Nel's New Day

July 13, 2022

News – Week of July 13, 2022

Updates: When Twitter gave Elon Musk 53 terabytes of raw user data, the company was concerned that he would use it for building his own social media platform. According to Twitter, Musk had only three plans: “sit on its board, buy it, or build a competitor.” If Musk tries to buy Twitter at a reduced price, his lawsuit could become the “world’s most expensive case of ‘if you break it, you pay for it.’” Delaware have forced other prospective buyers, such as Louis Vuitton maker LVHM in 2020, to comply with signed merger agreements.  

The feud between Musk and Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) continues after Musk tweeted, “It’s time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset” after DDT called him “another bullsh–t artist.” DDT’s lengthy response slammed electric, “driverless cars, … rocketships to nowhere,” and more. Tesla laid off 229 employees in its Autopilot team and closed its San Mateo office, transferring other workers to another facility. Musk said he will be firing ten percent of Tesla’s workforce; his net worth has fallen $65 billion in the past three months, largely because of the 24-percent drop in Tesla stock value. In November 2021, Musk was worth $340 billion, but his assets fell 42 percent by May 2022 to $197.1 billion.

Notes about the January 6 debacle:

DDT’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who may end up being the patsy for all the illegal activities setting up the insurrection, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin that she shouldn’t resign after DDT lost the election because he wasn’t leaving the Oval Office.  

DDT’s Islamophobic supporter Brigette Gabriel wanted all January 6 hearings canceled “out of respect” for DDT while he mourns the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. One respondent pointed out that DDT barely knew Abe who was in the same room as DDT only a few times.

Alex Holder, the British director of a documentary film Unprecedented with footage from DDT, his family, and his allies, is under armed protective guard because of threats from DDT’s supporters.

More video footage of the insurrection planning comes from two conservative filmmakers, Jason Rink and Paul Escandon, who filmed footage of DDT’s friend Roger Stone and his protégé organizer of “Stop the Steal” Ali Alexander leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The documentary is to be called The Steal. Also starring in the film are insurrectionists Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and DDT’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn.  Stone also gave permission for a Danish documentary film crew to record his activities in the Willard Hotel, where DDT’s allies planned the election overturn. The content of the film footage is not known.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is really afraid of testifying to a Fulton County (GA) grand jury about his trying to interfere in its state 2020 presidential election: asking a federal court to quash a grand jury subpoena for his testimony in the Fulton County district attorney’s investigation into former President Trump’s efforts to undermine Georgia’s election results.

For the first time in seven years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will have a director after the Senate confirmed Steve Dettelbach, President Joe Biden’s second nomination after he withdrew David Chipman. The vote was 48-46 with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Rob Portman (OH) joining Democrats. The NRA called Dettelbach “anti-gun.”

After the six Supremes removed the right to abortion for all women in the U.S., Biden signed an executive order in an attempt to mitigate the removal of reproductive rights. It tries to strengthen existing provisions for medication abortion, emergency care, contraception access, resources, and information. Doctors and hospitals in all states accepting federal funding must provide abortions to women whose lives are at risk through the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). The federal mandate preempts state law that doesn’t permit a woman’s life to be saved.

The story about a raped 10-year-old Ohio girl forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion resulted in great skepticism from conservatives, including Ohio’s Republican AG Dave Yost, who claimed it was fake reporting to push for legalized abortion. The 27-year-old rape suspect was arrested after he confessed to raping the child at least twice at the same time the Wall Street Journal published an editorial doubting the victim’s truthfulness. Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine agreed with Yost that the rape is likely a “fabrication.” Evidencing approval of the arrest, DeWine and Yost did not issue any apologies for their attacks on the girls and her doctor. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) deleted his tweet about the reporting about the rape that ended, “Another lie. Anyone surprised?” The surprise is that anyone reports a rape.

With abortion gone in some states and contraception on the chopping block, some men are getting prepared. Anecdotally, the interest in vasectomies has largely grown since the announcement from the six Supremes in late June. A Kansas City (MO) doctor said his vasectomy consults skyrocketed 900 percent since then, and a Laredo (TX) described a similar uptick. Same for urologists in Idaho and Tampa Bay. According to a research company, searches for “where can I get a vasectomy?” spiked 850 percent. While 18 percent of women use tubal ligation, an invasive surgical procedure, for birth control, only six percent of men in the U.S. have vasectomies.

Suggestions that the pro-forced-birth legislators should help women and children in the future chaos of more births and parental hardship following the six Supremes’ mandate blocking abortions have fallen on deaf ears. Democrats have supported assistance through direct cash or family leave, but Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that “supporting families and family formation [is] separate and apart from the abortion questions.” No one on the right is disagreeing with them, and many Republicans claim their opposition to more federal assistance means they don’t support children. The U.S. already does enough to support families, according to the GOP.

Only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) believes in a monthly cash allowance for families. Two other GOP senators, Steve Daines (MT) and Richard Burr (NC), propose “child” tax credit for the fetus until it becomes a baby but say it won’t pass anyway. A few Republicans, like Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) support paid parental leave by taking the money out of later Social Security benefits. GOP ideas come from their philosophy that reducing material hardship removes any desire to have a job.

Republicans are also silent about the new jobs report for June—an additional 372,000. The private sector has recovered all the jobs that DDT lost during the pandemic plus more. During the second quarter of 2022, Biden created more jobs during that period of time in almost 40 years.  For the first half of 2022, 2.63 jobs have been added, more than any full year under DDT even before the pandemic. Despite an additional 9.37 jobs since Biden’s inauguration, the GOP blames Democrats for poor job growth but gives them no credit for job growth.

The media focuses on the annualized inflation being higher than a year ago, but it actually shrank a bit from June 2022 to the previous June. Core inflation in June, excluding gasoline and food, is expected to be the third month of slowing. Retail prices will likely drop because retailers miscalculated some inventories, and container costs of shipping and airlines are falling. The Federal Reserve also plans to peak out prime rate with one more 0.75 percent increase on top of June’s 0.75 percent.  

After whining about inflation, Fox hosts are now upset because gas prices are declining too fast. According to Martha MacCallum, lower gas prices are bad for “mom-and-pop” gas station owners.

The DOJ is suing Arizona to block its law, set to take effect in January, requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Arizona’s proof of citizenship law, and this new law violates the National Voter Registration Act, according to DOJ. State law already requires Arizona voters in state elections to provide proof of citizenship, but this law extends the requirement to federal election. Registering to vote in federal elections requires attesting under penalty of perjury but doesn’t require proof until this new law. County records or election officials who don’t attempt to verify citizenship status and registers voters without documentation can be charged with a felony. Federal statutes do not require this documentation. Arizona already requires attestation of citizenship on the ballot; lying is a crime.

California now has a law modeled after Texas’ law allowing private citizens to sue people enabling abortions. The Supreme Court refused to block the law so California now has a law allowing private citizens to sue gun manufacturers and distributors whose produces cause them harm. When signing the bill, Gov. Gavin Newsom said “that nearly every industry is held to account when their products cause harm or injury, except one: the gun industry.”

Rules require “reasonable controls” to keep guns from people most likely to cause harm such as systems to prevent gun sales to straw purchasers, gun traffickers, everyone legally prohibited from owning firearms, and those whom the business has a reasonable concern might unlawfully harm themselves or others. A 2005 federal law bans state and federal lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers, but a clause in that law allows lawsuits if a firearms business “knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product” and harm was directly caused because of it.

June 29, 2022

Primaries – June 21 & 28, 2022

Voters went to the polls on June 28, 2022 in Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and South Carolina, in part to decide whether they would support the picks for Deposed Donald Trump. 

In the Democratic world, governors of Colorado, Illinois, and New York—Jared Polis, J.B. Pritzker, and Kathy Hochul, respectively—all won their primaries. For her first general election after her appointment, Hochul faces pro-gun, anti-abortion Rep. Lee Zeldin who beat Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew. Facing incumbent Pritzker in Illinois, Darren Bailey, DDT’s pick, beat Richard Irvin who received $50 million from GOP billionaire Ken Griffin. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent $35 million opposing Irvin, preferring a contest against the weaker, anti-abortion opponent.

Colorado:

Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) will face off against Joe O’Dea, one of the only abortion-rights Republicans winning a statewide primary this year, despite progressive ads for his opponent Ron Hanks.

Pro-DDT election conspiracist Tina Peters lost the primary for Colorado secretary of state. As might be expected, Peters and her followers are declaiming a “stolen” election. “It’s not over,” Peters said. Once again, the only “stolen” elections are those lost by far-right conservatives.  

  • Peters faces multiple felony charges for tampering with election systems.
  • A judge had blocked Peters from overseeing elections because of her failure in her duties as county clerk and being “untruthful” when she brought in someone who was not a county employee to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines.
  • The FBI raided her home after she pressured her employees into not cooperating with a joint local, state, and federal criminal investigation.
  • Conservatives in her former county objected to Peters being secretary of state, and some switched their party affiliations to vote against her. They said that Peters “caused” voter fraud and is a “crook [who] should not be running for secretary of state.” Now she isn’t.

In a heavily-red area of Colorado, DDT-endorsed Rep. Lauren Boebert won the GOP primary, despite her outrageous positions, worsening by the day.

  • A recent one is being “tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution … in a stinking letter [that] means nothing like what they say it does.” The referred letter, by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, stated that the First Amendment builds “a wall of separation between Church and State.” Boebert’s comments seem to reference only Christianity.
  • Earlier this year, her employees said they aren’t paid on time, and Colorado plans an investigation into her misuse of campaign funds.
  • The new owner of the building has threatened to drop her lease, but Boebert has enough money.
  • Last year, her husband made $478,000 from a non-existent company.
  • She frequently tells people to “go back to your country,” including congressional members, and called Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) a terrorist
  • Desperate to please her voters, she asked Transportation Secretary for $33 million funding a bridge despite insulting the gay father about learning “how to chest feed” his children and accused him of making an “R-rated” movie with Jeff Bezos instead of doing his job. Boebert had decried the funding from the infrastructure bill as “wasteful” and full of “slush funds” and “government welfare.” She avoids questions about her hypocrisy.

Illinois:

DDT-supported election-denier Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) beat five-term Rep. Rodney Davis. Miller most recently praised the overturn of Roe v. Wade as “victory for white life” and earlier supported Adolf Hitler for his quote, “Whoever has the youth has the future.” Later she said she misspoke about “white life” but doesn’t withdraw her praise for Hitler.

Mississippi – runoff:

Rep. Michael Guest, who voted for an independent January 6 commission, survived a GOP challenge from Trump loyalist Michael Cassidy. Earlier, he looked like a goner by finishing in second place, but neither candidate had over 50 percent. Cassidy backed off from his support for a universal health insurance programs, but his flip-flop didn’t save him. Guest went negative in ads after Cassidy beat him 47.5-46.9 percent in the primary’s first round, declaring Cassidy “just came to Mississippi from Maryland and only registered to vote here last year” and that he was “grounded and put under an investigation” when he was a Navy Reserve pilot.

In a runoff, Rep. Steven Palazzo was the first incumbent to lose in the state in 60 years after defeating Mike Ezell in the June 7 primary without a 50-percent victory. According to the House Ethics committee, the six-term representative misused almost $200,000 in campaign funds for his home’s rent and repair and asked his aides to work for his campaigns and himself. Palazzo also paid his brother, Kyle Palazzo, $23,000 from campaign funds for unjustified work and may have used his federal position to get his brother reenlisted in the military.

Nebraska:

In the nation’s oddest special election, GOP Mike Flood will finish former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s Republican term after beating Democrat Patty Passing Brooks by four percent. Fortenberry resigned after his sentence of two years of probation for lying to the FBI. Flood’s win is in a redistricted area where 75,000 people living in the current 1st District but not the new one couldn’t vote for their representative and the 69,000 people living in the new district but not the old one can vote for the person who isn’t representing them. That’s about 11 percent of each district. Flood and Brooks go up against each other in November to determine the representative who takes over in January 2023.

Oklahoma:

Rep. Markwayne Mullins and former state House speaker T.W. Shannon are headed to a runoff on August 23 to pick the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate position vacated by Jim Inhofe. The primary had 13 candidates for the position including disgraced former EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, who received only five percent of the vote. Sen. James Lankford managed to win his GOP candidacy by two-thirds of the vote, despite being one of a few senators who decided not to challenge the electoral votes on January 6 after the attack. Conservatives found an opponent for the primary, but Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer received just over one-fourth of the total.

Texas:

Recount: Henry Cuellar, the only anti-abortion Democrat in the U.S. House, won the recount for the primary election by eight additional votes, 289, despite an FBI raid on his home during his campaign.

Indictments: DDT-endorsed candidate for the Texas House has been indicted for impersonating a public servant. There were no specific allegations. Frederick Frazier blamed his opponent, Paul Chabot, for suggesting Frazier pose as a city code compliance officer to remove Chabot’s campaign signs from a Walmart after winning the GOP primary runoff last month.

Utah:

Rep. Blake Moore is the GOP candidate for a second term in the U.S. House although he voted for the independent January 6 commission and aligned himself with GOP rejects Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). He also denounced “the political violence at our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.”

Primaries from June 21: Only one state, Virginia, and Washington, DC had a regular primary on June 21.

Alabama – runoff:

Katie Britt, lately endorsed by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) after competitor Mo Brooks went down in the polls, gave DDT another win, this on as the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. The large Republican vote in the state gives her a good chance in November. DDT earlier endorsed Brooks until the candidate said it was time to move beyond the 2020 election. Less than a year ago, DDT said Britt was “not in any way qualified” to serve in the Senate. MAGA extremists opposed DDT’s establishment choice but perhaps less so since Brooks said he would testify before the House January 6 investigative committee after his loss.

Wes Allen, a state representative, defeated state Auditor Jim Zeigler, for GOP secretary of state candidate, both believing in election conspiracy theories. Allen makes the fourth GOP candidate for the position in different states who believe in the “big lie,” joining ones in New Mexico, Michigan, and Nevada.

Georgia:

Chris West, an Anglo, defeated Jeremy Hunt, the GOP hope in a revised district with a significantly Black voter base. West goes up against Sanford Bishop, who has served the district for three decades. Leading Republicans—Sens. Tom Cotton (AR) and Josh Hawley (MO), former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—had endorsed Hunt.

Rich McCormick won in another congressional district against DDT-endorsed Jake Evans.

Mike Collins soundly beat former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a DDT endorsement who had switched from Democrat to Republican. Jody Hice vacated the seat to lose to Brad Raffensperger for GOP secretary of state candidate. Collins’ win devolved into a nasty fight when he called his Black opponent a “radically anti-white racist.”

Virginia:

Ben Cline, Morgan Griffith, and Rob Wittman, DDT-endorsed incumbents, easily won—two of them uncontested.

Washington, DC:

Democratic incumbent Muriel Bowser defeated three other Democrats in a bid for her third term as mayor.

June 21 made 100 out of 117 wins for DDT’s endorsements, but his record is only 75 percent for nonincumbents, 18 of 24. Of GOP nominees following DDT’s “big lie” about the 2020 election, 52 percent have won their primaries. DDT’s June 28 wins were largely safe seats.

June 28, 2022

January 6, 2021 Hearing – June 28, 2022

The sixth hearing by the House January 6 investigative committee provided only one witness in person, Cassidy Hutchinson. As top deputy to the chief of staff Mark Meadows for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during the insurrection and its leadup, she was in a position to know the palace intrigues: she kept the calendar, attended many meetings, and was on a first-name basis with a majority of the primary players. Before Hutchinson came to the White House, she interned for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the current GOP whip, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Republicans argue that she is nothing but a “low-level staffer,” but Alyssa Farah, former White House communications director, explained her position in the White House as seeing everything and “always on Air Force One.” Her office is next to that of Meadows and only yards from the Oval Office.

Hutchinson knew that DDT was aware of impending violence days before January 6, approved of it, and ordered his armed supporters to head to the Capitol after the rally. He planned to meet them there despite protests from his aides and Secret Service detail. Denied this opportunity, he tried to get his own way through physical means and protect rioters who chanted “hang Mike Pence” because Pence didn’t follow DDT’s orders to overturn the election.

Today’s testimony moved into the uncharted territory of DDT’s temper and the way he exhibited and approved violence. It threw out the DDT’s claim that the insurrection was “a simple protest that got out of hand.” A chronology of events in Hutchinson’s testimony:

January 2, 2021: DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani mentioned to that “we are going to the Capitol, it’s going to be great, the president is going to be there.” When she asked Meadows what Giuliani meant, her boss warned that “things might get real, real bad on January 6.” Intelligence agencies warned in the next few days that the rally could turn violent, but DDT and Meadows did nothing. Meadows supported DDT’s plan to lead his marchers to the Capitol.  According to Hutchinson, Cipollone said that DDT’s going to the Capitol on January 6 would cause legal problems in crimes such as “obstructing justice” and “defrauding elector count.”

Although Hutchinson didn’t know what was said, Meadows talked with Roger Stone and Michael Flynn on the night of January 5 at DDT’s urging. She said she advised Meadows to go to the Willard Hotel “War Room” that evening. He didn’t go, but “dialed in.” On the morning of January 6, Cipollone told Hutchinson that if DDT marched on the Capitol with his supporters “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

January 6, 2021—the rally: Disturbed by empty spaces at his rally at the Ellipse, DDT told aides to let them in. Former deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato told DDT that the crowd was armed, but DDT said that he didn’t “f***ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f***ing mags away,” meaning magnetometers scanning for weapons. Audio of law enforcement before the January 6 rally relayed reports of attendees carrying AR-15 rifles and Glock pistols as well as brass knuckles, knives, tasers, and other weapons confiscated when the crowd passed through the magnetometers. Knowing about the weapons, DDT said, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol.”

January 6, 2021—after the rally: Furious by being told he couldn’t go to the Capitol to join the rioters, DDT “reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel” and then used his free hand to lunge towards “the clavicles” of his Secret Service agent. DDT was not in a Suburban instead of the large limo called “The Beast.” DDT said, “I’m the f***ing president! Take me up to the Capitol now!” Yet the driver took him to the White House.

January 6, 2021—at the White House: Still in a fury, DDT hurled his lunch at the wall, leaving his valet to clean up the streaming ketchup. Meadows and Cipollone met with him about the chants to hang Pence, but DDT refused to do anything to stop the rioters. Hutchinson said both Meadows and DDT seemed indifferent to the threats. Cipollone told Meadows they needed to stop it, but Meadows answered, “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” Her statements confirm other testimony that DDT made this comment as well as testimony that DDT believed that insurrectionists assaulting police officers and ransacking the Capital were doing nothing wrong.

Hutchinson paints a picture of DDT as approving the intentional, not accidental, violence of the day because he wanted the violent mob to attack the Capitol for his benefit, use the violence to disrupt the electoral votes certification, and illegally keep him in the Oval Office—a coup. This evidence could be the basis for criminal charges such as seditious conspiracy against DDT. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Meadows that Cabinet secretaries were considering invoking the 25 Amendment to remove DDT from the Oval Office.

In her testimony, Hutchinson also said that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), advocating for DDT to stay in power by replacing DOJ leadership. Destroying public records is illegal. Meadows also tried to get a presidential pardon after the insurrection, the highest-ranking official seeking this privilege. Giuliani had also indicated an interest in a pardon. Meadows encouraged language about pardons for the rioters in a January 7 speech, but White House lawyers blocked the language.

DDT’s aides called Hutchinson’s testimony a “bombshell” with potentially huge repercussions for Trump. One adviser said, “For the first time since the hearings started, no one is dismissing this.

Even Fox’s chief political correspondent Bret Baier called Hutchinson’s testimony “stunning and compelling” especially because she was in a “proximity of power” to know what was happening. “Nervous” and “blindsided” by the news of Hutchinson’s cooperation, DDT engaged in what his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen described as “distance, disparage, and destroy.” DDT began his negative statements with his usual separation from any person, stating, “I hardly know who this person Cassidy Hutchinson is” and then accused her of being angry because he wouldn’t allow her to join his staff at Mar-a-Lago. About DDT’s rebuttal to the testimony, Baier pointed out that Hutchinson was “under oath” and DDT was “on Truth Social.”

Baier also praised the Republicans who testified before the committee and called them “patriots.”  Fox anchor Martha MacCallum described hearings’ testimonies laying out a “huge, stunning and clear moment” showing a lack of evidence to support Trump’s claims of an unfair election in 2020. Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said that DDT’s lawyers never found evidence of voter fraud and called DDT “unhinged.”  

In addition to other charges, participants in the coup may face charges of witness tampering. At the sixth hearing, committee members expressed their concern that DDT’s allies are trying to intimidate witnesses who cooperate with the special House panel. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s vice-chair said the committee asks all witness if they have been contacted by any former DDT administration or campaign officials “who attempted to influence or impact their testimony.” Thus far, the committee has found at least two examples of potential witness intimidation.

A January 6 witness described receiving a phone call:  

 “What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World.”

“And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”

A second witness described receiving another phone call:

“[Someone] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

Mick Mulvaney, former DDT top official, tweeted that reports of witness tampering could be a serious problem for DDT:

“The Press is going to focus on some sensational revelations from today:  guns, grabbing a secret service agent, etc. But the real bomb that got dropped was the implied charge of witness tampering. If there is hard evidence, that is a serious problem for the former President.”

In February, committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar (R-CA) accused DDT of trying to sway testimony by offering pardons if he’s re-elected as president. He consistently repeats this claim at his rallies related to January 6.

The committee, with the House approval, has already made criminal recommendations for people refusing to comply with subpoenas. Thus far at least 30 people have failed to appear after receiving the committee’s subpoenas, an illegal action. During its yearlong work, the committee interviewed over 1,000 witness and explored over 140,000 documents while following up on 471 tips.

May 25, 2022

Right to Life on GOP Terms

The “right-to-life” Republicans in Congress are praying about the recent mass killing—first ten people dead in Buffalo by a teenage killer who targeted Blacks and now a teenager in Uvalde (TX) who killed at least 19 children under ten years old at an elementary school as well as himself and two adults. Before going to the school, he shot his grandmother who is in critical condition. It is the 30th school shooting thus far in 2022 and at least 200 mass shooting. Yet they do nothing.

GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, wrote, “we have to protect” children but didn’t indicate how. His recent tweets bitterly complained about the “Radical Left” and his strong opposition to any gun control efforts, bragging that he “voted NO on two gun control measures.” As a “proud supporter of the Second Amendment” (meaning unfettered ownership of guns), he “will do everything I can to oppose gun grabs from the far Left.” Now he declares himself “heartbroken” and choked up when he talked about the tragedy.

Three days after the Uvalde school shooting, Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will appear at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Leadership Forum with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) canceled his appearance. Twenty-three years ago, NRA had a conference in Denver shortly after Colorado’s mass shooting at Columbine High School, killing 13 and wounding another 20. During the 2018 election cycle, Cruz received the largest amount of donations from gun rights backers at $311,151.

The NRA is blocking the Second Amendment and banning the presence of any weapons for DDT’s appearance. Attendees will be searched.

No Republicans complain about suspending the Second Amendment in some cases, but GOP legislators and far-right are using the same old canard about politicizing the Buffalo murder with a domestic terrorism bill including white supremacy. Fox’s Tucker Carlson called such a bill “scary,” but Buffalo’s mass shooter wrote he had been radicalized on 4chan and referred to the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, fears of whites being replaced through immigration, that Carlson promoted on his program over 400 times. Conspiracy theorist and Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers pushed the lie of the shooting being a “false flag,” staged by Democrats. A Proud Boys group called the bill “the creation of an anti-white secret police.”

Democrats introduced the original version of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act a few weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and Democrats, joined by GOP Adam Kinzinger, passed a newer iteration of the bill after the Buffalo mass shooting. It would create dedicated domestic terrorism departments in the FBI, DOJ, and Homeland Security to monitor, analyze, investigate, and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. The U.S. has no law against general domestic terrorism, but the addition of “terrorism enhancement” in federal cases can add 15 years to a sentence.

The bill would also establish an interagency task force to investigate white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies. A special agent in each field office would investigate hate crime events and connections to domestic terrorism. According to FBI Director Chris Wray, the growing threats of domestic terrorism in the U.S. with “racially motivated violent extremism” are the majority of the agency’s domestic terrorism probes. Senate Republicans have promised to block the legislation which would require 60 votes in that chamber.

The far-right Gateway Pundit falsely stated the goal of the bill was to “silence conservatives and those Americans who disagree with them.” Carlson complained the bill doesn’t specifically mention “BLM or antifa” and lied about the bill redefining domestic terrorism to include hate crimes. About three-fourths of voters support the bill

Lachlan Murdoch, CEO and executive chairman of Fox’s parent company, said white supremacy just “comes with the territory” for Fox being “number one.” He shrugged off the increasing polarization of society since Fox was created. Media Matters senior fellow Matthew Gertz believes “Lachlan Murdoch has apparently given up on his obvious lie that Tucker Carlson doesn’t promote ‘replacement theory.’ He is making it quite clear that Fox prioritizes white supremacist content.”

Republican legislators will also be traumatized by the update of the DOJ use-of-force policy, ordering federal agents to intervene if other law enforcement officials use excessive force. Taking effect July 19, the policy does not cover non-federal law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies outside the DOJ. Federal law enforcement officers must also act if someone needs medical care and repeats current policies that officers should not fire their weapons at people solely because they are fleeing or fire into vehicles to make them stop. Deadly force should not be used “against persons whose actions are a threat solely to themselves or property unless an individual poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others in close proximity.” With new priorities, AG Merrick Garland’s memo tells officers and agents to first select de-escalating confrontations for “voluntary compliance from a subject before using force.”

The current politically conservative Supreme Court majority may decide to overturn the new DOJ policy, just as they overturned existing law this week in order to kill two Arizona men. Six conservative justices used an anti-terrorism law to rule that convicted felons are not allowed to present evidence in federal court about ineffective counsel or present new evidence. Clarence Thomas declared that the two men have no federal standing to sue because the state denied their appeals, writing that this has happened “only rarely.” Despite this violation to Sixth Amendment rights to due process and habeas corpus, Arizona may execute two more men

Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision “perverse” and “illogical.”  She wrote:

“The Court’s decision will leave many people who were convicted in violation of the Sixth Amendment to face incarceration or even execution without any meaningful chance to vindicate their right to counsel.”

Legal experts agreed, including University of Texas Law Professor Lee Kovarsky.  He tweeted:

“Since representation in state post-conviction proceedings is a national embarrassment, it means that it’s not a really useful site of Sixth Amendment enforcement.”

One of the men to be executed, Barry Jones, may not have murdered anyone, meaning the so-called “right-to-life” justices are killing an innocent man. A witness said that Jones hit a four-year-old girl who died 12 hours later. Three experts, however, said that the girl could not have died from that supposed injury within that time period. Others, including the girl’s mother and uncle, were suspect. The mother was subsequently convicted of child abuse, and before her death, the girl said a boy had hit her in the stomach with a metal bar. Jones’ lawyer didn’t present any of this evidence at the trial.

In a 1984 ruling (Strickland v. Washington), the Supreme Court determined a “deficient” lawyer’s performance that “prejudiced the defense” can toss out a conviction, but Thomas’ opinion claimed the law restricts federal courts from rejecting state courts’ opinions no matter how poorly they were decided. In essence, the six justices changed the law and “all but overrules” Martinez v. Ryan (2012) and Trevino v. Thaler (2013), according to Sotomayor. Therefore, states can kill people wrongly convicted, and the federal government will not step in despite the Sixth Amendment guaranteeing “criminal defendants the right to the effective assistance of counsel at trial.”

As Ian Millhiser wrote, three justices—the minority—believe “the purpose of a criminal trial is to determine whether or not someone is actually guilty of a crime—and to do so through an adversarial process where both sides are represented by lawyers who can present the best possible legal and factual case for the prosecution and the defense.” Clarence differs, according to Millhiser:

“[Clarence] deems federal habeas proceedings problematic because they ‘override] the States’ core power to enforce criminal law.’ When a federal court deems someone’s conviction constitutionally inadequate, Thomas complains, it ‘overrides the State’s sovereign power to enforce ‘societal norms through criminal law,’” and ‘disturbs the State’s significant interest in repose for concluded litigation.’”

And Arizona will kill two more men after the conservative justices refused to intervene in the killing of Clarence Dixon.

At one time, only Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with Thomas. Now Scalia is dead, and Republican presidents have appointed five justices who agree with Thomas.

Civil war—that’s what DDT thinks is imminent according to his reposting on his personal Twitter-like “Truth Social.” The killings in Buffalo are only the latest example of how irresponsible violent rhetoric can lead to physical violence.

  • Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s newly elected GOP gubernatorial candidate, wrote about a potential “Hitlerian putsch” from the left requiring a civil war with the military fighting back.  
  • The head of the Claremont Institute, a think tank of members such as John Eastman who created the strategy to overturn Biden’s election, said that conservatives must fight against “woke communists,” false meaning all Democrats.
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-SC) promised “bloodshed”; former U.S. Joseph diGenova told Laura Ingraham on her podcast that the “civil war” requires people to buy guns.
  • Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said that “America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry.” He shared the meme that the right has “8 trillion bullets” and would win a civil war.

GOP “right to life” ends with birth.

May 18, 2022

 Sad Events of the Week

Monday the Supreme Court legalized bribery—again. A 6-3 vote struck down another McCain-Feingold campaign finance act provision, eliminating the restriction on candidates’ ability to collect donations post-election to pay off personal loans to their campaigns. The winning case by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) permits lawmakers to give political favors to donors who put money directly into their bank accounts. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote the decision will “bring this country’s political system into further disrepute.” Cruz, who put over half the justices onto the high court, still hadn’t paid back $545,000 of the $1 million plus he loaned his campaign.

Cruz opposed the law limiting the $250,000 payoff with money raised more than 20 days after the election. It used the rationale that donations after the election don’t go toward political speech but only line candidates’ pockets. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion stated that the law fails even lenient constitutional scrutiny because it “burdens core political speech without proper justification.” Yet after-the-fact donations don’t fund any “electoral speech.” Kagan condemned the practice as “sordid bargains” and “dirty dealings,” but Roberts called “influence and access.” Wealthy political candidates (aka Republicans) won’t have to suffer “non-existent” burdens, but the Supreme Court will force real burdens on pregnant women searching for legal abortions—at least legal in some states after SCOTUS finishes with them.

Mark Joseph Stern writes:

“Kagan and Roberts’ disagreement runs much deeper than the facts of this one case. It is, at bottom, a dispute about the government’s authority to safeguard democracy by outlawing the kind of self-dealing that makes lawmakers responsive to a small set of oligarchs rather than the people. [Kagan] provided multiple examples of these contributions facilitating corruption: In Ohio, the governor handed out more than 200 state contracts to his postelection donors. In San Diego, three city council members voted to benefit lobbyists who raised money to retire their campaign debts. In California, a congresswoman raised donations from lobbyists to pay off her personal campaign loans—at 18 percent interest. There’s nothing to stop politicians from using postelection contributions to pay off interest payments, allowing them to ‘turn a tidy profit,’ in Kagan’s words.

“There is an undercurrent of disgust in Kagan’s opinion, an evident revulsion toward the majority’s endorsement of a captured democracy. Her previous dissents in campaign finance cases evince outrage over the damage inflicted by the court; in Cruz, she sounds not just angry but horrified and sickened by what her colleagues have wrought. Our political system, she suggests, is already in ‘disrepute,’ and Monday’s decision will only ‘further’ its collapse by granting First Amendment protections to bribery.”

Scientific American has a piece by Wendy E. Parmet on how the Supreme Court has become bad for people’s health:

“For most of American history, courts treated the protection of health as an important aspect of the social contract, one that is implicitly woven into our laws. This centrality of public health to law—encapsulated by the legal maxim salus populi suprema lex (the health and well-being of the public is the highest law)—was widely accepted in 19th- and 20th-century state and federal court decisions. The most famous constitutional case evincing health’s centrality was the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a Cambridge (MA) vaccination mandate. In it, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, ‘There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members.’”

In a 1987 case about whether a school could legally fire a teacher with tuberculosis, the high court adopted the legal test from the American Medical Association and stated, “In making these findings, courts normally should defer to the reasonable medical judgments of public health officials.” Gone, however, are the days of using medical information. Now the conservatives’ anti-science aggression rules the court with no concern for health or expertise, especially after Amy Coney Barrett joined the four ultra-conservative justices.

They ignored OSHA’s “vaccine or test” mandate although agreeing it would avoid 65,000 deaths. Some justices said that preventing deaths from COVID may not be a compelling state interest. In his draft opinion overturning Roe, Samuel Alito ignored any harm to women’s health. Gone is any attention to evidence of scientific experts; now conservative justices use their “intuition.” In the Roe argument, Roberts even said “put that data aside” about scientific evidence. Alito based his opinion on the practice of law before 1868 back to medieval times instead of the 21st century position that abortion is safe and critical to women’s health.

In his statements about the killings of ten and wounding another three, most of them Black and over 50 years of age, President Joe Biden condemned the action by an 18-year-old White man in Buffalo as “domestic terrorism.” He and the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, visited Buffalo and met with first responders and victims’ families on Tuesday. In his brief address, he talked about the hate coming from the “great replacement” theory running “through the media and politics, the internet [that] “has radicalized angry alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced.” That theory supported by half the Republicans is Democrats are deliberately replacing “white Americans” with minorities, especially immigrants. In calling on people to “condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,” Biden said, “White supremacy is a poison … running through our body politic.”

The Israel army admitted they “might” have killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but it didn’t stop police from attacking mourners of the beloved woman when they tried to carry her casket on their shoulders. Abu Akleh was fatally shot while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.  Fellow journalists witnessing the shootin said Israeli forces had fired on them. Israel’s prime minister and other senior officials initially tried to blame Palestinian militants. At an East Jerusalem hospital, mourners were beaten with clubs, horrifying viewers watching it on live television. To support its claim that mourners waved Palestinian flags and changed nationalist slogans, Israeli police edited drone video to remove the police first charging the mourners and then slowed down footage of a man waving his arms in frustration to claim he was throwing objects at the police. 

Thousands of people joined the procession to a funeral at a Catholic church in Jerusalem’s Old City. Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, top Catholic clergyman in Israel, condemned the beatings and accused authorities of violating human rights and disrespecting the Catholic Church. When Abu Akleh was killed, the Palestinian-American, Catholic reporter who worked 25 years for the Al Jazeera satellite channel wore a blue vest clearly marked “Press.” The international researchers at the Dutch Bellingcat supported witness accounts that Israeli fire killed Abu Akleh.

If you face price gouging at the gas pump, thank a Republican. Along with other GOP legislators, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) slammed the investigation of oil companies making excessive profits as “socialism” like in “Soviet Russia.” (Never mind that Russia stopped being “Soviet” over 30 years ago.) A week ago, she blamed Biden for the high prices and tweeted it’s time to “get these prices under control” because they are “taking a devastating toll on the pocketbooks of families.” Thanks to Rodgers and her colleagues, huge oil company profits—which they call free enterprise—take precedence over families—and maintaining higher inflation will get them re-elected. The bill didn’t set price caps; it just permitted the Federal Trade Commission to look into the possibility of price gouging. Republicans on the House Rules Committee blocked the advancing of H.R. 7688, the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act; the GOP calls it the “Socialist Energy Price Fixing Act.” Wait until Republicans take over the house and then decide to investigate—maybe even block—price gouging. Voila! Republicans reduce inflation!  

Fox’s Tucker Carlson again gets an award for being the most disgusting host on the network. In another program for appearance on Russian state TV, he called Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) “Eyepatch McCain” because Crenshaw criticized congressional members voting against aid for Ukraine. Crenshaw said:

“People are saying ‘we can’t put baby formula on our shelves, but we are sending money to Ukrainians? My response to that is, do you know how much baby formula you can buy with $40 billion? None, because it is not a money issue, it is a manufacturing issue.” 

Crenshaw wears an eyepatch because he was hit by an IED in Afghanistan during the Navy Seal’s third tour there. In a medically-induced coma, Crenshaw was sent to Germany where the remains of his right eye were scraped out and a copper wire was removed from his other eye, requiring two years for complete recovery. After treatment, he deployed to Bahrain and South Korea. Crenshaw said that a glass eye is “very distracting to people” and makes him feel “self-conscious.” He wears the patch primarily when he meets strangers or appears at political events.

Born in 1969, Carlson was a child during the later years of the Vietnam War, ending in April 1975. The military draft ended two years earlier, and the U.S. created an all-volunteer force. Carlson never got closer to the military than criticizing it during his talk shows.

One really bizarre story! Nick Fuentes, the 23-year-old far-right founder of group for the principles of American Nationalism, Christianity, and Traditionalism (aka bigotry), also leads the unofficial “Groypers,” who think extreme right-wingers aren’t far enough right. Sometimes considered gay because he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he said:

“I think if anything—if anything—it makes me less gay. If anything, it makes me not gay—as opposed to less gay, not that there’s any gay, but it makes me not gay.”

He continued by saying that never having a relationship or sex with a woman makes a man more heterosexual because “dating women is gay.” Hmmm. The question is why right-wingers, including Christian evangelicals, are so obsessed with sex.

May 11, 2022

Republicans Discover Leaks May Come from Conservatives, With to Protesting Protests

Eight days ago, the news was filled with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s rough draft of a majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Republicans were outraged as well along with half the media. It filled the news with a huge number of articles about who did it and how horrible they were. Six days later, Washington Post reported another leak from someone close to the court’s most conservative members. Supposedly Chief Justice John Roberts told his jurist colleagues in a private conference that he would both uphold the Mississippi law and leave both Roe and he later Casey v. Planned Parenthood in place. Therefore, Alito wrote the opinion because, as the most senior justice in the majority opinion, Clarence Thomas could select the opinion author. Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Roberts was trying to persuade Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to join him in moving more incrementally. Roberts’ reputation is on the line because it’s his court.

In the past, Roberts has opposed the Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals because a similar law in Texas was struck down in 2016. The legal principle “stare decisis” means the court should treat “like cases alike.” Last fall, Roberts was in the minority when he declined to join the majority that stated abortion Texas’ bounty law could not be challenged in federal court before it went into effect.    

Note, however, that neither Republicans nor the media have said almost nothing about this particular leak. Was it because it came from “the court’s most conservative members.”

Before this report, Cruz repeatedly stated that the leak came from some horrible liberal because “some left-wing presumably law clerk wanted to put political pressure on the five Justices” in the document’s majority. “They wanted to put heat and they wanted to invoke politics to try to get them to change their vote. And by the way,” Cruz continued, “if that left-wing law clerk succeeds, it would be the most grotesque politicization of the Supreme Court in the history of our nation.” Asked for evidence, Cruz answered, “Because I’m not a moron.” He didn’t give any evidence for that statement either. Cruz was not happy when the journalist suggested a conservative inside the Court leaked the opinion because “they supported the original [Roe] decision and wants to lock them [the Justices] back in.”

Cruz accused peaceful pro-choice protesters of stirring up violence but told Fox’s Sean Hannity that the January 6 insurrectionists were all “peacefully protesting.” No protesters outside the homes of justices have caused trouble, damaged property, or hurt anyone—let alone kill them. They also aren’t making nooses and chanting “Hang Mike Pence” about a justice as DDT’s supporters did about their Republican vice president. Shortly after that attack, however, Cruz described the rioters as “terrorists assaulting police officers, tragically murdering a police officer.”

Cruz now has a new topic, the ethics and legality of people protesting at the homes of justices. It started with one of Brett Kavanaugh’s neighbors standing across from his house with signs and hangers, a symbol of illegal abortions. Since then protests moved to the homes of Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Congress has passed a law protecting them although no one else doctors performing abortions and their patients have not received the same protection. Republicans ignore the fact that men and right-wingers are far more likely to be violent than women and progressives.

The conspiracy theories moved to Alito. On Friday, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students4Life, tweeted, “Justice Alito and his family have been moved to an undisclosed location. Let us pray for he [sic] and his family’s safety.” On Monday, Politico wrote the reports seem to come from conservative lawyer and author Ilya Shapiro who had said on Fox he “heard that Justice Alito has been taken to an undisclosed location with his family.” He didn’t know where it was or whether it was true. According to Shapiro, “I forget whether I saw the rumor on Twitter or somebody told me. I don’t know.” Cruz poured fuel on the flames:

“Shameful. And the Biden White House is encouraging this lawless mob intimidation.”

Cruz is well-known for spreading evidence-free rumors about a variety of subjects.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a supporter of the insurrectionists, has been highly critical of the peaceful protesters at the justices’ homes. Her constituents didn’t take it lightly. This image was headed “Speaking of safety and security for public officials… 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted to confirm the anti-abortion justices, called the police after her constituents left a polite chalk message on the sidewalk in front of her house asking her to please vote for a bill to protect women’s rights. She called it “defacement of public property in front of our home”; the Bangor police called it “not overtly threatening.” Collins said she supported both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch because they promised her in meetings and during confirmation hearings that Roe was “settled law.” As Melissa Ryan tweeted, “Susan Collins will put more effort into protecting herself from sidewalk chalk artists than she will protecting everyone else’s right to an abortion.”

Tucker Carlson argued that attempts to influence “any judge, juror, witness, or court officer” could be fined or imprisoned. According to the Supreme Court case Cox v. Louisiana (1965), Carlson may be correct. The court’s opinion stated that “mob law is the very antithesis of due process.” Any trial against protesters, however, would have to prove that the attempt was to influence instead of expressing outrage.

The government has also placed fences and barricades around the Supreme Court building to put protesters at a distance. Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. attorney general in Alabama, tweeted, “Odd that the Supreme Court is acting like they’re under assault, when it’s actually us who are under attack by them.” In 2014, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law allowing a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics providing abortion services because the violated the First Amendment’s right to protest. According to the Supreme Court, the barricades are a violation of free speech. And Alito’s rough draft states that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to privacy.

Justice Clarence Thomas worries that protest does not bode well for a “free society,” in a speech at a judicial conference of 11th Circuit judges and attorneys, he complained about how the judiciary is threatened if people are unwilling to “live with outcomes we don’t agree with.” Thomas’ wife lobbies for the people and groups who appear in front of Thomas in the court, and she was part of the instigation before the insurrection at the Capitol, lobbying then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with overturning Biden’s election because she couldn’t “live with outcomes.”  While unethically supporting his wife’s lobbying and overturning a 49-year-old law, he berated younger Americans for not respecting the law. He wants people to comply with the law but belongs to the cabal overturning the law by reversing two earlier Supreme Court decisions permitting women autonomy over their bodies.

As incensed as Republicans are about leaking a Roe v. Wade decision, the first decision for Roe happened almost 50 years ago. David Beckwith published a story in Time magazine that the court was ready to legalize abortion. It was detailed—when justices met and Justice William O. Douglas rage at Justice Warren Burger’s delay tactics to subvert the outcome. Months before the decision was announced, Douglas’ memo to fellow justices and their clerks describing Burger’s inappropriate power plays was on the front page of the July 4, 1972 Washington Post. Burger did put off the decision until the next session when the court heard the case again in October 1972. Beckwith bird-dogged the case and published the article on January 22, 1973, although it was supposed to come out on January 17, when the announcement was supposed to be announced.

Burger delayed the announcement, however, because he didn’t want to face President Richard Nixon while presiding over his second inauguration. When Time printed the story, Burger was furious because it came out a few hours before the court’s announcement. Burger met with its editors and insisted that Beckwith be fired for “espionage.”

Justice Harry Blackmun was also furious about Beckwith’s article because he planned to make his announcement the apex of his career. Former President Lyndon Johnson, however, scooped everyone: he died on the day of the announcement. The leak, by the way, came from Larry Hammond, a clerk for Justice Lewis Powell. He suffered no repercussions because Powell told Burger “that Hammond had been double-crossed.”  

The right-wingers are proving they can go farther right. Republican Ryan Kelley, running for Michigan’s governor is opposing democracy. He said, “Socialism—it starts with democracy. That’s the ticket for the left. They want to push this idea of democracy, which turns into socialism, which turns into communism in every instance.” The concept comes from the philosophy of the John Birch society opposing one person one vote to protect them from minority people voting. Christian evangelicals in the U.S. are converting to the Russian Orthodox Church in a rejection of democracy. They like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism. 

What’s next?

April 24, 2022

Russia Invades Ukraine: Day 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine Enters Second Month

During strongly-stated speech from President Joe Biden while visiting Poland and Brussels, President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not stay in power. Republicans used his words to again attack Biden and ignored the terrible devastation in Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. For 32 days, Putin’s troops are flattening that committed only the sin of wanting to be a democracy.

After significant losses Russia withdrew troops surrounding Kyiv, reducing its advance and forcing troops to regroup in Belarus. Russia is also sending short range ballistic missiles called Iskander to southeastern Belarus. These missiles have decoys that can evade air-defense radars and trick heat-seeking missiles. Putin’s goal is to separate Ukraine into two countries similar to North and South Koream according to Ukrainian intelligence.

Saturday night, Russians rained down phosphorus bombs, known for their terrifying burns through flesh. Sick patients and hospital staff were taken from a facility in Mariupol “by force” at gunpoint, probably to Russia.

Invaders also destroyed a laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and radiation monitors around the plant no longer operate. In 1986, the plant suffered the world’s worst nuclear disaster when a reactor exploded. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, Russia may still employ nuclear weapons.  Russian forces fired at a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv as well as fuel depots in Lviv and Kyiv.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that Russians have taken over 2,000 children out of Mariupol and deported them into Russia. Russians are driving through Mariupol claiming on loudhailers that Odessa has fallen and refugee havens are rejecting fleeing people. Those who come out of shelters are taken to “filtration camps” and then moved on to Russia. Nazis used the same tactic during the Holocaust. About 400,000 Ukrainian civilians may have been forcibly moved to Russia. Their forces also hit a second Holocaust memorial, this one in Kharkiv, in their self-identified attempt to “denatizify” Ukraine.

The Russian advance is still stalled ten miles from Kyiv while Ukrainians have pushed back the front line from 15 miles to 30 miles east of the capital. Russian troops have been driven out of the Kyiv suburb Makariv that has a highway to the west. This would block Russian occupation from the northwest. Ukraine has also taken back several villages in Kharkiv, including one 20 miles from the Russian border.   

A major discussion has been whether Russia will take the “graceful way out of his failing invasion. According to a rumor, Russia may posit it has sufficiently completed “the main tasks of the first stage of the operation” and weakened Ukrainian forces, therefore able to focus only on “liberating” Ukraine’s breakaway eastern Donbas region. These comments, however, may be only for the consumption of the Russian people.

Russia has up to a 60-percent failure in its “precision-guided” missiles, part of the reason that the country couldn’t reach even its basic objectives such as neutralizing Ukraine’s air force. Failures could be anything from a missile failing to explode on compact to launch failures.

The Russian military is running out of ammunition and supplies. Some of these were destroyed when Ukraine sank Russia’s large ship, Orsk, at the Russian-occupied southeastern port of Berdyansk in the Azov Sea about 45 miles southwest of Mariupol. With weapons and supplies for Russians fighting in Mariupol, the ship can carry 20 tanks, 45 armored vehicles, and 400 people. The fire spread to other vessels, an ammunition depot, and a fuel terminal.

Russians are literally running out of food in grocery stores. Some stores have a 22-pound limit per customer, and people literally attack anyone believed to be over-buying, even fighting for a bag of sugar after a government ban on its exports. Foreign goods such as cars and household items are wildly inflated in price.

In more fiscal damage to Russia, Qatar stated it will not make any new investments there until there is more “political stability.” Qatar has sizable investments in the Russian oil giant Rosneft. In Russia’s stock market, only 15 percent of listed shares will be open for trading, foreigners are blocked from selling shares, and short selling is banned. Short-selling is selling stock a person doesn’t own and hopes to buy it back at a lower price before delivery time.

Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, was not seen in public for 12 days until he appeared for a few seconds on Russian TV on March 24 because of a heart attack, according to a Ukrainian official. A top Putin aide, Anatoly Chubais, resigned and escaped the country. Central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina tried to resign, but Putin would not allow her to leave. Since the ruble started plunging, Nabiullina more than doubled the key interest rate and put capital controls to stop the cash outflow. So many people left the bank that the IT department didn’t even have enough employees to terminate accounts and other departments had heavier workloads.

As of four days ago, up to 15,000 Russian military members may have been killed, according to NATO which estimates as many as 40,000 Russian casualties in the past four weeks including killed, wounded, and missing in action.  Losses have caused at least 20 of the 115-120 battalion tactical groups to be “no longer combat effective” from losses. Russia has been losing troops and equipment at unsustainable rates

At least 15 top Russian officials have been killed—seven generals, seven colonels, and one commander. That’s the highest number of casualties in the Russian military since World War II. Because of the 50-percent casualty rate in his unit, a soldier ran over his lieutenant-general with an armored vehicle and killed him

Generals killed in battle is a rare occurrence. Retired four-star general and former CIA director David Petraeus blamed the breakdown of “their command and control” and the Ukrainian jamming of communication and secure coms requiring use of a single channel. He said:

“So what happens is the column gets stopped, an impatient general is sitting back there in his armored—or whatever—vehicle, he goes forward to find out what’s going on because there’s no initiative [among junior officers]. “He gets up there, and the Ukrainians have very, very good snipers, and they’ve just been picking them off, left and right.”

A member of the DailyKos staff, formerly serving in the military, has a more complete explanation of why Russian generals and colonels are dying at such a fast pace. And why Russians are unsuccessful at achieving their goals. It’s all about the organization—or lack of it. He summarizes the problem with a comment from an European diplomat who said about top officers, “They’re having to go to the front line to make things happen, which is putting them at much greater risk than you would normally see.”

Two Russian soldiers were overheard complaining about Putin’s “bullshit” war against Ukraine in an intercepted phone call. One soldier talked about the “shitshow” in which Ukrainian forces “tore apart” a column of Russian forces and complete disarray. Fifty percent of his unit suffered from frostbite on their feet but won’t be treated in the hospital. Originally, General-Lieutenant Yakov Rezantsev, the commander of the soldier’s unit, said the “special operation” would be over in “only a few hours.” The soldier also complained about Kevlar vests lacking the hard-armor panel and a Russian plane dropping a bomb on them. Dead bodies rode with the unit for five days. On Facebook, a Russian soldier blamed his commander, Col. Yury Medvedev, “for the deaths of his friends.” After he ran over the colonel with a tank, “Medvedev was awarded the Order of Courage.”  

A dozen soldiers from the Russian National Guard refused to deploy to Ukraine and were subsequently fired. A captured Russian soldier said Putin’s “death squads” kill deserters who refuse to take part in his war.

A recent survey of U.S. opinion regarding the Ukraine invasion:

  • 83 percent: Ukraine did not attack Russia first.
  • 70 percent: Ukraine is not governed by Nazis or neo-Nazis.
  • 57 percent: Following the Russian disinformation, they don’t know if the U.S. has biological weapons in Ukraine.
  • 74 percent: The U.S. should admit Ukrainian war refugees.
  • 71 percent: No U.S. company should do business in Russia.
  • 58 percent: Biden has done a good job in avoiding direct military conflict with Russia.

During the entire devastation in Ukraine while thousands of people lose their lives and millions lose their homes, conservative, mostly white men have whined about not having freedom because they might be required to have a vaccination against a deadly disease. After three weeks of being offensive, assaulting people, and playing macho, they’re going home. They plan a “more southern route, so it’s a little warmer” than where they are in Maryland. The snowflakes are decamping. But they claim to return—maybe when they like the weather a bit more?

February 21, 2022

Russian Danger Accelerates

The possibility of war caused by Russia invading Ukraine hourly grows more possible. Today, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine after he recognized the independence of two eastern Ukrainian regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, with separatist populations. Putin called his move a “peacekeeping” effort, but both his actions are provocations with a pretext to invade Ukraine, destroying a cease-fire agreement from 2015.

Putin claims “Ukraine has never had its own authentic statehood”: the region he declared independent has heavy mining and steel-producing capacity as well as big coal reserves. He also claims that the people of the region want to be a part of Russia, but separatists control only one-third of the areas, about 6,500 square miles. Mass protests in 2014 overturned the pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine, and Russia invaded and illegally annexed Ukraine’s peninsula, Crimea, on the bottom of Ukraine. Kremlin-supported separatists then took over the eastern industrial areas of Donetsk and Luhansk on the Russian border, seizing government buildings and proclaiming “people’s republics.” They declared independence from Ukraine, likely using Russian troops and weapons. Since 2014, fighting in the area has taken 14,000 lives, and over two million people fled the area. About 2.3 million and 1.5 million people, respectively, remain in the areas.

Russia and Ukraine agreed on the Minsk peace deal in 2015, brokered by France and Germany to stop the conflict between Ukraine and its Russian-supported separatists. Ukraine agreed to give Donetsk and Luhansk special status and certain autonomy to regain Ukrainian control of its border with Russia. With almost 200,000 soldiers along its border with Ukraine, Russia claims territory beyond their agreement with Ukraine, in regions controlled by the Ukrainian army. Separatist leaders called for civilian evacuation to Russia; over 60,000 evacuees were in Russia by today.

Putin declared Ukraine is operated by a “puppet regime” which the U.S. and the West controls. “They are a part of our culture,” he asserted, and threatened Ukraine for removing some Soviet-era statues. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Putin’s actions a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, probably a unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk agreements to end war in the Donbas area.

Biden followed up yesterday’s call with Putin by blocking U.S. investment and trade in the Ukrainian breakaway regions and sanctions who operates in those areas. Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated:

“We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately. To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.”

Biden also talked with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. They talked about how to continue their coordinated response. The U.S. congressional delegation to the Munich Security Conference pledged to “work toward” emergency legislation that “will best support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine, and support freedom and safety around the world.” Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led the bipartisan group. Zelensky plans a relocation to Lviv, 50 miles from the Polish border in west Ukraine.

Before Putin took these aggressive actions, Biden had agreed to meet with him “in principle” if Russia did not invade Ukraine. Russia didn’t rule it out, but U.S. intelligence found that Russian military officials were ordered to proceed with an invasion. Last Friday Biden had declared that Putin already determined an invasion of Ukraine. Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he would meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva on Thursday; Blinken said the meeting would not happen if Russia invades Ukraine.

Putin’s massive military drills along Ukraine’s borders, rescheduled from this coming October, were to end Sunday, but Russia extended the ones in Belarus, a Russian ally, to Ukraine’s north. The Belarus Defense Ministry reported Russian troops, as many as 30,000 and the most since the end of the Cold War, may stay there indefinitely until NATO forces pull back from countries near Russia and Belarus. Shellings in residential Ukraine, cease-fire violations, have accelerated in false-flag operations as an excuse for Russian invasion.

The U.S. notified Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights in Geneva about a Russian list of Ukrainian citizens to be killed or sent to detention camps after its invasion and occupation. These are people opposed to Russian actions—journalists, anti-corruption activists, ethnic and religious minority members, LGBTQ people, and dissidents from Russia and Belarus living in Ukraine.

Russia could invade one of three ways: one huge attack, bites to dismantle Ukraine, or a python-style squeeze. The last could use the Russian troops in Belarus and save moving tanks into Ukraine. A single blow, believed most likely by U.S. military and intelligence official, could be the biggest and most violent war for European territory since the 1945 Nazi surrender.

The crisis is expected to create havoc for Russian, Ukrainian, and wider global stock markets on Tuesday, after Vladimir Putin upped the ante in a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war. Russians and Ukrainians have already lost tens of billions of dollars in assets, beginning a worse disaster. Ruble value dropped 3.3 percent. Moscow’s dollar-denominated RTX index stock markets plunged 13.2 percent, and the ruble-based MOEX lost 10.5 percent. Current tensions also caused higher oil prices, over three percent. West Texas Intermediate is up to about $94 a barrel, and the global Brent benchmark is about $96 after flat prices last week.

The current situation parallels that of the 1930s when conservatives supported Hitler. In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, a conservative, permitted Adolf Hitler to annex part of Czechoslovakia to “protect” ethnic Germans there with Hitler’s promise of peace. Chamberlain kept his policy of “appeasement” for another year until Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  

Under the leadership of Fox network host Tucker Carlson, formerly fringe and now leading Republicans believe Putin’s disinformation and favor him, once again trailing after Deposed Donald Trump (DDT). Every night Tucker sings his praise of Putin, and far-right GOP congressional members typically use Russian talking points in communications and hearings. Carlson is so pleasing to Russians that he is featured on the country’s state-TV. “[Putin] just wants to keep his western borders secure,” Carlson asserted. As for Ukraine, “it’s run by a dictator who’s friends with everyone in Washington.” All lies but Russians are ecstatic.

On his website Bulwark, Republican Charlie Sykes wrote about “the ultimate stooges,” quoting Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council.

Carlson pulled in former Democratic representative and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard who has moved far right. She echoed Carlson’s Ukrainian dictator lies by falsely claiming Zelensky is anti-democracy when he “arrests political opposition, throws them in jail, shuts down TV stations that are critical to him.”

Fox “stooge” Maria Bartiromo, a “conspiracy maven formerly known as the ‘money honey,’” insists the possible Russia invasion was created to distract from Hillary Clinton and “from what she did.” She linked Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, to Clinton as her former campaign senior policy adviser. Bartiromo falsely accuses Sullivan of “peddling this Russia collusion lie.”

Laura Ingraham, part of the Fox conspiracy team, claims that Biden uses Russia to get the media “off the raging crime, raging COVID, raging inflation story.”

Columnist A.J. Delgado, formerly caught up in a scandal when she became pregnant by DDT’s aide Jason Miller who gave her an abortion pill without telling her, came out with huge support for Russia and Vladimir Putin:

“If Putin wants to throw some cold water on American expansionism and interventionism, for whatever reason, that’s a good thing. We’re overly aggressive sometimes and NEED another bully on the world stage, to check our worst impulses.”

“Why am I supposed to despise Putin so much? Does he have firing squads? (Nope. Meanwhile, Castro did you and you Dems spent DECADES ‘both sides”ing him.) Does Russia have freedom of movement, free enterprise, etc? Yes. Are women stoned? No. Are dogs tortured for festivals? No.”

Other right-wing commentators beat the same drums: Sohrab Ahmari smearing Ukrainians as anti-Semitic fascists, ignoring the anti-Semitic fascist Russians and Candace Owens wanting the U.S. to invade Canada to protect the trucker convoy.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) lied about Ukraine being Hillary Clinton’s top donor for her campaign. Foreign governments cannot legally donate to U.S. candidates. The list of Clinton donors, none of them from Ukraine. 

Former never-Trumper but now faithful MAGA Ohioan JD Vance, working hard to be elected to the Senate, said, “I don’t really care what happened to Ukraine one way or another.”

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar wrote the U.S. shouldn’t go to Ukraine after “we just lost Afghanistan to sandal-wearing goat herders.” He also opposed Ukraine joining NATO before denigrating the organization.

Chuck Todd, self-identified Democrat and host of Meet the Press, joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in presenting false Russian talking points that Democrats and Biden are responsible for Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine.

Other Republicans criticized Biden: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) joined other Republicans to evacuate Americans from Ukraine if they don’t voluntarily leave on their own, and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) says Biden should do something instead of just talking. Both moves would incite Putin to action.

Like DDT and his far-right followers, Putin wants to break up NATO, keep dictators in power, remove democracy, and centralize power with Republicans, achieved by causing the nation to fail. Luckily for the world, DDT is no longer in the White House.

Additional information from scholar Heather Cox Richardson. 

January 27, 2022

Lawyers’ Lies – G.S. Hans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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