Nel's New Day

December 26, 2022

Some December News

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a self-proclaimed Christian, celebrated Christmas, commemorating the birth of his Christ, by leaving three busloads of Central and South American migrants, some of them children, in below-freezing temperatures outside the home of VP Kamala Harris home in Washington, D.C. Some of the asylum-seekers wore only t-shirts and shorts in the 18-degree temperature. The “dump” had no coordination with people who could help them and lacks public transportation to other areas.

In his first international trip since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky visited the U.S. and spoke to a joint congressional session on December 21. He thanked the U.S. for its support and requested continuing military assistance to help his country against Russia’s brutal assaults, provided in the Omnibus bill two days later.

Far-right Republicans seem to be joining Zelensky’s Russian adversary, President Vladimir Putin, in their antagonism toward sending any more aid, and Tucker Carlson ridiculed Zelensky for wearing combat gear, saying he should have rented a suit. With many Republicans absent for his speech, lawmakers in attendance gave him 18 standing ovations. Right-winger Reps. Lauren Boebert (CO) and Matt Gaetz (FL) didn’t clap and rarely stood. They refused to be screened for security purposes to enter the chamber. Gaetz Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) called the address “political theater.”

Zelensky and President Joe Biden both hope for peace. According to Biden, the war goes far beyond Ukraine’s borders because of the invasion’s “blatant attacks on democracy and liberty.”  Some Republicans are in favor of supporting Ukraine; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the “courageous and innocent” Ukrainians “deserve our help.” Ukrainians face a long winter as Putin has attempted to break them, leaving them without heat, power, and water by destroying their electrical grids and other civil infrastructures. Biden said that Putin “thought he could break NATO, he thought he could break the West, he thought he could be welcomed by the Ukrainian people who were Russian-speaking. He was wrong, wrong, and wrong.”

Top European providers of Ukraine are Britain, $3.29 billion in weapons and military financing; Germany, $2.4 billion; and Poland, $1.9 billion. Other substantial offerings come from European humanitarian aid and economic assistance. 

In his speech to Congress, Zelensky said:

“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

After U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian penal colony in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, right-wingers bitterly criticized Biden for not getting Paul Whelan released in the deal. Some of their hostility came from her being Black, a lesbian, and a liberal. Griner had been imprisoned for a few vials in her luggage containing drops of cannabis oil that she had forgotten to remove. Biden made the choice for the swap to get at least one prisoner out of Russia.  

U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, also wrongfully detained in Russia, has been held there since December 2018 and sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison.  Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) criticized Griner’s release instead of Whelan but stated he turned down an exchange deal and “would have gotten Paul out.” He didn’t explain why he didn’t complete any exchange. Former DDT’s national security official Fiona Hill said DDT could have made a swap to free Whelan but DDT “was not particularly interested in Paul’s case.” David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, said DDT’s administration was “not interested in working on wrongful detention cases.

An oil spill in northeastern Kansas two weeks ago was the biggest one for an onshore crude pipeline in over nine years and the largest one in the history of the Keystone pipeline that carries oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast before being shipped out of the country. The spill was bigger than all 22 previous Keystone pipeline spills since it began operations in 2010. Oil spills are worsening, and flaws in design or pipe manufacturing during construction caused the four worst spills.

In a year-long investigation, the House Committee Oversight and Reform found internal documents revealing oil company executives dismissing the possibility for renewable energy to quickly replace fossil fuels although major oil companies publicly claim they are partners in the cause. While advertising their commitment to cleaner energy, the companies disproportionately invest in fossil fuels.

In early December, the Senate voted against seven days of paid sick days for 125,000 rail workers, a $321 million cost equivalent to four days of recent profits by the railroad industry and less than half the money that one railroad tycoon, Warren Buffett, provided to his family foundations in one week. Forty-three senators blocking paid sick leave for the workers but passed legislation preventing workers from striking. Main railroad companies collected over $7 billion in profits and paid $1.8 billion in dividends while spending over $13 million lobbying Congress and over $200 million in compensation to the CEOs. The industry also gave over $3.3 million in campaign contributions to congressional members during the 2021-2022 cycle.

Bad news keeps coming out of Uvalde (TX). Some victims from the May 24, 2022 school shooting were still alive when medics reached them in the classroom but not immediately treated or taken to the hospital. As a result, some of them died. Of the 19 children and two adults who died after the shooter opened fire, one teacher and two children were alive when medical staff reached them. The teacher was placed on the sidewalk, and a Border Patrol medic told investigators no ambulance was nearby although two of them were parked 100 feet away. More ambulances came and went in the ten minutes before the teacher was taken to one of them but not transported to the hospital. Forty minutes later she was declared dead. None of the five helicopters responding to the shooting transported any living victims. Officers had already stayed in the hallway for 77 minutes after the shooter began his massacre.

Uvalde’s school security still has flaws. In November, a safety inspector who posed as an intruder accessed a school cafeteria because the door was not locked. The district supposedly spent millions of dollars improving its safety protocols after the May 24 disaster.

A DOJ grand jury has indicted Joe Harding, the Florida GOP state legislator who wrote the state’s “don’t say gay” law, on six federal fraud charges including obtaining “fraudulently created bank statements” to defraud the federal government of $150,000. Felony charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. If found guilty after next month’s trial, Harding could be subject of up to 35 years in prison.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) is leaving Congress after his election defeat, but newly elected George Santos (R-NY) can taken over with his scandals, beginning with his public deceptions. No, he isn’t a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” with 13 properties and an animal rescue charity saving over 2,500 dogs and cats. He didn’t attend NYU, as he claimed, or graduate from Baruch College. Citigroup has no record of Santos’ employment although he claimed he was “an associate asset manager” for the company. And Goldman Sachs has no record of employing him. The IRS has no record of the tax-exempt organization that he claimed he ran, and no one has heard of the Devolder Organization that Santos claims to own. A woman at the address where he is registered to vote said “she was not familiar with him.”

In other lies, Santos claimed to be Jewish and his grandparents “survived the Holocaust” as Ukrainian Jewish refugees from Belgium. He spun his words by saying he didn’t claim to be Jewish, that his maternal family had a Jewish background so he is “Jew-ish.” House GOP leadership has made no comment, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy isn’t answering questions about misrepresentations. Santos has admitted to lying in interviews but says he hasn’t committed any crimes and won’t be resigning.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit claiming it gave third parties access to user data without their consent. The case started in 2018 because information of 87 million Facebook users was given to Cambridge Analytica for the purpose of informing political campaigns in 2016. Cambridge Analytic has shut down.

While Republicans are making frivolous lawsuits over a “stolen” election, a Florida woman is suing the Kraft Heinz Co. for at least $5 million because its Velveeta Shells & Cheese Microwavable Shell Pasta takes longer than 3½ minutes to prepare. She accuses the company of deceptive and fraudulent packaging because of the directions, “ready in 3½ minutes” that doesn’t include the other time to fix the shell pasta. Those require removing the lid, adding water, and stirring in a powder cheese sauce into the cooked pasta. The last instruction, “cheese sauce will thicken upon standing” gives a longer “ready” time than claimed. The woman also complained about the high price of the product. Her West Palm Beach-based law firm is well-known for suing large companies making items in the grocery store—400 lawsuits targeting these products.  

December 25, 2022

The Current Budget Arrived, Congressional Members Left

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
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For the holiday season of 2022, social media showed the massive difference between the current U.S. president and the man elected to the position in 2016:

President JOE BIDEN on Twitter: “There is a certain stillness at the center of the Christmas story: a silent night when all the world goes quiet. And all the clamor, everything that divides us, fades away in the stillness of a winter’s evening. I wish you that peace this Christmas Eve.”

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) on Truth Social: “Merry Christmas to EVERYONE, including the Radical Left Marxists that are trying to destroy our Country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is illegally coercing & paying Social and LameStream Media to push for a mentally disabled Democrat over the Brilliant, Clairvoyant, and USA LOVING Donald J. Trump, and, of course, The Department of Injustice, which appointed a Special ‘Prosecutor’ who, together with his wife and family, HATES ‘Trump’ more than any other person on earth. LOVE TO ALL!”

The government didn’t close down after December 23 because Congress passed the Omnibus Bill through the remainder of the fiscal year ending in September 30, 2023. The 117th Congress closed its two-year term after the House approved the $1.7 trillion budget by 225-201-1. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) voted “present,” and nine Republicans supported the measure. Because of the increased immigration enforcement and military funding, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the sole Democrat to vote no. The Senate had already passed the 4,155-page bill by 68-29. Most of the GOP members, who added $7.8 trillion to the national debt during the four years of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and increased the military budget, bitterly complained about forcing future generations to pay for the funding of the nation. The bill includes $858 billion in defense spending, a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, and $787 billion in nondefense spending, close to an 8 percent increase.

Seven of the nine House Republicans who voted for the bill won’t be returning to Congress next year, either resigning or losing their primaries: John Katko (NY), Chris Jacobs (NY), Liz Cheney (WY), Fred Upton (MI), Rodney Davis (IL), Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA), and Adam Kinzinger (IL). The reelected two are Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and Steve Womack (AR).  Eighteen GOP senators from conservative to middle-of-the-road, voted in favor of the omnibus. Three Republicans didn’t vote.

Republicans opposing the bill will likely head home and brag about what they provide their constituents: the new law gives them $3 billion worth of earmarks—one-fifth of the bill’s home-state projects. The biggest earmarks, those for Texas and Florida, went to naysayers, especially emergency disaster aid for hurricane recovery. Both Florida GOP senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, voted against the measure. After earmarks were reinstated two years ago, the current bill included 7,234 projects costing $15.3 billion. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) got the most: $666 million for Alabama.

Amendments to the bill:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act endorsed by both conservative pro-life groups and left-leaning women’s organizations: Especially beneficial for low-income workers, the Act, first proposed in 2012, requires employers to make temporary and reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers such as extra bathroom breaks or stools for workers to allow them to continue working. Until now, women asking for light duty or other reasonable accommodations were pushed out of their jobs.

Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act: With opposition from only five senators, workers will now have the right to breastfeed in the workplace.

$1 billion for the World Trade Center Health Fund first responders who sickened after the 9/11 cleanup effort with the program’s extension until 2027.

$6 billion in compensation payments for victims of state-sponsored terror from 9/11 families to families of victims of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.

Extension of pay and benefits for Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, serving time in a Japanese prison for killing two people in a 2021 car crash.

More flexibility for state and local officials in spending coronavirus relief dollars.

Authorization for the administration to use seized assets of Russian oligarchs to provide aid to the Ukrainian people.

Prohibition of TikTok on government phones and devices in an amendment proposed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

Defeated amendments included a ban on the Biden administration to end the Title 42 pandemic-era asylum restriction policy. Democrats managed a 60-vote threshold in exchange for an amendment to block funds ending Title 42 and appropriate $8.7 billion for border security and migrant care. All failed. Congress also decided to postpone the relocation of the FBI headquarters.

An important part of the bill is the revision in federal election law to prevent another January 6-style attack and block ways future candidates can steal elections by revising the 1887 Electoral Count Act. It clarifies the role of the vice president who can only count vote and increases an objection to a state’s electoral votes to one-fifth of each chamber from only one member of the House and of the Senate. Smoothing the presidential transition, laws involving state certification of elections will have more substance after the 2020 competing slates of electors.  

The bill added a national program for retirement; the Secure 2.0 Act provisions require employers with over ten workers to put at least 3.0 percent of their pay in a retirement fund each year. Each year, the amount increases by a percentage point up to ten percent. The employees’ pay into this retirement fund is optional. Low- and moderate-income workers can also get a federal tax credit in matching contributions to retirement accounts even if they don’t owe income tax.

The new law helps opioid treatment programs, outpatient options allowing people to take medications treating substance use disorder which are currently difficult to access, especially in rural areas. Changes include increased federal funding for grants and more telehealth flexibility to make medications more accessible. Each state will “receive not less than” $4 million for the programs or other substance use disorder treatments, and Native American tribal organizations will be eligible for grants. Patients will no longer be required to have opioid use disorder for one year before acceptance into a program.

Lawmakers also included about $40 billion to assist federal agencies and local communities as they rebuild after droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes this year. Not every unfinished bipartisan priority made it into the package.

Democratic priorities in the bill included the first funding increase for the National Labor Relations Board in over a decade, increased clean energy funding in the Energy-Water bill, and provided more funding for affordable housing.

Other provisions

Security for senators: $2.5 million to improve security at senators’ residences after increasing threats to legislators.

Capitol police support: A boost of $132 million for the Capitol Police, bringing its total budget to $734.5 million.

College students: An increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, annual funding for low-income undergraduates, from $500 to $7,395.

Childcare: A 30 percent funding increase to $8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which helps low-income families pay for childcare.

Lobster rules: A six-year delay in new rules for lobster fisheries to keep them from protecting the endangered right whales that become entangled in fishing gear.

Environmental protections: An increase of $576 million over last year’s budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Missing from the omnibus is the child tax credit. Wanting to keep children in poverty, Republicans refused to reinstate the monthly benefit of $300 for each young child and $250 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17 dropped at the end of 2021. Since then, child poverty spiked by 41 percent, putting 3.7 million more children into impoverished households. Benefits are again denied to families with extremely low or zero income at the cost of $12 billion for almost 4 million children while the military gets $858.

The Medicaid portion of the law will end up with millions of people losing insurance. States are required to keep children enrolled in Medicaid for at least a year, but evaluation of adults starting on April 1 can removed their Medicaid benefits.

The new law also omitted proposals to significantly boost security funding for election offices and greater penalties for threatening the staff. Also absent are Biden’s $9 billion request for Covid relief, help for drug sentencing disparities, a pathway for Afghan evacuees to permanent U.S. residency, and the ability for cannabis-related business to have financial services in states where the product is legal.

Although some GOP senators participated in the negotiation for the omnibus provisions, almost all Republicans in the House would not discuss the bill and then bitterly condemned it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thought he could hold government funding hostage until after the 118th Congress takes over in January. They can still do that when the debt ceiling needs to be raised  in 2023, but the budget is secure.

December 24, 2022

More Trouble for DDT in December

The public can see Deposed Donald Trump’s (DDT) personal tax returns for 2015 to 2020 and business returns for eight years after a vote by the House Ways and Means Committee. All elected presidents since Richard Nixon have voluntarily made public their income taxes, but House members had to struggle in court for several years to obtain those of DDT. The returns will be redacted to protect business people with whom he dealt.

One startling committee revelation is that the required presidential audit of DDT’s taxes failed to occur for two years while he was in office. The first audit was started only after the House members insisted on seeing the returns, but only one person was assigned to the job. The audit was never completed. DDT talked about investigating his enemies with the IRS, and former FBI director James B. Comey and Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe, who DDT considered enemies, suffered invasive audits.  

The committee also obtained administrative files and paperwork which could include IRS officials’ notes or audits of DDT’s returns to determine the extent of IRS scrutiny and whether it would change after he was elected in 2016. The taxes may ascertain whether DDT had any entanglements impacting his decisions while he was in office. About 1,100 electronic files of these documents show the agency failed aggressive examination of a difficult wealthy taxpayer with complex returns.  

In 2020 and 2017, DDT declared no income; 2019 showed $3 million and 2018, $23 million, provided by an inheritance from his father, Fred Trump. That income came from over $14 million in gains from the sale of his father’s 1970s investment in the Brooklyn housing development of Starrett City.  DDT’s major tax accounting tricks were sheltering his income by declaring losses. In the six years between 2015 and 2020, the self-proclaimed wealthy man paid under $2.5 million in taxes, which includes the $1 million he paid on taxable income of $23 million, a four-percent tax rate

The bipartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation found dozens of red flags requiring more investigation. In transactions with his children, DDT received tens of thousands of dollars annually in interest income from three of his grown children—Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—described as personal loans to them which could have been “disguised gifts” to evade gift taxes that his children could write off as interest payments to their father. DDT’s may have received insurance proceeds to settle fraud claims against the Trump University, but he deducted $21 million he paid. He also charged personal expenses as business expenses. Other flags were the $26 million in nine years that he wrote off to unidentified consultants. In 2015 DDT declared $76 million loss in his “other income” category helping him end up $30 million in the hole. DDT’s tax returns were filed jointly with his wife, Melania, creating the possibility that she could also be sued for tax fraud.

Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said:

“Trump claimed tens of millions of dollars in losses and credits without the type of substantiation an ordinary taxpayer would likely provide.”

The report reveals that DDT lost money on real estate ventures and other businesses with actual income from interest on his investments. Many people said they voted for DDT in 2016 because he was such a good businessman: his tax returns show what a failure he is.

After selling out and doubling in price on the second day of sales, DDT’s SUPERHERO NFT’s have plummeted in value by 72 percent loss in only one week. The number of cards sold on the OpenSea website also dropped from a high of 6,661 on December 17 to 260 on December 23. The failure made DDT claim that the project wasn’t for money, just for fun. 

In another failure, DDT lost his lawsuit attempting to keep New York AG Letitia James from “requesting, demanding, possessing or disclosing” amendments to his trust in connection with her fraud case. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebooks in Florida wrote:

“The Trump Organization has already been found guilty by a New-York jury of several counts of tax fraud. To now impede a civil Enforcement Action by the New York Attorney General would be unprecedented and contrary to the interests of the people of New York.”

After DDT filed his lawsuit, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered a court-appointed monitor to watch over the Trump Organization pending a trial about tax fraud slated for next year. James hopes to bar DDT and the family members in her suit from serving as officer or director in any New York corporation. Despite DDT’s claims of political motivation for lawsuits against him, several courts have denied his claims. Middlebrooks also denied DDT’s motion for a preliminary injunction, asserting he would lose his lawsuit. The judge wrote:

“The rule of law is undermined by the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees, reckless and factually untrue statements by lawyers at rallies and in the media, and efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory. Lawyers are enabling this behavior…. Additional sanctions may be appropriate.”

DDT’s Trump Organization was found guilty of all nine counts of tax fraud, and the Trump Payroll Corporation was convicted on another eight counts. Executives received benefits in exchange for untaxed income. DDT was not on trial, but prosecutors tied him to illegal financial activity by pointing out he signed documents for a cut in pay in exchange for plum benefits which should have been taxed. Sentencing is scheduled for January 13.    

To avoid current and future lawsuits, including possible criminal charges from the DOJ, DDT tried to declare presidential immunity but thus far failed. The DC Circuit Court is considering any immunity from liability after a lower judge ruled DDT lacks immunity because his actions are purely political. This civil case concerns three lawsuits filed last year by House members and police officers claiming DDTD prompted his supporters to attack. The appeals court has asked DOJ to weigh in on the issue.

DDT’s attorneys must be getting nervous; they turned in more classified documents in early December found in a private external storage facility in West Palm Beach (FL) near Mar-a-Lago. The documents came from a Washington, D.C. federal office building. In June, one of DDT’s attorneys stated he had no more classified documents before a search warrant uncovered 300 classified documents. Attorneys hired a third party to search four of DDT’s properties for more classified materials.

The classified documents came from a Washington, D.C. federal office building. According to emails, DDT staffers and the federal General Services Administration shipped over 3,000 pounds from Northern Virginia to the Florida storage unit in September 2021. The GSA had helped DDT’s team “secure the storage unit at a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021,” 18 months after DDT left the White House.

Attorneys ordered at least three searches after a federal judge pushed them to guarantee they had fully complied with a May grand jury subpoena to turn over all documents with classified markings. The legal team also employed an outside company to search DDT’s Bedminster (NJ) golf club and New York Trump Tower as well as one other property. No classified materials were found in New Jersey and New York. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell told DDT’s legal team to keep searching but didn’t give directions for the process. DDT has lied to his own attorneys about the contents of boxes taken from Mar-a-Lago.

Part of DDT’s ongoing difficulties may come from his lack of qualified advisers. With no senior aide full time, he uses novice sycophants to praise him and give him positive news articles, online posts, etc. Possibly short of money, his current staff tried unsuccessfully to obtain lifetime rent at Mar-a-Lago for the office he created for himself above the club’s ballroom.

One of DDT’s recent scandals was his dinner on November 22 at Mar-a-Lago with anti-Semitic Kanye West and white Christian nationalist 24-year-old Nick Fuentes. Currently, Fuentes is building a large “incel” group of angry men advocating violence against women. Incel, “involuntary celibate,” is the philosophy of men blaming feminist women for disempowering them and denying them sex. The men’s beliefs have led to a number of murders.

Fuentes advocates “burning women alive” when they’re convicted of crimes and wants to gain control with a return to burning witches as in the medieval period. Women are now casting spells, molesting children in schools, and raping men while falsely accusing them of raping women, according to Fuentes. Almost a year ago, he founded, an “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, [and] antisemitic” streaming platform that promotes males beating their female partners because females aren’t “as rational as men.” Politicians should spread the incel message among men with the promise to “destroy feminism.”  

DDT has hit a seven-year low in polling with 31 percent favorable views and 59 percent unfavorable opinions. Independents have a 25 percent favorable view compared to 62 percent unfavorable. The 20 percent of Republicans who see DDT unfavorably is the lowest since March 2016.

December 23, 2022

Winter Solstice 2022, Worst Week for DDT?

[Corrected version for December 23, 2022, blog post]

December 21, the 2022 winter solstice, is the day of the year with the least daylight for the northern hemisphere with the exact solstice time at 4:48 ET, sunset. The darkness of the longest night might be comparable to the darkness of ignorance across the U.S.: one-fourth of its people believe the sun orbits the Earth, over one-third don’t know in which century the American Revolution occurred, and over half believe Adolf Hitler gained his power in a coup although he was actually elected. As the light begins to increase in the U.S., perhaps people will learn more about the danger of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, prime presidential candidates for 2024.

Disasters for DDT this past week bracketed solstice, beginning with the tenth and last House January 6 investigative committee public hearing and continuing later in the week with the release of the committee’s final report and information about DDT’s taxes.  

On December 19, 2022, the committee summarized the first nine hearings and released the criminal charges against DDT that committee members unanimously recommended to the Department of Justice: obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the government, making knowingly and willfully materially false statement to the federal government, and inciting or assisting an insurrection. In addition, the committee refers four congressional members “for appropriate sanction by the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with lawful subpoenas.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is one who defied a subpoena from the committee.

 The committee gave evidence that Stefan Passantino, DDT’s former White House top ethics attorney, told Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to testify under oath that she couldn’t recall details and keep her answers to “seven words or less.” He refused to tell her that funding for her legal bills came from DDT’s Save America PAC and kept urging her to show “loyalty” and “focus on protecting the President,” promising her “a really good job in Trump world.” Hutchinson was a valuable witness with information about DDT’s state of mind and actions before and on January 6, 2021. Before she testified, she exchanged Passantino for a new lawyer. Meadows also wrote Hutchinson trying to persuade her to be “loyal” and “protect” DDT because “we’re a family.”

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell also unsealed a June opinion stating that several communications among Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), lawyer John Eastman, and attempted election-overturner DOJ lawyer Jeffrey Clark, and his aide Ken Klukowski are not privileged.   

Under oath, Fox’s Sean Hannity, DDT’s close friend, admitted he didn’t believe DDT won the 2020 election “for one second” but always pushed the lie of DDT’s victory on his show, like other Fox “opinion” hosts did. In his May 2022 deposition, DDT’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani also admitted he didn’t believe the rigged voting machines lies.

On Wednesday, the committee released its 154-page executive summary of the investigation following an 17-month probe with over 1,200 witness interviews, hundreds of thousands of documents, the issuance of more than 100 subpoenas, and public hearings. It preceded the release of the final 845-page report documenting how DDT has continued to spread lies about his winning the election despite warnings from his family members, Cabinet members, and campaign officials that he should stop. Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnamy and national security adviser Robert O’Brien tried to talk DDT out of his rigged Dominion voting machines conspiracy theory. DDT campaign manager Bill Stepian said he locked his door to keep out DDT allies trying to promote the stolen-election claims, one of them Giuliani.

DDT’s lies ignited the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and urged right-wingers, including a number of hate groups, to keep him in the Oval Office. Court cases about his lies supported by supporters, including far-right media, involve lies about rigged voting machines, “dead voters,” and voting numbers pushing recounts. Conservative states passed laws based on the election fraud lies attempting to destroy democratic processes. DDT’s lies also endangered lives of election voters and created a majority of election officials who believe his lies in many areas of the country.

Other findings:

DDT was central cause of the January 6 insurrection; none of the events of that day “would have happened without him.” The entire White House senior staff wanted “a Presidential statement” to persuade rioters to leave the Capitol. “Scared” Kevin McCarthy, House GOP Minority Leader from California, called Jared Kushner begging for his help to persuade DDT to call of those invading the Capitol.

DDT wanted 10,000 troops to protect himself so that he could march to the Capitol on January 6.

 The attack was “foreseeable”: law enforcement failed.

The RNC knew DDT’s claims about a stolen election were lies but still sought donations using the false claimd, receiving millions of dollars. DDT and the RNC received $250 million after the election, primarily from small donors who believed the lie that their money would help “stop the steal.”

DDT tried to talk to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger 18 times to overturn Joe Biden’s legal victory in the state.

While DDT continued to claim over 10,000 dead Georgians voted in the 2020 presidential election, his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that his son had found a scant “12 obituaries and 6 other possibles depending on the Voter roll acuracy [sic].”

The plan to overturn election in states by ignoring the legal vote and appointing fake DDT electors moved ahead shortly after the election with hundreds of outreaches by DDT loyalists—68 meetings, attempted or connected phone calls or text messages at state or local officials; 18 prominent public remarks targeting the officials; and 125 social media posts mostly from DDT.

Over 30 witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, going so far as to refuse to give their ages. Others such as Meadows and former adviser Steve Bannon wouldn’t be questioned at all.

The hearing was largely about DDT, but the report provided 11 reform proposals to democratically and peacefully transition the presidency between elections—a failure in 2021:

14th Amendment: ban DDT from holding public office because he “engaged in insurrection.” Congress is asked to consider “creating a formal mechanism for evaluating whether to bar” individuals in the report from holding government office under the constitutional statute. In the House, 41 members introduced a bill to block DDT from holding office under 14th Amendment provisions, ratified in 1868.

Subpoena enforcement: grant Congress greater powers to use federal courts in enforcing its own subpoenas after several high-profile DDT allies refused the committee’s subpoenas.

Protection for poll workers: create steeper penalties for threats to election workers and safeguards protecting their identities.

Tougher oversight of the Capitol Police: improve preparedness of the force through congressional “regular and rigorous oversight” and routine hearings in which the Capitol Police Board testifies as well as assuring “full funding for critical security measures.”  

Role of media: scrutinize “policies of media companies … radicalizing their consumers, including by provoking people to attack their own country” to lessen people galvanized by incorrect information

Insurrection Act: “evaluate all such evidence, and consider tasks posed for future elections” after Oath Keepers’ members called on DDT to deploy armed militia or federal troops to stay in office.

National Special Security Event: make the counting of electoral votes on January 6 a national special security event with increased security protections and advance planning and preparation for the proceedings.

Electoral Count Act: reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to protect future presidential elections from being by declaring that the vice president only counts votes and that the number of votes to object a state’s electoral votes increases from one from each the House and the Senate to one-fifth of each chamber.

Combating violent extremism: adopt “whole-of-government strategies” to deal with the violent threat “posed by all extremist groups” and recommend greater information sharing “on a timely basis” on intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

More severe penalties for obstructing the transfer of power: expand federal criminal statutes aimed at punishing victim tampering to include those who try to obstruct, influence or impede the counting of Electoral College votes on January 6.

Accountability measures: go beyond formal recommendations that the DOJ investigate DDT and his key ally, John Eastman, of specific federal crimes and evaluate other DDT allies’ activities “to ensure criminal or civil accountability for anyone engaging in misconduct described” in the document. Further to urge courts and local bar associations to disqualify those in the legal profession participating in efforts to undermine democratic institutions and ask the DOJ to ensuring that agency employees avoid “campaign-related activities.”

Dahlia Lithwick pointed out one lamentable omission in the final report: Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, got off the hook. No mention was made of Thomas’ refusal to recuse himself from cases involving the insurrection in which his wife both participated and held a vested interest in the outcome.

Clarence and Ginni Thomas were ultimately untouchable for the Jan. 6 investigators for the same reason they are untouchable for purposes of Supreme Court ethics reform: When you’re a justice, they let you do it. And when you are delivering long-sought victories, even ethical Never Trumpers like Liz Cheney will let you do whatever it takes to deliver the goods.

Tomorrow: DDT’s taxes and more disasters for him this week.

December 18, 2022

News – December 18, 2022

Politics surrounding Covid and other health issues can kill people. According to two studies, mortality rates are higher for working-age people living in more-conservative U.S. areas and places with more conservative state policies. Expansion of social safety nets, increase in minimum wages, and taxes on unhealthy behaviors such as smoking increase human lifespans. Researchers examined Covid mortality records and stress on hospital intensive care units as well as congressional members’ overall voting records and whether the state was a political trifects, governor and both legislative chambers of the same house. States with GOP-controlled governments had 11 percent higher Covid rates, also 26 percent higher in areas where voters lean conservative. Hospital ICU capacity followed the same higher pattern when state political power was conservative. Public policies such as general opinions about masks and vaccines helped change the nation’s pattern of Covid mortality.

“If liberty means you’ve got guns and that gun is accessible when you’re having a depressive episode, they’re not there to coddle other citizens.”

If all states implemented liberal policies on the environment, gun safety, criminal justice, health and welfare, labor, marijuana, and economic and tobacco taxes, 170,000 lives would have been saved in 2019, but conservative policies in all states would have caused about 217,000 more deaths, “the equivalent of a 600-passenger airplane crashing every day of the year.” Blocking nationwide abortion services can increase maternal deaths by 25 to 30 percent.

Covid vaccines have saved 3.2 million lives and kept over 18.5 people in the U.S. out of the hospital, according to a new study that states this estimate is conservative. Thus far, Covid caused almost 100 million cases and over 1 million deaths in the U.S. Healthcare is again featuring the use of masks as numbers of Covid cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are increasing.

Long-Covid also killed over 3,500 people during the first 30 months of the pandemic, 30 percent in adults 75 to 84 years old with more deaths over 85 years old and more in males than females. Almost all the deaths were among non-Hispanic Whites. This figure could be a large undercount. At least 7.5 percent of the U.S. population suffer symptoms lasting over three months after contracting the virus. Diagnosis is frequently cognitive impairment, breathlessness, fatigue, and coughing, but others have debilitating pain, racing heartbeats, and severe neurological tremors. New studies reveal brain disorders.

Benjamin Abramoff, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic at Penn Medicine, cautioned that it is difficult to draw conclusions from the study without additional details about the patients’ medical histories and the severity of their covid infections.

On other subjects:

Fewer than two weeks before the GOP judicial majority takes over North Carolina’s Supreme Court, the current court ruled 4-3 that Republicans acted unconstitutionally to decrease Democrats’ influence by gerrymandering and its voter ID law intentionally discriminating against Black voters by 4-3 decisions. We’ll watch to see that the state’s high court does after its control in 2023.

The District of Columbia Circuit Court ordered the ending of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) Title 42, permission to expel migrants from U.S. borders because of Covid, on December 21 unless the Supreme Court interferes. Since DDT’s order in March 2020, over 2.4 million people have been expelled. To qualify for asylum, migrants must face persecution for specific reasons such as their race or political opinion.

Wonder how Brett Kavanaugh will vote in the Supreme Court? The man who loves beer attended a party hosted by Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) chairman Matt Schlapp and also partied with DDT’s top adviser Stephen Miller, suspected sex-trafficker Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sebastian Gorka, and other far rightwing celebrities.    Congress may have salvaged marriage equality in the U.S., but women may lose their rights to birth control, just as many of them had lost to have abortions. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) handpicked Matthew Kacsmaryk and was confirmed by only GOP votes for a federal court in Texas. In Deanda v. Becerra, he opposed the part of Title X, a federal law for over 50 years that provides grants to health providers funding  voluntary and confidential family planning services for patients that includes “services for adolescents.”

With no standing, a father sued to block all grants not requiring patients under 18 to “obtain parental consent” before receiving Title X-funded medical care in opposition to the “minor’s right to privacy” including a right to contraception, which Alexander Deanda states is unconstitutional. He never tried to get Title X-funded care, his daughters never attempted to get it, and he doesn’t indicate that they might seek Title X-funded care. He just says that one of his daughters might try to get contraception, and Kacsmaryk agreed. Deanda uses a Texas state law, despite the federal law being “the supreme Law of the Land” with state law yielding to federal law. The federal appeals court case Doe v. Iwin (1980) rules “as with adults, the minor’s right of privacy includes the right to obtain contraceptives.” The Supreme Court, however, could overturn minors’ rights, and maybe even contraceptive rights for adult women.

Kacsmaryk follows Justice Samuel Alito’s devotion to centuries-old rulings by claiming that “the common law held minors were incapable of giving consent to make important life decisions.” The judge in this case ignores English and early American law permitting minors to consent to sex as early as age 12 when he states that 17-year-olds historically have no control over their sexuality. Thus he ruled that “the Title X program violates the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.” Public universities can’t even leave out a basket of free condoms with the danger that someone under 18 could take one. Deanda’s goal is to shut down Title X, and Kacsmaryk seems quite happy to do so.

Cruel cold weather is attacking a good part of the U.S., and corporate utility giants will benefit from the bills. The nine largest energy utility companies collected almost $14 billion in profits in 2022’s first three quarters and about over $11 billion benefiting wealthy shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks. Energy companies are sharing in the high costs of inflation to give themselves billions. Because some people cannot afford the higher bills, utilities have shut off households’ power 440,000 times across 15 states making their rates publicly available, a large increase from last year. Southern Company’s Georgia subsidiary raised rates almost 12 percent in June 2022, and its Tennessee subsidiary increased rates 25 percent two months later.

FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested and denied bail in the Bahamas for his alleged massive fraud in the company with eight counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations. After saying he will fight extradition, he reversed his position and plans to return to the U.S. where he faces a possible 115 years in prison.

Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT), Ronna McDaniel, may lose her position leading the RNC because of the GOP losses in the past three general elections, her entire term as RNC chair.

U.S. inflation is still going down for the fifth month in a row while the rates around the world are rising in major economies.

The past week has revealed more information about texts from Mark Meadows, DDT’s former chief of staff, who Mother Jones’ David Corn calls “a liar—at least by omission.” Last year, Meadows’ book, The Chief’s Chief, worshipped DDT and blamed his presidential loss on Fox’s “less-than-enthusiastic coverage” of the candidate, purported media conspiracies, and massive fraud. Unfortunately, he had no proof but insisted that DDT had won the election because of the “palpable” excitement at rallies and the “feeling I got during the final days of President Trump’s campaign.” Plus proof from the social media. DDT’s January 6 speech was only a farewell address that “did not call for violence” and told Meadows he didn’t intend to go to the U.S. Capitol, despite evidence to the contrary.

The trove of thousands of text messages revealed by Talking Points Memo that Meadows received and sent during the post-election period created a new picture. Some of them had been already made public, but one outstanding came from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) on January 17, 2021 citing a conspiracy theory of Dominion Voting Systems rigging the election declared:

“Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!” [Norman misspelled “martial” law.]

Meadows left that out of his book, and Norman is back in Congress for another two years. Meadows discouraged none of the texts calling for insurrection to overturn Joe Biden’s election. According to TPM:

“Meadows received at least 364 messages from Republican members of Congress who discussed attempts to reverse the election results with him. He sent at least 95 messages of his own… The members who messaged Meadows about challenging the election included some of the highest-profile figures on the right flank in Congress, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), all of whom are identified as playing leading roles in the effort to undo Trump’s defeat.”

Three days after the election, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) wrote Meadows:

“Mark, When we lose Trump we lose our Republic. Fight like hell and find a way. We’re with you down here in Texas and refuse to live under a corrupt Marxist dictatorship. Liberty!”

Some of this information may appear in the last House January 6 investigative committee hearing at 1:00 pm EST.

December 17, 2022

News Catchup – December 17, 2022

When I looked at my blog, I found that my last entry was on Thanksgiving Day. Three weeks and one day later, my beloved Sue, my partner in all things for 53 years, 50 weeks, and one day, died of bone cancer. Not diagnosed until a PET scan on December 7, she was admitted to the hospital on the same day. Two days later, she was put on “comfort care” which means almost unlimited medication including morphine and sedation. On December 14, she was brought home and breathed her last at 8:30 am, December 16. [Left: Sue and our dear Coco who died December 7.]

I am grateful that she is no longer in pain and now creating a new pattern of life that still includes researching and writing about progressive politics which begins with going through almost 700 emails of news for the past two weeks. What an amazing time it’s been! When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was no longer elected, I had hopes that the news would settle down. Instead it accelerated! Where to begin? Just start writing about whatever catches my interest.

The day before Sue died, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, legalizing marriage equality for same-gender and biracial couples. States aren’t required to marry these couples, but they must recognize them. In the House 169 Republicans were in opposition, and 36 senators voted against the law. The bill was inspired by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who stated that the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality might not hold up. Married to a White woman, the Black justice didn’t object to biracial marriages. About 700,000 same-gender couples are married in the U.S. According to the new law, religious institutions won’t lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to recognize same-gender marriages. In the U.S., 71 percent of the population support marriage equality.

The ”funniest” thing that recently happened, at least to my black sense of humor, is the extension of the funding bill, due last October 1. Without another continuing resolution, the government would have shut down yesterday. Now? Any possibility of shutdown is December 23—one week! Republicans are salivating to close down the government, which would result in dire circumstances, to prove how powerful they are. In the Senate, 19 Republicans wanted to shut down the government as did 201 House GOP members. A long term budget bill until the annual deadline of October 1 is in the works, but Republicans want to block its passage until they have control after January 1.  They did get an eight-percent increase in the military budget with $45 million more than the White House request and rescinded the Covid vaccine requirement.

Struggling Republicans facing an election for the House speaker with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) so desperate to win that he panders to crazies such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Despite the “O.K.” campaign for “Only Kevin,” he still doesn’t have the 218 votes of 222 GOP representatives. His failure would be the first speaker election chaos in a century. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said “if we stumble out of the gate” their votes “will revolt over that and they will feel let down.” Conservatives in the Freedom Caucus oppose McCarthy and demand a weakening of the Speaker’s office who want legislation drafted from the ground up and ability to amend bills during floor debates as well as the requirement of 72 hours for bills presented for reviewing because voting.

McCarthy has admitted that he can’t persuade the five GOP House members opposing his becoming speaker to support him. Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Ralph Norman (SC), and Matthew Rosendale (MT) are adamantly against him and declare they will vote as a bloc, keeping party leaders from picking them off. Others may also not vote for McCarthy. The January 3 vote for Speaker operates in a House without rules not set until after the chamber establishes rules for the 118th Congress. Not selecting a leader delays the approval of the operating rules until a speaker is chosen. McCarthy also delayed conference races for committee leadership positions until after January 3 because disappointment representatives may cause him to lose more votes.

A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT from Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) declares himself as a SUPERHERO in America. All those sycophants and DDT-haters can get digital crypto art NFT (non-fungible tokens) trading cards, featuring himself—and only for $99 each. And in the first day, 45,000 were snapped up in 12 hours for $4.5 million with ten percent, $450,000, supposedly going into DDT’s personal account, nothing for any campaign. Anyone can copy the images and share online. Within the first day, the cards’ value had more than doubled.

Ridiculed buyers complaining about gas prices and inflation are spending almost one hundred dollars for an NFT image. Phillipp Kennicott describes the product as “clumsy Photoshop pictures of the former president’s face grafted onto reasonably fit male bodies, clad in various costumes of masculine bravado, including sporting garb, a sheriff’s duster and lots of blue suits.” DDT claims that the fake images of him as boxer, wrestler, astronaut, race-car driver, football player, etc. illustrate his “Life & Career.”

After four years, the House Ways and Means Committee received details of DDT’s taxes, and Democrats plan to reveal some information. Every other person elected to president within the past half century has make their taxes available to the public so this revelation follows former protocol except for DDT to fight the process since he was elected. Although Republicans say that the only purpose to release the information is to embarrass DDT, but they gave out protected tax information about groups during the Obama administration.

At the same time, DDT declares himself as a SUPERHERO, special counsel Jack Smith is moving quickly forward in his probe of DDT’s removal (theft?) of highly-sensitive government documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago and DDT’s illegal attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential win in 2020. Legal experts hope—and expect—charges will be filed in early 2023. Smith’s staff is almost double that of Robert Mueller’s legal team, and Smith inherited a trove of damning materials against DDT and his cohorts. In the month since Smith was appointed on November 18, he has subpoenaed officials from six states for a grand jury, sought testimony and communications with DDT and his campaign and 19 associates, and achieved the annulment of DDT’s special master to review documents from Mar-a-Lago which would have concealed them. Thus Smith is free to use the FBI Mar-a-Lago search in his prosecution.

New Twitter owner, Elon Musk, is creating almost as much media attention as DDT. After tremendous First Amendment global backlash, he reinstated accounts of several journalists after suspending them from the social media platform. He said it came from a Twitter poll, dominated by bots, about whether he should wait seven days. Musk lost. Suspended journalists were from major respected U.S. media outlets supposedly because journalists wrote about @elonjet, a former Twitter account tracking the movements of Musk’s private plane. The occupants were not tracked. 

Musk claimed he took over Twitter to promote free speech, something that he has consistently destroyed. He regulates only when he feels threatened; i.e., telling impersonators that they will be permanently banned. Musk has brought together a collection of right-wingers and bots to use for his supposed polls as determination of policies. He also blocked links to rival Mastodon and calls bios of users listing Mastodon “malware” with no evidence. Hundreds of thousands of users flocked to Mastodon in November as Twitter users sought alternative platforms. BBC’s technology editor was able to tweet a Mastodon reference with because it is not a clickable link. The Twitter account @joinmastodon, which advertised the site and its features, was suspended two days ago when Musk suspended the preeminent tech journalists. The European Union threatened the journalists’ suspensions with sanctions.

Twitter is wooing QAnon advocates by Musk sending a tweet to his 120 million followers: “Follow 🐰.” QAnon members use “follow the white rabbit” as references to Alice in Wonderland and The Matrix. Many Musk tweets recently use QAnon myths relating to child sexual exploitation and the child-pedophile, Satan-worshipping ring run by a cabal of Hollywood and political global elites, lies believed by QAnon folk. Musk insinuated that Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, was in favor of child sexual exploitation. Roth and his family were forced to flee their home and hide. This week, Musk dissolved Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council former in 2016 of over 100 civil and human rights organizations working with the company to make Twitter a safer place for users.

Musk’s enthusiasm for his own definition of “free speech” led to his suspending left-learning Twitter accounts if he disagrees with them and reinstating far-right accounts breaking former Twitter rules. As CEO, he can personally silence any dissent. Instead of blocking Covid vaccine misinformation (lies), he permits it in the name of “transparency.” Twitter has also become a haven for neo-Nazis, reinstating their accounts, videos, alt-right memes, and sharing their praise for Hitler. In an argument with retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Musk called him “both puppet & puppeteer,” perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes for a Jewish person. Musk also posted a Pepe the Frog meme, a character co-opted as a hate symbol in racist and anti-Semitic memes. A new white supremacist account, “Day of the Rope,” comes from The Turner Diaries, a fictionalized blueprint for a white supremacist revolution written in 1978 by neo-Nazi leader William Pierce.

Enough for one day; more tomorrow!


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