son attends a private school with a mask mandate. In a poll, 56 percent agree that school districts should establish their own policies. Youngkin also signed an order permitting for-profit businesses to use taxpayer money in setting up private schools. The South has a long tradition of segregation using taxpayer funding for private schools. 

Despite Youngkin’s threat to withhold funds from schools not following his mask ban, the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools said, “We will fight it to the end.” Part of the lawsuits argues that Virginia law requires school adherence to CDC provisions which include universal mask wearing in schools and overrides Youngkin’s order. His excuses for banning mask mandates falsely claim that children wear unclean masks with “bacteria and parasites” and long-term mask-wearing “decreases their effectiveness.” Dr. Colin Greene, the newly appointed state health commissioner, couldn’t find one study to support Younkin’s statement but said that it was “intuitive.

Virginia’s order versus school district’s attempt to protect student has boiled over into schools. At a school board meeting in Page County, a woman threatened to bring “every single gun loaded” to her children’s school on the next Monday. Charged with a crime, she said she didn’t literally mean it, but the district increased security. Some parents kept their children home from school. The website Mask Off Monday told parents to disobey school rules for wearing masks. Their direction:

“You may feel the need to explain your mask issues further. Resist that feeling. When it comes to the law, explanation is weakness. It’s time to get back to normal life, and the time to push is right now. Fear has ruled our lives for far too long. No ‘health authority’ will give you the all clear after all of the new power they have seized and wielded. You must turn off the television, and take it for yourself.”

Before his election, Youngkin said that “localities” must decide “the way the law works,” and his campaign promised Youngkin “would not go as far as Desantis.” After his ban on mandate requirements blew up in his face, the new governor wrote, “We’re all in the same boat and love one another.” Yet, as Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “He personally modeled contempt for authority—he encouraged it and rewarded it. He did so in the full knowledge that he was essentially deputizing furious parents to follow only the kinds of laws they liked and conscripting their kids into participating.”

Virginia’s new attorney general, Jason Miyares, is cut from Youngkin cloth: he told state universities they cannot mandate the COVID mandate for students to enroll or attend in person unless legislature includes the requirements among the immunizations. The legal opinion overturned one from April 2021 by Democratic AG Mark Herring allowing the mandate during the pandemic. The statement isn’t law and has no direct consequences if not followed. Miyares’ office stated, however, that “if an individual decided to sue a university for not following the attorney general’s guidance, they could use the Attorney General’s opinion in court.”

Before being sworn in, Miyares fired 30 lawyers, many of them in the Office of Civil Rights, with only a 24-hour notice. Some were career civil servants, not political appointees. Helen Hardiman, an investigator and litigator against housing discrimination, had 20 cases in court or going to trial. Miyares also fired top counsels at the University of Virginia and George Mason University with no justification. He said their legal advice was based on “the philosophy of a university,” indicating that the firing was political.  One attorney was fired while on leave from his university position to be the top investigator for the House January 6 committee. Miyares’ campaign promise to call “balls and strikes” with no allegiance to a political party has disappeared.

Miyares pulled Virginia out of a multi-state climate contract just two weeks after another disastrous storm from climate change. He announced Virginia would no longer participate in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case supporting the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions related to climate change, saying, “Virginia is no longer anti-coal.” Virginia will join the coalition of 27 attorneys general asking OSHA to withdraw its COVID vaccine mandate of large private employers. Miyares seeks legislative authority to prosecute local cases he determines to be treated with too much leniency or completely bypass “liberal” prosecutors. Yet he refused to say whether he would continue Herring’s cases such as a lawsuit against Windsor (VA) alleging police discriminated against Blacks and violated their constitutional rights.

Another Youngkin order on his first day followed other states to give students “comfort” in their education by blocking instruction of “inherently divisive concepts.” A legislative bill defines that term as one race is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously” and that “meritocracy or traits, such as a hard work ethic, are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.” Pushed to more clearly define the term, a GOP lawmaker answered, “Anything that’s dividing”—eliminating lessons to “analyze bias and examine privilege.”

The proposed law could return the state to the mid-twentieth century as the South Florida Sun Sentinel pointed out: 

“Virginia textbooks in the mid-20th century fed students a fiction of happy slaves who loved their kindly masters. One particularly deceitful illustration portrayed a well-dressed Black family—father, mother and children—being welcomed with a handshake aboard a slave ship.”

Youngkin outdid DeSantis in this “anti-critical-race-theory” order: he set up a tip line for reports of anyone who dares violate his command. It backfired. Trolling Gen Zers on TikTok flooded the email address using a website to send prewritten emails containing song lyrics. Ironically, the governer’s office tweeted a complaint about this “misinformation” to the disinformation the governor spread through his executive actions. Gen-Z for Change made this statement to The Washington Examiner:

“If Governor Youngkin is worried that his tactics to distract from his poor handling of the pandemic are being disrupted by the collective effort of a bunch of kids who think racism is bad, he should feel free to contact us at our tip line: cryaboutit@genzforchange.org. Then again, we appreciate Governor Youngkin sticking to email—it would have been a real pain to lick this many envelopes.”

Youngkin bans “divisive” concepts in public schools, but the private schools where Youngkin’s children attended teaches these concepts. He was even on the board of National Cathedral, an all-girl Episcopal-sponsored school, known for developing anti-racism teachings with diversity forums, an equity board, an intersectionality council, and a student diversity leadership conference. The curriculum provides time for “critical conversations around topics of race, anti-racism, social justice, and inclusion”; added courses such as “Black Lives in Literature” and “Courageous Dialogues”; developed new hiring protocols “as a result of our anti-bias work,” and required diversity training for all staff members. On the summer reading list are books such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk about Racism.  According to the school, “discomfort helps us to stretch and grow. Learning how to engage in difficult conversations [is] vital.” The companion all-boys school, St. Albans, followed the same anti-racism initiatives. Youngkin is denying his children’s educational advantages to all public school students.

With his own pro-coal policy,  Youngkin appointed Andrew Wheeler, former EPA secretary and coal industry lobbyist, as the state’s secretary of natural resources, implementing environmental policies. Virginia also dropped opposition in the Supreme Court to Mississippi’s unconstitutional abortion restriction before 15 weeks, and Youngkin expanded duties of a state diversity officer as an “ambassador for unborn children,” actually fetuses. He fired the entire state parole board and replaced the members with more conservative ones. Anti-LGBTQ, Youngkin referred to transgender girls as “biological males” and opposes same-gender marriage. He was honored at an anti-LGBTQ group gala supported by hate groups and Trump-affiliated organizations. His transition’s top officials wrote the legislation outlawing marriage equality and helped build anti-LGBTQ conservatives’ careers such as those of former VP Mike Pence and Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. As he bragged to Fox’s Laura Ingraham, there’s “a new sheriff in town.”

The “new sheriff” is already underwater in approval: the PPP survey shows positive rating at 44 percent compared to 47 percent disapproval. Having put Virginia into chaos, Youngkin says he’s “having a ball.” He lies about his campaign promises and endangers lives both from the virus and the violence ensuing because of his “inherently divisive” behavior. His next move is to restrict voting in Virginia. And he’s a businessman. He’s checking off all the Trumper boxes.

January 30, 2022

DeSantis for President?

Since November 2020, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has been operating a two-pronged attack—overturn Joe Biden’s legitimate presidency and run an underground campaign to be elected in 2024. Thus far, the first one has failed, and his leadership in the lies and violence is daily becoming exposed. A poll has revealed that his chances in 2024 may be diminishing. Although almost as many Republicans support him as several months ago, the percentage of those who support him for a presidential candidate has dropped by over 20 percent. Watching a failing DDT, competition is growing. Not one, of course, would ever say they will run against DDT, but three of them are working overtime to out-Trump DDT.

For months, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has been the pack leader. Of Republicans, 69 percent said DDT should run again for president, but without him, 30 percent support DeSantis. The governor’s most popular DDT position features COVID—at least DDT’s position before he realized that Republicans were dying off at a far more rapid rate than Democrats because, thanks to DDT’s anti-vax attitude until recently, 56 percent of Republicans aren’t vaccinated as of a month ago, compared to 92 percent of Democrats. 

DeSantis’ promotion of COVID in his state, including banning mask mandates and touting monoclonal antibody treatments instead of vaccinations, mades Florida below only six other states in the number of COVID infections per capita. Almost 65,000 Floridians have died of COVID, and over 25 percent of the population has contracted the coronavirus. And those figures come after officials tweaked numbers of infections and deaths to make them appear more favorable to DeSantis. Currently, he is fighting the federal government for removing his preferential Regeneron treatment, a huge moneymaker for his biggest donor. This monoclonal treatment doesn’t affect the new Omicron variant, causing almost 100 percent of COVID cases in England, but DeSantis wants taxpayers to pay $1 billion for the treatments instead of $10 million for vaccinations which are more effective.

One mystery about DeSantis is where he was for a couple of weeks at the end of December in the midst of shattering new records of infections with 1000-percent spike in cases. He said he was caring for his wife, recently diagnosed with cancer, but at his speech after reemerging, he had difficulty breathing, sweat profusely, looked wobbly, and struggled to read his notes in a wavery voice. (Video here.)  Fatigue? Brain fog? Who knows.  

DeSantis is so negligent about COVID that he changed the expiration date on one million COVID rapid tests from last summer to this coming March. He had stockpiled the tests and claimed people shouldn’t bother getting tested and handpicked his new surgeon general, who has yet to be confirmed, to be anti-vaccination and anti-testing. Some facts about Joseph Ladapo, who has yet to be confirmed for the position after over four months:

  • Helped lead the state movement to ban mask mandates at schools and private businesses.
  • Refuses to say whether COVID vaccinations are beneficial, but writing that the vaccine risks may outweigh the benefits. Unvaccinated people have 68 percent times the risk of dying from COVID than fully vaccinated people.
  • Would not say whether he regretted not wearing a mask in the presence of state Sen. Tina Polsky, diagnosed with cancer, during a confirmation interview.
  • Declined to answer questions about putting Orange County’s top public health official, Dr. Raul Pino, on leave for criticizing over half the department’s 568 employees who aren’t vaccinated. 
  • Participated with a group of doctors supporting unproven COVID therapies as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. One of his colleagues in the group claims having sex with demons during dreams causes endometriosis.
  • Opposes mass COVID testing so that people can “be living.” He made this announcement from a podium with the sign, “Early Treatment Saves Lives.”
  • Makes $437,000 a year for his job and for teaching at the University of Florida thanks to the Board of Trustees chair and millionaire developer, a big donor to DeSantis campaigns. Of that sum, taxpayers pay $250,000.
  • Lied when he said he treated COVID patients at UCLA.

DeSantis doesn’t keep to COVID in demonstrating his DDT-style incompetence, divisiveness, authoritarianism, and morally degenerative behavior.  

Freedom of speech: He tried to block university students and professors who objected voting rights. 

Protesting: His “anti-riot” legislation outlawed two or more people standing together in protest but exonerates anyone driving “into protesters who are blocking a road.” https://morningshots.thebulwark.com/p/defining-deviancy-down-politics-edition   

Private business rights: His law, blocked in the courts, prohibited social media platforms “banning political candidates or ‘journalistic enterprises’ from their services”—directly applying to DDT.

Voter suppression: Like governors in 18 other states, DeSantis signed voter oppression laws which block some use of ballot drop boxes, give partisan poll watchers new powers, and create difficulty in vote-by-mail. The justification is three voter-fraud incidents by DDT’s supporters in the past two years.  

Election fraud: He plans to create an “Office of Election Crimes and Security,” DeSantis ignored the real election fraud electing three Republicans. Dark money in a mysterious PAC elected three “ghost” candidates in three-way races to draw votes from Democratic incumbents in tight re-election races. One of them, bribed with $44,000 by a former GOP lawmaker, had the same name as the Democrat who lost by 32 votes. That “ghost” was fined and censured, but DeSantis said nothing, perhaps because the same donor for the ghosts gave DeSantis hundreds of thousands of dollars. DeSantis did reward the donor, a utility company, by permitting them the use of dirty fuel sources and a $1.5 billion rate increase for Floridians. The $6 million budget and 52 investigators would be bigger than most of the state’s police departments—but won’t be investigating Republicans.

Personal Guard: DeSantis also wants $3.5 million to reestablish a World War II-era civilian military force disbanded in 1947 that only he controls—not the Pentagon, that is “not encumbered by the federal government.”

Campaign fraud: The Florida media reported that he uses the government-owned plane for “campaign-style events,” and a government watchdog group thinks he is “blurring the lines.” The plane cost $15 million to purchase and over $3 million a year to operate.

DeSantis now has a “reactionary and authoritarian” proposal called the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act. It bans schools and employers from making students and employees feel any “discomfort” because “of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” Like similar laws in other states, its purpose is to make white supremacists feel comfortable about their privilege by eliminating Black history. The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial about the bill:

“It perpetuates two persistent great lies: That racism did not have a major influence on American history and that it is not an issue now. That is the current dogma of DeSantis’s Republican Party in its determination to retain the allegiance of white voters who are terrified of losing social and political dominance to changing demographics. Demonization of critical race theory, by making it into a boogeyman, is one front in the Republican culture wars. DeSantis would make Floridians ignorant of the most troublesome aspects of our past, present and future.”

As the editorial board wrote, DeSantis “knows critical race theory isn’t being taught in the schools,” but is lying about the issue anyway. The editorial said DeSantis’ bill was the worst one since Tennessee outlawed the teaching of evolution 96 years ago. The result of that one was called “the monkey trial.” DeSantis’ bill allows parents and employees to sue and act as vigilantes, as they can regarding abortion in Texas.

DeSantis himself has a racist history. About gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, a Black man, DeSantis said he would “monkey this up” in Florida and referred to Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, elected to Congress, as “whatever she is.” He appeared with Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon at a Muslim-bashing event and moderated a Facebook page for racist memes, for example accusing Michele Obama of being a man. He endorsed Sebastian Gorka who has ties to a Hungarian far-right group collaborating with Nazis. Among DeSantis’ anti-immigrant positions is increasing punishments for undocumented migrants after one mentally-ill immigrant accidentally killed someone. One of his major campaign ads for governor was teaching his toddler son about “building the wall” although Florida has no land border with any other country. DeSantis’ wife, Casey, appeared at an event with a Barack Obama “birther” with ties to the anti-Muslim extremist who also ran the racist Facebook group that DeSantis moderated.

For over a month, DDT has focused on attacking DeSantis, first calling him “gutless” for not admitting he’s had a COVID booster shot and then saying he is an ingrate with a “dull personality” with no charisma and no chance of winning in 2024 without his help. As time goes on, he may have to diversify his insulting. Door Two and Three? Perhaps Virginia’s new governor Glenn Youngkin and Fox’s Tucker Carlson. More about them later.

January 27, 2022

Lawyers’ Lies – G.S. Hans

As almost everyone in the U.S. must know by now, Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer will resign at the end of the current term if the Senate has confirmed his replacement. While I work on other projects, I have reprinted this essay about the current status of the nation’s highest court by G.S. Hans, an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School, where he directs the Stanton Foundation First Amendment Clinic: “The Lie Lawyers Can’t Stop Telling Themselves.” – NW

Judges love to talk about “law” as distinct from “policy.” It’s not.

This month’s chaotic Supreme Court arguments on the Biden administration’s workplace COVID-19 vaccination rules were typical of this 6-3 conservative supermajority: the usual mix of overlong hypotheticals, ahistorical musings, and overt hostility to the executive branch. But one brief comment from Justice Brett Kavanaugh also revealed much about the stories attorneys and judges tell themselves about the role and status of “law” as privileged above everything else.

Kavanaugh spoke after Justices Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, who had just asked questions about the scope of administrative law and the slippery “major questions” doctrine, respectively. “I want to follow up on Justice Gorsuch’s questions, which I think are important, and also Justice Kagan’s questions about the policy arguments that are present here,” Kavanaugh mused. His comment tellingly blessed Gorsuch’s “important” legal questions over Kagan’s mere inquiries into “policy” (while ignoring that both justices were actually asking similar questions).

This sounds all too familiar to those of us who’ve survived the law school experience, in which faculty and peers may dismiss some students’ perfectly valid points as mere “policy arguments.” For law students, the answer to a “cold-call” of the type seen in Legally Blonde “should” be grounded in the case or statute at issue rather than larger concerns like justice, morals, or equality. Students learn fast that, if you care about the equity goals of the Voting Rights Act or the repercussions of artificially cramped standing doctrine, you better have something more than “policy” to justify your arguments. 

Many lawyers, law professors, and judges treat policy as basically just vibes: emotions and feelings dressed up in rhetoric. Law, by contrast, is Solid, Determinate, and Consistent: an elegant edifice, chiseled and crafted by all-knowing judges and learned attorneys. There might be harsh results or perverse incentives, sure, but that’s the price to pay for stability. Indeed, a lack of concern for squishy values like “justice” proves the higher meaning and value of law—there’s no room for maneuvering.

There are (at least) two problems with this view. First, it creates an artificial distinction between law and policy, casting them as disparate arenas rather than inextricably intertwined. Second and more insidiously, it creates a hierarchy in which law reigns supreme over subjective and “imprecise” disciplines like policy, which can too closely resemble feelings in its concern for non-legal considerations. When lawyers and judges assert that law trumps other concerns, they implicitly subordinate those who claim allegiance to other values or disciplines. You’re either on our team, or you’re a loser.

Perhaps because I was told during my first year of law school that my questions were actually “policy inquiries,” I enrolled in a policy program and graduated with a joint degree. There, I learned that policy is more than vibes. It’s a set of social considerations and goals partially achieved through law, informed by empirical and qualitative research and a range of academic disciplines. The best policy scholars and policymakers craft their views with more rigor than one finds in judicial opinions, and with more collective, distributed input. Yet prominent judges seem to both disdain policy and collapse disciplines like sociology, statistics, and economics into a mess they characterize as simultaneously finicky and mushy.

Take our Chief Justice, for example. Who can forget John Roberts describing sophisticated statistics during oral argument in Gill v. Whitford, a 2017 challenge to partisan gerrymandering, as “sociological gobbledygook”? That facile insult prompted the then-head of the American Sociological Association to write him a letter reminding him that Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional, relied on psychological and sociological evidence to demonstrate why separate wasn’t equal. (Of course, given contemporary conservative hostility to Brown v. Board—I’ve lost count of how many Trump judicial nominees refused to say it was rightfully decided during their confirmation hearings—for some judges, citing it to show that sociology matters for law might be a turnoff.)

More recently, at oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—the case from this term that the conservative justices will likely use to hollow out legal protections for reproductive rights—Roberts again signaled that data and policy analysis, no matter how expert or sophisticated, has little to commend it. This seems especially true when “policy” might stop the Court’s right wing from fulfilling its mission of eliminating bodily autonomy for those who can become pregnant. When Julie Rikelman, the lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights arguing the case, noted that in the nearly fifty years since Roe v. Wade, “abortion has been critical to women’s equal participation in society,” Roberts asked for the data. After Rikelman cited an impressive amicus brief filed by over 150 economists and researchers proving her point, Roberts breezily ignored it. “Putting that data aside,” he said, he quickly moved on to more serious, more “legal” inquiries: why upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban wouldn’t present a major shift from the existing viability standard. Rather than examining careful non-legal scholarship, tired, formalist legal questions about line-drawing maintained superiority.

It would be one thing if the justices’ contempt for policy were accompanied by a principled distinction between law and policy. But no serious reader of the Supreme Court’s recent opinions could ignore the policy goals that dominate. In Brnovich v. DNC, a 2021 decision that eviscerated whatever remained of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Samuel Alito decided that he would rewrite the statute to further Court’s policy agenda of eliminating the VRA’s protections for minority voters. Conservative justices often extoll the primacy of statutory text—but not, it seems, when more important social goals of the conservative legal movement are within striking distance.

Or consider Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, another case decided in 2021 along ideological lines. Two non-profit entities (one associated with the Koch brothers, the other a law firm that “defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values”) successfully argued that a hypothetical injury—that California’s mandated financial contribution disclosures somehow chilled their First Amendment speech rights—was sufficient to confer standing. Standing requires that plaintiffs in federal cases demonstrate that they’ve suffered a concrete, particularized injury. In Bonta, the Court decided that these nonprofits who had suffered no such injury could nonetheless challenge California’s law.

Most of the time, judges use standing doctrine to keep out those claimants who’ve been injured in ways that judges might not care much about, like privacy or civil rights. Indeed, in a consumer rights case the Supreme Court decided just one week prior to AFP, Kavanaugh had written an opinion sharply limiting Congress’s power to create standing. But when it comes to funding conservative political causes, that hostility to finding standing was nowhere to be found.

My skepticism about a principled divide between law and policy dates back to 1L. In Constitutional Law we debated the then three-month old decision in D.C. v. Heller, which overturned decades of precedent in finding an individual Second Amendment right, to gun ownership. In the majority and dissenting opinions Justices Scalia and Stevens, respectively, spend way too much time arguing about competing dictionary definitions. Justice Scalia, citing to multiple dictionaries: “At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’” Justice Stevens, citing to others: “One 18th-century dictionary defined ‘arms’ as ‘[w]eapons of offence, or armour of defence.’”

This is what legal analysis is? I remember thinking. Arguing over what dictionary applies? I thought that taking your intuitions about the Second Amendment’s original meaning and slapping on a veneer of objectivity using Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was exactly the kind of extra-legal thinking we were supposed to eschew. Apparently not.

There’s more at stake here than rhetorical consistency. Judges’ vocal disdain for policy means they can have their cake and eat it too: relying upon the image of law as precise and implacable while setting priorities as they see fit. Courts making policy choices while denigrating policy analysis are like the Very Successful Person who tells you America’s a meritocracy where they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and somehow forgets to mention their trust fund.

Policy and law are inextricable. Lawyers need to understand policy and what we can learn from our colleagues in other disciplines. As an instructor, I encourage my students to consider the policy arguments supporting the rules and laws that legislatures, agencies, and courts propound, and the sources for those arguments. If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that lawyers and judges need to have more humility about the limits of law, particularly when other disciplines can provide more insight to why the world is so broken—and what it would take to fix it.

January 22, 2022

DDT’s Legal Woes

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has a long Teflon history of slipping out of problems, both in his businesses and during his four years in the White House. He’s even contemplating a declaration for the 2024 presidential run to wriggle out of his legal problems—except he’d have to start declaring his financials. Maybe. This past week, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis called for a special grand jury to investigate DDT’s alleged election fraud in Georgia, and the House January 6 investigation committee subpoenaed DDT’s close associates, including his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, identified as a coordinator of fake elector certificates in five states.

House Committee:

The Supreme Court rejected DDT’s requests to keep 700 pages of his White House records about the January 6 insurrection from the committee in a decision that cannot be appealed. None of DDT’s three appointed judges dissented with the 8-1 ruling. Only Clarence Thomas disagreed. His wife, Ginni Thomas, had joined others in signing a letter declaring that the 11 Oath Keepers arrested with seditious conspiracy “have done nothing wrong.” On the day of the attack at the U.S. Capitol, she supported the violence in real time on her social media. Supreme Court justices are not subject to the judicial rule that judges must recuse themselves from cases in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” or in which their spouse has “an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome.”

The ruling did not answer the question of whether a former president can block the release of records; it just agreed with an appeals court that DDT’s claims for executive privilege over the documents “would have failed even if he were the incumbent” president. The District of Columbia appeals court upheld a lower federal court ruling that “the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight” over former presidents. SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh disagreed that a former president cannot invoke executive privilege but that doesn’t mean “privilege is absolute or cannot be overcome.”

One document obtained by the House investigative committee is a draft executive order from December 16, 2020, for the Secretary of Defense to seize voting machines, keeping DDT in the White House after Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. It cited a federal law for the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention.” He would be given 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. The author of the draft is unknown, but the position is consistent with proposals from lawyer Sidney Powell and her statements during a meeting with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, lawyer Emily Newman, and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.  The draft is here.

A second document is a rough draft of a speech, “Remarks on National Healing,” for DDT to deliver after the January 6 insurrection in which claimed DDT “immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.” Yet Defense Secretary Chris Miller testified the DDT never contact him at any time to deploy the National Guard. The other comments in the draft were at odds with the statement DDT gave to his supporters 187 minutes after the insurrection began on January 6.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said DDT’s staff members are testifying against DDT to the House committee for various reasons—disgusted about his action, afraid of the investigation committee, and short on financial resources to fight criminal referrals.

District Court:

A district judge heard arguments on three cases about whether allegations of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and his supporters inciting the January 6 insurrection can move forward. The judge asked if DDT’s silence in not stopping them meant DDT agreed with the insurrectionists. This civil litigation is the first one to hold DDT liable after his second impeachment trial acquittal. Also considered are three lawsuits brought by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), ten other House Democrats, and two Capitol Police Officers. Not argued yet are six other lawsuits against DDT and others for their insurrection roles.

When DDT’s lawyer suggested the judge treated DDT worse because he wasn’t a Democrat, he called that statement “inappropriate” and asked the lawyer to “avoid that.” DDT can be charged if the judge determines DDT was campaigning during the speech. The rioters’ and DDT’s alleged crimes on January 6 may be related to the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1873 against officials who intimidate people from carrying out legal duties such as the Electoral College voting for president and “finding” votes for him.

Appearing without a lawyer, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) told the court that the White House asked him to speak at the January 6 rally. repeated his claim that speaking at the rally was an official duty, but he wore body armor while giving the speech. He also gave documents explaining his language in his speech, identified as inciting violence, was appropriate for election speeches. Brooks’ first accusation about a rigged election was his first one in 1982, but he dropped the accusation after he won.

New York Cases:

Evidence from Letitia James, New York’s AG, adds to the collection of facts about how the Trump Organization used “fraudulent or misleading” assessments of its property—golf resorts, apartment buildings, etc.—to cheat on tax benefits and loans. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is operating a separate criminal probe which has obtained DDT’s personal tax turns. Both case are filed against not only DDT but also his two sons and daughter Ivanka who are executives of the Trump Organization.

In his deposition, Eric Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 500 times, sometimes for his involvement in tax easements for the Seven Springs estate and Westchester golf club. James alleged Ivanka Trump was responsible for “misleading financial statements to be submitted to Deutsche Bank and the federal government” concerning the winning bid to lease the government-owned Old Post Office Pavilion made into DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel. Sale of the lease could give a $100 million profit to DDT. Other properties Trump handled were DDT’s Chicago hotel, Manhattan’s condos, and Miami’s golf resort.

James’ new filing this week concerns DDT’s Manhattan skyscraper, 40 Wall Street. A lender refused to refinance its loan in 2015 because the Trump Organization’s valuation was too unbelievable. A ProPublica story explained how the occupancy, income, and expense for the loan application didn’t match the figures for city tax authorities, showing there were “two sets of books” for higher loans and lower taxes. In 2010, The Organization declared a value of the building at $601.8 million while the loan appraisal by an independent company came in at $200 million. The business employees, including DDT’s children, provided the same gross misinformation for other DDT properties. One example of DDT’s inflation was the size of his apartment in Trump Tower, which he inflated from its actual size of 10,996 square feet and a valuation of $127 million 2012 to 30,000 square feet and an evaluation of $327 million in 2015. Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg testified that the value as overvalued by $200 million “give or take.” Other details are here.

Weisselberg also couldn’t explain the financial discrepancy of the Trump International Golf Club Scotland, valued at $435.56 million in 2014, double the sum for the year before. DDT bought the property for $12.6 million in 2006 and valued it at $161 million just five years later. DDT also claimed $4.4 million and $5.5 million of UK pandemic 2020-21 support, not included in Trump companies accounts, and recorded millions of losses in 2020, citing Brexit for its problems. DDT was a strong supporter of the UK separating from the European Union because the people “took back their country.” Company accounts show that both DDT’s golf resorts owe $158 million to DDT in personal loans.

Bragg plans to depose DDT, who admitted 30 times in an earlier deposition he had lied about his financial affairs when he sued Timothy O’Brien, senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, for DDT’s financial information in his 2005 book, TrumpNation. The libel suit was dismissed in 2009, but no prosecutor at the time showed any interest in DDT’s potential malfeasance. James may also change her civil investigation to a criminal one. DDT, in his typical stalling fashion, has filed a lawsuit against Letitia James.    

Private Lawsuits:

DDT is defendant in at least six lawsuits, including the one from niece Mary Trump alleging he defrauded her out of her inheritance. Former DDT property tenants in New York allege he illegally raised their rents. E. Jean Carroll, who claims DDT raped her in the 1990s, is suing for defamation because the statute of limitations against her rape has run out. 

Last week, DDT’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen filed a lawsuit against DDT for retaliating against him for publishing his “tell-all” memoir, Disloyal. The suit claims DDT endangered Cohen’s life with an abrupt return to federal prison from home confinement in 2020 and seeks damages for “extreme physical and emotional harm” and violations of his First Amendment rights in the suit against DDT, federal prison officials, and former AG Bill Barr. Cohen was returned to prison after he refused to sign a document blocking him from publishing a book or speaking to the media for the rest of his sentence. Cohen stated the demand violated his free speech rights under the First Amendment, and a U.S. district court agreed with Cohen. His lawsuit concerns a corrupt U.S. president using the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice to retaliate against a political critic.

Disloyal turned into a best-selling book.

DDT’s habit of stiffing people by not paying his bills may come back to bite him. The Trump Organization reserved rooms at the Loews Madison Hotel for DDT’s inauguration, but 13 people didn’t show up. The company failed to pay the $49,358 hotel bill, dodged a credit collection agency, and then pushed the cost onto the nonprofit presidential inaugural committee. The D.C. attorney general Karl Racine is investigating DDT’s children in charge of the Trump Organization for misuse of funding for the committee. DDT’s employee Weisselberg audited the committee’s finances. He was indicted for criminal tax fraud in New York City before D.C. investigators could interview him under oath.

There may be many more lawsuits out there!

January 20, 2022

Subpoenas Continue to Pour Out in January 6 Investigation

More shoes have dropped from the centipede in the House January 6 committee as it seeks testimony from witnesses to instigators of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The committee has asked Ivanka Trump, daughter of now Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and a former government official who swore to protect the constitution, for voluntary testimony regarding her knowledge about DDT’s actions before, during, and after the attempt to block reading of the Electoral College votes certifying Joe Biden’s election as president. According to evidence, Trump was present when her father tried to push Pence into rejecting votes for Biden and enlisted in White House aides’ attempt to persuade DDT to call off his supporters rioting at the Capitol. Other questions for Trump would be whether her father tried to block the National Guard deployment to the attack and if DDT “took appropriate action regarding the continuing threats of violence” in the days after the insurrection.

Trump was at the White House for all day on January 6, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he called her during the riot, asking for her help with her father. She told Graham she was trying to get her him to make a statement to stop his supporters. Former chief of staff Mark Meadows also called her for help, saying, “We’ve got to get this under control.”

The committee’s letter to Trump reveals information about her father. There is no evidence that DDT took any action for assistance at the Capitol, including deploying the National Guard or calling any law enforcement agency. Testimony from Gen. Keith Kellogg reveals the White House was worried about putting DDT on live TV during the insurrection for fear he would make the disaster even worse. DDT also pushed VP Mike Pence into making the “hard decision” to overturn Biden’s election, according to Kellogg, by trying to humiliate him. DDT’s White House counsel likely determined that Pence’s following DDT’s plans would be illegal or violate the U.S. Constitution. An unidentified member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus warned the White House that following DDT’s plans would “drive a stake in the heart of the federal republic.”

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has already told the January 6 committee about DDT’s secret meetings at the White House in the week preceding the insurrection. Grisham resigned from her position as Melania Trump’s chief of staff on January 6. She said Meadows scheduled the off-the-book meetings, known to only a few aides, and the former chief usher Timothy Harleth waved participants upstairs. Before going to the White House, Harleth was the director of rooms at the Trump International Hotel. He was almost fired after the election when tried to gain favor with Biden during the transition, but Melania Trump insisted on keeping him employed until Biden’s inauguration. DDT had increasingly stayed in his White House residency to work during his term to avoid being watched by aides. The committee is also seeking information from the Secret Service regarding DDT’s marching with supporters from the Ellipse to the Capitol as he promised the crowd.

The panel sent several subpoenas including to DDT’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis who defended DDT’s lies in court and traveled to a number of states to encourage legislators and electors to overturn the Electoral College votes. Two others receiving subpoenas are Boris Epshteyn, a former DDT campaign strategic adviser, and Sidney Powell, another attorney leading failed lawsuits against the big lie of a stolen election.

Giuliani, whose license has been suspended in New York and Washington, D.C. for his lies, has been identified as the coordinator for fake electors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin to prepare false Electoral College certificates in their attempt to overthrow the 2020 election in favor of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He publicly said these rival (aka false) slates were appropriate and necessary and was helped by Christina Bobb, an anchor from the conservative One America News. Former administration officials’ campaign was to recruit replacements for electors who didn’t want to participate in the scheme, distribute the fake language for certificates, and help electors gain access to Capitol buildings.

Leaders maintained that the fake certificates emulated Democratic actions six decades ago in a close race in Hawaii. In the state’s first election, a court found that the count favoring Richard Nixon was inaccurate but had not established that fact before certificates were required to be submitted on December 19. Both slates were submitted, and Congress unanimously voted to accept the certificate for John F. Kennedy. Presiding over the session, VP Richard Nixon accepted the decision “without the intent of establishing a precedent.” Hawaii had three electoral votes; JFK won by 84 votes, including those three.

The subpoena for Giuliani also demands evidence for his claims about the “stolen election” and specifics about the fees he was paid as attorney to push his false claims. A report had stated DDT didn’t pay the fees for Giuliani’s legal work, and DDT has paid nothing for Giuliani’s legal defense. The subpoena also requires information about the conspiracies used in the attempt to seize voting machines and the meetings at the “command center” at the Willard Hotel prior to January 6 to coordinate the overturn of the Electoral College votes.

Jenna Ellis, Giuliani’s close colleague, “prepared and circulated two memos purporting to analyze the constitutional authority for the Vice President to reject or delay counting electoral votes from states that had submitted alternate slates of electors,” according to the January 6 committee. Michigan AG Dana Nessel maintained the false electoral vote certificates were “an open-and-shut case of forgery of a public record.” New Mexico AG Hector Balderas also referred the fake certificate to federal prosecutors, and Wisconsin AG Josh Kaul said the federal government should investigate any illegal act furthering “seditious conspiracy.”

Epshteyn said he had conference calls with the legal team for discussions of alternate slates “in total congruence with the overall effort to send it back to the states” because of “rampant fraud across the country.” He was also at the Willard Hotel “command center” with Giuliani and others who have received subpoenas. A federal court in Michigan sanctioned Powell because her lawsuit against the state’s voting results was based on “speculation and conjecture.” She called it an “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

About the alternative slate and false certificates, former chief of staff Mark Meadows texted, “I love it!” DDT’s sycophant in the DOJ, drafted a letter to Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, that lied about the DOJ believing these false electors were valid rivals, but Kemp’s supervisors rejected Clark’s letter. Kemp had already certified Biden’s elector, but Clark said the letter was legal. At the same time, DDT’s attorney John Eastman had written memos describing ways VP Mike Pence could use the false electoral college certificates to declare that seven states had no winner for the presidential election. The proposal became a PowerPoint presentation for many GOP congressional members. Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short has testified that his and Pence’s legal team found no legal basis in Eastman’s proposal to accept any DDT electors from states voting for Biden. At least 86 judges, including the nine Supreme Court justices, had reject all efforts to overturn the election’s results.

Other subpoenas issued by the House investigative committee:

Nick Fuentes: a self-described “white majoritarian” and supporter of the insurrection who was removed from several social media platforms for hate speech; leader in the “groyper” movement comprised of of young reactionary far-right nationalists white nationalist, homophobic, nativist, fascist, sexist, and anti-Semitic believers.

Patrick Casey: like Fuentes, an organizer of far-right rallies in Washington, D.C. and leader of the white nationalist American Identity Movement and also of the Groyper movement; also with Fuentes, receiving “tens of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin from a French computer programmer” being investigated by the FBI for links to the Capitol attack or other illegal activity.

Phone records for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. 

Records from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit.

Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows are still refusing to cooperate with the investigation and have ben referred to the DOJ on criminal contempt charges.

Fulton County (GA) Fani Willis is continuing her probe into DDT’s alleged election fraud by requesting a special grand jury to investigate his efforts to swing the state’s election to his favor. On January 2, he called state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ask him to “find” just enough votes to create a win for DDT. Willis is also investigating the unexpected resignation of Atlanta’s top federal prosecutor, Byung J. “BJay” Pak, two days after DDT’s call and a call from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to Raffensperger about the election. The grand jury would force the testimony of several witnesses refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the “reasonable probability” that Georgia’s election in 2020 “was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”

January 18, 2022

President Biden’s First Year

Thursday is the first anniversary of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, and the media have preached doom and gloom for his prospects since Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) turned against the voting act and Build Back Better jobs bill months ago. His average polling at this time is 42 percent, and COVID’s variant Omicron has sent the number of infections and even deaths sky high after Republicans decided they wouldn’t get vaccinated. A higher-than-usual inflation rate, blamed on Biden, also comes from price gouging by big businesses while they pay far less or no taxes than before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Hurt by storms, lack of manufacturing, and a shortage of labor from the pandemic also attacked the supply chain. Biden was blamed for its problems but given no credit for improvement. 

History, however, shows that serious problems in a president’s first year doesn’t predict defeat. Two-term Ronald Reagan spent his first year in a serious economic recession after disastrous anti-inflationary policies of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, and the two political parties were fighting about Reagan’s shredding the social safety net. Reagan’s approval fell to 41 percent within 18 months in a far less politically polarized time with no pandemic and no sniping from a former president. His standing improved with his taking credit for a better economy, and he won in 1984 by standing up against the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton, also two terms, won his second election in 1996 despite problems with the recovering recession during the first year of his first term and a population angered by his health plan. Fifteen months after his first inauguration, his approval rating dropped to 37 percent, and the GOP took over Congress in 1994, shutting down the government in both 1995 and 1996. Voters put the blame on House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the other Republican for the legislative dysfunction. Clinton also received praise for his toughness after the April 1995’s bombing by an extremist in Oklahoma City, and he ended his second term with an approval rating of 66 percent despite his GOP impeachment.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, the country was in dire economic circumstances from George W. Bush’s wars, tax cuts, and deregulated housing. Conservatives bitterly fought Obama for his Affordable Care Act, worrying people on the left. His approval rating dropped from 68 percent at inauguration to 46 percent 21 months later, and, as is customary, the midterm elections gave House control to Republicans. As usual under Democrats, the economy rebounded even when Republicans threatened catastrophe by fighting an increase in the debt ceiling.  

Republican Jennifer Rubin describes the media’s destructive tendencies toward Biden in her column, “Dear Media, Stop Giving Republicans the Benefit of the Doubt.” In the media’s efforts “to make the authoritarian and often blatantly racist party seem ‘normal,’” it depicted Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, as distancing himself from DDT, according to Rubin. “The coverage rarely scrutinized his positions, such as his potentially disastrous proposed tax cuts or his aversion to mask mandates, a critical part of Virginia’s school reopening.” His first day on the job, Youngkin catered to white supremacists by banning critical race theory, not taught in the schools, from the curriculum as well as blocking mask mandates. Rubin continues with more examples and explains:

“This refusal by the media to render judgment on the GOP’s cult leaders has gone on for more than six years. Despite replete evidence of Trump’s inability to distinguish truth from fiction, his self-image of grandiosity and his fixation on conspiracy theories, the mainstream media failed to characterize Trump’s conduct as abnormal.”

In DDT’s Arizona rally last weekend, he insisted on this lie:

“The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating, just denigrating, White people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re White, you don’t get the vaccine, or if you’re White, you don’t get therapeutics.”

DDT’s referred to violent insurrectionists on January 6 as “political prisoners”; 200 of them already pled guilty to crimes. Then he bragged about the size of his crowd that day as “the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before.” Politico covered the crowd cheered “as [DDT] aired complaints about the election and made swipes at the Biden administration.” Rubin asked if he was “airing complaints” or “making positively ludicrous claims.” She concludes:

“Anodyne descriptions that slot Trump’s antics into “politics as usual” mislead news consumers. To make matters worse, interviewers avoid asking Republicans how they can pledge loyalty to someone so bonkers.

“Certainly, the media should avoid rendering a psychiatric evaluation for Trump. But they routinely refuse to convey the abnormality on display before them. This is “the emperor has no clothes” on steroids.

“Unflinching, brutally honest coverage would describe Trump’s behavior accurately, including his syntax and preposterous lies. It would concede this conduct would be disqualifying for any business executive or even a small-town mayor. The media are compelled to level with voters: The two parties are not equivalent, in part because one treats its crackpot leader like a messiah. Unfortunately, there are no signs the media are ready for such candor.”

In a demonstration of Rubin’s criticism of the media, Politico’s daily West Wing Playbook, a summary of the Biden administration, began with “Even JENNIFER RUBIN thinks JOE BIDEN is in trouble,” citing her column, “Biden needs a reset. Here’s how he can do it.” It ignored her commentary on the media. 

A year ago, Biden identified four major issues: COVID, climate, economy, and racial justice. Since then, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin made Ukraine another one, and Republicans added the loss of democracy in the United States.

COVID: Vaccinations went well until Republicans refused them, helping cause first the Delta variant and then the Omicron. His plan to provide free testing, however, took off a day early with federal mailings of tests or insurance companies paying for tests.

Climate: Senate Republicans plus Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema delayed many of his plans, including the Build Back Better bill, although he issued several executive orders to fight global warming. Biden has made several appointments prioritizing climate change, reversed DDT’s anti-environmental policies, and rejoined the Paris climate accords.

Economy: Jobless claims are at a 50-year low, the stock market has hit records, and the nation’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world with 6.4 million jobs added, the most for any first-year president, and unemployment dropped from 6.3 percent to 3.9 percent in a year, the lowest for the pandemic. The GDP grew by seven percent in the last quarter of 2021, and wages rose by 4.7 percent in the past year. With almost no media on these improvement, most people notice only the seven-percent inflation for the year, the most in 40 years from struggles in the supply chain, Middle East oil prices, and unfettered free enterprise allowing businesses to profit by trillions of dollars. 

Racial justice: Biden’s infrastructure law has provided $5 billion for Black farmers, and he named an historically diverse administration. He is still pushing for a voting rights law despite opposition from Republicans and the two Democratic senators.

Russia: Standing firm against Putin’s attempt to take over Ukraine, Biden makes a huge contrast to DDT.

Democracy: In Georgia, Biden made his strongest speech thus far, indicating that he understands he cannot persuade the Republicans to support democracy and instead must fight for it. He has always supported bipartisanship, but by the end of his first year, he understands that the only unity with the majority of the GOP legislature would be to cave in to everything they want. This majority believes their only solution is to follow DDT’s “big lie” of a stolen election, one that supports white supremacy. In the upcoming year, the House January 6 investigation committee will be one of the leading tools to support democracy for the United States.

Journalist Dan Froomkin decries the lack of coverage regarding the erosion of democracy as conservatives promote authoritarianism and fascism. In December, columnist Dana Milbank wrote:

“The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.”

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen told CNN’s Brian Stelter:

“News organizations have to come out and say, we are pro-democracy, pro-truth, pro-science, pro- evidence, pro-voting. Then they have to figure out for each of those new pros, what practices are we going to retire because they don’t meet that standard, and what are we going to start to do routinely that we didn’t do before?”

Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein called on journalists to “cover democracy like it matters.” And columnist Margaret Sullivan despaired that “news organizations are not making democracy-under-siege a central focus of the work they present to the public.” The Columbia Journalism Review gave more journalistic failings regarding a support for democracy in the press. The Fourth Estate needs to consider democracy in the second year of Biden’s term. 

In addition to fighting the massive far-right media, Biden must push against a selfish criminal who, like many of his supporters, believes himself the legal president of the U.S., and the “mainstream” media, owned by conservatives, searching for excitement, not accuracy. Conservatives view Biden’s politeness as weakness and dementia, and opposition from a political party determined to win at any costs is considered lack of unity. Yet he’s brought the nation a long way in just 365 days.

January 17, 2022

Supreme Court Caught on Religion

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 12:59 AM
Tags: , , , ,

For the first time in history, the Supreme Court has no self-identified Protestant. Although Neil Gorsuch now attends the Anglican Church, he was raised Catholic, putting him one of the seven Catholics sitting on the bench. Steven Breyer and Elena Kagan are Jewish. This demographic is at odds with the religious makeup of the U.S. population: 20 percent Catholic and two percent Jewish. Another 43 percent are Protestant, and 26 percent of the population considers themselves unaffiliated. Thus 78 percent of the U.S. population has no representation on the Supreme Court.

Religion should not interfere with a judge’s ruling, but a strong Catholic upbringing can result in a hierarchal and patriarchal philosophy in governance and behavior. Amy Coney Barrett demonstrated her adherence to the church by serving on the board of her religion’s schools after knowledge of their sexual abuse became well known. Decisions are delivered from the top in the Catholic Church with no allowance for democratic input or appeal. The rationale of originalism or textualism, when convenient, is especially important to Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, following the former Catholic justice Anthony Scalia.

Thus the conservative Catholic justices view the U.S. Constitution, intended to be secular, as holy Scripture that must be read for its words and not its meaning. The end result is a controlling authority by these justices by only the elite. This ideology fits the Republican party that expects their justices to follow party dictates to obtain the GOP political goals.

Since justices appointed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) have gained the majority, one of them only ten days before Joe Biden was elected president, they have permitted the rampant spread of COVID in churches, kept refugees in Mexico, and refused to block evictions during the pandemic. Recently, the majority permitted vigilantes to pursue anyone “assisting” with abortions, even if that meant only talking positively about abortions and giving a pregnant person a ride for her procedure.

The Reformation, a protest against Catholicism, began a more bottom-up approach to decision-making, and Protestantism influenced the U.S. political governing bodies from the days of the Founding Fathers. Women began to be admitted to Protestant clergy and leadership decades ago, and Protestant ideology is one of “priesthood of all believers” in which people use independent consciences to make decisions. From this comes a process of independent judicial thought, missing among the SCOTUS majority.

Catholics tend to oppose separation of church and state, obvious in the Supreme Court decisions within the past several months. Activism of the conservative majority effects this through its “state law” instead of constitutional law. In that way, the Republicans can control a majority of states, thereby controlling a majority of senators to block laws presented by Democrats. Through the increase of religious control within DDT’s four years, the country has become increasingly polarized because conservative Christian religion expanded its control over laws for all people, no matter what religion they have—or don’t have. The Supreme Court has the ultimate rule over any laws. At this time, the conservative majority of justices is enforcing religion over secular law, using any artifice they wish.

During this term, the Supreme Court will decide such religious cases as whether taxpayers must fund tuition at non-licensed private religious schools, whether the city hall can fly a religious flag on the city flag pole, and if a person being executed can have non-Christian spiritual advisers—which Alabama and Texas have banned.

The high court will now take Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the case of a Washington state high school football coach who wanted to pray at mid-field after games. A parent had filed a complaint because his son, an atheist and one of the team players, felt as if he must join in the prayer to avoid loss of playing time. The district tried to make accommodations for the coach by offering a private space for prayer or permitting him to pray after the crowd had left. He continued the practice and was placed on paid administrative leave. The head coach recommended he not be rehired for a variety of reasons, and Kennedy, who didn’t apply for a coaching position, used the First Amendment and civil rights laws to suit the school district. His appeal against the decisions by the district court and the 9th Circuit Court to the Supreme Court in 2018 was turned down although Alito issued a statement, joined by Thomas, Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, that the court might review it in the future. The high court now has its majority for the coach with Barrett.

Another case likely to appear before the Supreme Court could come from mandatory vaccines starting with those in military service. The troops have peacefully agreed to take 17 different vaccinations, but some of them are balking at the vaccination for COVID. In early January, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Defense Department from taking action against 35 Navy sailors refusing the coronavirus vaccine, stating that they can use religion as an excuse because the vaccine uses cell lines from a voluntarily aborted fetus. The Navy does not permit religious exemption to any vaccine before the COVID vaccination.

Success with this excuse would also exempt people from vaccines against rubella (German measles), hepatitis, chicken pox, smallpox, and polio as well as over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Claritin, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft. In addition, the most popular treatment COVID, the monoclonal antibody Regeneron, was derived from fetal tissue as was the medication Remdesivir. 

A major missing piece in “religious freedom” is a formal definition of “religion,” something that the courts have never established. In 1890, the Supreme Court wrote in Davis v. Beason:

“[T]he term ‘religion’ has reference to one’s views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will.”

An expansion of this explanation in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) was the statement that the establishment clause prevents government from aiding “those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” A footnote clarified that this principle extended to “religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God … Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”

In United States v. Seeger (1965), the court addressed conscientious objector status by people objecting to war individuals for reasons other than a supreme being, which the statute required, as did Welsh v. United States (1970) which combined religion with deeply and sincerely held moral and ethical beliefs.

Yet by 1972, the majority in Wisconsin v. Yoder applied the free-exercise clause only to “a ‘religious’ belief or practice and “the very concept of ordered liberty precludes allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests.” Thomas v. Review Board (1981) went further away from protecting philosophical values, ruling that a Jehovah’s Witness who quit his job after transfer to a weapons-making facility was motivated by his religious beliefs.

Courts throw around the words “religion” and religious freedom” but have no guidance about what they mean. The current court’s “definition” of religious freedom makes people denied freedom by the religion into second-class citizens, in some situations even in danger of illness.

Last Saturday night, DDT, the man who appointed one-third of the Supreme Court justices met with 15,000 of his faithful followers at Florence (AZ), home to the prison where the state performs executions. Once again, John F. Kennedy didn’t appear to be president, and the “live performances” by dead musicians and singers such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Tupac, and John Lennon didn’t materialize.  [visual: trump tired]

Last July, DDT looked a bit tired at his appearance in Sarasota (FL), but he evidently lasted 93 minutes to worshipping cries. As usual, he spewed lies about election fraud in a state spending $5.8 million, only to find fewer votes for him and no criminal charges for any fraud. Pennsylvania, which wants to mimic Arizona with a so-called “forensic investigation” into the 2020 election, suffered a setback after the state Supreme Court temporarily delayed a private inspection of the Dominion voting machines used in a heavily GOP county, population 14,500, where DDT won 85 percent of the vote.

The New York Times bravely did a fact-check on DDT’s statements and published one article about how nervous Republicans are about DDT’s repetition of past grievances.  Otherwise, the mainstream media largely ignored the event. The world is tired of DDT’s stale repetitions, and he isn’t getting any buzz for them. People aren’t even outraged about him anymore; they’re just waiting to see what comes out of the January 6 investigation—and the Supreme Court.

 

January 16, 2022

Republicans Love Manchinema for Fighting Filibuster

“We have but one democracy. We can only survive, we can only keep her, if we do so together.” That was one statement in Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) speech announcing that she was “together” with the Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) to oppose the filibuster and destroy the possibility for passing the voting rights bill to protect democracy. She was already “together” with Republicans—and Manchin—in opposing jobs and other benefits for people in the United States through the Build Back Better bill. 

Sinema’s speech was less than 45 minutes before President Joe Biden came to ask all 50 Democratic senators to change Senate rules for only allowing the voting rights legislation. She concluded:

“I am committed to doing my part to avoid toxic political rhetoric, to build bridges, to forge common ground, and to achieve lasting results for Arizona and this country.”

Her aim is for personal bridges and common ground with Republicans but not Democrats plus authoritarianism in both “Arizona and this country.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is ecstatic about this victory with Manchin and Sinema, which he thinks could lead him back to being Senate Majority Leader in 2023. Therefore, McConnell is working harder to lie in his hypocrisy and threats to destroy Democrats if they change the filibuster. After pandering to the behavior of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for over four years, McConnell called Biden “profoundly unpresidential” in his Georgia speech about voting rights. McConnell’s first favor for DDT was to hold up the nomination for Supreme Court justice with no hearing for 293 days so that DDT could nominate Neil Gorsuch, who justified his wiping out a vaccine mandate with ignorance about the extent of the pandemic danger. McConnell then pushed the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s replacement to eight days before the election that DDT lost and Biden won—after declaring four years earlier that “the people should decide.” McConnell declared, “Major changes need major buy-in.

The most prominent anti-abortion group is leading the charge to keep the filibuster, from the Dutch word for pirates. Toward that end, the Susan B. Anthony List co-founded the misnamed Election Transparency Initiative to block the federal voting rights bill. Allowing all eligible people would permit them to vote for reproductive rights. Anti-abortionists’ need for the filibuster is not a call for a legislative tradition—just rigging laws for the conservatives. And their advertising praises Manchin and Sinema. The group also opposes the addition of seats to the supreme Court because they already have six conservatives to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade, permitting abortion for the first trimester.

McConnell wields the filibuster as a political tool that he controls; after January 6, he used it to block an independent bipartisan commission. GOP senators would have voted for either one of the voting rights bills, but McConnell didn’t allow even a debate on either one. He claimed the end of the filibuster would cause a takeover, but he’s already done that with the help of two Democratic senators. 

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner published evidence against the GOP arguments for keeping the filibuster that blocks legislation:

With the increased use of the filibuster, the Senate has become increasingly partisan.

The use of the filibuster blocks collaboration: Republicans are now evading any responsibility to shape bills on education, climate change, taxes, immigration, war, etc.  

The filibuster permits senators to hide from voting on any bills, and thus hide sharing their political positions from the voters.

The U.S. public becomes more and more angry about congressional gridlock, and the filibuster promotes it.

Like Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) either knows nothing about the filibuster or flat-out lies about it. Recently, he touted the “tradition” of the practice for “232 years.” The Founding Fathers, however, were opposed to supermajorities and didn’t not put the filibuster into the 232-year-old U.S. Constitution. “Father of the Constitution” James Madison wrote that the requirement for supermajority would reverse “the fundamental principle of free government,” transferring the power to the minority. Alexander Hamilton called it a “poison” and wrong “to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser… [If] a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority,” [the result would be] “tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good.”

The filibuster requires only 41 senators to block any bill from moving forward. Those 41 Republicans represent only 21 percent of the U.S. population for the voting rights bill supported by 67 percent of the population. The only issues requiring a supermajority by the Founding Fathers is impeachment, expulsion of members, overriding a presidential veto, ratification of treaties, and constitutional amendments. True textualists in the Supreme Court instead of the faux ones sitting on the bench would overturn the filibuster.

For almost a century after the Civil War, the filibuster, first used in 1841, was primarily used to block rights for Blacks such as voting and anti-lynching. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson’s Senate ended filibusters with a two-thirds vote, and the number was dropped to 60 in the 1970s. At that time, the rules also didn’t require non-stop talking to continue the filibuster: it just needed 41 votes. When the Democrats took the Senate and McConnell became Senate Minority Leader in 2007, the Republicans began using the filibuster with excessive frequency. In 2009 when Barack Obama became president, the GOP minority blocked every significant piece of legislation because of the 60-vote requirement. The 67 filibusters that year were double the two decades between 1950 and 1969. The next year added another 60 filibusters.

Sinema’s fake flowery speech came after the House passed a bill with new voting rights protections with a party line vote of 220 to 203. The bill came from a combination of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with a measure covering NASA. The Senate can then be brought directly to the floor for debate without a filibuster although Republicans can block it from the final vote.

One important provision of the voting bill, which Republicans find offensive, was the restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provision requiring permission for new election laws by states with histories of voting rights violation. When the Supreme Court struck down that provision in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts recommended Congress replace the provision with a law. Republicans also find no voter suppression in the 33 laws already passed by 19 states since the 2020 election, laws that highly restrict access to submitting ballots.  [visual: voting Reich voting poster]

Other provisions of the House voting rights bill:

  • Fifteen days of early voting.
  • Easier voter registration, including online registration and automatic registration at state motor vehicle agencies.
  • Same-day and automatic registration.
  • Removal of election officials without justification made more difficult.
  • Protection of election workers and records, making it a federal crime to intimidate, threaten, or coerce election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers doing their jobs.
  • Voters going to court ensuring their votes are’t eliminated made easier.
  • Ability to vote by mail for any reason.
  • National standard of forms with wide range of identifying documents and electronic copies for states requiring voter ID.
  • Election Day a national holiday
  • Keep voting lines to 30 minutes or fewer.
  • Creation of or increased penalties for intimidating and deceiving voters with disinformation about elections.
  • Restoration of federal voting rights to people with felony convictions after their release from prison.
  • Outlawing of partisan gerrymandering for congressional maps with neutral redistricting standards and transparency in the process.
  • Protection of election workers and records, making it a federal crime to intimidate, threaten, or coerce election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers doing their jobs.
  • Requirements and regulations keeping election materials from use in partisan ballot reviews.
  • Disclosure of donations by doors spending over $10,000 in one election reporting cycle.
  • New rules to separate super PAC operations from campaigns.
  • Small-donor matching program for House candidates who opt in.
  • Federal Election Commission permitted to be less dependent on a majority of members for new investigations by allowing the commission’s general council to investigate and issue subpoenas.
  • Addition of Native American Voting Right Act to make it easier for voters on tribal lands such as polling sites and voter registration on tribal lands.

Despite the rule of the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have an alternative to the requirement for 60 votes to even debate the voting rights bill. A process called “messages between the houses” moves bills back and forth between the two congressional chambers. It has been used for both of them to agree on the final bill’s language. Usually done for amendments, these “messages” can be put before the Senate without debate. Attaching the voting rights bill to the NASA bill, already passed several times between the chambers, can remove the filibuster for the voting rights bill. This process may not get the 50 necessary votes to pass the Senate, but it forces naysayers to openly vote against rights for people.  [visual: voting nice sticker]

January 14, 2022

Fear Blocks Education in U.S.

A few years ago, Republicans tried to smear their opposition by accusing them of “cancel culture.” The concept began as a joke in pop culture six or seven years ago but then became a cultural boycott to show disapproval of someone, for example of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) who put her violent and offensive conspiracy theories to work when she was elected to Congress. Republicans used disapproving statements to accuse Democrats of erasing GOP free speech. Then Republicans tried to “cancel”, or change, history that didn’t fit into their conservative ideals.

“Cancel culture” turned out to be too weak to satisfy Republicans so a clever conservative, Christopher Rufo, came up with his own definition of “critical race theory,” that all schools were teaching white kids to feel guilty for racism and hate themselves for prejudice against white people. Rufo started the conspiracy theory as the “perfect weapon” against Democrats.

CRT caught on fire, and parents started verbally and physically attacking school board members, teachers, and principals for teaching any historical information, such as slavery and other racist activities leading to the current systemic racism in the United States. The theory led to people, including school board members, calling for book burning.

States passed laws to ban books in schools beyond those describing racist behavior, moving to banning all books against minorities lawmakers consider undesirable such as LGBTQ people. An example of these lawmakers is Indiana State Sen. Scott Baldwin, co-sponsoring a bill that would require teachers support fascism and Naziism by showing impartiality toward these evils. Baldwin denies being a member of the extremist Oath Keepers whose members were charged this week with seditious conspiracy, but his name is reportedly on their list. Criticism caused the President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) to announce the bill has been pulled before next week’s vote.

One high school student, Christiane Calixte, disagrees with this “impartiality.” The junior at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, wrote this op-ed for the Washington Post

“As a Black high school junior, I have to say: The backlash I’ve seen against the teaching of critical race theory is unbelievable.

“In most schools, as has been well established, critical race theory—an approach to analyzing the intersection of race, history and the law, generally reserved for higher education—isn’t even being taught. And yet, since January 2021, according to Education Week, more than 30 states “have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism” in K-12 schools.“These policies are no joke.

“One Tennessee high school teacher, Matthew Hawn, lost his job after showing his students a four-minute video of a poet performing a piece about White privilege. In Texas, James Whitfield was pushed out of his job as a high school principal after accusations that he was promoting CRT.

“Opponents of CRT claim that this academic lens is divisive, anti-White, and anti-American. Many have claimed that its teachings are a means of forcing a political agenda onto children in lieu of focusing on subjects deemed more educational.

“Don’t be fooled, though. The retaliation against CRT shows that parents have no idea what students are learning—and that their protests are less about education and more about a projection of their own biases and fears.

“As one of the few high school students who have actually been taught CRT, I should know.

“At my school, students are often permitted to participate in short workshops on current controversial topics. The one we did on CRT lasted 75 minutes. For students who wish to deepen their understanding of CRT, a semester-long elective—completely optional—is offered during senior year. Material on CRT is by no means replacing instruction in math, science or other core subjects in our curriculum.

“When we discussed CRT in our short workshop, we were taught the basic premise of critical race theory—that the underlying cause of racism within our country is institutional oppression built into American government and law. This structural racism shows up in systems such as the electoral college, which allowed slaveholding states disproportionate representation, and the prison-industrial complex, which upholds forced labor to this day.

“Yes, we discussed White privilege, the fact that because of systems planted hundreds of years ago, “White-identifying people have been given unfair advantages over their non-White counterparts. But this discussion in no way resembled the chaos described by anti-CRT activists who argue that the concept of White privilege will lead to widespread resentment of White people.

“Were we taught that all White people are nothing but racist bigots? No. Were we taught that all White people should feel guilty about events in the past they could not control? No. Were students taught to hate their White friends and teachers?

“Absolutely not.

“CRT does not promote the hatred of White people. Nor does the acknowledgment of White privilege.

All people, regardless of race, can work together to dismantle the systems used to oppress minorities. White people are even encouraged to use their privilege to do so.

“In our discussion, CRT also wasn’t presented as absolute and unchangeable truth. Throughout the lesson, teachers emphasized that all students had the right to agree or disagree with the teachings.Not one of us was crucified for failing to succumb to some “leftist agenda.” My fellow students and I had the opportunity to voice our opinions and explain the reasoning behind them.

“Is this not what learning should look like? Should education not emphasize the critical thinking that students will need to use in future endeavors?

“If the censorship of CRT continues, students across the country will be barred from taking part in similar conversations. Which is exactly what opponents of CRT want.

“Their sentiments are translating to real, sometimes dangerous decision-making. More lawmakers and school officials are hopping on the bandwagon of inhibiting or twisting historical discussions of race, gender and discrimination. In one Texas district, an administrator told teachers, disturbingly, to include books with ‘opposing’ views of the Holocaust to comply with new state legislation mandating that teachers discussing “controversial issues” incorporate “diverse and contending perspectives.”

“CRT isn’t at all what its opponents paint it to be. It’s simply being used as a straw man for those who aim to restrict speech and knowledge—and, in some cases, perpetuate bigoted ideologies.

“The right to discuss and speak up against discrimination has been long fought for. So please, adults, if you’re listening: Don’t reverse centuries of progress in favor of promoting ignorance. If the goal of schools is to create a well-informed populace, then nuanced discussions of historical racism must be held in classrooms. It is the only way young people will learn to think critically about our country’s institutions, and the only way to create an inclusive America for future generations.”

Virginia’s GOP legislators displayed their ignorance for all to see. A bill banning what they called “divisive concepts” of racism and sexism in state schools erroneously listed a debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass about slavery during the presidential campaign. The debate was actually against Stephen Douglas, tied to slavery, not the Black activist Frederick Douglass, once a slave who fought for slavery’s abolition. The bill, sponsored by a freshman Republican, demanded the teaching of “the fundamental moral, political and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government” through “founding documents” which included “the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.”   

By the end of 2021, the conservative use of CRT was moving education back to the nineteenth century. In Texas, state Rep. Matt Krause, aiming for Tarrant County DA, put together a list of 850 books that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” He left out the part about discomfort was only by white students; minorities, including LGBTQ students, were still subjected to books with only white heterosexual people. Then he demanded that all schools search their schools for these books and get rid of them. “Discomfort” includes any books about the history of lynchings and voter suppression. (Cartoon: Headline reads “26 States Ban Teaching about Race.”)

Oklahoma state Sen. Rob Standridge decided to expand Krauses’s campaign with proposed legislation that parents could collect $10,000 if the “offending” book wasn’t removed within 30 days. School libraries in other states such as Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, Utah, and Florida were also forced to moved books fitting their conservative CRT standards.

Journalist Sophie Whitehead wrote, “All book banning revolves around fear of change.” Because of an unflattering view of the Russian Revolution, Doctor Zhivago was banned in Stalin’s USSR. Accused of Mickey Mouse as an “anti-Red rebel,” his comics were banned by East Germany’ communists in East Berlin. In 1633, the Vatican banned a book by astronomer Galileo Galilei which claimed the Earth rotated around the Sun instead of vice-versa. Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, wrote, “The aim of education is opening minds through access to ideas.” He cited the ruling of the Supreme Court’s importance of this concept in Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico by Pico: access to diverse ideas “prepares students for active and effective participation in the pluralistic, often contentious society in which they will soon be adult members.” Aftergut added, “Fear stifles citizenship and the ability to get ahead.” Even a high school junior understands these concepts.

January 13, 2022

January 13: All in a Day’s News

Predictions were accurate: the Supreme Court voted against OSHA vaccination mandates in the private sector by 6-3. Anyone who following the high court doesn’t need the names of justices on each side. According to the majority argument, COVID isn’t a workplace issue, just like crime, clean drinking water, and pollution aren’t. The dissent called the majority decision “perverse,” that it read federal law as “constraining OSHA from addressing one of the gravest workplace hazards in the agency’s history.” It asked who should determine protection for workers:

“An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”

The Supreme Court finds a problem with COVID in their workplace: it has been closed to the public for almost all two years. Everyone on the bench except Neil Gorsuch wears a mask because of contagion. A majority of justices must have seen the danger, too, because two of those blocking vaccination mandates in the private sector, John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, approved them for all healthcare workers.

The six justices opposing the vaccination mandate applied a faulty rationale. To them, COVID is a danger in the workplace but not a workplace danger by their using the term “occupational” instead of “workplace.” Yet they admitted “COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather.” Yet both schools and sporting events are “workplaces.” To many people, the workplace is the greatest danger to their health. Over a year ago, meat processing plans showed this danger of the workplace, beginning with huge COVID outbreaks in South Dakota that moved to other states such as Nebraska. Workers in many states have no protections from mandated mask wearing, social distancing, and other health precautions, making lack of vaccinations an occupational hazard. The ruling did state that some places could have what was considered an occupational hazard but feared that the mandate was only a public health requirement.

Right-wingers protecting insurrectionists on January 6, including people writing to my local newspaper, use the excuse that no person just wandering through the Capitol on that day (their description) has been charged with sedition. That changed. Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, and ten other alleged insurrectionists have now been charged with seditious conspiracy, the use of violence to hinder the execution of federal law.

Rhodes was arrested for his attempt to use violence in blocking Biden from being sworn in as president that began immediately after Biden’s win in the election. According to the indictment:

“Rhodes and certain co-conspirators … planned to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021, which included multiple ways to deploy force. They coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction.”

One of ten Rhodes’ arrested associates, 63-year-old Edward Vallejo of Phoenix (AZ), is a new defendant. On the night of January 6, Vallejo wrote, “We got food for 30 days.” “We have only [begun] to fight!” The 48-page, 17-count indictment against the Oath Keepers uses defendants’ own words for the charges of planning for and participating in obstructing Congress, beginning immediately after Biden’s election. Rhodes wrote Oath Keepers leaders:

“We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.”

Rhodes’ plan to action issued five days later, “WHAT WE THE PEOPLE MUST DO,” recommended the group follow Servia’s anti-government uprising. Other suggested tactics came from the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. On New Year’s Eve, Rhodes wrote, “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.” Yet he claimed after the riot that Oath Keepers in the Capitol were “off mission.” Two Oath Keepers pled guilty to an earlier indictment charging 19 members with conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress. Defendants have also admitted they put guns in a nearby hotel for a “quick reaction force,” but Rhodes said that was “only if the president calls us up.” Like many other defendants from January 6, Rhodes complained that DDT had abandoned him.

In its latest investigation, the House January 6 committee subpoenaed Twitter, Reddit, and parent companies of Facebook and YouTube, accusing them of failing to provide the committee with complete information about how their social media platforms spread lies promoting the insurrection. Subpoenas earlier this week are for people connected to Donald Trump Jr.—his two close advisers Andrew Surabian and Arthur Schwartz—and DDT’s speechwriter for his January 6 speech, Ross Worthington.  The investigatory committee chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (R-MS), said the panel wanted to know about people connected to the rally including Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, DDT’s spokesperson Taylor Budowich, DDT’s adviser Katrina Pierson, Publix heiress and donor to the rally Julie Fancelli, and GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren.

The committee is also consulting with legal council regarding subpoenas for congressional members. Thus far, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Scott Perry (R-PA) have refused to cooperate with the investigation. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a committee member, accused McCarthy of hiding the truth. She said:

“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man. He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward and we’ll get to the truth.”

Sean Hannity is trying to be on both sides of the street, telling the January 6 committee that he’s a journalist with all the First Amendment rights but then lying to his audience. His latest classic performance was a chat—not really an interview—with Paul Manafort, DDT’s campaign manager who DDT pardoned less than a month before Biden’s inauguration. Hannity lied about the Russia probe into the campaign and the reasons for Manafort’s charges and convictions. Philip Bump fills in the truth that almost no Fox watcher will ever read.

On a lighter note, satirist Andy “not-the-news” Borowitz wrote that Sean Hannity said he couldn’t swear “to tell the truth” because it would violate his Fox contract. Hannity explained he must “answer to a higher power: Rupert Murdoch.” He added, “If I am seen [telling the truth] even once, it could destroy my brand.”

GOP denialism in losing elections is running rampant. Last Tuesday, Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won the special congressional election to replace Alcee Hastings who died last April. The loser, GOP Jason Mariner who received under 20 percent of the vote to Cherfilus-McCormick’s 79 percent majority, said about his defeat that “it does not mean we lost.” He has filed a lawsuit and said, “[W]e’ll have some stuff coming out that we’ve recently discovered.” Last November, the GOP loser for Washington governor by 545,000 votes refused to concede, crying voter fraud. After a Maryland GOP congressional candidate lost by over 40 points, she claimed the race was “stolen” from her. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has been the model for the biggest bunch of crybaby sore losers that the U.S. has ever seen. Former Nevada AG Adam Laxalt, GOP Senate candidate, is beginning early to declare foul for his loss—months before ballots are cast for the 2022 election. In addition, former Sen. Dean Heller, gubernatorial candidate, has promised he will get DDT elected in 2024 by changing state laws.

Republicans have railed against Chinese companies, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is no different. Within the past month, however, he and his wife bought at least $300,000 in shares from the China-based company Alibaba. Last July, he said he had sold off some shares in the company after he found it was in his portfolio while he was campaigning and failed to file disclosures about it.

Republicans are working on their platform ahead of time. The main plank at this time is revenge or retaliation, but another one is lack of communication. The RNC plans a rule change requiring all GOP candidates to guarantee they will refuse participation in any election debates sponsored by the nonpartisan, nonprofit commission hosting them for almost 40 years. Republicans are upset because moderators have fact-checked candidates. DDT complained that the commission favored Democrats.

The media has loved the story about the 57-year-old man whose life was saved with a transplant of a pig heart. The man was convicted in 1988 of paralyzing a man by stabbing him seven times and served six yeas of his ten-year sentence. The stabbed man lived for 19 years in a wheelchair before having a stroke in 2005. Two years later he died one week before his 41st birthday. The man rewarded with a life-saving procedure had been refused at several other hospitals because he failed to follow doctors’ orders, attend follow-up visits, and consistently take his prescribed medications.

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