Nel's New Day

July 20, 2021

COVID: A Plague of Unvaccinateds

In the U.S., infections over a seven-day average increased 140 percent during the past two weeks, and almost 80,000 new cases were reported last Friday after a daily count had stopped to 10,000. At the same time, hospitalizations and deaths each rose by 30 percent. The original COVID-19 triggering the pandemic in 2019 had an RO rating (r-naught) of about 2.4, meaning an infected person would infect two or three others. The new Delta variant, now 83 percent of new cases, has an RO up to 8. 

The largest percentages of infections in small towns like Missouri’s Osage County with a 940-percent increase in cases in the past two weeks. The increase has an adverse influence on the economies of areas, driving people further into poverty. With people working remotely, more rural states invite better-paid workers to relocate to their area, but unvaccinated people will discourage that attempt. More highly educated people won’t prefer areas where people reject science and education—and areas where people are willing to kill themselves and their neighbors by not being vaccinated.   

Republicans blame President Joe Biden for the surging numbers of COVID infections because he doesn’t beg Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) to endorse vaccinations. Yet DDT declared “people are refusing to take the Vaccine because … they don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the Truth.” DDT’s followers support DDT by not being vaccinated.

Some GOP governors are nervous about the high number of virus infections and deaths in their states. Arkansas’ Gov. Asa Hutchinson bribes residents to be vaccinated and travels around to tell people why they should get their shots. Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox said that “propaganda” against vaccines is “killing people” and established a website to debunk disinformation such as vaccines changing DNA, causing infertility and miscarriage, and containing microchips or tracking devices. Missouri’s Gov. Mike Parsons flipped from rejecting a push to vaccinate people to incentives and encouragement for vaccinations after the state’s average number of new cases almost tripled within the past month and the number of hospitalizations doubled. Some of the state’s counties have vaccinated under 20 percent of their residents because of GOP denial.

Other GOP governors like South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, who has designs on the White House, reveled in the vaccination rejection. Per capita, the state’s 2,000 deaths are almost six times the rate of deaths in Vermont which has a high vaccination rate. Another presidential wannabe, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, blocked mask mandates, denigrated expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, and falsified statistics. Declining hospitalization numbers suddenly leaped 73 percent in a month. In the last two weeks, the state, with 6.5 percent of the nation’s population, accounted for 20 percent in the new cases.

People have bizarre, false reasons for avoiding the vaccination, far beyond the bland excuse that it’s too “new”:

Three in ten—30 percent—of Republicans, DDT voters, and conservatives believe the federal government is using microchips inserted in vaccinations to track them.

Ninety percent of people who refuse to be vaccinated think they will have adverse side effects—even die—although about 99 percent of people dying from have not been vaccinated. About 635,000 people without vaccinations have died in the U.S.; four people have did from vaccinations.

Allowing people to kill themselves and others with vaccine disinformation is a First Amendment right. That one from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Fox network leads conservative mainstream media in pushing vaccine disinformation with Tucker Carlson, who considers being vaccinated an “intimate” act, at the head of the pack. Yet the company has a type of “vaccine passport” for workers returning to the offices. All of them received emails stating Fox had “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status: by self-reporting dates they received their shots and vaccines used.” Fox explained that this “FOX Clear Pass” “will assist the company with space planning and contact tracing.” Employees not providing this information are required to have “daily health screening through WorkCare/WorkMatters.”

Even with asymptomatic cases, people can suffer long-term problems, a reason for being vaccinated. A study in Lancet reported up to one-third of COVID-19 survivors experience a mental health or neurological disorder with serious and possibly long-lasting effects within six months of an infection. The most common conditions are mood and anxiety disorders followed by insomnia and neurological complications—visual and auditory disturbance, vertigo, and tingling sensations. The loss of smell and taste or distorted vision can be distracting, and “brain fog” can be extremely annoying.

Dr. Rob Davidson, a Michigan emergency room physician, wrote an op-ed about his frustration about media vaccine disinformation fueling cases of COVID from lack of concern on the part of those who contract the disease and their refusal to isolate themselves. Davidson faces “anger, outrage, or denial” as well as refusal to follow hospital policy by wearing a mask. He blames “Fox News and other right-wing media outlets for poisoning the minds of millions of Americans with the deceptive propaganda they spray into living rooms 24/7” and reports medical professionals throughout the U.S. facing the same problems. Serious illnesses led to available vaccinations in his rural community with this tragic result:

“Our regional vaccination rate is discouraging, with only half of the population fully vaccinated. One predictor of vaccine refusal is Fox News viewership, which is heavily Republican and conservative. Indeed, Fox News is lurching increasingly to the right to win back the Trump voters it has lost to upstart right-wing outlets like Newsmax and One America News Network. Fox hosts’ current line on Covid-19 and vaccines includes wrongly equating vaccine outreach efforts with forced vaccinations and accusing community campaigns—also wrongly—of harvesting private medical information.”

Davidson reported that GOP leaders supporting vaccinations received death threats and “vaccinations are triggering shouting matches.” He wrote, “[Patients and their families] should listen to their family doctors for medical advice, not Sean Hannity—whom researchers have connected to higher infection rates—or Tucker Carlson, who suggested with zero evidence that Covid-19 vaccines don’t work.” He concludes:

“Time is not on our side. We must do what science and evidence tell us demonstrably work to defeat Covid-19: Wear a mask, get vaccinated and stop watching Fox News.”

A few Fox people may be turning around after last week’s New York Times article about the opposition of Carlson and Laura Ingraham to health experts’ recommendations for being vaccinated. Sean Hannity gave an impassioned plea for vaccinations; Steve Doocy and Bill Hemmer also supported vaccinations, much to the dismay of Brian Kilmeade. On Fox & Friends, Kilmeade said that not being vaccinated was the person’s “choice” to die and the government has no role in protecting the population.

An excellent piece by Heather Cox Richardson discusses how, according to the Preamble to the Constitution, the government is responsible for protecting people. FDR’s New Deal created a safety net, and Dwight Eisenhower declared that the government must protect people from disasters. He called his version of the New Deal “a middle way between untrammeled freedom of the individual and the demands of the welfare of the whole Nation.” One of his supporters explained that “if a job has to be done to meet the needs of the people, and no one else can do it, then it is the proper function of the federal government.” Abraham Lincoln said, “The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves.’…Making and maintaining roads, bridges, and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools; and disposing of deceased men’s property, are instances.”

Those GOP values disappeared with Ronald Reagan when Republicans called them “socialism,” and Republicans provided big business and wealthy people with massive tax cuts while voting against help for people in need. They opposed the American Rescue Plan before taking credit for its assistance and then fought the infrastructure bill providing millions of jobs and funding human infrastructure including childcare. Now Republicans attack vaccinations saving the lives of people who would most likely vote for them.   

The latest attempt to block vaccinations comes from a fringe group, “America’s Frontline Doctors,” that filed a motion in federal court against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to stop all vaccinations for COVID-19 in the U.S. Their outrageous assertions are here.

A piece by John Stoehr compares vaccination-deniers to hostage-takers who believe in a “political advantage … that ‘us’ has over ‘them.’” The more they are asked to be vaccinated, the more they say no. Anti-vaxxers claim they are heroes seeking individual freedom with no laws and regulations; villains “think politics is about problem-solving, … the death of their liberty.” Freedom to conservatives is to do or not do anything they want, but they don’t object to not having the choice to murder someone, get a driver’s license, or travel abroad without a passport. Stoehr writes:

“[Liberty] can be what we do together as a political community for the sake of individuals but also for the sake of the common good. It’s about the equitable use of the government for achieving such ends, especially solving collective problems, like a pandemic that has killed nearly 625,000. That means making people, by force if needed, do what they should.”

Republicans will do anything to make sure that Biden fails, including avoid vaccinations, but without COVID vaccines, the conservative population will shrink.

July 19, 2021

Congress, Courts behind U.S. Rights

[Update: More good news since yesterday’s report on President Joe Biden’s work:

  • AG Merrick Garland has blocked federal prosecutors from seizing journalists’ records in leak probes, reversing earlier policies violating First Amendment rights for the press. Exceptions include concern about reporters working for a foreign power or terrorist organizations and situations with imminent risks such as kidnappings and crimes against children.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also agreed with Biden’s policy permitting unaccompanied children to enter the country in an exception to the pandemic regulation allowing any migrants crossing the border to be expelled.
  • A new guideline from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prevents them from the ability to “detain, arrest or take into custody individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum or nursing.”]

Congress:

The Capitol Police, who arrested no one at the January 6 insurrection, arrested Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and eight others in a small group of primarily Black women peacefully protesting in favor of the Senate passing voting rights legislation. Beatty spoke on the Hill before a march into the Hart Senate Office Building Atrium where she was zip-tied by the police officers for “demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol Grounds.” By June 21, 27 states enacted 28 laws this year to restrict access to voting while another 61 bills move through 18 state legislatures, 31 passing in at least one chamber. After Texas passed its highly restrictive bill in the Senate, Democrats left the state House without a quorum, going to Washington, D.C. and lobbying senators to support the House voting rights act. Because of the filibuster, the U.S. Senate requires 60 votes of the 100 senators to debate the House bill.  [Photo by Jose Luis/AP]

Objecting to fascist speeches, people in three West Coast locations blocked QAon Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene from public venues. The duo protested on a Riverside sidewalk to oppose vaccinations after turned away there as well as in Anaheim and Laguna Hills. Gaetz, investigated for sex-trafficking, and Greene, threatening to execute House colleagues, cried “cancel culture” to a crowd of about 100. 

Seven GOP senators asked Biden to repeal trade barriers, including tariffs, set up by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Congressional members, who never objected during DDT’s term, included the most conservative lawmakers: Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Utah’s Mike Lee, and Nebraska’s Deb Fischer.

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) not only gave Democrats credit for the financial windfall his state receives from ARPA but also told constituents his state would never get it again if he had his way. He said: 

“Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to [$700] or $800 million. If you add up the total amount that will come into our state, $4 billion. That’s twice what we sent in last year.”

Last year, McConnell told states they should file for bankruptcy—something most likely legally impossible.

Before a Congressional summer break, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff originally appointed by DDT, testified at a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the 2022 Defense Department budget. Accused of “critical race theory” being taught in military academies, he called “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read.” Milley said he wanted to learn about white rage to understand what “caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America…” He asked his questioners, “What is wrong with understanding?” and continued by talking about antebellum laws leading to “a power differential” with Blacks who “were three-fourths of a human being when this country was formed.”  On Fox, Laura Ingraham proposed defunding the military if it spreads a “far-left Marxist racist ideology,” and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) agreed with her.  Gaetz tweeted a proposal to defund the FBI before deleting it.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is being criticized for holding up confirmation on key appointments for the national security team, especially Bonnie Jenkins, named as under secretary of State for arms control and international security affairs. U.S. and Russian officials will meet on July 28 to discuss nuclear nonproliferation talks with Jenkins the senior official. Cruz is singlehandedly blocking a dozen State appointees until Biden sanctions the pipeline delivering natural gas from Russia to Germany and Europe. 

Earlier this year, New York suspended the law license of Rudy Giuliani, DDT’s former lawyer, for his plethora of election lies both in and out of court. Now the DC appeals court has suspended Giuliani from working as an attorney in the city “pending outcome” of his New York situation in New York. Because of his lies “to courts, lawmakers, and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer” for DDT his campaign, Giuliani’s “conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law,” according to the court. Giuliani promised to stop making statements about the election in his legal capacity but continued to lie.

Courts:

Sued by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) is claiming that he incited the insurrection on January 6 as part of his government responsibilities. When Brooks was finally served with the lawsuit after three months, he lied about the manner of being served, as video proves.

A federal judge earlier dismissed a case from two Colorado lawyers alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by Dominion Voting Systems, but he is now considering discipline against the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim, allowing themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” by DDT for “just repeating stuff the president is lying about.” Earlier last week, a federal judge in Michigan skeptically questioned nine lawyers about the “stolen” election, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood in a similar hearing. Pending sanctions hearing include one in Wisconsin where the governor asked a judge to order DDT and his lawyers to pay legal fees for the post-election litigation. Attorneys who lie in court with frivolous motions are required to pay the opponents’ legal fees. 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 5-2 that state election officials may not immediately force people off the voter rolls. Some of the 72,000 subjects, trimmed from 232,000 in 2019, still live where they registered. The court determined local clerks, not the state commission, are responsible for any removal, according to state law. Officials admit they use a system mistakenly flagging people who move and lists which shouldn’t be the final word while not knowing how many errors have been made but want accuracy.

Once again, a Massachusetts court is permitting a case against ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies to move forward. Since 2017, over 20 state and local governments have brought liability lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies, but the Massachusetts case is the first to overcome a dismissal motion. ExxonMobil faces similar cases of consumer fraud from AGs in Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. The company’s board of directors also has three new members supported by a climate-focused activist investment firm.

A federal judge temporarily stopped a Florida law penalizing social media companies for blocking a politician’s posts, suggesting the law violates the First Amendment. The judge described the law, intended to force DDT’s return to social media after his removal y the January 6 insurrection, as “an instance of burning the house to roast a pig.” Other conservative states consider similar laws to regulate tech industry. NetChoice stated appreciation to the court for not being forced to provide “racial epithets, aggressive homophobia, pornographic material, beheadings, or other gruesome content.”

Survivors and families of victims of a 2019 California synagogue shooting may continue with their lawsuit against the manufacturer of the attacker’s weapon and the gun store selling the gun. The judge ruled that Smith & Wesson demonstrated negligence in its marketing the assault-style semiautomatic rifle modified to automatically fire. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) protects gunmakers from litigation for their weapons used in criminal acts but not to negligence or deliberate violations of state laws. In 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims could sue the manufacturer of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used for the crime, and the family of a woman killed in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, killing 53 people, can sue manufacturers of the weapons.

A federal court decided in favor of Hawaii law blocking people from carrying arms openly in public, ruling that states may restrict open carry without violating the Second Amendment. George W. Bush appointment Judge Jay Bybee stated in the opinion that the “right to carry arms openly in public [is not] within the scope of the Second Amendment.” A “may issue” state, Hawaii may issue a special carry license showing they have “reason to fear injury” to “person or property.”

The trading app Robinhood has been fined $70 million for “widespread and significant harm suffered” by its customers because of its “false and misleading” information, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Millions of Robinhood customers suffered losses during the app’s outages in March 2020, preventing them from capitalizing on historic stock market gains. Harmed customers will receive $12.6 million of the $70 million. The app was fined $1.25 million in 2019 and $65 million in December 2020 for breaking rules requiring brokerages to get the best possible share prices for customers.

Despite all the GOP attacks on Biden, his overall YouGov favorability is at 58 percent.

June 28, 2021

DDT Goes to Court

After the 2016 election, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) faced 75 court battles. Some of them have been settled: he paid $25 million to settle his Trump University’s swindles of thousands of students soon after he was elected and $2 million for abusing his charitable foundation, shuttered after the discovery of a “shocking pattern of illegality” and “repeated and willful self-dealing.” Today, his lawyers met with prosecutors in Manhattan to fight filing criminal charges against the Trump Organization because they would harm the business. Unable to stay out of the discussion, DDT called prosecutors “rude, nasty, and totally biased.”

DDT’s eight years of income tax returns he had to give New York City may show that he failed to pay taxes for tens of thousands of benefits to his executives, especially Allen Weisselberg—expensive automobiles, apartments, school tuition, etc.—and Matthew Calamari, DDT’s former bodyguard and now his business’s CEO. Ronald Fischetti, DDT’s 85-year-old personal lawyer, said DDT won’t be charged in he first indictment but the investigation is “ongoing.” 

Possibility of indictment in New York is just part of his problems. He’s being accused of defrauding people, violating the Voting Rights Act, and other illegal acts. According to protective attorneys general, he couldn’t be prosecuted while he was in the White House. His loss in the 2020 election, however, removed his immunity.

Election Tampering:

DDT wanted almost 11,000 more votes from Georgia to win the state so he pressured the state’s election authorities get them switched from Joe Biden. Fulton County DA Fani Willis is investigating DDT’s telephone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for that purpose. Possible charges: election fraud conspiracy, criminal solicitation of election fraud, and/or interference with elections duties.

NAACP and Michigan voting rights activists lawsuit against DDT regarding violation of the Voting Rights Act including his pressuring Wayne County GOP officials to not certify election totals for its jurisdiction of Detroit. The suit also seeks a restraining order requiring DDT to get court approval to obtain court approval “prior to engaging in any activities related to recounts, certifications, or similar post-election activities.”

The District of Columbia AG has a criminal investigation into DDT’s activities on January 6 with the possibility of charging DDT under the local statute making it “unlawful for a person to incite or provoke violence where there is a likelihood that such violence will ensue.”

U.S. Capitol Officers:

Two Capitol police officers beaten, maced, poked with flag poles, and pinned against the doors of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 are suing Trump for inciting the violence they endured and conspiracy claims that DDT joined the violent groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, in their attacking the Capitol.  

Members of Congress:

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and the NAACP filed a civil suit about violating the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act to oppose southern White supremacists during the Civil War’s Reconstruction. It forbids conspiracies “to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat” U.S. officeholders from discharging their duties or forcing them to leave the location where those duties must be performed. The lawsuit claims that “Defendants Trump, Giuliani, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers plotted, coordinated and executed a common plan to prevent Congress from discharging its official duties in certifying the results of the presidential election.” It seeks to enjoin him from future violations.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) sued DDT for inciting the insurrection. Other defendants include Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and GOP colleague Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) who spoke at the rally and who allegedly “directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed.”

Sexual Activities:

E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of DDT sexually assaulting her during the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room led to DDT’s claim she was “totally lying,” he didn’t know her, and she wasn’t his “type.” The statute of limitations for sexual assault had run out so she filed a civil suit against him for defamation. Under AG Bill Barr, the DOJ became his legal representation, but a federal judge ruled against Barr’s decision because DDT wasn’t a protected government “employee” and his “allegedly defamatory statements [were not] with the scope of his employment.” The Biden DOJ is still defending DDT’s side. The suit seeks to force DDT “to retract any and all defamatory statements” as well as to pay compensatory and punitive damages.

Summer Zervos filed a civil suit alleging DDT defamed her in 2016 when he called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault in 2007. Like several other women, she accused DDT of killing and groping her without her consent on several occasions; he called her story “phony.” After he was no longer in the White House, the New York Court of Appeals ruled the case could proceed, requiring DDT to testify under oath.

Family Issues:

Mary Trump, DDT’s niece, realized she was denied part of her inheritance after an expose about DDT’s fortune and his routine manipulation of his assets’ value. Her civil suit alleges DDT and others in the family carried out “a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited.” The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Businesses:

DDT’s family faced a class-action lawsuit in 2018 from anonymous Americans claiming DDT cheated them into joining a multi-level marketing scheme run by a third party called CAN secretly paid by DDT to promote. The civil suit alleges that DDT, his company, and his offspring executives Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. “operated a large and complex enterprise with a singular goal: to enrich themselves by systematically defrauding economically marginalized people looking to invest in their educations, start their own small businesses, and pursue the American Dream.” The suit asks for class-action status, allowing others to participate in the litigation, and for “actual, compensatory, statutory [and] consequential damages.” It also seeks the “disgorgement of all ill gotten gains” by the Trumps.

The investment group Ithaca Capital Partners claim DDT fraudulently induced it to purchase a majority stake in a 70-story hotel and condo complex in Panama City in 2019 after he claimed the complex was a successful business and well-maintained. According to the lawsuit, however, the Trump Organization was “grossly mismanaging its operations of the former Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama including causing intentional damage to the Hotel Amenities Units and failing to pay income taxes to the Panamanian government.” The civil suit seeks “not less than” $17 million in damages plus attorney fees.

Profit from the 2017 Inauguration:

The D.C. attorney general is suing DDT for diverting funds to DDT properties, alleging the nonprofit inaugural committee “wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment” to DDT businesses by charging exorbitant rates, including $175,000 for a ballroom that usually rented for $5,000. The AG alleges “the Trump Entities … unconscionably benefited from nonprofit funds required to be used for the public good.” The civil suit seeks to have the ill-gotten gains from the Trump properties donated to public-serving nonprofits.

False testimony by DDT’s children, Don Jr and Ivanka, has put themselves in trouble. Last February, Jr lied under oath in the inauguration scandal lawsuit, and now Ivanka has made the same mistake. Executive of the Trump Organization before moving to the White House as an adviser to DDT, Ivanka denied having any “involvement in the process of planning the inauguration.” She said she did nothing more than “give feedback to my father or to anyone who asked my perspective or opinion.”

Documents, however, prove “involvement.” Trump was directly involved in planning at least one proposed inauguration event, according to emails. They showed communication, including meetings, with Rick Gates, then deputy chair of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a lead producer working with the committee. Trump was to host a “Women’s Entrepreneurs Reception/Dinner” for the inauguration, setting up the invitees and location. She also volunteered to coordinate with Reince Priebus, to be the White House chiefof staff, and Katie Walsh, his deputy. Although the reception/dinner didn’t happen, Trump was involved in other planning, including consulting on menu, recruiting talent, and guaranteeing media.

Under oath, Trump also said, “I didn’t know Stephanie Winston that well,” yet they were good friends at that time. Winston Wolkoff was recommended for her top spot on the committee because of Trump’s recommendation. Trump began to separate herself from her friend when Winston Wolkoff expressed concern about the Trump Hotel overcharging DDT’s inauguration committee, still twice the market rate after Trump supposedly interceded for a better rate. Winston Wolkoff warned Trump, Gates, and others that the spending would be audited and “become public knowledge.” She is a lead cooperating witness in the lawsuit against the Trump Organization and the inauguration committee.

Last month, Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, lost another case in court when a judge found Kushner’s management company charged “deceptive” fees to thousands of its tenants. Two years ago, a Maryland judge found several violations of consumer laws, including a “bait and switch” by showing a prospective tenant one apartment and then renting them another, highly substandard, one. This case included the questionable fees such as a $12 “agent fee” on court filings against 28,000 tenants although the courts had no costs. In another 2,600 instances, Kushner assessed $80 for court fees when courts charged $50. The lawsuit is not yet settled: each side may file objections. State lawyers can also propose restitution costs for tenants as well as a civil penalty before the court decision can be challenged in Maryland’s appeals courts.

June 15, 2021

DDT Pushes to Steal the Election

During the administration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), revelations came out via leaks; now a flood is being legally released. He spied on journalists, congressional members and their associates—even his own White House Counsel, Don McGahn. DDT’s official policy of cruelty toward migrants at the southern border included stealing children from their parents instead of deporting the family together. DDT told the Army National Guard to protect his followers on January 6 while they gathered to attack the Capitol. DDT’s Commerce Department spied on employees and others who opposed Census changes to undercount people of color. DDT’s campaign manager Paul Manafort gave information to a known Russian spy, and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to intimidate Ukrainian government officials into smearing Joe Biden while he ran for president.

Throughout his term, DDT obviously used the Department of Justice, a supposedly independent agency to protect the nation, for his personal business. Recently released documents show how his chief of staff Mark Meadows pressured the DOJ into changing the election so that DDT could stay in the White House, going so far as to demand an investigation of conspiracy theories about Italy changing votes for DDT to Joe Biden through satellites. Democrats in the House Oversight Committee have now added to the lore of DDT’s work to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

On December 14, 2020, when each state’s electors submitted the official voting results for the Electoral College, his assistant emailed then-Deputy AG Jeffrey Rosen explaining why Michigan’s votes should not be recognized by the Electoral College because of voter fraud. DOJ official Richard Donoghue emailed the document to Michigan’s AGs, and DDT’s personally-chosen AG Bill Barr announced his retirement. DDT replaced him with Rosen, and Donoghue took Rosen’s place.  

As lawsuits to overturn the election continued, DDT’s assistant emailed a draft of a legal brief for the Supreme Court to Rosen, Donoghue, and Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall to redo the presidential election in six states that DDT lost to Biden. The pressure on the DOJ continued as did the “Big Lie” that Joe Biden was not the legitimate winner of the election. Rosen and Donoghue called the far-fetched claims “Pure insanity.”

DDT’s followers attacked the Capitol on January 6 to stop the Electoral College voting, and 147 congressional Republicans voted to overturn the election. Twenty-one House Republicans who voted against honoring first responders at the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol objected to calling it an insurrection, falsely claiming the insurrectionists walked through the building in an “orderly fashion.” On the same day, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified the event was “an affront to the rule of law.” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) voted against the bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals because it honored Capitol Police Officer Williams Evens, killed in April by a knife-wielding attacker ramming a security barricade with his car at the Capitol.

DDT has fanatically followed the latest GOP attempt to steal the election in Arizona, and a shabby building in Phoenix has become the mecca of political conservatives from throughout the nation—Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin thus far. An Arizona newspaper listed all the politicians who use their trip as part of their next campaign. For example, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is running for the U.S. Senate. He was forced to resign his former position after allegedly blackmailing a woman with whom he was having an affair by releasing nude photographs that he took after tying her up and blindfolding her.

As Arizona temperatures rise to 120 degrees, politicians head to a crumbling structure where volunteers try to count ballots as proof of their conspiracy theory that Maricopa County’s election was rigged. The conspiracy-ridden GOP state senators hired an inexperienced conspiracy-ridden company to lead the “fraudit.” Glowing false praise about the process’s security came from “audit team” leader Randy Pullen, who failed to win his election last fall. The next planned process will recount ballots for his desired position.  

Politician expenses are being covered by the fundraising group led by One America News network host Christina Bobb, who earlier worked for DDT’s administration. OAN is also filming the “fraudit” and raising more money for the process. The fiasco costs several million dollars, most paid by dark money donations, because the state Senate allotted only $150,000 for the fake “count” and “forensic audit,” searching for bamboo in the ballot paper and other QAnon conspiracies. Maricopa County will be on the hook for over $6 million because damaged voting machines must be replaced.

Bobb lost her temper with Jen Fifield, an Arizona Republic reporter, and swore at her for asking a question. At a press gaggle, Fifeld asked DDT-supporter Vernon Jones if he would support a Democrat-led and fundraised audit. Afterwards, Fifield asked Bobb why she stayed silent. “Go talk to your peers who do this to me every f**king day. I don’t care,” Bobb snapped. In addition to raising funds for the process, Bobb has passed information to the GOP Senate president, Karen Fann, to increase the GOP work undermining Maricopa County’s election results.

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett was assigned to be the Senate liaison, but flaws in the process bother even this Republican. He thinks another audit, this one digital, should be used to compare results of the two “fraudits.” Toward that end, he is trying to hire another company, California’s Citizens Oversight, also with no experience in audits. CEO Doug Logan of Cyber Ninjas, the company orchestrating the first “fraudit,” has secretly criticized Bennett for the digital count, maybe because he recognizes the shortcomings of his work. Bennett said, “It’s not what evidence is presented to most people, it’s who it is presented to them by.”

After the DOJ warned the Arizona Senate against its plans to canvass voters’ homes as part of its “fraudit,” people falsely claiming to represent the county recorder’s office are knocking on doors in Yavapai County and asking how the inhabitants voted in the last election. Backers of the Senate’s audit have organized their own door-knocking. Yavapai County, population 211,000, is northwest of Maricopa County.

All the demands for “election integrity” are coming from conservatives. The definition for this “integrity” is support for the “big lie” that DDT won the election, despite Republicans as well as Democrats praising the security and accuracy of the 2020 presidential election.

The constitutionality of two Arizona laws blocking voters awaits a decision from the Supreme Court in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. Anyone other than family member, caregiver, or postal worker collecting and delivering ballots commits a felony, and ballots will be rejected if they aren’t cast in the precinct where a voter lives. The lawsuit deals with discrimination against minority voters. In Arizona, almost 80 percent of voters used mail for casting ballots, but mail service can be sketchy in rural areas where many Latinx and Native Americans live. Only 18 percent of Native Americans in the state have access to home mail delivery. With an area bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, the Tohono O’odham reservation has no home delivery and only one post office.

After Arizona’s district court and two different three-judge panels of the 9th Circuit Court ruled for the state, the full 9th Circuit Court reversed those decisions in favor of the voters. It wrote minority were more likely than non-minorities to rely on others to return their ballots. In addition, the mailing law isn’t necessary for election integrity because third-party ballot collection has not resulted in vote fraud. The court also wrote that Arizona officials frequently change polling places in urban counties with large minority populations leading to voter confusion. In 2018, two-thirds of the 3,709 out-of-precinct Arizona rejected ballots were from minority voters. Nationally, 26 states invalidated 140,000 provisional ballots as out-of-precinct in the 2018 midterm elections. In 2013, John Roberts’ Supreme Court overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval before states with a history of discrimination, Arizona being one of them, could enact new voting laws.

AG Merrick Garland said the GOP-backed ballot reviews are “based on disinformation” and has doubled the number of staff dealing with voting rights enforcement by hiring another 300 people for the DOJ. 

According to Republican Tim Miller, QAnon activists describe the “fraudit” as the first step in “The Great Awakening,” and Arizona’s GOP chair, Kelli Ward, threatens “arrests” of anyone not complying with the audit. Bobb and Steve Bannon are leading the publicity for he debacle, and an Arizona woman quit her job as a real estate agent to detail the event on Facebook and YouTube. Both sides are predicting the fraudulent Cyber Ninjas will call Maricopa County—and Arizona—for DDT, and violence will break out—again.

According to Bennett, the ballot counting has finished all “regular” ballots, leaving only boxes with Braille, large-type, overseas military, and duplicated ballots. The fiasco, lasting almost two months, moves on, perhaps best illustrated by the lightning strike on the Washington Monument. This view is through the pillars at the Jefferson Monument. 

May 25, 2021

DDT, GOP in Trouble; Arizona Continues Corruption

President Joe Biden’s approval rating has increased to 62 percent, compared to the 45 percent Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) received in May 2017. Most of his ratings—economy, stimulating jobs, administering the government, etc.—are above 60 percent, and his worst rating, the one for handling immigration, is still at 53 percent. Approval of the Democratic Party went up to 55 percent while the approval of the GOP is still below 50 percent at 49 percent. Highly conservative Rasmussen Reports, one of the few polls to give DDT higher than a 50-percent approval rating, infuriated Republicans by finding Biden at 54 percent approval.

A grand jury has been convened to determine whether to indict DDT if Manhattan’s prosecutors present criminal charges in the investigation against the Trump Organization. The jury could also indict the business’s executives and the business itself. The jury will be in session three days a week for six months and may hear information beyond the Trump Organization probe. A major issue is whether DDT lied to lenders and insurance companies about his properties’ values to obtain larger loans and pay lower taxes. The investigation includes Trump Tower, the family estate Seven Springs, DDT’s Chicago hotel, and condo tower, and the hush money paid to shut up Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with DDT. DDT is again whining, “Witch Hunt!”

Although the DOJ has released part of a memo from former AG Bill Barr, the department is appealing the order to disclose the entire memo. Barr used the 2019 memo from his Office of Legal Counsel to not make charges against DDT based on special investigator Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to DDT’s campaign. Part of the concealed memo provides factual and legal analyses of some incidents of possible obstruction. The judge earlier called Barr “disingenuous” in using the document to conclude DDT had not broken the law. She concluded that Barr used the memo “for a preemptive strike on the Mueller report.” The memo also stated the DOJ should decide whether DDT broke the law. The judge concluded the department’s intent was to legally justify a decision already made by DOJ leaders—to not accuse DDT of a crime.

Even out of office, DDT still claims he’s above the law (aka absolute immunity from civil lawsuits) in a lawsuit filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell of violating federal civil rights and local incitement laws. Donald Trump Jr, Rudolph Giuliani, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) are also defendants in the case, all of them for speaking at the rally near the White House on January 6 before the insurrectionists moved on to attack the U.S. Capitol. DDT’s defense is that he cannot be sued after being acquitted in an impeachment for the same conduct. DDT’s lawyer declared DDT is protected under the First Amendment. The lawyer stated about the presidency:

“While holding that office, former President Trump was free to advocate for the appointment and certification of electors, just as he was entitled to advocate for the passage or defeat of a constitutional amendment, or the reconsideration of a congressional act over his veto even though the President does not directly participate in those congressional acts.”

The U.S. Constitution declares a president can be subject to criminal or civil actions after leaving office. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has been joined by ten other congressional members and the NAACP in filing a similar lawsuit based on the Civil Rights Act of 1871, known as the Ku Klux Klan. It permits lawsuits against government officials for claims about conspiring to violate civil rights. That suit alleges DDT and Giuliani conspired with the extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Gordon Sondland, DDT’s former ambassador to the EU who testified against him during the first impeachment, is suing him and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for $1.8 legal fees, costs from the 2019 impeachment probe. Sondland alleges Pompeo reneged on the State Department covering the fees. Top Pompeo aides supported Sondland’s claim, but Pompeo changed his mind about paying after Sondland’s testimony about the “quid pro quo” that didn’t support DDT. The lawsuit demands payment from the government or from Pompeo personally, claiming the promise was made for Pompeo’s “own political survival.” Sondland also explained high bills by DDT’s restriction of “access to materials essential to his preparation.” DDT fired Sondland two days after his impeachment acquittal.

After fighting a subpoena for years, former White House Counsel Don McGahn will testify to the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors after the DOJ made a deal for his testimony about DDT’s obstruction attempt against Mueller’s Russian investigation. The committee will release the interview transcript. Members can ask him about events documented in the report about attempts to fire Mueller and block the Russia investigation as well as about the Mueller investigation’s accuracy. McGahn can decline answering questions on other topics.

DDT’s pet Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) went too far with her comparison of required mask wearing to gassing Jews during the Holocaust. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), silent for days, called the statement “appalling,” and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) bravely said he “does not agree with these comments and condemns these comparisons.” McCarthy continued by blaming for anti-Semitism “on the rise in the Democrat [sic] Party” being “completely ignored” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Two years ago, Jewish groups considered comments about Israel from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as anti-Semitic. Pelosi forcefully demanded an immediate apology, and Omar said she didn’t mean to promote negative stereotypes of Jews with her comments on Israel. Another objection may be protests from some House members about Israeli’s killing Palestinians, driving them out of the homes, destroying their infrastructure, and preventing them from worshipping in their Jerusalem mosque. McCarthy didn’t make any suggestions about actions against Greene.

Greene was not pleased about McCarthy’s statements. She hastily reposted a tweet about McCarthy with her addition but then removed within six minutes:

[Quote from a tweet]: “Look you moron, nobody supported Israel in their recent conflict with Hamas more than MTG. Her analogy may not have been perfect but you seriously need to get a grip you feckless c**t. Pelosi is the villain here.” [Greene’s addition]: “Thank you for seeing the truth and how much I support Israel.”

Even Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) openly turned against Greene. Asked by a reporter about whether she should be censured, he said:

“Well, she doesn’t serve in the Senate, but this is one of a frequent outbursts that are absolutely outrageous and reprehensible, but any punishment I assume would have to be administered by the House.”

More news from the Arizona vote counting fiasco: The so-called “audit” has now resumed with “counters” selected by an organization operated by DDT’s wealthy supporter and “stolen” election believer Patrick Byrne, formerly Overstock.com CEO. He is in charge of background checks, non-disclosure agreements, and volunteer agreements of “workers.”

Wake TSI, the Pennsylvania IT company running the audit, came to the end of its contract on May 14 and won’t be back. With little or no experience regarding elections, the company took the job after an Arizona senator, a bit advocate of the “Stop the Steal” movement, asked for it. A Scottsdale (AZ)-based tech company StratTech, possibly with no election or auditing experience, is taking over.

Arizona’s GOP-led House Appropriations Committee stripped legally-elected Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) of her ability to “defend election lawsuits” after she expressed “grave concerns” about the audit. Her responsibilities have been transferred “exclusively” to Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) through the end of the 2023 fiscal year. In further retaliation against Hobbs, the Republicans removed Hobb’s “oversight of the Capitol Museum” after state lawmakers when she “flew a gay pride flag from the building’s balcony” in 2019.

After determined to remain silent for over three weeks, Stephen Richer, the GOP recorder in charge of Maricopa County’s elections, said there was no “legitimate reason that would have prompted this audit.” About former audits, he pointed out that “all the tests came back clean. The parties themselves oversaw the hand-count auditing of 47,000 plus votes.” He also expressed frustration “that some professional, legitimate companies did make bids to the Arizona Senate to do this work and we would have welcomed that.” The county told the Senate to preserve all documents related to the audit administration in a litigation hold, looking into charges of defamation.  

An observer’s report of the audit told to Washington Post editor Sophia Nguyen—including horror of a “counter” who found “cheese powder” on a ballot. 

Will DDT be back on Facebook? Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill, possibly called the Trump Protection (TP) law, which fines social media platforms permanently banning political candidates in the state. A ban is limited to 14 days with a daily $250,000 fine after that. As almost everyone knows, DDT has made Florida’s Mar-a-Lago his residence. The law comes from the party believing in freedom for private business and no regulations. Florida has blocked free speech from private entities, violating the constitution’s First Amendment. Exempt are companies owning theme parks or entertainment venues larger than 25 acres, aka Disney World and Comcast’s Universal Orlando Resort. Another lawsuite in the wind.

Watch for much more about the Grifters’ Old Party. 

 

May 23, 2021

Republican Bizarre Bits

Last month, CNN commentator told a conservative youth group that “there was nothing” in America when European landed on its shores.” He called the land “a blank slate” and added, “Yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, that—there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” Waiting for the backlash to dissipate, CNN gave up after 25 days and fired Santorum, a strong supporter for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and long espoused his widespread bigotry.  

“I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, that — there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Santorum is miffed at the firing: he said he was hired to deliver a “different” perspective.

Another ousting came in the Louisiana state legislature. State Rep. Ray Garofalo insisted on teaching students “the good, the bad, the ugly” of slavery and was removed from chair of the House Education Committee after three weeks of protesting. In rebuttal, he accused GOP House Speaker Clay Schxnayder of “sacrificing me to the Black Caucus, who seem to be controlling the Louisiana House of Representatives this term” and throwing him “under the bus.” He could have resigned but instead played the martyr by declaring he “did not step down voluntarily as chairman.” The bill in question forbids teachers to teach information that allegedly “promotes divisive concepts,” such as critical race theory which examines how race and racism influence different aspects of life.

Garofalo’s racist comments match those in Texas where a bill stated the voter restriction law will “preserve the purity of the ballot box.” Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchía explained Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain, the bill’s sponsor and author, that the same provision was drafted specifically to disenfranchise black people, black voters, following the Civil War.” It “gave rise to all-white primaries” and was “used during the Jim Crow era to prevent black people from voting.” Anchía continued to educate Cain, who said he found the information “troubling” before he removed the term from the bill but not the substance. Cain added he’s grateful that “white primaries” no longer exist before Republicans passed the punitive anti-voting bill.

Texas has another bill to block the Alamo in Antonio from stating major figures in the Texas Revolution were slave traders. Idaho already has a law to block funding from schools teaching about the effects of slavery and racism, and Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Tennessee are following them with similar bills. (Every morning, the Texas students are required to “pledge allegiance” to “Texas, one state under God.”)

Texas law requires media witnessing to executions, but none saw the killing of Quintin Jones this month because state officials said they forgot to notify the reporters waiting across the street from the penitentiary. A spokesman apologized. Earlier in the day, Gov. Greg Abbott had said “our creator endowed us with the right to life” when he signed one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws. Abbott was in office during over 50 executions. The parole board granted clemency to a white man with a similar case but denied one to Jones, possibly because of his race

A Connecticut lawmaker claimed Asian Americans have never faced racism during a meeting on housing segregation.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) has the highest number of missed votes—16.2 percent—among freshmen members of Congress and is sixth highest among all 535 congressional members. He has two reasons for missing all those votes: fulfilling his “service as a husband” after his marriage during his three-day honeymoon and disregarding votes for “Democrat garbage.” He told the conservative Real America’s Voice News his husbandly “service” is “more important than my service in Congress.” The young DDT supporter gained his seat with blatant lies, for example about the car wreck, his fault, which incapacitated him and the reason he was rejected by the Naval Academy. He won despite former college classmates urging his rejection on a number of issues including his “academic failures” and alleged sexual misconduct with at least three women. His lies extended to outrageous falsehoods about the 2020 election.

Sen. Ted “Kremlin” Cruz (R-TX) is not happy about his new nickname replacing “Cancun Cruz,” from sneaking off to warm climes during Texas’ “big freeze” power outage. An expert on Russia refused Cruz’s lie he didn’t share Russian election propaganda because Cruz hates communists. Expert and author on the Soviet and Russian era Tom Nichols disagrees with Cruz’s claim that Vladimir Putin has “always” been a “communist.” MSNBC’s Brian Williams used “Kremlin Cruz” in a piece about Cruz’s assertion regarding the U.S. military being “emasculated” when compared to the mighty Russian military. Cruz also accused “Dem politicians & the woke media … trying to turn” service members “into pansies.” He has since changed to declaring U.S. troops to be “the finest fighting force on the face of the Planet.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), having lots of time after being stripped of all committee assignments, wants attention, and she’s getting lots of it. Other than defending the obscene Arizona “audit” of ballots in a rally there, she compared being forced to wear masks on the House floor because fewer than half the Republicans may not be vaccinated to Jewish people being gassed during the Holocaust in Germany. Greene called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “mentally ill.” Even GOP congressional members are openly incensed by her statements, including Reps. Liz Cheney (WY), Adam Kinzinger (IL), and Peter Meijer (MI).

Only people of color can be terrorists, according to Greene’s definition. She called Black Lives Matter “the strongest terrorist threat in our county” and described the elections of two Muslims to Congress as part of “an Islamic invasion of our government.” Yet she expressed concern for white people attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6 for their “being abused” in jail, with some “being held for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.”

Other attention may be less desirable, especially legal trouble. Greene solicited donations to a super PAC accepting unlimited donations in a video specifically for that purpose, but candidates and elected officials cannot request contributions more than $5,000. In another legal problem, Greene is accused of having two active homestead exemptions with her husband. Georgia law allows only one of these huge tax breaks for a primary residence.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dumped Cheney and protected Greene to please DDT. Now he’s hiding from the public to avoid answer questions. The Wyoming GOP is determined to vote out Rep. Liz Cheney in a primary because she says that the 2020 election was not “stolen” from DDT. Her primary opponent: At 18, Anthony Bouchard impregnated a 14-year-old girl. He bragged about marrying her when they were 15 and 19, but they divorced when she was 18. His ex-wife killed herself when she was 20. Bouchard said it’s “like the Romeo and Juliet story.”

In more ignorance from QAnon congressional members, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called DDT the “peace president” because “things were so quiet” between Israel and Hamas from 2016 to 2020. A botched Israeli covert operation in the southern Gaza Strip killed seven Hamas militants and one Israeli soldier, leading to fighting for two days and nights before a ceasefire. Violence continued for two more weeks. Another conflict in May 2019 killed two Palestinians in Israel’s airstrikes; Egypt mediated a ceasefire after three days. The prolife representative cast one of two votes blocking patients from access to potentially life-saving bone marrow transplants because it was too expensive.

Former Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio is gone after a conviction and DDT’s ensuing pardon, but he’s still costing taxpayers over $200 million by next year. Costs are for legal bills and complying with court-ordered demands of the sheriff’s office because of the county’s officers profiling Latinos in traffic stops. Arpaio’s conviction was for disobeying a court order to stop the profiling. He says he doesn’t regret his actions and claims he saved money when he reduced education and healthcare costs.

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos must testify in a class action lawsuit regarding her policy ignoring student debt loan forgiveness for borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges, according to a court ruling. About 160,000 borrowers are participating in the lawsuit resulting in an “exceptional circumstances” warrant. DeVos will face questions about the department’s failure to keep records of loan forgiveness claims and lies about the rationale for vast numbers of rejections for forgiveness.

Michigan Rep. Matt Maddock and his wife, the state’s GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, have been noted for their lies about voter fraud and comparison of covid-19 to the flu. Because of media fact-checkers, Maddock’s new bill, the Fact Checker Registration Act, would require fact-checkers to register with the state and provide $1 million fidelity bonds. Anyone breaking the proposed law would be fined $1,000 each day. According to Maddock’s bill, anyone could sue a fact-checker over “any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.” The Maddocks were also part of the efforts to impeach Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and challenge Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. After Maddock spoke to the group rallying to attack the U.S. Capitol, the couple joined a Facebook considering civil war after the insurrection.

This is the tip of the iceberg–more later!

April 24, 2021

 Troubles for Trump—and His Minions

(more…)

April 18, 2021

Sunday: Religious Numbers Drop, Court Gives Christianity Preference

On Sunday, fewer people than ever are going to a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious gathering. Pew Research reports that the share of religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. has been growing across all demographic groups. The “nones”—those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or religion as “nothing in particular”—have become 23 percent of the population, almost 50 percent up from 2007 when 16 percent of people were “nones.” At the same time, the number of “Christians” have dropped from 78 percent to 71 percent.

More Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996) self-identify as “nones,” and the median age of unaffiliated adults is currently 36, down from 38 in 2007 and younger than the 46 years of media age of adults in the U.S. More in the older generations, however, are also becoming unaffiliated: 17 percent of Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now unaffiliated, compared to 14 percent in 2007.

Of people raised as Christian or another faith, 18 percent now have no religious affiliation, compared to the roughly half of the 9 percent of U.S. adults raised without any affiliation now who identify with a religion, mostly Christianity. More men than women are “nones,” but education, race and ethnicity, and income make no difference. Nearly two-thirds of the seven percent of atheists and agnostics are men who are more educated and more White than the general population.

Two years ago, then-VP Mike Pence announced the nation’s religiosity “has remained remarkably consistent.” Yet a Gallup poll reinforced the Pew Research in its finding that only 47 percent belonged to a congregation in 2020, down from 70 percent in 2000. The percentage of people who think religion is important dropped to 48 percent with the number of people regularly attending worship services even lower.

While the general population becomes less religious, the Supreme Court, because of appointments by Deposed Dictator Trump (DDT) and confirmations by GOP senators, gives preference to Christians. Late Friday night, April 9, 2021, in a “shadow docket,” justices made a 5-4 decision in a case not on the docket and had no oral argument. The Tansom v. Newsom ruling determined that religious groups can gather in homes although other groups are still banned from this practice.

With no signature, the ruling changed the constitutional view of “religious liberty that now permits religious exemptions to situations not discriminating against religion. The court’s new rule, “most favored nation” permits any secular exemption to a law permitting a claim for a religious exemption. The decision stated required permission to gather for Bible study just as they would to get haircuts, food, or pedicures. Any time a government grants any exemption to a law for any reason, it has to grant the same exemption to religion—which in the U.S. typically means Christianity.

These conservative justices have gone far beyond the belief of Justice Antonin Scalia, formerly the most conservative judge of the modern era, when he said this type of ruling should be done “sparingly, and only in the most critical and exigent circumstances,” where “the legal rights at issue are indisputably clear.” The new ruling doesn’t fit these criteria because the high court gave a different meaning to the scope and applicability of the free exercise clause. With no explanation for the court’s decision, five justices are trying to bind lower courts to their personal opinion. The current Supreme Court has used its emergency injunctions seven times, all of them in COVID-19 cases. Before last November, the court had not done so for five years.

DDT used emergency relief from the high court 41 times, winning 28 of those appeals. In contrast, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama together went to the court for this relief only eight times in 16 years. Almost all DDT’s cases requested “stays” pending appeals against a lower court ruling, but the current support for a Christian group froze a government policy losing in the lower courts pending appeal. Scalia pointed out that an injunction “grants judicial intervention that has been withheld by lower courts,” unlike a stay, a short-term delay of a proceeding.

This injunction overrides the lower courts instead of the justices’ position from the past of “a court of review, not first view” as an “appellate tribunal.” The action reverses the function of the Supreme Court and exceeds the justices’ statutory authority to issue such relief—for the seventh time since October. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, the majority relied only on “separate opinions and unreasoned orders” to make a new constitutional rule. Conservative justices “using procedural tools meant to help them control their docket to make significant substantive changes in the law, in defiance not only of their own standards for such relief, but of fundamental principles of judicial decision making,” wrote legal expert Stephen I. Vladeck.

Since the new term began last October, the court has used shadow dockets at least 20 times to make secret rulings with no arguments and no identification of how each justice ruled. The new justices, in control of making law over legislatures and lower courts, remove transparency from the process of law.

The recent ruling agrees with an earlier decision that religion should allow people to infect others with COVID-19 by opening church services in California while other public activities are closed. Last December, SCOTUS also put religion over public health by siding with religious groups in Colorado and New Jersey. At that time, the U.S. had almost 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 and 16.5 million infections.

Over five years ago, Jerry Falwell Jr, then president of Liberty University, endorsed DDT for president which gave him the evangelical vote in 2016. The past few years have not been good for Falwell. After a series of failed to gain traction, the photo of him and his wife’s pregnant assistant in an inappropriate pose on a boat was the tipping point. He lost his leadership position at the university but claimed a resurrection comeback on Good Friday with his belief the “community still embraces him.” Denied a contracted $10.5 million severance package, Falwell, worth over $100 million, told the media the dispute was resolved.

Good Friday passed, and Liberty is now suing Falwell for over $40 million in damages, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty. The lawsuit states Falwell withheld “scandalous and potentially damaging information from Liberty’s board of trustees, while negotiating a generous new contract for himself in 2019 under false pretenses,” according to journalist Ruth Graham. Some of the scandal included an on-going three-some among himself, his wife, and a former pool boy. (More details about Falwell’s scandals.) 

Employees have been ordered to not communicate with either Falwell or his wife Becki Falwell other than any concerns about their daughter, a student. The university also wants Falwell to return its electronic equipment with confidential information. Their oldest son, Trey Falwell was also forced from his vice-presidency at Liberty, while Jerry Falwell Jr’s brother Jonathan Falwell has taken a bigger role at the school.

Also gone from Liberty University is the name for its political “think tank,” Falkirk Center, named after Falwell and DDT’s former pet, Charlie Kirk. Over 400 Liberty students and recent graduates signed a petition to close down the group because the Center “is trying to undo Liberty’s mission.” They rejected the idea they are “people who were educated to become champions for Trump and Western Civilization in the ‘cultural battlefield.’” They also object to the “fellows” using the Center as a “gateway for … people who claim Christ’s name because it is convenient for their personal or political gain.” The Falkirk Center sank $50,000 into political ads for DDT and other GOP candidates before the election.

The Center did not renew Charlie Kirk as a fellow, and he plans to start his own group called Turning Point Faith. Falkirk is now Standing for Freedom Center but kept its political philosophy and some of its questionable “fellows,” such as conservative commentator Eric Metaxas who punched an unarmed anti-DDT protester in the back of his head last year and continues to spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud.  

Liberty’s direction is shown by two new fellows, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both wannabe presidential candidates—Huckabee in the past and Pompeo in 2024. Pompeo, claiming he wants “religious freedom, created many federal groups promoting evangelical Christianity around the world including one educating officials that the Bible mandates them to support back right-wing social, economic, environmental, and criminal justice policies. When in Congress, Pompeo worked with anti-Muslim activists to promote Christian nationalism. Pope Francis denied an audience with Pompeo because of his use of “religious freedom” for political gain.

Pompeo’s background as Secretary of State illustrates his lack of ethics. The Inspector General reported Pompeo violated government federal ethics rules in using the agency’s resources by asking its employees to carry out personal tasks over 100 times, as did Pompeo’s wife, Susan. Pompeo said they were just things friends did for friends—like working all weekend “to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos” with no compensation.

Just a few reasons that the number of religiously unaffiliated grows every year.

 

April 1, 2021

April Fool – Not! True Stories from the Media on April 1

Today is an annual day to celebrate tricksters, often through the mass media, but this year’s media stories, as ridiculous as many of them may sound, are true. Here’s a sampling of the ridiculous, and accurate, occurrences—many of them involving Republicans.

First commissioned in 1997, the F-35 fighter jet, estimated at a cost of over $1 trillion for the program and not yet ready for prime time, has been a joke. One plane costs $135.8 million, but its problems include catching on fire, rolling during landings, pilot blackouts, software development disasters, premature part failures, and shortage of spare parts to keep the planes flying.

Why did Johnson & Johnson have to throw away COVID-19 doses for 15 million people? Workers in Emergent BioSolutions, a Baltimore manufacturing plant, accidentally mixed its ingredients from those for AstraZeneca. Biologically different, the two vaccines are not interchangeable. Production was delayed by an FDA investigation. FDA has already repeatedly cited Emergent for poorly trained employees, cracked vials, and mold in one facility. The mix-up was not discovered for days, but currently distributed and administrated J&J vaccines in the U.S. were not affected because they were produced in the Netherlands under federal regulator watch. Approved in February, J&J has a 66-percent efficacy fate but only 42.3 percent effective a month after vaccinations for people over 60 with comorbidities.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), already stripped of her committee assignments, entertained herself for a few weeks by putting forward multiple proposals to adjourn the House of Representatives. Members of both parties had to leave important meetings and other duties as they rushed to the chamber floor to vote against her motion. Now the QAnon follower introduced a bill to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s appointed chief medical adviser in a position not even requiring Senate confirmation. Greene’s Fire Fauci Act cuts Fauci’s salary to $0 until “a new NIAID Administrator is confirmed by the Senate.” Which isn’t required. Two days ago, Greene accused the president of Satanism by tweeting any “vaccine passport” is “Biden’s Mark of the Beast.”

Greene, who accuses Democrats of sex-trafficking, is vigorously defending Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his investigation regarding alleged sex-trafficking of a 17-year-old and accuses the DOJ of a “witch hunt.” DDT’s AG Bill Barr began the investigation and deliberately avoided being seen in the same place with Gaetz, refusing to attend a meet-and-greet event with the House Judiciary Committee because Gaetz would be present.

Popular with multitudes of Republicans, Greene is the subject of a “RealDoll” patterned after her (left). Abyss Creations, which makes life-size “sex dolls” has sold out of the Greene model. The company’s marketing director Andrew Canard stated Abyss’ success comes from targeting evangelical MAGA fans with these female companion manikins, leading to the design of the Marjorie Taylor Greene Freedom Doll. [Visual – RealDoll Greene]

The entire Matt Gaetz story becomes more and more bizarre. According to reports, he bragged about his sexual exploits with a number of women and showed other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women who he had sex with, some images kept on his phone. The investigation is looking into his possible use of campaign funds to pay for the women’s travel and expenses.

Media has obtained receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay showing how Gaetz used cash apps to send money to women as well as paying them in cash from hotel ATMs.

Gaetz denies paying women for sex, asserting he is just generous, but some women claim he told them to say that money paid for sex was just for dating. During 2019 and 2020, Gaetz and Greenberg told women to meet with them, often at Florida hotels, and told them how much they would pay, according to text messages and interviews. The men met women through Seeking Arrangement, a site of over 20 worldwide members which is self-described as wealthy people finding attractive companions to treat them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.”Before sex, some women and men, including Gaetz, would take ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug. Gaetz also asked the women to find others willing to have sex with him and his friends. Greenberg is not making any comment about the allocations.

Paying for hotels, meals, and other gifts is not illegal, but payments for sex is trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” Providing drugs in exchange for sex is classified as trafficking because feeding another person’s drug habit can be described as coercion. Giving anyone under the age of 18 anything of value for sex—even hotels or cigarettes—violates the federal child sex trafficking law and carries a ten-year minimum prison sentence. QAnon finally found real alleged sex-traffickers among the ich and famous, but they protect Gaetz and his friends.

The Government Accountability Office reported that Ivanka Trump’s women’s empowerment initiative failed to track funds and didn’t determine the definition of a woman-owned business. According to the GAO report:

“USAID has not developed a process to support compliance with statutory requirements to target MSME resources to activities that reach the very poor and to small and medium-sized enterprise resources to activities that reach enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women. We identified three key gaps that impair USAID’s ability to develop such a process. First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements. Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group. Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size.”

During her years in the White House, Trump claimed she tracked spending and efficient use of funds, yet she didn’t know where the money was going or if the recipients were minority-owned.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cannot escape a $5,000 fine for disobeying a House rule. After some House members tried to carry guns onto the House floor, representatives were required to go through a metal detector. Several GOP representatives refused to comply with security screening, and the House imposed fines for their noncompliance. The first offense is $5,000, and all subsequent offenses are $10,000. Gohmert contested the fine, saying he didn’t know he should use the metal director after going to the bathroom, but the House Ethics Committee upheld the charge. The Texas representative admitted that he refused to comply with a Capitol Police officer’s request to be screened.  

The death of Don Wright, sworn into the U.S. House a month after being sworn into the 117th Congress, left an opening from Texas. A congressional candidate and former DDT official who hopes to win Wright’s seat is campaigning against Chinese immigrants accusing then of not holding “themselves accountable” and causing the pandemic. The candidate? Sery Kim, a Korean-American woman who served in the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the Small Business Administration. She says she doesn’t feel discrimination for being Asian-American because “I blame China.”

An Arizona state representative, Mark Finchem, has started the process to run against the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. The Republican is known for leading the effort to overturn the state’s popular vote for President Joe Biden and invited DDT’s campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a Phoenix event with legislators to support him. Finchem was also invited to speak at a January 6 rally outside the U.S. Capitol to storm the building but claimed he knew nothing about breaching the building despite his tweeting photographs of it. Blaming the insurrection on leftists, he refused to give The Arizona Republic information about his travels to Washington, D.C. at that time. Rural Arizonans for Accountability began a recall effort against him because of his buy in to the “big lie” regarding how voter fraud “stole” the election from DDT. 

March 29, 2021

Whither the GOP Filibuster

For the first time in four years, more voters, 46 percent, believe the U.S. is on the right track than the opposite. The economy is heading in the right direction, according to the 42-percent plurality of voters, a 13-percent improvement since January. Approval of President Joe Biden is still at 61 percent, and the pandemic management approval is 71 percent, up three points since February, all according to the new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll. In January, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) received a 56-percent approval for the economy, his only rating above 50 percent, but Biden now has an approval of 60 percent on the economy and the same percentage for administering the government, compared to DDT’s rating of 49 percent approval.

Conservatives also struggle with the current popularity of For the People Act, the voting bill passing the House and waiting for Senate attention. A policy adviser for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, Kyle McKenzie, discovered “people were very supportive” by learning a “very neutral description” of the bill. McKenzie stated:

“The most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description. There’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.”

Even conservatives don’t want wealthy people buying elections through huge anonymous political donations. Unable to find persuasive arguments against voting rights, McKenzie told conservative activists the GOP senators need to use “under-the-dome” tactics to kill the bill. The bill could pass the Senate with a majority vote, but the current filibuster, enacted by any one senator sending in an email to protest a bill obstructs democracy by requiring 60 percent of the vote.

A simple Senate majority can change—even eliminate—the filibuster, but some Democrats are reluctant to agree. With Republicans determined to be intransigent enough to cause permanent gridlock for the 117th Congress, at least one senator, Angus King (I-ME), may be reversing his negative position toward a shift. In a WaPo op-ed, King wrote that he decided to support the filibuster because an opposing party could use it to erase important legislation as the Affordable Care Act. According to King:

“But this argument is sustainable only if the extraordinary power of the 60-vote threshold is used sparingly on major issues or is used in a good-faith effort to leverage concessions rather than to simply obstruct.”

King cited the voting rights protection to oppose the GOP “nakedly partisan voter-suppression legislation pending in many states” as a reason to fight the filibuster. He continued:

“If forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down. As new Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) noted on the floor recently, ‘It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society.’”

Biden now supports the “talking filibuster,” opposition to a bill lasts only as long as the filibustering senator stands on the chamber floor and talks, and said the 60-vote requirement for any bill is “being abused in a gigantic way.” One exception to the filibuster, he said, is for laws “elemental to the functioning of our democracy—like the basic right to vote.” The biggest holdout to changing the filibuster, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might be willing to move to the talking filibuster.

The Senate has radically changed since Biden defended the filibuster as a new senator. Once rare, filibustering obstructionism is business as usual. The 44 cloture motions filed during the first two years of Biden’s senate career were relatively high for the time, but Republicans almost doubled in 1993-94 to kill Clinton’s agenda. In the 2007-2008 Democratic Congress, McConnell saw 139 filibusters filed, and the number topped 200 in 2013-2014 during President Obama’s second term. The 2019-2020 Congress saw 339 cloture motions in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may have found a way around filibusters to fund Biden’s policy initiatives. The Senate allows budget reconciliation only once a year to permit a majority of senators to pass a bill, and the Democrats used the one time to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus relief law, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Passed in 1974, Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act, however, allows a simple majority to revisit and amend an already-passed budget resolution, such as ARPA. The parliamentarian will decide whether Section 304 permits more reconciliation bills tied to revenue, spending, and the public debt during Fiscal Year 2021, ending the end of September.

McConnell’s first response to doing away with the filibuster—which he did to get three far-right justices on the Supreme Court—was to threaten a “scorched earth” in the Senate, highly punitive actions to block every bill. Then he joined other senators such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Graham to play victim. Biden agreed with former President Obama about the filibuster being “a relic of the Jim Crow era”; and McConnell claimed the filibuster “has no racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.” Historians taught McConnell he was wrong.

Both the longest single-speaker filibuster and the longest multiple-speaker filibuster in U.S. history tried unsuccessfully to block two non-discrimination laws, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. The latter filibuster lasted 60 days before a bipartisan coalition stopped it. The 1957 law, the first federal civil rights legislation in almost 90 years, established a DOJ civil rights division and other measures to support the right to vote for Blacks. Virulent segregationist Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina Democrat until 1964, personally filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest speaking one by a single senator.

Other failures during the past century show the racist and bigoted use of the filibuster:

  • During the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction periods, senators filibustered against civil rights bills.  
  • Bills outlawing racist lynching, first introduced in 1922, didn’t pass until 2018, but the GOP House refused to take action.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 survived a filibuster, but Jesse Helms’ (R-NC) brief filibuster destroyed an extension to strengthen its provisions after a Supreme Court decision required proof of discrimination by covered jurisdictions. Even that weaker provision of the Voting Rights Act disappeared in John Roberts’ court, the 2013 decision permitting rampant racist discrimination by laws sweeping across the U.S.

Newly-elected Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), elected before his state passed a draconian set of anti-voting laws hurting his 2022 re-election chances if not overturned, described nationwide anti-voting laws as “Jim Crow in new clothes.” In his first speech on the Senate floor, he said about the requirement for 60 percent of senators to pass any legislation, “No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy.” He explained:

“I’m not here to spiral into the procedural argument over whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. This issue, access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting, is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights.

“It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. We must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.”

Warnock denounced the 253 voter suppression bills in 43 states introduced since January as “democracy in reverse” and attempts by Republican politicians to “cherrypick their voters.” Warnock declared, “This cannot stand.”

Other losses from the filibuster:

  • A bipartisan piece of popular legislation including gun background checks from Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) after the horrific Newtown massacre.
  • Government shutdowns resulting from huge omnibus bills with multiple “riders” designed to get around filibusters.
  • Bad legislation from the reconciliation process, created by Ronald Reagan in 1981, to use a simple majority for passage.  
  • GOP refusal to undertake any bills alleviating climate change.

Norm Ornstein, a Democratic at a conservative think tank, suggests ways to honor minority rights instead of using the filibuster “as a weapon of mass obstruction.”

“Instead of having 60 votes required to end debate, have 41 required to continue with 41 members… Make the minority have to debate the actual issue. No reading Green Eggs and Ham to waste time.  You’d have to talk about why you are blocking, say, a universal background check bill supported by 94% of Americans.

“…Return to that ‘present and voting’ standard.  So it matters how many Senators actually show up.  If 20 of them don’t show up, you only need 48 votes to end debate. Again, make the minority do the work…

“Reduce the threshold to end debate outright. You could reduce it down to 55 Senators. But you could also be more creative. Former Senator Tom Harken’s idea was to step down the threshold as you debate a bill. So start with a level of 60 votes for a couple of weeks. And then lower the bar to 57, and then 54, and then 51. So ultimately the majority is going to have the ability to act, but there’s plenty of time devoted to the minority.”

The Senate is already rigged for the minority: the 50 Republicans currently in the Senate represent 41 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats. The Senate has been marked for inaction for years. It’s time to legislation to more forward, to do more than Republicans putting highly conservative and frequently inexperienced judges on the federal bench. And it’s time for Republicans to constructively work for elections rather than employing a system to “cancel voters.”

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