Nel's New Day

April 30, 2022

When the GOP Dumps a Republican Candidate

During the past several months, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has endorsed at least 140 GOP politicians for election this year. Rising to the top of the toxic swamp, however, is his pick for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina.

Two years ago, the 25-year-old managed to get elected by a respectable margin of over 13 percent above a Democrat in the race.

Since then he has bragged about smuggling loaded guns onto the congressional floor in his wheelchair and been twice charged for trying to carry firearms onto planes, the most recent time a loaded gun. He has been pulled over for driving with expired tags, driving under the influence of alcohol, and speeding. His driver’s license has been revoked. He was found carrying a knife on school property four times in four weeks. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) even lightly scolded him for bragging about attending orgies with prominent GOP politicians where they were using cocaine. About the Russian invasion into Ukraine, Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and his government “incredibly evil.”

In 2020, Cawthorn named his real-estate company SPQR Holdings, an abbreviated Latin phrase used by white nationalists. A photo on his campaign website shows him with a rifle and pistol in a holster with an Oath Keeper symbol. His campaign attacked a local journalist, calling him somebody who works “for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office.”

Recently, the media published photos of Cawthorn wearing women’s lingerie, followed by allegations against him of insider trading.  In late December, he posed at a party with hedge fund manager James Koutoulas, the ringleader of the Let’s Go Brandon cryptocurrency, a meme coin named for the chant mocking President Joe Biden. Allegations describe him hyping a pump-and-dump cryptocurrency scheme. Cawthorn continued to push the sale of the coin that Koutoulas said later was owned by Cawthorn although he hasn’t signed any disclosure. After Cawthorn’s first public announcement, the value of the LGBCoins in circulation went to $570 million before it dropped to $0. After the coin’s February relaunch, it has traded at 95 percent below its peak price. Despite its failure, Cawthorn hyped it at the Conservative Political Action Conference and the white supremacist American Freedom Tour in Fort Lauderdale (FL) as well as other venues. Insider trading can result in prison time, and failing to file disclosures violates congressional rules.

Four women have accused him of sexual misconduct, and a former campaign aide who was fired called him “just a bad person” in a leaked tape of a phone conversation. Lisa Wiggins, who didn’t know she was being taped, had filed a workplace complaint against Cawthorn for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act after he refused to permit her to take leave during a series of family crises. She said he avoided talking to constituents because he doesn’t care about them and his office contains more liquor than water bottle. About Cawthorn, Wiggins said:

 “He’s a habitual liar and he’s going to say and do anything he can to your face but behind your back he’s completely opposite. People need to know how this man really is…He’s still got a lot of people fooled… The ultimate goal of course is to get him out.”

April ended on an even more sour note with the request by North Carolina’s GOP senator, Thom Tillis, for an ethics investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship with Stephen Smith, a male staffer and Cawthorn’s third cousin. The complaint includes photos, video, and screenshots of the men’s Venmo history with Cawthorn giving or lending Smith thousands of dollars. They have lived together for years, and Smith went along on Cawthorn’s honeymoon; the sudden marriage after Cawthorn was accused of sexual harassment lasted only eight months. In the video, Cawthorn says in a fake accent, “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.” Smith answers, “Me too” before briefly touching Cawthorn’s crotch. Venmo descriptions include “the quickie at the airport,” “the stuff we did in Amsterdam,” and “getting naked for me in Sweden.” Smith’s payments to Cawthorn include “for loving me daily and nightly” and “nudes.”

Cawthorn’s lying started long before he ran for Congress. His claim that a “tragic automobile accident” ruined his nomination for the U.S. Naval Academy; he had been rejected before the accident. Cawthorn complained that a friend left him to die in the burning car after the accident; the friend really pulled him out of he car and saved his life. Calling himself the CEO of his company, Cawthorn’s the only employee. Cawthorn lied about being a former full-time staffer for then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) when his longest employment was at Chick-fil-A. Cawthorn also dropped out of Patrick Henry College, and 150 students signed a letter accusing him of “gross misconduct toward our female peers,” “predatory behavior,” and “vandalism.” Knowing his past, DDT said, “You’re going to be a star of the party”; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), and the Club for Growth helped bankroll him. The RNC gave him a prime speaking slot at the 2020 convention, and McCarthy named him a “Young Gun,” the highest GOP level for top prospects.

Republicans tend not to complain about other Republicans, even when their actions are this egregious. As Dana Milbank pointed out, “over 50 QAnon believers have run for Congress in 2022” including several candidates who participated in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. So why is Cawthorn so far out of the loop?

It started last fall with Art Pope, the billionaire owner of the North Carolina politicians and person behind the GOP ownership of the state’s legislature, thanks to the project redmap created by conservative political strategist in 2010. The GOP had not controlled the legislature for over a century, and Barack Obama carried the state in 2008. Pope also succeeded in stopping public financing for judicial races, thus taking over the courts, and cut funding for the state’s university system.

After Cawthorn won the 14th North Carolina congressional district in 2020, the redistricting legislature created the 13th congressional district specifically for state Speaker of the House, Tim Moore. Cawthorn, however, wanted that district because the city of Charlotte would give him more visibility. It didn’t make Cawthorn popular.

In the Asheville Citizen-Times, former GOP state representative Charles Jeter Jr., among the first to go after Cawthorn, wrote:

“This isn’t a noble effort. This is ambitious cowardice at its worst. He’s an embarrassment that we need to defeat.”

Thus the anti-Cawthorn campaign from the right-wing began. Susan M. Tillis, head of a foundation for veterans and coincidentally the wife of a North Carolina U.S. senator, tweeted:

“I can assure you that those of us in the new 13 (Congressional District) don’t need any intervention and we are capable of making our own decisions.”

John Hood, board member and former president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, stated:

“Madison Cawthorn is a callow and appallingly ignorant young man who regularly embarrasses conservatives and Republicans, whether they admit it or not.”

Hood didn’t quit there. In the Carolina Journal, he added:

“Of course, one regularly finds the words ‘embarrassing’ and ‘ignorance’ in the same sentence as the name of the freshman congressman from Western North Carolina…My indignation about this episode, however, isn’t primarily directed at Cawthorn, who is likely a pawn in some broader (and sillier) scheme hatched by others. What appalls me is that out-of-state operatives are using him as a vessel to trash the very real accomplishments of conservative governance in our state. You can see the same dynamic in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, with the Club for Growth and other supporters of U.S. Rep. Ted Budd sliming former Gov. Pat McCrory as ‘unprincipled’ with ‘a record of failure.’”

Tim Moore decided to drop his candidacy but is supporting the challenger. Last December, while Cawthorn was still running in the 13th District, he asked Michele Woodhouse to run “a the America First candidate” in the district where he lived. He changed his mind about where he would run and moved back to the 11th District—running against Woodhouse while she’s still in the race. She maintains Cawthorn plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2026—Thom Tillis’ position. She also said that a Democrat running against Cawthorn would likely win in the district which includes the liberal town of Asheville.

Hood said the best strategy to defeat in a primary would be to “shake your head sadly” like:

“What an unfortunate situation for this young man. He’s gotten himself in over his head. Fame went to his head. He doesn’t have good friends in his world.’ That’s different from treating him as a cartoon villain.”

Jeter worries about Cawthorn winning because the state lowered the level for avoiding a runoff in a primary from 40 percent to 30 percent. He regrets voting for the change and wonders how much support Cawthorn has from voters.

It’s a giant case for Republicans of buyers’ remorse. And Cawthorn isn’t unique: he just offended the wrong donor.

April 27, 2022

Republicans’ Move to Fascism

The head of the Surry County (NC) GOP threatened to fire an elections official or lower her pay if she didn’t give him illegal access to the county’s vote tabulators, one of over 900 instances of intimidating election officials after the 2020 election. Republicans are also trying to discourage voters from using electronic tabulators, but “there is no hand-count option.” Elected GOP officials are willing to overturn a legitimate Democratic victory in order to guarantee that only a Republican can hold office. That means a one-party state, which will be overseen by a single, powerful individual, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal in Ukraine. 

A veto from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves means that the Jim Crow era law blocking Black voters stays on the book. House Judiciary Chair Nick Bain, the Republican who drafted the bill, said the bill “clarified” that judges should continue their policy of returning voting rights to those who have their criminal records expunged. Only nine other states permanently block felons from every voting. Approximately ten percent of the state’s population, 16 percent of the Blacks, cannot vote.

In 1890, the Mississippi constitution listed specific crimes preventing people from voting, specifically those they claimed Black men were more likely to commit: murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, or bigamy. One of the legislators involved in the 1890 language bragged about how they “legislated against the racial peculiarities of the negro.” Murder and rape weren’t added to the list until 1968. Last year, Reeves claimed that “there is not systemic racism in America.”

Reeves wrote:

“Felony disenfranchisement is an animating principle of the social contract at the heart of every great republic dating back to the founding of ancient Greece and Rome.”

The vetoed bill would also have created a public registry of “offenders whose crimes involved the embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds.” These names would stay on the list for five years and be blocked from holding public office for that time. Reeves vetoed a legislative-approved $50 million for upgrades at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Last Monday in Mississippi was Confederate Memorial Day, and Reeves proclaimed April Confederate Heritage Month. He said, “There is not systemic racism in America” in a state where 38 percent population who are Black must honor slavery. In Mississippi’s 2015 data, 383 of every 100,000 Black juveniles were in custody compared to 83 white juveniles in 100,000.

Reeves also let a law for increasing government officials’ wages go into effect without a veto. His own salary goes up 31 percent to $160,000, higher than over half the states. Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the U.S. 

In Louisiana, DDT-appointed federal Judge Robert Summerhays blocked President Joe Biden’s ending Title 42 which prevented all immigrants seeking asylum on the southern border because of COVID precautions. The ruling covers Arizona, Missouri, and Louisiana—the three states suing to pause the end of Title 42—but they must come to an agreement with the DOJ. In a hearing this week, GOP lawmakers grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about how Biden plans to conclude DDT’s policy. Asked if he supports Biden’s decision, Mayorkas said he deferred to the CDC. Republicans call for Mayorkas’ resignation and possible impeachment if they take over Congress this coming year.

During his re-election campaign, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott attracted voters by showing how anti-immigration he is. Earlier this month, he promised to transport immigrants to Washington, D.C. but had to change the claim to volunteers after accusations of kidnapping. Accused of kidnapping them for taking them involuntarily, he said he would take only volunteers. Thus far Abbott has moved 152 migrants and is now asking for donations to fund his program. Those who took him up on his request are expressing gratitude for the “free” ride. His blockage of the southern border with the excuse of inspections fiscally hurt both his state and the entire U.S. with multibillion-dollar losses to the economy.

Abbott’s claim of success in his Operation Lone Star uses myths and disinformation. Starting in March 2021, Abbott deployed over 10,000 National Guard members to join state troopers in a mission to patrol the border, build barriers, and arrest migrant men for trespassing. He counts arrests for crimes with no connection to the border and captured drugs in communities with no connection to the initiative. Abbott said he targeted Mexican cartel members and smugglers, but most of his arrests were for misdemeanor trespassing. Three-fourths of captured illegal drugs was marijuana. Abbott claimed the operation found 887 pounds of fentanyl, but only 160 pounds of that was in the 63 counties included in the initiative, all but 12 pounds in El Paso County that refused to sign onto Abbott’s declaration.

Abbott’s border disaster declaration, patterned after one for a natural disaster, increased trespassing penalties to up a year imprisonment. Since his announcement of the order 11 months ago, over 2,900 people arrested for allegedly crossing into the state came through private property in two rural southwest counties. For arrests July through February, 40 percent were misdemeanor trespassing charges, and hundreds of the charges were dismissed or rejected, many because troopers marched migrants across the private property. Officials couldn’t prove that arrested people were gang members. Questions led to the removal of over 2,000 charges. Abbott’s operation also arrested U.S. citizens and other authorized people in the 63 countries, sometimes charging them with crimes not connected to the border.

Last September, about 15,000 Haitian immigrants searching for asylum because of the earthquake, the president’s assassination, and economic instability camped under the international bridge in Del Rio. Troopers and National Guard members lined up vehicles along the Rio Grande as a “steel barrier.” Texas supported Homeland Security to clear the bridge.

After the state legislature tripled its expenditure on border security last year, most of it going to Operation Lone Star, the state shifted another $500 million from other agencies to pay costs exceeding legislative appropriations. Abbott said its $3 billion in costs was more than the U.S. paid; yet the U.S. border budget is over $16 billion, and 8,000 Border Patrol agents are assigned to 1,285 miles of border with Mexico. More customs officers are stationed at international ports of entry in the state.

DDT stories usually take a bizarre twist, but this one is exceptional. His deposition from last October regarding the violent treatment of his bodyguard Keith Schiller toward protesters outside Trump Tower in 2015 has just been made public. Although DDT claims he knew nothing about it, he defended Schiller’s actions and said “he did nothing wrong.” Protesters are suing DDT for his security officers’ “wanton and malicious assaults and batteries.” The case goes to the New York Supreme Court in the Bronx in May. His lawyers are trying to delay the trial after DDT’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen came forward as a witness—against DDT.

All that is pretty standard for DDT. The bizarre part is his fear of tomatoes. In his deposition he talked about the rally in Cedar Falls (IA) where he told attendees that “if you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, just knock the crap out of them, would you?” He told the protesters’ lawyer:

“It was very dangerous. We were threatened. … They were going to throw fruit…  It’s worse than tomato, it’s other things also. But tomato, when they start doing that stuff, it’s very dangerous. There was an alert out that day.”

He called it “very violent stuff.” Trying to cover himself, he said his 2016 remark to the crowd was “sort of in jest,” but added about his fear, “But maybe, you know, a little truth to it. It’s very dangerous stuff. You can get killed with those things.”

During the 4.5-hour deposition, he was very specific about the dangers of different fruits, also specifying pineapples and bananas as potentially lethal projectiles. “I wanted to have people be ready because we were put on alert that they were going to do fruit” and explained that “some fruit is a lot worse [than tomatoes.]” Asked if anyone had tomatoes at the rally, he answered, “It worked out that nothing happened.” He said he expected his security to use physical force on anyone seen with a tomato. Lawyers even debated whether a tomato is a fruit. DDT’s lawyer settled the question by explaining that a tomato “has seeds.”

If you have a few minutes, tun in to watch Rachel Maddow read parts of DDT’s deposition. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis has overseen the banning of over 200 books from Florida schools; his recent Stop WOKE Act objects to books about race, gender and sexuality and allows members of the public to challenge and ban books. Chaz Stevens has filed complaints in at least eight school districts for the removal of the “woke” Bible. According to the complaint, the Bible deals with slavery, racism, and rape as well as age inappropriateness, “wokeness”, social-emotional learning, bestiality, cannibalism, fornication, and infanticide. He included biblical excerpts as evidence and asked for a book burning. 

April 26, 2022

The Faces of the GOP

The weekend focus on France’s election against Hitler/Russia lover Marine Le Pen for the next five-year presidential term glossed over another important European election. Melania Trump’s birthplace, Slovenia, ousted Prime Minister Janez Janša, the autocratic friend of recently elected Viktor Orbán for prime minister who wishes to remove democracy for Hungary. Robert Golob launched the Freedom Movement in January for a “referendum on democracy” and “take the country back to freedom.” Janša continually insisted that Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) won the 2020 presidential election. East of northern Italy, Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia until become independent in 1991.

In the U.S., the pretended ignorance of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in a hearing about her part in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was followed by CNN’s revelation of 2,319 texts starting on November 3, 2020, Election Day, submitted by former chief of staff Mark Meadows before he decided not to participate in the House investigation committee. Meadows concealed at least 1,000 more texts, many of them from December 9-20, perhaps thinking these were more benign.

Molly Olmstad summarized earlier texts:

“That Trump refused to quickly condemn the violence on Jan. 6; that Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had accused ‘Biden and the Left’ of ‘attempting the greatest Heist of our History’; that Donald Trump Jr. had developed a strategy for overturning the election even before the election was called for Biden; and that Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas Rep. Chip Roy had offered Meadows a statement supporting Trump to ‘leak’ if it was ‘helpful.’”

The new texts filled in some missing pieces, including one from Greene to Meadows to tell DDT to impose martial law to stay in the White House for another term. Under oath, Greene couldn’t “recall” or “remember” this text she sent Meadows on January 17:

“In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law. I don’t know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!”

DDT’s followers sometimes recommended sedition; other times they just tried to look important.

On January 9, 2021, when Twitter banned DDT, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) texted, “I truly hope he does create a new platform to complete with Twitter and I hope he calls it ‘Trumpet’ and then we can send out ‘notes’ to each other!”

Before the election, Fox’s Sean Hannity, a supposedly “impartial” reporter, wrote “Yes, sir” to Meadows and promised he would push the vote for DDT “everywhere.”

When Donald Trump Jr. begged Meadows to get his father “to condemn this shit” on January 6, he texted the chief of staff that “this is one you go to the mattresses on,” ala The Godfather.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell sent a long text about the election overturn, concluding with “God has his hand in all of this and has put you on the front line.”

The day before the insurrection, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) texted, “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all—in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence…”

A text from DDT’s adviser Jason Miller told him to lie to the public by blaming antifa for the attack.  

Former Texas governor and energy secretary Rick Perry denied he took any part in overturning the election, but the disclosed texts were from his phone—and he signed them. He urged an “AGRESSIVE (sic) STRATEGY” for three states to deliver electoral votes for DDT although the popular vote was for Joe Biden. 

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and DDT-supporter, features in another ongoing story. First, he bought over nine percent of Twitter’s private shares and forced himself onto the board. They told him he had to own under 15 percent of shares to stay on the board and quit bad-mouthing Twitter. He didn’t like that so he dropped off. Then he offered to pay $9 over the going price for any shares but then dropped that idea. Now he may own the entire company, paying about $44 billion.

Worth about $259 billion, Musk can afford the price although he’s borrowing $23 billion because his wealth is tied up in stocks. Also, Tesla pays no federal tax on its profits. If Musk completes the deal, Twitter will no longer be a publicly-traded company and will have no board. Musk can read everyone’s tweets, even those meant to be private, and put all the MAGA hate speech back on, including that from DDT. Musk also desperately wants an edit button, allowing people to change the meaning of a tweet after it’s been shared. Facebook knows the danger of editing: its feature helped a cryptocurrency scam. 

The deal’s size requires Musk to report his purchase to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department. Experts say that there are no clear antitrust concerns because Musk is not a social media competitor, but government regulators might slow it down to review the concentration of power. A problem could be collateralizing the payment with Tesla stock, risky for banks.

With over 217 million daily users, Twitter is not as large as Facebook and Instagram with billions, but it is popular with political leaders, companies, celebrities, and others searching for image-building. Musk has used a megaphone to announce his support for free speech, but he tried to suppress a Twitter account tracking his private jet. With uncertain advertising, Twitter’s main source of revenue, Twitter has made no profit for eight of the past ten years. Employees are also concerned about compensation and benefits: the anti-union Musk moved Tesla to Texas and dared United Autoworkers to try to form a union.

Since 2017, unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Tesla at the National Labor Relations Board. In 2018, Musk tweeted workers could lose their stock options if they unionized, and workers involved in organizing activities for organizing unionizing activities. Tesla is the only U.S. auto manufacturer without a union.

Last week, a federal judge reduced a $137 million jury ruling to a $15 million payout for a racial discrimination lawsuit against Tesla. Lawyer for Owen Diaz explained to his Black client that the $15 million is the “maximum” that can be required. Diaz said a Tesla supervisor called him the N-word over 30 times. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is also suing Tesla over alleged racism and harassment of Black employees in the same factory in Fremont, “saturated with racism” according to the judge.  

Former staunch Republicans are growing more and more disenchanted with the current GOP such as columnists Jennifer Rubin, Tim Miller, Charlie Sykes, and Rick Wilson. In January, an NBC News poll found 56 percent of Republicans support the party rather than DDT with only 36 percent devoted first to DDT. In October, 54 percent of Republicans put DDT above party.

Joe Scarborough, a GOP representative from Florida for six years, fought for DDT to be elected in 2016, even going to DDT’s apartment to advise him on his campaign although he had hosted an MSNBC show for almost a decade. By August 2016, however, he wrote a WaPo op-ed, “The GOP Must Dump Trump,” and by 2017, he became so disenchanted with GOP that he changed his registration to unaffiliated. In a statement on his show last Friday morning, he said, “I was proven wrong!” Liberals were right about his former Republican Party.

“Over the past six years, the two things that have disturbed me the most have been the Right’s positions on race and my own churches, the evangelical churches’ posture towards Trumpism, and some of the things we’ve seen. I spent my entire life going on shows, going on Politically Incorrect at the time, going on HARDBALL, talking about how what Kevin Phillips and other people in the media were saying about the Republican Party and race were a lie, that the Southern strategy was an oversimplification, that my family, we were conservatives. And I explained why we were conservatives, why people in my community were conservatives.

“I was proven wrong. I was shocked by what I saw over the past five, six years. Donald Trump in the Muslim registry, Donald Trump saying Hispanics are breeders. I could go down the list talking about the others, telling people to go home, members of Congress, Black members of Congress. How could it be that people like David French and myself and other Republicans grew up saying everything that liberals said about our party was wrong when Donald Trump actually seemed to validate much of what they were accusing us of?”

The party has been poisoning itself for a half decade since Bob Dole, evangelicals, and corporations but actor Ronald Reagan into the White House. DDT is a product of the continuing hypocrisy, shamelessness, and corruption overcoming good and decent people who don’t want to see the reality of their elected politicians who rule with hatred, fear, and bigotry.

April 24, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine: Day 60

The best news today for Ukraine was Emmanuel Macron’s win over Marine Le Pen for France’s president, possibly by 16 points. The far-right, anti-NATO, anti-EU Le Pen has praised Adolf Hitler and admired Russian President Vladimir Putin although she toned down her rhetoric during her campaign. Le Pen owes over $10 million to Russian banks close to Putin and almost that much to the autocratic Hungary.

Orthodox Easter, the holiest holiday in Ukraine, saw no abatement in Russia shelling throughout south and east Ukraine. refused both a cease-fire and humanitarian corridors for the religious holiday, and services were moved to morning.

Violating the Geneva Convention, Russia plans to forcibly conscript civilians from the partly occupied regions of Kherson and Zapoizhzhia like Putin did in Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas regions. Special monitoring mission staff members of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have also been detained in eastern Ukraine after the organization evacuated almost 500 international mission members.

A spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights said humanitarian law seems to be “tossed aside,” with “a horror story of violations perpetrated against civilians.” In one form of Russia’s vicious murders, forensic doctors found tiny metal arrows, fléchettes, in civilians buried in Bucha’s mass graves from shells fired by Russian artillery, an anti-personnel weapon widely used during the first world war. Each shell holds up to 8,000 fléchettes about 1.5 inches long that arc and bend into a hook on impact with the body. The four fins at the rear cause a second wound.

Satellite images show Russians hiding their “barbaric” war crimes by burying civilian bodies killed by shelling in new mass graves. Russian trucks take corpses from the streets of Mariupol. 12 miles away, and transport them to Manhush, a nearby village. Bodies of as many as 9,000 Ukrainian civilians are thrown into 100-foot-wide trenches.

The UN office reported 114 attacks on medical facilities “although the actual figure is likely to be considerably higher.” Spokesperson Ravina Shamdansi said:

“We estimate that at least 3,000 civilians have died because they couldn’t get medical care and because of the stress on their health amid the hostilities. This includes being forced by Russian armed forces to stay in basements or not being allowed to leave their homes for days or weeks.”

Mariupol, vital to Russia’s path to the Crimea and the Sea of Azov, is mostly rubble, over two-thirds of its 400,000 residents gone—evacuated, forcibly taken to Russia, or dead. Pleased by seeing the horrors, Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on television, “The work of the armed forces to liberate Mariupol has been a success. Congratulations.” A few thousand people, including children, remain in the basements and tunnels of the four-square-mile steel plant along the coastline, imprisoned until they die of illness, starvation, or thirst.

Mariupol native and computer programmer Dmitry Cherepanov created Mariupol Life, a site to help people search for their missing loved ones, listing names, addresses, birth dates, and, if possible, last-known locations of missing individuals and photographs.

Putin desperately wants a win by Victory Day on May 9, celebrating the Soviet Union’s defeat of the Germans in World War II. Taking Mariupol gives him both a land bridge and a “success” for his propaganda—the first Ukrainian city to fall since he began his invasion. Seizing Mariupol gives Putin control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov, blocking maritime trade “vital for the Ukrainian economy.” Mariupol’s metal industry accounted for one-third of Ukraine’s steel production in 2019.

According to Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev, Putin doesn’t plan to stop with taking over Ukraine. Minnekayev said that Russia wants “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine as a path to taking over neighboring Moldova and perhaps beyond. Part of the plan is to take over Transnistria, a narrow, land-locked areas between Ukraine and Moldova. Capturing Odesa would give Putin far more control over the Black Sea.

Putin has said the invasion will continue until “full completion” but doesn’t define the term. Earlier, he claimed he didn’t plan to permanently occupy Ukrainian cities; now he’s intent on regime change. Putin also reneged on his claim that he wouldn’t continue shelling Mariupol. Yet he still maintains the “special military operation” is for national security and denies any atrocities or indiscriminate shelling.

In his “second phase” of invasion, Putin concentrates on severing the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, from the rest of Ukraine to create puppet Russian republics. Although Putin faces the same low morale from his troops, Russians may find the terrain easier—broad plains instead of streets and buildings for concealing Ukrainians and easier use of tanks and large missile systems. Donbas’ border with Russia allows easier supply lines than further inside Ukraine, and soldiers are more familiar with the territory. Residents were more sympathetic to Russia: before the war, 30 percent of them wanted to join Russia, and another ten percent wanted independence.

The new commander strategizes a pincer movement to crush Ukrainians in the east, moving south from the Kharkiv area and north from the coast near Mariupol before Russians move west. As always, Russians pound Ukrainians with heavy firepower. About 70 to 80 combat battalions, about 400 soldiers each, will try to execute a “double encirclement” of Ukrainian forces like Hannibal defeated the Roman army in 216 B.C. Or the Battle of Stalingrad when the Red Army broke through German lines in the decisive battle on the Eastern front. The German army called the tactic kesselschlacht, or “cauldron battle”; Russians want to make eastern Ukraine into a deadly cauldron.

The industrial heritage of Donbas of both heavy mining and steel-producing capacity and large coal reserves makes it desirable for Putin. The 2015 Minsk peace deal would have given the two eastern regions autonomy to regain Ukraine’s border with Russia, but Putin refused because he wanted to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty. Putin formally recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk republics three days before the invasion; Mariupol was one of the last urban areas in Donetsk not under his control. He is moving onto Izyum on the western border of Donbas before heading to occupy Popasna, between the two republics, move onto Izyum on the western border of Donbas. Last week, the Russians took Kreminna and called the remaining residents “hostages.”

Since the beginning of the invasion, Ukrainians have located and destroyed at least 31 Russian command and communication posts, killing ten or more generals, two of them in the attack on a command post near Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine that also critically wounded another general. Russians have a large supply of generals, but the casualties temporarily confuse units and make them vulnerable to a swift attack.

Ukraine now has more tanks in Ukraine than Russia does, partly because of contributions from the West but also from the capture of 212 functioning Russian tanks. Russia captured only 73 Ukrainian tanks. The Czech Republica donated many Soviet-era tanks and other war equipment. Russia lost about 3,000 armored vehicles in the 60 days of invasion but only half in combat. When vehicles run out of fuel or are abandoned, “it’s finder’s keepers for these farmers,” Ukrainian military expert Yuri Zbanatski said.

Two months ago, Putin thought “phase one” of the invasion would be an easy win. Russia suffers from the same problems as then—poorly maintained vehicles and Ukraine rapidly acquiring more tanks and heavy, longer-range artillery. Sympathy in Donbas for Russians may also wane as bombs drop on homes in the area.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said sanctions are part of the reason that Russia hasn’t reached its goals. The U.S. placed sanctions this past week on the privately owned commercial bank Transkapitalbank (TKB) offering clients such as banks in China and the Middle East the ability to conduct their transactions through their own Internet-based banking system. This alternative to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network allowed customers to process otherwise sanctioned U.S. dollar payments. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also targets companies in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, including Bitriver, the third largest in the world. In addition, Russian-affiliated ships are no longer permitted to enter American ports.

Sanctioned Russian oligarchs and their families are also starting to die. Two cases this week in Spain and Russia “appear” to be murder-suicide: Sergey Protosenya was top manager of Russia’s energy giant Novatek, and Vladislav Avaev was a Gazprombank executive. Last month, billionaire Vasily Melnikov, his wife, and his sons were found dead. Russia’s largest single chemical plant, the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant, went up in flames, and a fire broke out at the primary analytical center for Roscosmos, the Russian space program. Days earlier, a fire broke out at a research facility connected to both the Russian Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos and the design of Iskander missiles.

Sixty days after Putin promised Russian soldiers they would overcome Ukraine in a matter of hours, their casualties pile up, and Kremlin’s senior insiders are worried. Open criticism is not accepted, but high-ranking government and state-run business leaders look at the invasion as a catastrophic mistake as growing isolation and economic disaster will set the country back for years. They also worry about whether Putin will use his nuclear weapons if his “holy war” continues to fail. Putin continues his propaganda of winning, but empty grocery shelves, like this photo of Russian shelving for sanitary napkins, tell a different story.

Russia claims a successful launch of “Satan II,” the RS-28 Sarmat nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile to bull through the U.S. missile defense systems. More nuclear rattling.

April 23, 2022

Inflation from Corporate Greed, Disasters

With no real platform except for raising taxes on the poor, Republicans search for campaign topics for the fall 2022 election. A major one will certainly be inflation. The GOP talks about how it never would have happened if Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) were in the White House and how he needs to be returned to the Oval Office. They have no solution for the problem, but they figure they only need to condemn Democrats for not solving the issue.

Beyond the continued pandemic because of GOP spreaders, the invasion in Ukraine, and DDT’s shattering of the supply chain by allowing COVID to run rampant, corporate profits with no regulations raise prices. The Economic Policy Institute and the Brookings Institution report on the problem.

EPI’s Josh Bivens wrote:

“Since the trough of the COVID-19 recession in the second quarter of 2020, overall prices in the [non-financial corporate] sector have risen at an annualized rate of 6.1%—a pronounced acceleration over the 1.8% price growth that characterized the pre-pandemic business cycle of 2007–2019. Strikingly, over half of this increase (53.9%) can be attributed to fatter profit margins, with labor costs contributing less than 8% of this increase. This is not normal. From 1979 to 2019, profits only contributed about 11% to price growth and labor costs over 60%.”

These facts don’t jive with the wishful thinking that current inflation is “based purely on macroeconomic overheating.” Bivens continued:

“Evidence from the past 40 years suggests strongly that profit margins should shrink and the share of corporate sector income going to labor compensation (or the labor share of income) should rise as unemployment falls and the economy heats up. The fact that the exact opposite pattern has happened so far in the recovery should cast much doubt on inflation expectations rooted simply in claims of macroeconomic overheating.”

In DC Reports, Dean Baker agrees. History shows that low unemployment forces companies to pay higher wages and thus raise prices. Yet data disproves that reason for higher prices now because “the wage share of income has fallen sharply since the pandemic.” In 2021, the wage share fell from 76.1 percent to 73.7 percent. Baker does blame supply-side disruptions, caused by corporations not successfully planning sufficient products, for inflation.

In a report from Brookings, examining 22 major companies, “the average real wage gain, factoring in inflation, was between 2% and 5% through October 2021. Unless these companies raised wages substantially since then, fast-rising inflation would have eroded most, or even all, of the 2% to 5% average wage gains. And at most, only seven of the 22 companies are paying at least half of their workers a living wage—enough to cover just their basic expenses.”

The same companies paid their shareholders very well, spending five times more on dividends and stock buybacks than on paying their workers better. Sixteen companies repurchased almost $50 billion of their shares, equal to raising the annual wages by an average of 40 percent.

Most people are noticing—and complaining about—price increases for food. A “perfect storm” causes some of the problem: drought, an outbreak of avian flu, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s personal war at the southern border. Older factors are worker shortages, higher fuel costs, and supply chains snarls beginning when DDT failed to control the pandemic in the U.S. for political reasons. The other factors:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Prices, especially for corn, skyrocketed. To mitigate the high price of gas, President Joe Biden permitted high-ethanol gasoline to be sold throughout the summer. Ethanol is made from corn usually used for human and animal food. Animal feed is 60 percent of the cost of raising livestock, even farmed fish. Ukraine’s inability to produce fertilizer contributes to higher meat prices because it is sometimes the only source of carbon dioxide for the pre-slaughter stunning of animals. Without that product, facilities need another way to humanely prepare animals. 

The avian flu: In 27 states, the worst outbreak in the U.S. since 2015 raised prices for chicken, turkey, and egg. Growers have killed 29 million affected birds, about three-fourths of them egg-layers. April and May are peak months for the disease; droppings of wild birds infect domestic flocks during migration patterns, especially in Iowa.  

California’s ongoing drought: As the disaster hits its third year, the government, operating the water systems, reported it has no more water for farmers who will now plant much less or nothing. In the Central Valley providing one-fourth of U.S. food, rice growers in the northern part plan to leave their fields fallow.

Border truck jams: Abbott’s decision to block the border to Mexico with unnecessary inspections stalled produce from the south, raising prices especially on avocados, limes, and tomatoes. The governor’s political stunt lost Texans $477 million per day for its ten days, and the U.S. lost $8.97 billion.

Examples of corporate greed:

  • Procter & Gamble raised prices on their product such as diapers and toilet paper and reported an almost 25-perent profit margin. Kimberly-Clark, dominating the market with P&G, raised its prices at the same time.
  • Pepsi-Cola, with increased prices for the second quarter of 2021, recorded a $3 billion profit for that time.
  • Coca-Cola made $10 billion in revenues for the third quarter of 2021, up 16 percent from the previous year.
  • Meat accounts for half of the increase in food prices, 15 percent more than the previous year. The U.S. has only four major meat processing companies. Antitrust enforcement all but disappeared in the 1980s with control by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans—including banks, pharmaceuticals, airlines, meatpackers, and soda.
  • Food prices are soaring, but half of that is from meat, which costs 15% more than last year. There are only four major meat processing companies in America, which are all raising their prices and enjoying record profits.

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin pointed out how Republicans are responsible for our current inflation. Capitalists favor legal immigration because the shortage of workers raises prices by too little goods produced. The need for workers has been exacerbated through the pandemic and retirements, but the previous administration blocked immigration as a solution to transportation, warehousing, and accommodation and food services. The GOP, however, keeps its exclusionary policies, hurting former pro-business and pro-growth positions. Instead Republicans’ goal is only increasing wealth for the rich and big businesses.

DDT’s government actions also caused inflation to make himself look good on a short-term basis. His tariffs raised prices, and creating more money causes inflation. Instead of solving the pandemic problem, DDT kept the economy at a satisfactory level by printing new money at an unprecedented rate. More money in circulation means more spending and greater demand. That’s when prices go up. People like Karl Rove blame Biden for inflation with his pandemic payoff to people, but DDT gave away more money, vastly lowered the taxes on the wealthy and big business, and increased the national debt by $7.8 trillion. 

According to economists, a good economy can cause higher inflation. Positive news since Biden’s inauguration:

  • Over 6 million jobs created last year, compared to the minus number during DDT’s term.
  • Unemployment cut in half last year with jobless claims at their lowest level since the 1960s.
  • In this century, the first year the U.S. grew faster than China.
  • The highest rate of economic growth since Reagan’s first term.
  • Biggest drop in unemployment claims in U.S. history.
  • Since Biden’s inauguration, 1.36 million small business jobs created.

The pandemic caused oil companies to scale back in production; with the letup of the lockdown, prices went up because the oil demand was greater than the supply. Biden authorized the release of 1 million barrels of oil each day for the next six months to drop gasoline prices. He also made plans to increase food production and lower food prices rising because of lack of Russian and Ukrainian exports. The two countries are the largest and sixth-largest wheat producers in the world. 

An article in Hustle, blames future inflation on psychological reasons. Mark Dent and Zachary Crockett wrote that people spend more if they think prices will go up in the future and businesses raise prices if they think costs will go up in the future. Research shows that households are eight percent more likely to buy durable goods such as cars and refrigerators if they think the prices will increase. In February, ten percent of respondents said they bought goods for fear of price increases, mostly for houses.

The same approach is goes for basic goods such as toilet paper, cat food, and baby formula. People stock up, leaving store shelves looking bare. Other shoppers panic and try to load up on products for fear they won’t be available. Prices go up because corporations know they can charge more money. Thus the circle continues.

April 22, 2022

Earth Day: 2022

Today, April 22, tens of millions of people honor the earth on this 52th anniversary of Earth Day with the theme, “Invest in Our Planet.”

“This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods… together, we must ‘Invest in Our Planet.’” 🗞️

It is also the 56th day of Ukraine’s destruction as Russia focuses on a mission of killing all the civilians, flattening all the buildings, and destroying all the land with missiles, chemical weapons, and the release of radioactivity.

I am saddened by the dual assault on our planet as people ignore the threat of climate warming and have been unable to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, I honor the brave Ukrainians who fight Russian supporters both inside and outside the United States. I honor the courage of Ukrainians who find democracy too important to have Putin’s brutality erase their country.

The sunflower, a symbol of Ukrainian national identity, has become a “global symbol of resistance, unity, and hope,” according to Jennifer Hassan. On February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion, a Ukrainian woman gave sunflower seeds to armed Russian soldiers. She said, “Take these seeds so sunflowers grow here when you die.”

Since then, demonstrators throughout the Western world have used the sunflower to denounce Russian aggression. Europe received sunflowers in the seventeenth century when Spaniards brought the seeds from the New World. In the eighteenth century, Ukrainians ate them and crushed them into oil for cooking, a popular alternative to butter and lard which were prohibited during Lent by the Orthodox Church. By now, Ukraine and Russia provide 70 to 80 percent of global sunflower oil exports. Images of sunflowers are found on clothing, and the blooms are worn in headdresses during celebrations.

Sunflowers—soniashnyk—have long represented peace: in 1996, ministers from Russia, the United States, and Ukraine planted sunflowers at the Pervomaysk missile base to celebrate Ukraine’s nuclear weapon disarmament. At that time, the shared goal for the three nations was “ensuring that our children and our grandchildren will live in peace.” Before that, scientists planted sunflowers, capable of removing toxins from the soil, to remove radioactive elements after the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Japan planted their sunflowers after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

May the sunflower return to Ukraine in a time of democracy and peace. [Photo by Ann Hubard]

Republicans’ Lies Catching Up with them

Thursday’s news will guarantee placement of the book This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future at the top of bestseller lists when it comes out on May 3. Authors Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin promise tapes to prove the contents of the book, and the first one came out today, showing the lies House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told about a telephone call to DDT following January 6, 2021.

McCarthy denied he ever made the call, but he is heard on the audio tape of the telephone call to say, “I’ve had it with this guy” and that DDT’s remarks before the attack were “not right by any shape or any form.” In a separate call on January 10, McCarthy told his colleagues he would recommend that DDT resign immediately. “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it,” McCarthy said.

In a speech after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, McCarthy had called DDT’s actions “atrocious and totally wrong” in his acknowledgment that DDT “incit(ed] people” to attack the Capitol to block the Electoral College certification of the presidential win for Joe Biden. Before the end of January, McCarthy groveled to his leader and posed with DDT for a photo-op at Mar-a-Lago.

More dish in the book describes then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recommending action against Trump while privately talking with his colleagues. They concluded that impeachment would solve their problems. “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us” through impeachment, McConnell said and claimed that enough GOP senators would go with the Democrats. He even hinted that he would go along with them. “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” McConnell said.

Immediately after the insurrection, McConnell clearly blamed DDT for the violence when he said the insurrectionists “did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth—because he was angry he’d lost an election.” McConnell was lying about voting for the impeachment, and he delayed the impeachment process to make the trial finish after DDT left the White House. That gave Republicans the excuse to vote against conviction. Now McConnell maintains he’ll vote for DT if he runs in 2024.

In private, McCarthy and McConnell also talked about wanting to ban GOP lawmakers from Twitter in opposition to McCarthy’s public complaints about Republican congressional members being barred.

McCarthy has a history of lying about his statements after they have been leaked. A month before DDT was selected as the GOP presidential candidate in 2020, McCarthy, speaking with other GOP leaders, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying DDT. The tape shows then House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) shutting him down and swearing the Republicans to secrecy. A short time before McCarthy’s revelation, he and Ryan had met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who told them about Russia’s policy of paying populist politicians to undermine Eastern European democracies. When people laughed at McCarthy’s statement, he said, “Swear to God.” Ryan ordered, “No leaks… This is how we know we’re a real family here.” McCarthy first denied it happened but when faced with the tape said it was a joke.

After supporting DDT for keeping congressionally-approved weapons from going to Ukraine, McCarthy now blames Biden for not sending weapons to Ukraine early enough. Putin likely felt more comfortable for invading Ukraine as he works to put Republicans back into power, and McCarthy is helping him. In response to McCarthy’s complaints, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said:

“We sent a record amount of security assistance to Ukraine during President Biden’s first year in office—more than any other president in history. That’s in direct contrast with our predecessor who withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine, including Javelins, which Mr. McCarthy, who was critical of us in this moment, defended at the time as, quote, ‘the rightful thing to do’ because he claimed people believed there was corruption in the Zelensky administration. So, I don’t know if that’s a question for us as much as a question for him—what has changed in that period of time?”

Since Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. provided over $3.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including $2.6 billion since the start of the war. Another $800 million package was announced this week. Knowing the Russian threat, the U.S. military drew from its weapons stocks to supply Ukraine in the fall of 2021 and approved another $200 million in aid in December. McCarthy hopes blaming Biden will give the House a GOP majority in 2023 as well as getting him the position of House Speaker. Biden has been walking a fine line to provide aid to Ukraine with starting World War III.

Mike Lee also struggles with evidence of his lies. On January 6, 2021, after the insurrectionists were driven out of the U.S. Capitol, Lee declared to all the congressional members present that they shouldn’t question the votes presented by the electoral college. He said, “Our job is to open and then count — open, then count. That’s it.” Those comments were in contrast to the his texts for almost two months when he tried to overturn the election. He was part of the conspiracy to keep DDT in the White House. He claimed he refused the plot, but the texts show the great efforts he made to go around the constitution. All he wanted in the investigations was to “make this legitimate,” not to get any real evidence. In the days before January 6, Lee frantically called states to get alternative slates of electors for DDT, part of the conspiracy.

Lee is in so deep in trouble with the publication of his texts that he’s hiding from the media and refuses to answer any questions. This weekend is Utah’s GOP nominating convention where the state’s congressional members are expected to be present. As conservative Jennifer Rubin wrote:

“If Lee had acted ethically and in accordance with his oath, he should have no compunction about taking questions. Instead, the [Salt Lake City] Tribune reports, “Approached by a Salt Lake Tribune reporter at the Summit County Republican Party Convention in Kamas, Lee staffers blocked access to the senator.’ (Lee’s behavior is unacceptable, but so is that of aides, who are employed and paid by taxpayers. They are not Lee’s private security force.)”

Featuring another congressional liar, a court hearing in which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) must defend her role of the insurrection on January 6 under oath in a hearing that begins tomorrow, April 22, at 6:30 EST. She allegedly helped plan and support the attack and argued for violence to keep DDT in the White House. The hearing will be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook.

The question is whether Greene should be removed from the ballot according to Article 3 of the constitution’s 14th Amendment:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

While on a lower court, Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed with the majority ruling to keep candidates off the ballot who fail to meet constitutional requirements. Originally written to keep former Confederate soldiers from taking power in the government after the Civil War, it was largely ignored until the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Greene called January 6 “our 1776 moment” and said:

“You can’t allow it to just transfer power ‘peacefully’ like Joe Biden wants and allow him to become our president because he did not win this election. He’s guilty of treason. It’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason.”

In a meltdown, Greene said about the use of the constitution in the hearing:

“They are literally, ah, using, uh, uh, like a loophole in our, in our laws and they’re challenging my candidacy.”

The hearing doesn’t stop Greene’s re-election campaign, but it prevents a federal court from granting lawyers the ability to avoid a court hearing by asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to instead make a decision. A DDT-appointed judge had turned down citizens’ requests to have hearings on Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on the grounds of the 1872 Amnesty Act to protect Confederates, but Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that the act did not apply to future insurrectionists. She explained that “shall have engaged” in Article 3 is the future perfect tense and the Amnesty Act uses only the past tense.

Even if Greene isn’t dropped from the ballot, the process means that candidates involved in the insurrection can be questioned under oath in open court. Those opposing the use of the 14th Amendment in disqualifying insurrectionists for candidacy claim that it’s wrong because it’s never been used before. Never before, have people physically attacked the U.S. Capitol to block a presidential election with some congressional members calling for violence.

April 20, 2022

Mizelle Legislates from the Bench, Makes Policy

Many stories appear for a couple of days and then disappear, like Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and possesser of sensitive information, receiving $2 billion from Saudi Arabia for a “loan.” Others, however, start small and then, like Topsy, “growed.” The latest in this category is a federal judge in Florida removing the federal mandate for masks on public transport for the entire country as of the moment she issued her ruling.

Actually, the story has a connection to Jared Kushner: Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s husband, Chad Mizelle, works for the Kushner’s company that got the $2 billion. He went there after he left DDT’s Homeland Security department, a position possibly orchestrated by his ally, white nationalist Stephen Miller who set up all of DDT’s immigration programs. Miller tweeted that people should vote Republican this fall to prevent any more mask mandates.

Mizelle, 33 years old when DDT appointed her and she was confirmed by 49 GOP senators 15 days after DDT lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, was rated unqualified by the American Bar Association. Never having been a judge before, she had also never tried a case as counsel or co-counsel in her eight years as a counsel. Thus the ABA declared her “not meet[ing] the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge.” For a lifetime position.

Mizelle made her decision without any oral arguments, just off the top of her head after she looked at the law and checked a definition in the dictionary. The mandatory mask requirement was based on the 1944 federal law known as the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). As a supposed “textualist,” meaning that only the words at the time of writing matter and definitely not the intent, she checked out a contemporary dictionary—not one from 1944 as other so-called textualists might consider. Her decision was based on one definition of the word “sanitation,” the term she used to overthrow the mandate.

To Mizelle, sanitation “measures that clean something, not ones that keep something clean. Wearing a mask cleans nothing.” She pointed out that masks only stop droplets with virus from going into the air. Mizelle explained that the dictionary had two different definitions: to “clean something” or “keep something clean.” But she liked the first one so she used it for her ruling. Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell University, wrote:

“She looks at sanitation and says it has these two meanings. She then goes through an elaborate set of arguments why she thinks the first meaning is the better one. But then she says it’s unambiguous, and therefore the agency isn’t entitled to deference… I was not at all persuaded that she had eliminated the ambiguity.” 

Daniel Walters, a law professor at Penn State University, called Mizelle’s approach “so divorced from the text of the statute that it doesn’t deserve to be called textualism.” He continued:

“You can’t just splice the statute into a bag of words, consult a dictionary, pick out your favorite definition, and call that textualism.”

Adding to the peculiarity of Mizelle’s ruling, she twisted the part of the law which gives the CDC power “to make and enforce such regulations as in [its] judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases.”  An explanation of this statement does use the word “sanitation,” but it also adds “and other measures as in [its] judgment may be necessary.” As Ruth Marcus pointed out in her column about the issue, she could also rule that medical professionals won’t need to wear gloves or a gown, even when operating.

Mizelle wrote she overturned the mask mandate because the public didn’t have notice and a chance to comment. The agency had used a “good cause” with a “public health emergency.” Mizelle said that was insufficient. Despite the U.S. recording almost 82.5 million cases and over one million cases in two years. Not to mention that at least one-third of those with COVID suffer from symptoms of “long COVID.”                   

Like many others, conservative law professor Ilya Somin of George Mason University is opposed to the mandate but highly critical of the fallacies in Mizelle’s “reasoning.” He used a graphic comparison, that Mizelle’s ruling would prohibit a regulation to stop people from defecating on the floor of a train or airplane.

“That would not qualify as ‘sanitation’ under Judge Mizelle’s approach because it does not clean anything, but merely ‘keep[s] something clean’ (in this case, the floor).”

Ian Millhiser almost matched that analogy by writing that her definition would not allow CDC to require airlines to fix toilet defects causing sewage to be spewed into the cabin. Instead, the CDC would be forced “to wait until passengers were wading through feces before it could order the airline to clean it up.

Another fallacy in Mizelle’s ruling is her invention of a distinction in CDC regulations between governing “property” and governing “an individual’s liberty interests,” opposite to wording of the statutory text. She claimed that the CDC can regulate only “property” and not the person’s liberty. Yet she relies on provisions that have no distinction between “property” and “individual’s liberty” in the CDC’s ability to make regulations. Mizelle seems to have created that justification out of thin air.

The instant that airline pilots heard about the rule, many of them announced, while airplanes were in the air, that the mask requirement was no longer in effect. Much to the dismay of some travelers, others ripped off their masks and cheered. There are no reports of pilots recommending that people might want to voluntarily continue to wear their masks for the protection of both themselves and others, especially those who are immunocompromised and expected safety for their flights. As one person tweeted:

“Airlines dropping mask mandates mid-flight is such a classic example of capitalism making a mockery of consent. People got on a plane with the understanding others would be masked. Suddenly they’re trapped at 10,000 feet in a COVID deathtrap free for all. Nightmare sh*t.”

One person said:

“We’re still taking off our shoes because of one dude 21 years ago but can’t be bothered to wear masks after 1,000,000 dead from a virus that’s still killing over 500 a day. What a world.”  

A former clerk for Clarence Thomas, Mizelle had a record for dismantling civil rights protections during her two years as counsel to the associate attorney general in 2017 and 2018. According to a leadership coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights organizations, she participated in “rescinding Title IX guidance that protected transgender students, filing a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that businesses have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ customers, asking the Census Bureau to insert a citizenship question on the 2020 form, and arguing in court that the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.” Her amicus brief for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed a labor union request that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provide emergency standards protecting health care providers and other essential workers.

Mizelle belongs to the far-right Teneo Network and called Thomas “the greatest living American.” In a speech to the conservative Federalist Society, she said that paper money is unconstitutional. If she is as bright as people have claimed, her ruling simply came from her personal disagreement with mask mandates.

After the CDC asked for an appeal to Mizelle’s finding, the DOJ is moving forward to oppose her decision although the mask mandate is currently due to expire in under two weeks. The courts will likely take longer than that to make a ruling, but the serious flaws in Mizelle’s decision make it a dangerous decision about public health in the U.S. According to an Associated Press-NORC poll this week, the majority of people support the mask mandate for shared transportation—56 percent compared to 24 percent opposed. Approval was at 63 percent in a YouGov poll.  

If you consider this too much nit-picking, think about how many DDT judges will control our lives and use their skewed “textualism” to push their far-right agendas. Not one Republican demanding that Ketanji Brown Jackson not “legislate from the bench” has said anything about Mizelle’s bad legislation and avoidance of judicial neutrality. And DDT’s youthful, unqualified judges are with us for their lifetimes.

Although the U.S. undercounts COVID cases with at-home testing, the official number of infections has increased 47 percent in the past two weeks in 34 states and Washington, D.C. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C. have an increase in hospitalizations. And wait until fall when more variants and more cases sweep across the nation.

Easter 2022: A Time of Death, Not Resurrection

 

On this Easter, Donald Trump Jr. celebrated the holiday in the same way that Reps. thoma Massie (R-KY) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) celebrated Christmas–with guns. It’s something that his five children can remember about the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the NRA, 25 states allow the legal purchase of buying and carrying a firearm with no permit, testing, or training. The rationale for these laws is that the greater the number of guns, the more safety. Almost 40 million firearms were sold in 2020 and 2021, but the murder rate soared 30 percent in 2020, DDT’s last year in the White House. The U.S. averages over one mass shooting of four or more people every day, and violent crime is also up.

On Easter weekend, the U.S. had at least ten mass shootings with eight dead people and dozens injured. That makes a total of 144 mass shootings in the first 106 days of 2022, following the definition of a mass shooting being four or ore people shot not including the shooter. Earlier in the week, the attack on a Brooklyn subway train left ten people shot out of almost 30 injured.

Stockton (CA): Two men killed and two others wounded with no suspect or motive.

Miami-Dade (FL): Four people shot at a residence.

Baltimore (MD): One person dead and three others injured; two other male victims were found at a hospital.  

North as Vegas (NV): Four people injured, a result of an argument and no one in custody.

Syracuse (NY): One person killed and four others wounded.

Portland (OR): One man killed and three boys wounded in the Centennial Neighborhood.

Pittsburgh (PA): Two 17-year-old boys dead and over a dozen injured after over 90 shots were fired at a party in an Airbnb.

Philadelphia (PA): Four men shot in the Fairhill neighborhood.

Columbia (SC): At least nine people shot and five others injured with two men arrested and an arrest warrant for a third.

Furman (SC): Nine people shot at an Easter party in a lounge.

 Russia spent Easter Day continuing his strikes on churches and residential areas from Lviv in the east to the east, primarily Mariupol when about 1,000 people are hiding in the tunnels below the steelworks. These were built by the Soviet Union after German bombed the area during World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin bragged about his new barrages and promised to capture the eastern area. Ukraine has refused to surrender Mariupol so Russia plans to close the city for entry and exit with people not permitted to move throughout the city without Russian-issued “movement passes.” In the south, regions surrounding Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are being transferred to “the ruble zone” and subordinated to Russian administration. The Ukrainian president said Russia’s actions in the territories were following the example of the so-called separatist republics of the DPR and LPR.

For war crimes and mass killings, Putin awarded the Russian military brigade responsible for Bucha’s horrible killings with the honorary title of “Guards” for “great heroism and courage.” Putin made no mention of his war in Ukraine when he cited the soldiers for “mass heroism and valour.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has classified soldiers in Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade as war criminals. Russia claimed images of graves, dead bodies, and bombing aftermath as “fake.”

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin ally, has turned on his parishioners in Ukraine in his support for the Russian invasion; almost half these parishes are under Moscow jurisdiction. Of those 45 Orthodox dioceses, about half of them have stopped praying for Kirill, a leader asking, “How can you accept prayers for the patriarch who is blessing the soldiers trying to kill your son?” In a rare church tribunal, hundreds of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy have signed a petition from Archpriest Andriy Pinchuk accusing Kirill of committing “moral crimes by blessing the war against Ukraine” and asking global Orthodox leaders to sanction their Russian colleague for “heresy.”

In Northern Italy and Amsterdam, Russian Orthodox–aligned churches in Northern Italy and Amsterdam have formally severed ties to the Moscow Patriarchate. Parishioners are switching churches in the U.S., and Orthodox seminarians in France asked their bishop to break with Kirill. Orthodox priests in Russian Orthodox priests are either fined or fired for criticizing the war. The head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church for called for “greater church independence” from Moscow. The world-wide leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, criticized Kirill for calling Russia’s war against Ukraine “sacred.”

Six Supreme Court justices have accepted the racism tainting a Black man’s death sentence in Texas by refusing to take his case. At the 2018 trial of Kristopher Lowe, his attorneys asked prospective jurors if they believe some races “tend to be more violent than others,” searching for illicit bias. One white juror, Zachary Niesman responded, “Yes. Statistics show more violent crimes are committed by certain races. I believe in statistics.” During preliminary examination he gave his belief that “news reports and criminology classes” bore this out but said he could be fair and impartial because he gets this belief from “statistics.”

In Texas, defendants are eligible for capital punishment only if the jury concludes they’re likely to “commit criminal acts of violence” in the future. Love’s attorney tried to strike Niesman “for cause,” in this case his bias, but the trial judge denied the challenge with no explanation. The attorney attempted a peremptory challenge which requires no specific reason for the juror’s exclusion but had none left. The jury found Love guilty and likely to commit violent crime in the future. The judge imposed the death penalty.

The appeal argued that the sentence violated Love’s constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury because one juror was “racially biased.” The all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against the appeal because the trial judge’s refusal to strike the juror for cause was “harmless” because the attorney had expended his peremptory challenges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “An already-expended peremptory strike is no cure for the seating of an allegedly biased juror.” In frustration, she wrote the Texas courts “deprived Love of any meaningful review of his federal constitutional claim” by deploying a non sequitur. She was joined by only Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Thus the U.S. Supreme Court joins the conspiracy to overturn a decades-long tradition of blocking jury bias by protecting a defendant’s ability to question and strike a biased juror, especially a problem in capital trials which kill people. The death of a person is never “harmless.”

In Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado (2017), a similar situation, the Supreme Court reaffirmed no amount of racism in the jury box is ever acceptable in a criminal trial: the biased juror believed racial minorities are more prone to violence and may have played a role in convicting the defendant. Before DDT’s appointments to the Supreme Court, a five-justice majority followed its duty to “enforce the Constitution’s guarantee against state-sponsored racial discrimination in the jury system.” At a minimum, Sotomayor wrote the lower court should have “meaningfully reviewed Love’s allegations of racial bias” rather than ignoring it. Once again, vital precedents are being struck down.

Almost two years ago, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in Minneapolis for being suspected of trying to pass a $20 counterfeit bill. On April 4, a Grand Rapids police officer killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, during a traffic stop. A private autopsy shows he was shot in the back of the head while he was on the ground. Lyoya, 26, died instantaneously from the “contact shot,” the gun pressed to his head. He had been driving in a residential area and stepped out of the car when he was stopped. The video shows he looked confused when the officer told him to get back into the car before he tried to run away.

The officer said he stopped Lyoya for an improper license plate, but he couldn’t have seen the plate. They were driving in opposite directions when the officer stopped Lyoya. During the struggle, the officer’s bodycam stopped working so a period of time is missing. The officer claimed Lyoya had grabbed for his taser, but it had already been used twice, the maximum usage before re-loading.

Between 2016 and 2021, police killed more than 400 drivers or passengers who were not wielding a gun or a knife or under pursuit for a violent crime. Many vehicle stops begin for common traffic violations or questioning about nonviolent offenses. Traffic stops are a money-maker for communities. Grand Rapids residents have protested police actions. In 2017, officers searching for a middle-aged woman wanted for a stabbing handcuffed an 11-year-old girl. Months earlier, other officers held five innocent teenagers at gunpoint.

Happy Easter!

April 16, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 52

The biggest news from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week was the sinking of Russia’s 611-foot flagship, Moskva, from two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, developed from a Soviet design. Russia asserts that a fire on the ship caused the damage and a “stormy” sea caused the sinking as it was being towed back to port. Yet conditions in the Black Sea were not stormy, and Russia moved six other ships further away from port as a precaution. Ukraine also said that the captain died in the disaster, and Russia is not telling what happened to the crew of almost 500 who were evacuated from the vessel. Furious with the sinking, Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down on wiping out civilians and their homes in cities such as Lviv, Kyiv, and Mariupol.

The Moskva can carry 16 long-range cruise missiles as well as torpedoes, naval guns, close-in missile defense systems, and a helicopter; it may possibly have had nuclear weapons. The largest warship to be taken down by missiles, the loss is the second large naval ship to be taken down during the first seven weeks of Russia’s invasion.  In retaliation for the ship’s sinking, Russia’s strikes near Kyiv hit a military factory making the Neptune missiles, seriously damaging the workshop and administrative building.

Another Russia general has been killed in Ukraine, bringing the total of dead high-ranking military officials to at least 42, 8 generals and 34 colonels, not counting other commanders. Overall military losses are at least 20,000 although Putin isn’t providing any numbers.

Russian disinformation published a video of a U.S. citizen it supposedly captured, but 35-year-old man Cesar Quintana is in California. The video used Quintana’s passport to “prove” that Quintana died fighting in Mariupol while fighting with the Ukranians. After Quintana’s estranged wife took their two-year-old son to Ukraine, he went to Ukraine in March and tried to rescue the boy. Police confiscated Quintana’s passport, and he went home. His wife then took the boy to Russia.

In another online lie, Army Lt. Gen. Roger Cloutier, NATO’s Allied Land Commander, was allegedly captured in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol despite NATO’s promise not to sent troops. According to NATO, Cloutier hasn’t been in Ukraine since July 2021. He answered the disinformation, “These rumors are completely false.” Photograph of Cloutier hosting NATO’s Land Operations Working Group in Izmir, Turkey on April 5 were posted on official Facebook and Twitter accounts for NATO’s Allied Land Command. Another debunked lie on the internet is that a sniper nicknamed “Wali,” who went to Ukraine from Canada to fight, was killed by Russian Special Ops forces in March.

Russia has a history of lying about Americans being caught in wars against Russia. In 2018, Russian media spread disinformation about three Canadian soldiers killed in war-torn eastern Ukraine. Two years earlier, Russia falsely reported 11 Canadian troops on a NATO mission in Latvia being killed in Donbas where they raided separatist locations.

Germany has seized the world’s largest yacht, the 1,680-feet-long Dilbar worth $600 million belonging to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. It has been docked at a Hamburg shipyard for repairs since last October. The use of offshore companies to conceal ownership required several weeks to identify the owner. Usmanov, 68, is the sixth wealthiest person in the UK. Russian oligarchs have lost 27 percent of their wealth during the past year; since the beginning of the year, their collective worth fell by 42 percent, $263 billion.

Because Russia paid its most recent debt in rubles, Moody’s Investors Service may consider Russia in default if it doesn’t pay the $650 million in dollars by May 4. Standard & Poor’s already declared Russia in “selective default.” Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the government will “go to court” because it tried to pay the debt.

In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake gave four big times in the Ukrainian invasion in its first 52 days. The first one, of course, is the sinking of the Moskva last Thursday and another is the amazing leadership of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky who managed to coalesce the world’s goodwill. A third one is China staying at arms-length from its former buddy Russia. China hasn’t voted against Russia in the UN, but it now typically abstains in votes opposing the country.

The fourth defining act is the movement of Finland and Sweden toward NATO membership. One of Putin’s goals for the invasion was to block any expansion of NATO, but he’s actually moving Sweden and Finland closer to joining the alliance. Russia warned the two countries it would reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including nuclear weapons. Article 5 of the 30-country NATO stating that an armed attack on one member is an attack on all. Russia’s preemptive attack on Ukraine makes this agreement inviting.

The two countries may make a decision by the end of summer, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans for a much larger, permanent military presence on its borders with Russia. Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov threatened both countries with “confrontation” if they join NATO along with a Russian foreign ministry threat of “serious military and political consequences”; the threats only strengthen their joining NATO for protection. Finland’s membership would more than double Russia’s current land border with member states. Both countries have maintained an uneasy neutrality with Russia while avoiding total Soviet domination, but Ukraine’s invasion has changed the conversation toward security with NATO.

But what happens if the Putin-wing blocks Finland from joining NATO? By the first week of April, 70 percent of people consider Putin an enemy of the country, up over 30 points from the 41 percent just three months earlier. Both parties pretty much agree—72 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans. In the third week of March only seven percent have a favorable opinion of Russia and six percent have confidence in Putin, compared to 72 percent who believe in Zelensky. About Russia, 92 percent have an unfavorable view.

Permission to join NATO comes only from unanimous approval of all members, and U.S. requires approval from two-thirds of senators to ratify acceptance. In 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary joined, and in 2004, seven former communist countries, once part of the Soviet Union, became NATO members. The latter vote was 96 to 0 in the Senate, but the earlier vote was 80 to 19 after much uncertainty. An amendment from Sen. John Warner (R-VA) barring new NATO admissions for three years received 41 votes, over one-third of the Senate. Last week, over 30 percent of House Republicans voted against support for NATO.

Except for the far-right wing, people in the U.S. are demanding Putin be tried for his alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The process would take him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but neither Russia nor the U.S. are among the 123 members belong to the ICC. Like Iran, Sudan, and China, the U.S. refused to sign the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. DDT even sanctioned court staff members for completing their jobs. In creating the Nuremberg trials after World War II, the U.S. took leadership in litigating crimes against humanity. Now it’s gone.

Anyone accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the court, which includes countries that are members of the ICC, can be tried. Only people, not countries, can be tried, and the ICC concentrates on those leaders and officials with the most responsibility. Ukraine has accepted ICC jurisdiction, and Putin could be indicted for previously ordering war crimes in Crimea although he would have to be present—which is unlikely. Because 39 countries requested the crimes, the ICC plans to look into alleged crimes in Ukraine since 2013. The ICC is also looking into crimes in Georgia and Syria. Conservatives will never approve joining ICC because they are afraid the U.S. will also be charged with crimes against humanity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion is causing many Ukrainians to abandon Russia in both language and culture. His defense for attacking the country and killing as many Ukrainians a possible—that Ukraine is just a part of Russia—is disappearing in the rejection of “Russky Mir” or “Russian World.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russian language is now associated with crimes, deportations, “explosions and killings” where Russian “has always been a part of everyday life.” He added that Russia is inadvertently doing everything to “ensure that de-Russification takes place” in Ukraine.

Russia is determined to flatten Ukraine’s buildings and kill its civilians. In the western city of Irpin, population 60,000, the mayor said Russian forces have damaged or destroyed over 70 percent of buildings: 115 buildings were completely destroyed, 698 were significantly damaged, and 187 were partially damaged.

Ukraine reported that Russian soldiers stole radioactive substances from two laboratories at Chernobyl and contaminated their military equipment through carelessness. The Chernobyl power station was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. In the north, authorities found the remains of chemical weapons in Russian-occupied Bilka.

After European nations stocked up on gas from Russia, its gas giant Gazprom stopped all deliveries to Europe though the Yamal-Europe pipeline because Europe is limiting Russia’s access to the international financial system. UK’s economic sanctions on Russia also cuts off the country from Russian gas. Earlier this week, Russian oil and gas production fell below 10 million barrels per day from its previous 29 million barrels.   

Throughout the past 52 days, the people of Ukraine have displayed heart and courage. Rinat Akhmetov, owner of Mariupol’s steelwork factories and the country’ wealthiest man, praised Zelensky and said, “We will rebuild the entire Ukraine.”

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