Nel's New Day

May 14, 2023

Activism on Mother’s Day

May 14, 2023, is the day that the U.S. celebrates Mother’s Day, created as a time of activism—women’s suffrage, antislavery, climate, reproductive rights, social change. Today’s blog post celebrates the positive movements toward democracy to improve humanity in the nation.

My reaction to the following is that pigs may be able to fly. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a trans woman who fled sexual assault and death threats in Guatemala to seek asylum in the U.S. Deported in 2008, she spent most of the following decade in Mexico where a Mexican gang raped and assaulted her. She has another chance to argue that immigration officials and the 5th Circuit Court were wrong in rejecting her bid to stay in the U.S. after she came back in 2018. 

Despite the noisy opposition to a transgender woman promoting Bud Light, 53 percent of U.S. beer drinkers approve of brands hiring a transgender spokesperson. In addition, 61 percent support brands hiring more inclusive advertising talent, including almost half the GOP respondents. The RNC has deleted criticism of the company in its “anti-woke” campaign. Anheuser-Busch is also one of the biggest GOP donors and sells over 100 brands of beer in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took over a liberal arts school, New College of Florida, for a conservative overhaul. Students had protested his action to no avail so they plan their own commencement. The GOP Senate has already rejected one of DeSantis’ six conservative appointments for the college’s board of trustees. Eddie Spiers’ conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines appear to be too much, even for Florida Republicans. He has already voted with the board to fire the former college president and deny tenure to professors.   

More legal decisions:

The Supreme Court has refused to address a new California law prohibiting the in-state sale of pork, eggs, and veal derived from creatures “confined in a cruel manner,” leaving the law in place. In the 5-4 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that plaintiffs National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation tried to “fashion two new and more aggressive constitutional restrictions on the ability of states to regulate goods sold within their borders.” On the other side, Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson wanted to return the case to a lower court for more work. The law establishes space requirements for the animals. 

The Minnesota legislature made the state a refuge for youth seeking gender-affirming care. New laws also banned “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ youth and provided protection for those seeking out-of-state abortions and abortion providers. According to the author of one bill, “people should be free” and “have the right to self-determination.”  

A judge in Arizona has struck down a restraining order against a journalist by a conspiracy-theorist, election-denier state senator after the journalist knocked on the doors of two of the senator’s homes. The journalist was investigating whether the senator was residing in the district where she was elected and now plans to seek attorneys’ fees and costs from the senator. Previously, a Flagstaff judge had granted the restraining order with notification to the journalist or the opportunity for her to speak in her own defense.

Two women suing the Springfield (MO) for its mandatory racial equity training must pay the district’s legal fees. They claimed the requirement violated their constitutional rights. A U.S. federal judge said the women, who still work for the district, could not show any harm in the training and that their lawsuit was to draw the district into a political dispute rather than to seek damages for actual harm.

The 4th Circuit Court ruled that jurors can be required to be vaccinated through the circuit court area. A married couple found guilty of trafficking heroin and cocaine challenged their convictions because unvaccinated people were excluded from the jury pool, making if not a “jury of their peers.” According to the ABA, a majority of courts permitted the exclusion of unvaccinated jurors during the pandemic. 

A county judge in Michigan ruled that a health officer should keep her job until a trial as county commissioners try to replace her. The newly-elected far-right board had tried to fire her because of her pandemic safety measures, not incompetence or misconduct. She is also seeking economic and compensatory damages from the commissioners’ actions. She said:

“I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, I’m not a libertarian, I’m not any of those things and your health officers shouldn’t be. They should not be practicing politics in their role. They should be following good science, and they should be protecting everyone in the community, not just specific people.”

The board had tried to replace the health officer from the service manager of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems company.  

A federal investigation determined that two hospitals refusing to provide an emergency abortion for a pregnant woman whose life was in danger violated federal law. The hospitals are in Joplin (MO) and Kansas City (KS), but a woman was turned away from three Oklahoma hospitals. Her molar pregnancy would never become a fetus but could cause cancer if it progressed. At the third hospital, she was told to stay in the parking lot until she is “crashing” or near a heart attack. She and her husband drove three hours to a Kansas clinic to get her uterus emptied of the non-viable tissue.

Vermont now has a law prohibiting the owning or operating paramilitary training camps in the state. Violators face up to five years in prison or a $50,000 fine or both. Twenty-six states now prohibit fire-arms training for anti-government paramilitary activity. With the sixth-highest number of extremist incidents in the U.S., Oregon is also considering the nation’s most comprehensive law against paramilitary activity.

 Voting rights groups in Jacksonville (FL) settled with the city council which agreed stop gerrymandering and continue using maps ordered by a federal court providing fair representation to Black communities. The maps will be retained through the first redistricting cycle after the 2030 Census.

Media on both right and left has been predicting chaos on the southern border after President Joe Biden lifted Title 42, DDT’s rule that asylum-seekers would be turned away because of the pandemic. Not so, said an official who said there was no “major influx” of migrants and the emergency public health order expired. The number of migrants is actually shrinking since then. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city has moved from Title 42 to Title 8, stiffer penalties on illegal border crossing. Other border cities, such as McAllen (TX), have reported fewer-than-anticipated migrants.

At the same time, house costs are increasing because the industry has 2 million fewer immigrants workers. In the past, foreign-born people comprised 30 percent of construction workers, with those entering the workforce dropped from 67,000 new workers in 2016 to 38,900 in 2020. The one-third drop of new immigrant workers in DDT’s first year in office was the first decline in six years.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is begging for help after he spent over $40 million to overturn the 2020 election and losing another $5 million in his bet, “Prove Mike Wrong.” Lindell’s deal is allowing people to buy stock in his company.

Mother Nature stopped DDT’s rally at the Water Works Park in Des Moines (IA) on Saturday after a tornado warning. Without announcing his campaign, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was fundraising in other Iowa locations.

Sheila Swinford provided this version of an old Native American legend by Luisa Morando:

“One day there was a big fire in the forest. All the animals fled in terror in all directions, because it was a very violent fire. Suddenly, the jaguar saw a hummingbird pass over his head, but in the opposite direction. The hummingbird flew towards the fire!

“Whatever happened, he wouldn’t stop. Moments later, the jaguar saw him pass again, this time in the same direction as the jaguar was walking. He could observe this coming and going, until he decided to ask the bird about it, because it seemed very bizarre behavior.

“’What are you doing, hummingbird?’” he asked.

“’I am going to the lake,’ he answered, ‘I drink water with my beak and throw it on the fire to extinguish it.’ The jaguar laughed. ‘Are you crazy? Do you really think that you can put out that big fire on your own with your very small beak?’

“’No,’ said the hummingbird, ‘I know I can’t. But the forest is my home. It feeds me, it shelters me and my family. I am very grateful for that. And I help the forest grow by pollinating its flowers. I am part of her, and the forest is part of me. I know I can’t put out the fire, but I must do my part.’

“At that moment, the forest spirits, who listened to the hummingbird, were moved by the birdie and its devotion to the forest. And miraculously they sent a torrential downpour, which put an end to the great fire.

“The Native American grandmothers would occasionally tell this story to their grandchildren, then conclude with, ‘Do you want to attract miracles into your life? Do your part.’

“’You have no responsibility to save the world or find the solutions to all problems—but to attend to your particular personal corner of the universe. As each person does that, the world saves itself.’”

On Mother’s Day, we can all think about doing our part, no matter how small it might seem.

April 29, 2023

Politics’ News Keeps Oozing Out

Despite a 72-hour cease-fire extension to allow people to escape, Sudan’s capital experiences heavy fighting. After a 24-hour journey, an evacuation convoy of about 300 U.S. citizens on over a dozen buses has reached the coast at Port Sudan from Khartoum under the protection of armed drones deployed by the Pentagon. 

A drone strike may have caused the gigantic fire at a fuel storage facility and refinery in Sevastopol, the Crimean city occupied by Russia. The day before, Russia’s strike on the Ukrainian city of Uman by cruise missiles from Russian aircraft in the Caspian Sea killed 23 civilians, including children, and more civilians were killed in Dnipro. Uman is considered a holy city for Orthodox Judaism, a site for Hasidic pilgrimage for over 200 years. Ukraine intercepted 21 of the 23 missiles. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be added to the list of people who are above the law. A GOP bill will exempt DeSantis from public records laws; he will be able to hide information about his travel, people at the governor’s mansion, and donations to state political committees by extending deadlines for reports about fundraising. In court cases, DeSantis has claimed “executive privilege” to block the release of records and to keep staff from testifying, an advantage only for presidents. 

Chief Justice John Roberts stated that Supreme Court justices should control their own ethics issues, but their behavior indicates they aren’t qualified. Elite law firms paid his wife, Jane Roberts, over $10 million in seven years with hundreds of thousands of dollars from a firm arguing a case in the high court. Most of her placements with law firms, however, are confidential. On his disclosure forms, Roberts does not release information about who is paying his wife.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas failed to recuse themselves from cases involved with those who enriched them—failing to be specific about the largess—and Samuel Alito was wooed with free meals and vacation locations by an evangelical activist coordinating an influence campaign for the court to overturn women’s reproductive rights. Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 on an expenses-paid trip with a secretive hunting society at a luxury Texas ranch.

Unlike judges in lower courts, Supreme Court justices are exempt from the Judicial Conference’s rigorous Code of Conduct; Roberts calls it a “starting point.” Supreme Court is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the oversight of the Office on Government Ethics. It has no internal ethics committee and no inspector general.

After years of questioning the conduct of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, new information reveals serious omissions in research about him when he was a candidate. In 2018, a Senate report released by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) provided the unfounded and unverified claim that one of his accusers was “likely” mistaken in alleging that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a dormitory party, blaming another Yale student. The accusation came from a Colorado attorney member of the Federalist Society supporting Kavanaugh and friend of the judiciary committee’s lead counsel at that time. The young man picked by the attorney who allegedly exposed himself instead of Kavanaugh was a high school senior at the time, not a Yale student, and had never been contacted by any GOP staffers for the report. He said:

“These people can say what they want, and there are no consequences, ever.”

In a never-before-heard recording, another Yale graduate said he witnessed Kavanaugh expose himself at a party. Previously he tried to anonymously tell the FBI during the confirmation process that he saw Kavanaugh’s friends push the future justice’s penis into the hand of a female classmate at a party. In another situation, Kavanaugh had allegedly tried to push his penis into the mouth of a young woman almost passed out on the floor from drinking. Republican committee members were aware of the witness’s wish to testify to the FBI, but he was not interviewed by the committee’s investigators.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R-RI) is expected to release a report of the FBI’s shabby handling of the Kavanaugh investigation by the end of the year. Roberts refused to testify at a Senate judiciary hearing on Tuesday, May 2, regarding potential reforms to ethics rules. Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) cited “a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards.”

According to several sources, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) obtained passing votes for his shady debt ceiling bill by telling Republicans to ignore the provisions of the measure because it would never become law. Instead, they should focus on its symbolic victory proving to President Joe Biden that GOP could unite around votes.

Two conservative states failed to ban abortion, each by one vote. The Nebraska bill in the unicameral legislature was to stop abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, and South Carolina would have prevented them at conception. Six Republicans helped block motions with the chamber’s five women filibustering the proposal. One Republican senator compared the bill to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women are considered state property. An 80-year-old Republican in Nebraska abstained because six weeks is not long enough for a woman to know that she is pregnant. Nebraska currently bans abortion after the 20th week. 

Citing bigger expenses, WinRed, a website for GOP donations intends to add a $.30 fee for every donation on top of the 3.94 percent it already charges. During the 2022 election, the 31.2 million donations on WinRed were valued at almost $1.2 billion, and the 2024 election could double that number. The company could make almost an additional $20 million, reducing GOP campaign monies. WinRed complained that GOP donations were down and multiple investigations were expensive.

A judge issued a restraining order against a reporter in Arizona when she rang the doorbell of Sen. Wendy Rogers’ home to ask about her residency. Rogers may not be living in the district where she is elected. The judge refused the request to keep the reporter out of the state senate. In her second term, Rogers is an Oath Keeper, election denier, and QAnon promoter who also has faced accusations of antisemitism. Rogers defended Alex Jones who claimed the massacre of small children at Sandy Hook a hoax. Last year, most of her GOP colleagues voted to censure her for comments such as seeing her political enemies hanged.

The Federal Aviation Administation indefinitely grounded SpaceX after the Starship blew up four minutes after takeoff. The failure caused blackened structures and a huge crater in the ground at the launch pad, and dust and debris spread out, striking at least one vehicle. Heat and the force of the firing rocket engines caused the pad’s concrete structure to fracture after gasses expelled from the engines entered cracks at a high pressure, further eroding the pad. Dirt from under the pad cast massive quantities of dust for several miles away.

People in Port Isabel, five miles away from the launch, had broken windows, shaken buildings, and dust raining down. The particulates can cause respiratory problems and other health problems. In addition, five to eight of the 33 Raptor engines didn’t fire at different times during the ascent. One cause could have been debris from the pad’s destruction may have damaged them, especially the rocket nozzles.

The destruction of the launch pad was unanticipated. CEO Elon Musk suggested using a water-cooled steel plate to disperse the heat, but it wasn’t ready in time. Engineers assumed the pad could survive one launch, and they went ahead.

In another revelation about Elon Musk’s companies, a new report shows that Twitter complies with government requests to censor material far more often than before Musk purchased the company. In the first six months of his control, Twitter’s compliance for censorship demands rose to 80 percent from about 50 percent, especially in India where the right-wing government insisted on the removal of unflattering media portrayals about the governing party. Turkey provided the most requests to Twitter to suppress dissent which have been largely fulfilled.

Lawyers for Jack Teixeira, the airman who leaked hundreds of classified Pentagon documents, want him released into the custody of his father with a $20,000 bond. Prosecutors pointed out that he could be a flight risk, especially because his knowledge could be valuable to a foreign governments. Prosecutors also said that Teixeira had destroyed evidence in the case and has a history of making violent threats online.  

Teixeira was suspended in high school for violent threats, planned to participate in a public shooting from an SUV.  Six months ago, he said he would “kill a ton of people” with the goal of “culling the weak minded.” He also kept an arsenal of handguns and rifles in his room along with a gas mask. The judge scoffed when Teixeira’s lawyer claimed his client is only accused of sharing the information with a small group on the internet.

Two leaders of the Massachusetts Air National Guard unit where Teixieia was stationed have been suspended during the investigation, temporarily losing access to classified systems and information.

A family in Cleveland (TX)  asked their neighbor to stop firing his AR-15 rifle in his yard at 11:30 pm so their baby could sleep. He went to their house and murdered five of them ages 8 to 31 with the gun. Five others were injured, three of them in the hospital. The shooter is still at large with the rifle. The U.S. has had at least 174 mass shootings in the first 128 days of 2023. That’s freedom in the United States.

For people who think studying punctuation has no value…

April 19, 2023

News: April 19, 2023

Follow-up on the settlement between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox:

Former litigator Lisa Rubin theorized that Fox settled after the trial judge planned to appoint a special master, subsidized by Fox, to investigate its pretrial action. Fox couldn’t refuse any request, even from attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine. Perhaps the network decided that discovery revealed enough negative information about its operations, including its broadcasting material that hosts knew to be false.

People disappointed about a settlement instead of a trial need to realize that the jury cannot force a company to publicly apologize; it only awards money.

Discovery and judicial opinions from the Dominion case gives Smartmatic, the plaintiff in a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox, a foundation such as sworn depositions and internal Fox text messages and emails. Since that discovery, Abby Grossberg, a former Fox producer, has also provided more damning tapes of calls and other information causing more problem for any Fox defense.

The U.S. Supreme Court postponed Wednesday’s decision about access to mifepristone, an abortion medication, until Friday. Ruling against access would be two huge disasters: blocking up to half the abortions in the U.S., and creating the possibility of overturning all drugs that the FDA has approved. The 5th Circuit Court “softened” Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s total ban on the drug with restrictions on the drug preventing its being sent through the mail, prescribed through telehealth, obtained from retail pharmacies, and used after seven weeks of pregnancy instead of ten weeks. Even this change would drastically cut access to mifepristone, the safest form of abortion.

A company is suing the FDA from rolling back access to generic mifepristone if the Supreme Court allows serious restrictions to the drug. The 5th Circuit Court decision would suspend the FDA’s 2019 approval of the generic version.

In a bizarre antiabortion attempt, Students for Life made a citizen petition to the FDA to halt mifepristone until the agency studies whether trace amounts of the pill poses any risk to “endangered or threatened species or designated critical habitats.” Environmental scientists have found no evidence that abortion pills have an adverse affect on the environment, that it’s a tiny fraction of pharmaceutical drugs in the wastewater.

A judge appointed by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ruled that Mark Pomerantz, a top prosecutor on DDT’s case in the Manhattan DA’s office, must comply with a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). She had written her 25-page order before hearing any of the lawyers’ arguments. Pomerantz’s deposition is scheduled for 10:30 am on April 20, but Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is appealing the ruling. Frustrated because he thought Bragg was not actively pursuing DDT’s indictment when Bragg took office, Pomerantz resigned his position and wrote a book about some of his experiences.

During her hearing, the judge focused heavily on People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account, Pomerantz’s book published after his resignation. She asked if he disclosed privileged information in his writings and television interviews and questioned whether the DA’s office had tried to block the book’s publication. In her ruling, she said there was no attempt although Bragg had sent the publisher a letter asking that the book’s publication be stopped. The office also told the New York City Department of Investigation about his possible violations in some disclosures. In her written decision, the judge repeatedly attacked Bragg while pandering to Jordan. Her conclusion? Nobody is above the law.

Don’t say gay in any Florida school. Gov. Ron DeSantis gave this order to the state education department expanding the ban on sexual orientation and gender identify through high school. This directive is even stronger than the “parental rights” GOP legislators are pushing. Originally the law was for kindergarten through third grade but was extended to pre-K through eighth grade and restricts the use of pronouns on K-12 campuses. The laws and orders are to prevent “indoctrination,” according to conservatives.

The new rules are so vague that a teacher might lose their license for any LGBTQ+ discussion in the classroom, even regarding the Supreme Court case Obergefell v., Hodges, legalizing marriage equality. Or maybe teaching that Martha Washington is George Washington’s wife, because the term wife for a man is a sexual orientation.

Protesting against a proposed Florida bill, activists in the legislative balcony dropped underwear onto the legislators below with messages such as “Leave my genitals alone” and “Fascism has no place in Florida, stop trans genocide.” The bill would ban gender-affirming care for minors, require transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth, and prohibit drag performances in the presences of children. Gender-affirming care can reduce suicide risk for transgender and nonbinary youth by 73 percent.

A GOP state representative described transgender people as “demons” and “mutants” like “the X-Men movies or Marvel Comics.” In response, a Democrat legislator told him that X-Men characters “were created as an ode to civil rights leaders that were being attacked, who wanted to fight for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” In the past three months, ten states passed laws prohibiting puberty blockers, transition surgery, and hormonal treatment for people under age 18. Severe restrictions in Missouri also cover adults, and a bill will ask people to report on any treatment for transgender people outside the state.

A U.S. Florida representative  also proposed legislation to ban all transgender girls from participating in public schools sports. Another Florida representative, Gen-Z Maxwell Frost (D) said:

“This morning I called a 12-year-old in my district who is worried about their future as a non-binary kid in this country. They should be playing and learning, not writing to their Congress member desperate to not lose their right to exist.

“These are the priorities of the Republican majority. Not addressing gun violence, rising medical bills, but violating the privacy of children. And I’m glad I get previews, I get special previews of what this Republican majority is going to try to do in this body because they’re simply taking bills that are being passed in Florida and across the South, horrible bills, and trying to get them passed up here.”

“We want freedom and liberty for all of our people and they want the government to be in children’s pants. Disgusting.”

A Tennessee bill mandates that students in all Tennessee public schools including universities report learning anything in the classroom that makes them sad or has “divisive concepts” that saddens them. A definition of this term was vague, but the details combine to mentions of racism or sexism. Students and school employees are to turn in teachers mentioning “divisive concepts” in their classrooms. Earlier this month, Tennessee Republicans expelled two legislators for protesting while Black because the GOP refuses to deal with the shooting and killing of children. Tapes of the Republican legislators show extreme racism.  

This bill beefs up a similar law from last year. Now state universities can’t use state funds to support organizations that promote “divisive concepts” and are required to allow any guest speaker on campus regardless of “non-violent political ideology.” Far-right white nationalist, white supremacist, and antisemitic speakers have a harder time bookings since the events instigate on-campus and near-campus violence. Universities are also barred from using state funds for security for these events.

After the plethora of mass shooting, one of them in a Christian elementary school near Nashville, Tennessee legislature passed a bill to further shield gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers, and sellers against lawsuits. Three Republicans voted against the legislation, blaming gun manufacturers for the current gun environment, and the GOP governor is still trying to pass a “red flag” bill. Federal law largely shields the firearm industry from liability, but Remington, the company making the rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, settled with the victims’ families for $73 million. They sued Remington for targeting younger, at-risk males in advertisements and violent video game product placements.

On April 19, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was shut down in a hearing by a GOP committee chair for the first time in 100 days since Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made her a defacto leader of the House. With her typical fury and insults, she broke House rules by calling Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas a “liar.”

Greene began her assigned five minutes by slandering Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), accusing him of having had “a sexual relationship with a Chinese spy.” Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) moved to have her “taken down,” striking the statement from the official hearing record and barring her from speaking. The committee’s GOP majority voted to table the motion; Greene was allowed to continue. She then accused Mayorkas of being responsible for fentanyl overdoses among U.S. youth and asked him “how long” he would “continue this outrage.”

Mayorkas tried to reassure her, saying that the department is “fighting” the trafficking. Greene refused to let him finish and resumed shouting, “You’re a liar… You are killing Americans with your policies.” Rep. Bennie Thompson (R-MS) asked for her words to be “taken down” because they violated House rules of decorum.

The committee chair, Mark Green (R-TN) asked Greene if she would withdraw her statement. She refused. He ruled that she violated the rules and ordered the words stricken from the record. “It’s pretty clear that the rules state you can’t impugn someone’s character,” Green said and added she was “no longer recognized,” therefore barred from more questioning during the hearing.

Greene called for “a point of personal inquiry.” Goldman explained, “There is no such thing,” and the GOP committee chair agreed. She was then forced to be silent for the remainder of the hearing.

April 16, 2023

Revelations, Updates – Supreme Court, Kacsmaryk, Dominion, Book Banning, Etc.

The five percent annual inflation rate increase through March is the lowest in two years. Inflation rate increase for only March was only 0.1 percent. Energy costs fell 3.5 percent and food prices were flat while egg prices dropped 10.9 percent. Vehicle prices also declined 0.9 percent for a total of 11.2 percent for the past year. Medical care also fell 0.5 percent in March. A shortage of workers has also helped pushed up wages and prices.

More updates and revelations:

Justice Samuel Alito issued an administrative stay to eliminate mifepristone, an abortion pill, in all 50 states from far-right Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. DOJ now has time to appeal. The full Supreme Court will issue a ruling on April 18.

The polling on Kacsmaryk’s mifepristone decision is bad news for Republicans—not from those in the party but from independents. Democrats and Republicans are typically polarized, but each party needs a majority from independents to win an election. In this case 72 percent of independents favor the availability of mifepristone in states where abortion is legal, bringing the total for everyone to 67 percent.

 Washington state AG Bob Ferguson stated that a federal judge in Texas cannot overrule a federal judge in Washington state. Judge Thomas Rice had ruled for the 17 states represented by his plaintiffs, determining that the FDA approval of mifepristone is legal. Rice’s order applies to Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Kacsmaryk needs to be investigated, not only for his colluding with anti-abortion groups for his bogus decisions but also for his lying about authorship of an article. Before his confirmation hearings for the judgeship, Kacsmaryk asked that his name be removed from an article and be replaced with the names of two colleagues. Either he lied about writing the article or not writing it. Judicial nominees are required to disclose publications with which they are associated. Kacsmaryk asked his name be removed on April 11, 2017, before he completed the questionnaire and didn’t mention his authorship of the article. In his request, he cited “reasons I may discuss at a later date” and omitted telling about his interviews for a judgeship by his state’s two senators on April 3, 2017, and expectations of an interview at the White House.

The article, “The Jurisprudence of the Body,” criticized President Obama’s protections for transgender patients and people seeking abortions and stated that Obama’s administration discounted religious physicians who “cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male” and “cannot use their pens to prescribe or dispense abortifacient drugs designed to kill unborn children.” The right-wing Texas Review of Law and Politics, which Kacsmaryk led when he was a law student at the University of Texas, published the article in September 2017, the same month that DDT first nominated Kacsmaryk as a federal judge. The appointment was rejected, and DDT renominated him in January 2018. The Senate confirmation vote was 51 to 48 with Democrats, Independents, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voting against it.

The public has discovered more of Justice Clarence Thomas’ “inaccuracies” (lies?): he continues to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in rental income from a real estate company that closed in 2006 with a newly created firm taking control of its leasing business. His wife and her relatives had created the Nebraska firm, Ginger Ltd. Partnership, in 1982. Thomas does not mention the new firm, Ginger Holdings LLC, on his forms, but income from the former company has grown exponentially in the past decade. The transfer in 2006 to the new company listed leases for over 200 residential lots.

Asked about the two companies, Joanne Elliott, listed as the new company’s manager, referred questions to her sister Ginni Thomas. Thomas’ wife is not named in the new company’s state incorporation records. The justice estimated in 2021 that his family’s interest in the defunct firm is worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

In 2011, Thomas, caught in misrepresentations on his financial disclosure reports, updated several years of them to include employment details for his conservative activist wife, Ginni Thomas. On his forms, Thomas originally listed no income for his wife who was paid $686,000 by the Heritage Foundation from 2003 until 2007 and worked for the conservative Hillsdale College in 2008 and 2009. He said he didn’t understand the filing instructions but had correctly reported his wife’s employment before 2003. In 2020, he was forced to revise forms after failing to report reimbursement for transportation, meals, and lodging while teaching at two separate law schools in 2018 and at another law school in 2017.

Thomas’ failed to report the sale of three Georgia properties to his benefactor Harlan Crow in 2014, properties he had owned since 1983. In 2010, he began to put the location of the properties in Liberty County instead of their actual location in Chatham County.

Fox may be trying to settle the $1.6 bill lawsuit filed against them by the Dominion Voting system; the trial has been postponed for one day after scheduled to begin jury selection on April 17. No reason was given. A twist in the lawsuit came recently when the network issued a formal apology to the judge for lying about Rupert Murdock not having an official title at Fox News. One of Fox’s attorneys said the network takes responsibility for the “misrepresentation” causing the judge to announce an investigation into the possibility of the network withholding evidence.

The trial is testing libel law about whether the network can be legally accountable for lying about election fraud connected to the voting machines and software. Discovery for the proceedings has shown the operations of a popular right-wing media company supporting GOP politics, and the network’s celebrities will likely testify, including its conservative billionaire founder Rupert Murdoch. On trial, too, may be the “alternative facts” culture defining DDT’s time in the White House, putting disinformation on trial.

Media are traditionally permitted wide latitude in making honest mistakes, but internal emails and texts demonstrate that the purpose for Fox’s lies was to bolster its ratings by appeasing DDT supporters while spreading tremendous damage to the U.S. A jury will need to determine whether Fox deliberately lied and, if so, how much Fox should pay for the transgression. First Amendment advocates pushing freedom of the press see a win for Dominion as support for a strong press.

Exactly one year after 17 books were removed from the three county libraries for content, Llano County commissioners unanimously voted to postpone a vote about closing their three libraries after a federal judge ordered the censored titles be returned to the shelves. Outside the meeting, protesters were clear about keeping the libraries open and the books in them. Only 35 people were allowed in the meeting room inside the building. Authorities who removed the books said that it was part of a “weeding” process to replace outdated and irrelevant books to make room for new ones. County officials blamed the people suing to return the books for endangering the community resource.

When one patron complained about “pornographic filth” in the libraries, the county replaced the libraries’ advisory board with advocates of book removal, including the woman who complained. After people objected to the books’ removal in a legal case, a judge ordered them returned. The fight isn’t over; a local judge and part of the group to remove books said the issue will be tried “in the courts” and another judicial hearing will decide how library books will be censored.

Another state legislature has expelled a member, but this time from their own party. Arizona House Republicans voted Rep. Liz Harris (R-Chandler) after an ethics investigation found her guilty of “disorderly behavior” for deliberately bringing a speaker to a public hearing who falsely accused lawmakers of taking bribes from a drug cartel. The party of Kari Lake and the Cyber Ninja audit clown show view Harris as too out of bounds.

In a 41-minute presentation at the joint House and Senate Election Committee hearing in February, Scottsdale insurance agent Jacqueline Breger accused Gov. Katie Hobbs, House Speaker Ben Toma, lawmakers, judges, Mesa City Council members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and others of conspiring with a Mexican drug cartel and receiving bribes through a scheme using property deeds. The expulsion vote was 46-13 because Harris lied about knowing the content and tried to cover up what the presentation would be. One Democrat could not attend because he was ill.

Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives are down one member after Harris’ expulsion to 30-29. A bill requires 31 votes to pass a bill, but a new Republican will soon take over her seat to recreate the slim GOP majority. That person will complete Harris’ term which ends in 2025.

Leaks from Pentagon classified information about Russia’s invasion and other world affairs have repeatedly been published in the past few days. A racist, anti-Semitic gun-lover sent material to impress a young audience fascinated by guns. Earlier materials were typed, and later copies were heavily annotated in the margins, both allowing the leaks to have sensational representations. Ukraine has already stated that some of the material was “not true.” Officials say that versions of some documents appear to be doctored. The question is what is not real. The leaks did damage world affairs, and the media broadcasting them as all fact only exacerbates the problems. I choose not to repeat any of this information until it has been officially verified.

April 14, 2023

Full News Day: Pentagon Leaker Arrested, Antiabortion Continues, Clarence Thomas Busted–Again

The biggest story of the day comes from the grooming of young men, mostly teenagers, and alleged violation of the 1917 Espionage Act by a 21-year-old airman arrested for stealing and broadcasting U.S. intelligence. According to one of the gamers he led, the technology support staffer for the Massachusetts Air National Guard could access classified documents through his position. Known as “jackthedripper,” he led about two dozen gamers who regularly discussed guns and told jokes, many of them racist. In slang, his nickname, OG, means incredibly exceptional.

Despite the media targeted the damage done by the releases, the public does not know how much of the released information is fictional. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that much of it is “not true” and “the true information has already lost its relevance.” Russian bloggers have written about whether the leaks are U.S. disinformation to mislead vulnerability of the Ukrainian military. The “documents” appear to originate in signal intelligence, electronic monitoring, and lack operation information as well as being partly fake, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

The documents stayed within the group until one of the teenagers posted them to a public online form where they were copied to Russian-language Telegram channels and then The Times, which first reported on them. From reports by the invitation-only chatgroup members, the airman wished to impress his followers with releases of highly classified documents. The airman has had access to classified documents for over a year but didn’t post any to his Discord group until last October. The New York Times first reported on them a week ago after they were posted to Telegram.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has moved on from protecting the January 6 insurrectionists who attacked the U. S. Capitol to defending the airman who she calls Jake, instead of Jack, who is “white, male, christian, and antiwar.” Instead of “Jake,” the “real enemy” is the Biden administration, according to Greene. She also spreads his lies such as 14 U.S. special operations forces being in Ukraine as of February 2023 although they are not deployed for fighting or to the frontlines.

While the media has focused on the dangers of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, the hazard is much broader, allowing a court to reject any FDA decision vetted by the medical profession because of a judicial political agenda. Threats to ignore the lower court ruling, even from Republicans, can also cause a crisis if members of both parties decide to ignore any court decisions that they don’t like.

The caveat from the 5th Circuit Court putting part of anti-abortion activist decision on hold also continues to permit a block on mifepristone, an abortion mediation, through telehealth or mail with reference to the 1873 Comstock Act. The terms “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” “immoral,” or “indecent” used in the law have been redefined in the past 150 years, and the provisions regarding abortion-related material were never explicitly overturned. The 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act extends the Comstock Law’s provisions about abortion to the Internet and other online computer networks.

The 5th Circuit Court also permits the restriction of the medication to seven weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current ten weeks, although the medical profession determines that ten weeks is still safe. Deaths from penicillin is four times greater than mifepristone, and Viagra ten times higher death rate. These rulings allow judges with no professional experience and no facts to make scientific health decisions for women. For the first time, a judge has blocked FDA approval of a drug; if the ruling stands, all drugs are at risk.  

Allowing the case to continue without standing for the plaintiffs is another serious flaw in decisions from both courts. None of the four doctors and the four antiabortion groups has personally given any evidence of personal harm from the FDA’s recognition from mifepristone, a requirement for standing. None of them prescribes mifepristone; they merely speculate about doctors’ prescriptions being unsafe and claim that doctors opposing the pill and abortion will be inundated with those patients having already taken mifepristone in an assumption of “possible future injury.” No  person who used mifepristone is part of the suit. It’s an “ I don’t like case …” case.

The problems created through Kacsmaryk’s ruling to eliminate approval for a drug safely used in the U.S. for 23 years has been tossed into the highly conservative Supreme Court after the DOJ request for emergency intervention. The 5th Circuit Court panel, with two appointments by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and one from George W. Bush, promised expedited oral arguments. The Bush appointment said she would have paused Kacsmaryk’s ruling in full.  Neither solution appears positive for reproductive rights. At the same time as Kacsmaryk’s ruling for the entire nation, a federal judge in Washington state made the FDA approval legal in 17 states

The FDA could refuse to prosecute anyone manufacturing or dispensing mifepristone, but that decision would be dependent on Democratic leadership. Meanwhile, states permitting reasonable abortion are stockpiling the medication, and some abortion providers have switched to misoprostol, with its greater risk of side effects and complications than when used with mifepristone, creating the problems that Kasmaryk’s ruling stated it would stop.

Mark Joseph Stern wrote:

“The judge ignored nearly 150 studies proving that mifepristone is extremely safe and instead relied upon anonymous blog posts on an anti-abortion website to argue that the drug is, in fact, dangerous and under-regulated. Kacsmaryk fabricated stringent new rules for clinical trials, requiring many drugs to undergo ‘head-to-head’ trials that directly compare two different treatments. The judge just made this up: No statute or regulation requires such trials, and the FDA has always accepted many different kinds of studies. Kacsmaryk also concocted draconian new labeling rules and reporting requirements: Perversely, he barred label updates that reflect new research and FDA consideration of crucial safety information reported by drugmakers. As the biopharma amicus brief explains, this anti-scientific approach would ‘chill crucial research and development, undermine the viability of investments in this important sector, and wreak havoc on drug development and approval generally, causing widespread harm to patients, providers, and the entire pharmaceutical industry.’”

In the majority decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.” The question is whether he will permit Kacsmaryk will be permitted to overturn this edict from his Amarillo (TX) courtroom.

Justice Clarence Thomas said “advisers” told him he didn’t need to divulge information about the costs of Harlan Crow’s gifts because they were personal friends. Thomas, however, also hid his sale of properties to Crow in Savannah (GA) in 2014. Thomas’ elderly mother lived in one of the properties Crow bought for $133,363 and immediately began obtained $36,000 worth of permits for the house’s improvements. Violations for the Supreme Court justice have now moved from possibly ethical to illegal because the law requires him to disclose the details of real estate sales over $1,000 except for the seller’s home of that of their spouse. Crow states he bought to house to preserve it for a public museum about Thomas but didn’t say why he also bought the two vacant lots from him. In 2013, Crow purchased two properties on the same block for one-third of what he paid Thomas.

Thomas inherited one-third of the property from his grandfather in 1983 but stopped listing ownership of property addresses he owned in the early 2000s. He listed the Savannah property, valued at $15,000 or less, as “rental property at ## 1, 2, & 3” in Savannah. Property records show that houses on the vacant lots were torn down around 2010. In 2014, Thomas’ highly detailed financial disclosure included even a “stained glass medallion” from Yale but not the sale to Crow, who bought the properties through a recent Texas company under a Delaware company with Crow as the CEO.  

Donors have the constitutional right to anonymously influence politics with unlimited money, according to Thomas in his push to invalidate all political spending disclosure laws. Even the limitless independent expenditures, including from corporations, permitted by the Supreme Court ruling in 2010, Citizens United, doesn’t satisfy Thomas. Because the nation’s highest court has no ethical code, justices can refuse to recuse themselves from cases in which they have financial interests and support for their confirmation campaigns, a situation that Thomas generously uses.

Republicans are already traumatized by what Sen. John Cronyn (R-TX) called a “smear on Justice Thomas” after ProPublica printed the facts about Thomas’ acceptance of millions of dollars in gifts from Crow. Smear means false and ugly allegations, not an accurate report.

Fox is facing another lawsuit: an investor is suing Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch plus members of the Fox board of directors for violating their fiduciary duty by allowing Fox to broadcast election conspiracy theories.

And in Missouri, the GOP wants to protect children by allowing them to carry guns at any age, rolling back child labor laws, and banning drag shows. Oh yes—giving them permission to be married at the age of 12.

March 31, 2023

DDT’s Indictment, GOP Obstruction

By now, anyone paying attention to the news knows that a grand jury voted to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) probably for falsifying business records including paying hush money to Stormy Daniel during his campaign for the 2016 presidential election.

The Manhattan grand jury has recessed until the end of April. After that announcement, today’s indictment came as a shock to DDT. Yesterday, DDT, in all capital letters, effusively praised the grand jury—and grand juries in general—for not being “a rubber stamp.” Today, he took the opposite tack in a diatribe available here. He “truthed” that he had been “indicated.” Under seal, the 30+ charges related to business fraud will be revealed in the next few days, and DDT’s lawyers said he will likely be arraigned next Tuesday. 

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida where DDT is a resident, said he will refuse any extradition request for DDT because of “questionable circumstances” because the charges are “un-American.” Specific charges have not yet been released although Republicans are making assumptions about them. DeSantis also called DA Alvin Bragg “this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor.” According to Article IV, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, no state can decline an extradition request from another state. Federal law also requires states to comply with other states’ extradition requests.

The indictment may not have the positive effects that the GOP claims. A majority of people, 57 percent, believe DDT should not be allowed to run for president if he is indicted. That percentage includes 55 percent of independents, and 23 percent of Republicans agree. A majority of people, 55 percent, call accusations against DDT “serious.” Sixty-one percent of people in the U.S. don’t want DDT to be elected president.  About 39 percent have a favorable opinion of DDT, down 3 points from a November poll putting him at 42 percent.

Top GOP Senators oppose DDT’s featuring the video of January 6 rioters’ choir at his Waco (TX) rally, rejecting the MAGA view that they were “peaceful.” Others said it was a bad political strategy when he wanted to make a comeback. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “People who violated the law should be prosecuted.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the January 6 “one of the worst days in American history.” Of those who refused to criticize, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) used the standard response of “I didn’t see it.”  

Tuberville, whose political experience is coaching football, is personally holding up over 150 Pentagon nominees in an extortion to block leave and reimbursements for military members who need to travel for abortions. The Defense Department allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, and endangered health and life of the pregnant woman. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pointed out that the U.S. is facing “one of the most complex times” and Tuberville’s action—or inaction—“makes us far less ready than we need to be. Last week, Tuberville promised to keep the military from being “politicized.” [A “tuber” grows underground.]

A federal judge ordered former VP Mike Pence to testify to a DOJ grand jury about his conversations with DDT leading up to January 6, 2021. He can, however, decline to answer questions related to his own actions on January 6 when he acted as president of the Senate for the reading of the electoral votes. Pence can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. He refused a subpoena to testify, claiming that he was a member of both Congress and the executive branch.

GOP legacy:

In Texas, a federal judge ruled that employers cannot be required to cover preventative health care services under the Affordable Care Act such as cancer screenings, statins for heart disease, HIV prevention medications, etc.  Over 150 million people are on employer-sponsored health plans. Six people and two Christian-owned businesses argued against coverage of HIV PrEP because it encourages “homosexual behavior.” Judge Reed O’Connor, appointed by George W. Bush, earlier ruled that the ACA was unconstitutional and should be struck down. Plaintiffs also plan to challenge the mandate for contraception.

In a 225-204 vote, House Republicans passed a broad “energy” bill supporting fossil fuels. Four Democrats—Henry Cuellar (TX), Vincente Gonzalez (TX), Marie Guesenkamp Perez (WA), and Jared Golden (ME)—voted in favor of the bill. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) accused Democrats voting against the bill of standing “with China and Russia” instead of “with the American energy worker.” Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) voted against the bill. The Senate will likely not address the bill, and Biden has promised to veto the bill if it were passed.

The bill repeals parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, such as the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to boost clean energy and a fee imposed on oil and gas methane emissions. It also opposes the block on the Keystone XL pipeline, mandates more oil and gas lease sales, and creates difficulty for states to prevent construction of interstate pipelines. Other provisions overhaul rules for reviews in the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act for energy infrastructure from pipelines to clean energy projects and mines with a two-year deadline for major reviews and causing difficulties to stop projects.

The Congress has passed a bill ending the national Covid emergency. The original House bill would have lifted the declaration in February; the current one terminates the emergency when the bill is signed. Although he is opposed to the bill, Biden does not plan to veto it; he had already planned to wind down emergency status on May 11. The Senate 68-23 vote on the measure came after the House voted 229-197 in February, with 11 Democrats joining 218 Republicans in support. Hospitals may no longer screen patients for Covid off-campus, and Medicare Advantage plans are no long required to cover services at out-of-network facilities.

McCarthy’s promised anti-immigration bill hit another roadblock this week after Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) threatened to vote against the GOP plan for federal spending and debt ceiling limits if the House Republicans vote on immigration restrictions that he called “unchristian.”

While House Republicans are facing their constituents, Biden is providing them with individualized fact sheets for each state outlining how GOP suggestions negatively affect their public safety, public health, and other programs. In New York, GOP cuts reduce rail safety inspections, eliminate food assistance, and increase wait times for seniors apply for disability benefits. The information is based on the GOP-proposed 22 percent cuts across the board. Earlier this year, the approximately 40 members of the conservative Freedom Caucus proposed a cut of $131 billion while leaving defense spending at current levels.

McCarthy demanded President Joe Biden meet with him about the debt ceiling, but Biden said he needed to receive GOP budget first. House GOP factions don’t seem to be able to agree on a budget and are leaving for a two-week. Earlier this week, House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (R-TX) said they they were finalizing the budget proposals under McCarthy’s guidance. Asked about it, however, McCarthy said, “I don’t know what he’s talking about.” After the banking crisis, Arrington had said that banking instability “is the best time” to talk about votes on the debt ceiling that could destroy the U.S. financial status.

During a Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government hearing, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the capacity of the U.S. government to respond to and prop up failing financial markets was “decimated” by DDT’s cutbacks.

Polling shows that the majority of people in the U.S. agree with Republicans in cutting the budget—but not which cuts. Listing priorities, people actually want more government spending on domestic priorities: child care, Medicare, healthcare, help for the poor, infrastructure, education, etc. Of 16 categories, the majority wanted less spending in only one, foreign aid, and that area takes under one percent of the entire budget.

Biden does plan to veto a GOP resolution overturning Washington, D.C.’s major police accountability legislation if it passes. Earlier this year, Biden signed Republicans’ resolution blocking D.C.’s criminal code overhaul that was not supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser. In the current proposal, Biden does not agree with overturning “commonsense police reforms such as: banning chokeholds; limiting use of force and deadly force; requiring the timely release of body-worn camera footage; and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force.” Following Biden’s announcement, Republicans may not take a vote on the resolution.

Another train derailment early on March 30 caused the evacuation of 250 people in a small town 100 miles west of Minneapolis (MN). Of the 22 derailed cars, ten carried ethanol; ruptured cars caught on fire. Hazardous materials, including about two-thirds of all the ethanol produced nationwide, account for about 7 percent to 8 percent of the 30 million shipments delivered by rail every year. The BNSF rail company is owned by Warren Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

Checks on Twitter accounts will no longer indicate verification status, starting April Fool’s Day. Instead different colored checks will simply mean somebody paid for them: $8 per month ($11 for iPhone and iPad users) for blue and monthly $1,000 grey for governments and gold for companies and nonprofits. The announcement includes the statement that “we’re creating the most trusted place on the internet …”

March 11, 2023

News: March 11, 2023

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has produced speculations and conspiracy theories, but SVB’s future is uncertain. Over 1,000 small businesses at risk—over a third of them unable to meet this week’s payroll—and the government may try a bailout of the huge financial institution. Congress would have to legislate the use of an insurance fund paid into by all banks and backed by U.S. taxpayers but which usually covers deposits only up to $250,000. Over 90 percent of SVB accounts are over that amount.

Critics say that action would set a precedent for all banks with the same complaints as saving Wall Street in 2008. An alternative is the acquisition of SVB by Wall Street banks, but they may also ask for federal assistance in the unprofitable purchase. Friday, the FDIC said that all accounts under the $250,000 limit would be available on Monday but didn’t state the amounts returned to the holders. Some experts see the collapse connected only to the tech sector because of SVB’s focus, but big firms stock prices also dropped for big Wall Street firms such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs.

One accusation for the bank’s collapse is the problem caused by the Federal Reserve’s increased tax rates. The founder of the conservative Turning Point, Charlie Kirk, is promoting the conspiracy theory about whether investors should be told about investments in ESG (environmental, social and governance).

Floridians are also suffering with the lack of insurance monies sent after Hurricane Ian. Companies insuring many Florida properties are paying almost as little as 10 percent of expenses determined by insurance adjusters. Managers are rewriting descriptions of damage without seeing the property and deleting accompanying photographs to lower the totals. National insurance companies pulled out of the state’s market after its series of more frequent intense storms, leaving people to find policies from regional carriers such as Heritage and Florida Peninsula.

Heritage told adjusters to not include roof replacements in their report and not mention the word “wind” after the hurricane’s 150 mph gales. While insurance companies reduce damage estimates, even blaming roof problems on “wear and tear,” and force settlement into litigation, they rapidly raise their rates to an average of three times the cost in any other state. Hurricane Ian caused $112.9 billion in damage, the most expensive natural disaster in history.

During the past year, Republicans called two special legislative sessions to pass more laws further protecting and insulating property insurance carriers, putting $1 billion of taxpayer money into a reinsurance fund and preventing carriers from paying policy holders’ attorney fees if they sue. An adjuster who brought evidence of insurance companies’ fraudulent action to a state Commerce Committee was told his flash drive was not safe for a government computer. The committee chair said that adjusters brought “no evidence.”

Fox network not only lied about a “stolen” 2020 presidential election but its “journalists” used an extremely questionable source for its fabrications. Fox executive David Clark, who supervises Maria Bartiromo’s show, sent her an email forwarded by Sidney Powell, a former attorney for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), to prove Dominion voting machines flipped votes. Bartirmono presented the email as fact although its source, Marlene Bourne, described herself as being “internally capitated” and “the wind” tells her that she’s “a ghost.” She calls herself  a “cactus artist.” In an interview, Bourne said she got her hidden messages from films, song lyrics, and conversations overheard at the supermarket checkout. She sent the same claim to Fox host Lou Dobbs and conservative activist Tom Fitton. Bartiroma delivered Bourne’s message as fact but called Bourne “kooky” in a sworn deposition. In his deposition, Clarked called the idea “crazy.”

Former VP Mike Pence, who blows hot and cold about DDT, has now turned cold when he said “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for what happened on January 6, 2021. At Washington’s annual Gridiron Dinner, Pence added:

“Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace… President Trump was wrong … and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day…

“I once invited President Trump to Bible study. He really liked the passages about the smiting and perishing of thine enemies. As he put it, ‘Ya know Mike, There’s some really good stuff in here.’”

Pence also hinted at a presidential candidacy in 2024 when he said that he will “wholeheartedly, unreservedly support the Republican nominee for president in 2024 if it’s me.”

The conspiracy lies of the “stolen election” in 2020 was highly promoted with $7.4 from anonymous donations to the America Project, that contributed to the circus Cyber Ninjas “audit” of Maricopa County (AZ) ballots that failed to find any fraud. The group was created by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, his brother Joe Flynn, and millionaire Patrick Byrne, who resigned as the CEO of online retailer in 2019 after public discovery of his affair with an alleged Russian spy. Michael Flynn and Byrne met with DDT to push their conspiracy theories, including Venezuela’s part in the election and Nest brand thermostats changing votes. Donors can hide their name after the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United ((2010).

A headline in the conservative Hill stated that Walgreens got “dragged into the abortion war,” but in fact, the national pharmacy dived into the problem. Attorneys general from 21 states warned of legal consequences for mailing the pill even if state law permits it. Walgreens declared it would not mail the abortion pill to any of those states including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana which have no legal restrictions on abortion medication. Over 99 percent safe, mifepristone is the most common method for ending a pregnancy. It has been approved by the FDA and on the market for over 20 years.

California Gov. Gain Newsom said the state, the size of the 21 states, will not renew a $54 million contract with Walgreens because of its refusal and that Walgreens didn’t provide clear answers about its policy. DDT’s appointment judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who can ban mifepristone for everyone in the U.S., scheduled the lawsuit’s first hearing for next Wednesday but won’t publicize it. It is predicted that he will rule against the use of the medication because of his highly conservative views.

Atheists can proceed with a lawsuit against Ocala (FL) for a government Judeo-Christian prayer vigil following gun violence killing three children in 2014, according to the Supreme Court. The high court refused to block the case in which plaintiffs charged police chaplains “preached Judeo-Christian religion to the crowd in a style consistent with revivalist and evangelical religion,” “participated in religious worship,” and encouraged the crowd to engage in “responsive chanting.” In 2018, a judge ruled for the plaintiffs, charging $1 for damages, but the 11th Circuit Court overturned that judgment because the Supreme Court allowed a football coach to pray on the field after games. According to the 11th Circuit Court, at least one plaintiff had standing because the vigil excluded atheists.

A federal judge ruled a Missouri law banning enforcement of federal gun laws to be unconstitutional and void based on the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause. The state’s AG plans to appeal the decision; he said he expects “a better result at the Eighth Court.” When the DOJ sued to overturn the ban, the agency stated that the state crime lab refused to process evidence that would assist federal firearms prosecutions.  

According to a new report, right-wing extremists committed every ideologically driven mass killing in 2022, with an “unusually high” proportion caused by white supremacists. March 5 marked the 100th mass shooting throughout the U.S. in 2023, a milestone earlier than March 19 in 2022 and March 22 in 2021. Another six mass shootings have been recorded in the past six days. At least, 7,537 people have died thus far in 2023 from gun violence.

People complaining about inflation need to look at profits from big business. In 2022, 26 major oil companies had $290 billion profits with $163 billion going to shareholders.

Another 621,000 people could receive healthcare after North Carolina became the 40th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. For years, Rev. William Barber and other supporters have fought for this change, even getting arrested for their protesting. The expansion would also save some rural hospitals. No legislation has been drafted, but state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger agreed to include the federally-supported Medicaid in the budget after Covid funding disappeared. Most of the annual $1 billion in uncompensated hospital care can be covered, and the money would pay for about 40,000 new healthcare jobs.

The scientific nonprofit Cochrane has admitted people were misinterpreting its review of studies about the value of masks was wrong: wearing masks actually slows the spread of respiratory viruses. Of the 78 studies, ten focused on wearing versus not wearing masks, and another five targeted the effectiveness of different types of masks. The two studies performed since the pandemic beginning found that masks help. Data showed that U.S. states without mask mandates had 30 percent higher Covid death rates that those with mandates in before the availability of vaccines. In Germany, a study concluded that “face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 47 percent,” with the effect more pronounced in large cities and among older people.

March 10, 2023

News: March 10

For the first time in the 118th Congress, House Republicans have begun drawing the lines for their budget, perhaps inspired by the release of President Joe Biden’s proposal. The ideas came from the extremist far-right Freedom Caucus whose approximately three dozen members want to cap nondefense discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels for the next decade. The group delivered their demands in a news conference: rescind unspent pandemic funds; repeal mandatory spending in the climate, tax, and health law; overturn the $80 billion for IRS to collect more revenue; and block Biden’s student debt relief. They also mandate work requirements for federal programs such as Medicaid, claiming that will annually save $30 billion, government regulations curbs, and domestic energy production increases. The one-page proposal stated the group “will consider voting to raise the debt ceiling” if Democrats give in to all their demands.

The Freedom Caucus doesn’t publicize its members, even the total number, but over 30 House members claim to be part of the group. A majority of the 20 participants at the news conference initially voted against Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for their Speaker. He had promised them that the House would use fiscal 2022 levels for its fiscal 2024 appropriations bill and fight for spending cuts in debt ceiling negotiations. The House Budget Committee claimed its tardiness for its resolution after the April 15 deadline is because Biden was late in submitting his budget. He had promised to deliver the budget on March 9, the kept that deadline.

From Karine Jean-Pierre’s response to the Freedom Caucus proposal:

“Today, extreme MAGA House Republicans showed us what they value: tax breaks for the super wealthy and wasteful spending for special interests…

“This proposal would bring devastating consequences to our national security, working families, and community safety, and result in $0 in deficit reduction when coupled with MAGA Republicans’ support for trillions in tax cuts.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans’ proposals would ship manufacturing jobs overseas, in a crushing blow to states from Ohio to Georgia to Arizona—and would provide a windfall of economic benefits to China. They would increase health care premiums for nearly 15 million Americans and make the biggest Medicare benefits cut in decades, forcing America’s seniors to pay more for prescription drugs so Big Pharma can see new taxpayer handouts. They would defund the police, weaken our competition with China, and slash border security funding. All so that the super-wealthy and corporate special interests can enjoy their tax breaks and cheat on their taxes.”

I guess that’s a “no” from the White House.

When regulators took over Silicon Valley Bank on March 10 and seized all deposits, it was the largest U.S. banking failure since the 2008 crash and the second largest in the history of the nation. The bank catered to tech startups, and thousands of companies are trying to figure out their future. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (F.D.I.C.) insures $250,000, but Roku, creator of a digital media player, had almost $500 million in the bank. CAMP, a large company which sells toys and hosts play spaces, is using the disaster to ask for donations.

At the end of 2022, SVB had $209 billion in assets and $175.4 billion in deposits, but its core customers pulled out cash after struggling with rising interest rates, the decline of their stocks, and industry layoffs. Before its close, bank shares fell 60 percent in premarket trading after falling 60 percent the day before, causing their sale to be stopped. With 17 branches in California and Massachusetts, the 16th-largest bank collapsed under the vast number of withdrawals. The failure is reminiscent of Washington Mutual which had over $300 billion in assets when it collapsed in September 2008 and then sold to Chase. The federal government asserts that post-2008 reforms will prevent further economic meltdown, and SVB is searching for a buyer. 

Bragging by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) about his willingness to kiss women without their permission and “grab them by the p—- didn’t keep him from being elected. It could cause him to lose a lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll, however, when he allegedly did just that to her. On an Access Hollywood tape, he was also heard to say that “you can do anything,” and a federal judge in New York is permitting the tape to be entered into evidence in this civil case. His reason for not raping her was that “she’s not my type,” but he identified Carroll as his second wife when shown a photograph of her. Another court is determining whether DDT was acting in his official capacity as president when he allegedly defamed Carroll.

Social media is falsely spreading word about nine more boxes of classified documents removed from Biden in Boston after Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked National Archives for information about how documents found at the Penn Biden Center were handled. The documents were not “more”; they were moved from Penn to the office of Biden’s attorney Patrick Moore. National Archives reported that the boxes were moved but that they likely have no classified documents. The discovery, made last November, is not “breaking” as tweets claim, and the boxes were transported to the National Archives on November 9, 2022. Ten classified documents were found at that time.

A man is using Texas law permitting lawsuits against other people who help women get abortions to sue three women who allegedly helped his wife (now divorced) obtain medication to end her pregnancy. This case is the first brought since the state enacted the wrongful death statute, and the husband alleges that assisting a self-managed abortion qualifies as murder. The law didn’t go into effect until August, but conservative state leaders claim that Texas’ pre-Roe abortion bans punish anyone who performs or “furnishes the means” for an abortion with up to five years in prison, starting the day Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. The husband wants over $1 million damages.

People in the U.S. must be going back to work: the economy added 311,000 in February, far above the estimated $225,000, but the unemployment rate rose to 3.6 percent, still near longtime lows. January’s job growth was revised to 504,000. New jobs reflect growing demand in industries such as leisure, hospitality, and healthcare. The stock market, however, has been dropping because of nervousness about the Feds raising interest rates. Layoffs were higher also as Disney, Zoom, Yahoo, and Murdoch’s News Corp. announced massive layoffs in February, but more prime-age workers, ages 25 to 54, are in the labor force than before the pandemic.  

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) push to allow red states to divorce blue ones is catching on locally. Georgia’s GOP state Senate voted 4-3 to move legislation out of committee, permitting affluent, primarily white Buckhead to leave Atlanta and create its own city in a November 2024 referendum. Only that neighborhood will vote for the issue. The bill for the “City of Buckhead City” was presented by a state senator who lives over 100 miles from Buckhead. Home to 20 percent of Atlanta’s population, Buckhead produces about 40 percent of the revenue. Although it is one of the safest part of Atlanta, Buckhead residents give crime as their excuse. It was annexed in 1952, and most local businesses oppose the divorce.

DDT says he’s the “peace” president because he would give Russian President Vladimir Putin anything he wants, but MAGA wants war with Mexico:

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, a former biotech executive, stated he would use “military force to decimate the cartels, Osama bin Laden-style” if he became president.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) said it was a “mistake” that DDT didn’t bomb fentanyl labs in Mexico during his presidency. DDT had asked his former Defense Secretary Mark Esper about sending missiles into Mexico to wipe out the cartels and take out drug labs.

Right-wing commentator and comic Greg Gutfeld insisted during a panel that “military has to be on the table” when dealing with cartels. Geraldo Rivera responded mass resistance would face off, but Gutfeld said the “threat of death” is the only way to solve the problem.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), in “Triggered with Don Jr.” on the video platform Rumble complained, “I can’t understand why we’re fighting a war in Ukraine, and we’re not bombing the Mexican cartels who are poisoning Americans every single day. (We aren’t fighting a war in Ukraine.)

More child marriage: West Virginia Republicans killed a bill in committee to consider a bill restricting child marriage because the practice is a part of life in the state. One GOP state senator, a formal federal prosecutor, said his mother was married when she was 16, and “six months later, I came along. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” The bill’s sponsor said that the state has had 3,600 marriages involving one or two children since 2000. Anyone marrying under 16 needs a judge’s waiver.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) dropped out of school as a pregnant 17-year-old and is now ecstatic that her 17-year-old son’s 16-year-old girlfriend is pregnant. As of yet, they haven’t married. Boebert is a proponent of fundamentalist Christianity and removal of sex education in schools because it teaches students how to have or enjoy intercourse. At CPAC, Boebert won the Mothers of Influence Award. (Photo: The proud son and prospective father)

One more comment about Iowa’s child labor bill: It would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcoholic drinks in restaurants and bars. 

March 7, 2023

The GOP Myth of Wanting Small Government

On March 2, the RNC tweeted, “Government should be so small you don’t even realize it’s there. The message from the RNC on March 2.” One response debunked the plea by citing areas in which Republicans want really big government:

“Unless you’re a woman, gay, trans, BIPOC, immigrant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Atheist or Agnostic, pro-choice, liberal or heaven forbid ‘Woke.’ In that case, you want government to be so big it crushes anyone who isn’t a white, cis/het, Christian GOP conservative.”

Getting rid of “woke” seems to be the current goal of far-right Republicans, but they can’t define it. The term from African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) has been used for almost a century to describe societal awareness and justice as well as a call to warn of potential police brutality, “literally mean[ing] becoming woken up or sensitized to issues of justice.” Republicans now use it as an excuse to ban books, create revisionist history, promote white supremacy, push evangelical Christianity, threaten corporations, etc.

Almost everyone at last week’s CPAC used the term in a pejorative way. Some of their “definitions”:

“It covers so many things. It incorporated all the stupidity …” – Marleen Laska, a CPAC attendee who called asking for the definition a “loaded definition”

“The antithesis of everything America was founded on … anti-American, anti-common sense, anti-really in the sense of education, what education was meant to do.” – Marie Rogerson, executive director of program development at Moms for Liberty based in Florida

“Means you are basing your reality off of fiction and your feelings rather than actual facts.” – Angelo Veltri, northeast regional director for Young Americans for Liberty

A more practical explanation comes from linguist Tony Thorne of London’s King’s College:

“[W]eaponised by those on the right as a ‘sneering, jeering dismissive term’ to denigrate those who did not agree with their beliefs.”

Not all Republicans like the term; young GOP members want the older ones to stop saying “woke.”

Community College of Rhode Island student, Evan Masse, said, “We don’t really use ‘woke’ as our term.”

Managing director of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, Chris Johnson added, “I think a lot of older folks use it if they don’t really know what they’re referring to. It’s a catchall colloquialism.”

Recent college graduate and staff writer at The National Review, Nate Hochman, described a “pang of embarrassment” he felt when “boomer-friendly media presents wokeness in ‘will-you-get-a-load-of-this-shit’ segments.”

Brigham Young University student Quincy Azimi-Tabrizi said she felt “a lot of young people—when older conservative say ‘woke’—they feel very attacked.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may need to change the name of his “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” to get their votes.

Republicans say they love “small government.” Like spending money to attack President Joe Biden in a House Ways and Means hearing scheduled in an Oklahoma horse barn for Clydesdales. They’ve already been to Petersberg (WV) at Allegheny Wood Products and the southern border with their $262,000 budget for travel, 30 times more than the Democrat-run panel spent last year. The GOP-controlled committee is paying their donor to have the meeting as they did the host in West Virginia to review “the state of the economy in Appalachia.” The excuse for congressional members’ traveling is that witnesses don’t have time or resources to go to Washington; therefore the entire committee members, their aides, cameras, etc. travel thousands of miles and rent spaces. Debt ceiling anyone?

In the name of “small government,” GOP laws are revising history for schools with threats to teachers using facts in their curriculum. Banned information to protect white students:

Slavery was wrong.

Christopher Columbus recorded in his journals how he brutally treated Indigenous people.

Citizens of color see higher rates of police use of force, and white job applicants get higher callback rates.

Women have struggled to be educated for centuries as indicated by Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” which pushes for women’s equality. (An assistant principal canceled it, calling it unnecessary because it wasn’t “connected by skills” and declaring the teacher should “bring in articles of empathy and compassion rather than something that could negatively trigger our students.”

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl should not be taught because it is “overly dark and heavy.”

Alabama state Rep. Ernie Yarbrough campaigned on a position of “medical freedom … the right to make choices for ourselves.” The freshman GOP legislator has now announced a bill classifying abortion—for any reason except ectopic pregnancies—as homicide, allowing anyone seeking an abortion to be charged with murder. Small government = medical freedom but not for women.

In an idea smacking of authoritarian Russia and China, Texas state Rep. Bryan Salmon wants property cuts for married heterosexual couples, 10 percent for each child. Even without children, married couple—if they’re straight and never been divorced—can get 10 percent off their property taxes. In 1944, Stalin’s breeding program in Russia didn’t require marriage—just production. The Hero Mothers program lasted until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, but Russian president Vladimir Putin revived it in 2022 for cannon fodder. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) touted his “baby bonus” plan at CPAC.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will be advised by a former DDT attorney who participated in the 2020 plot of faux GOP electors to keep DDT in the White House. The four conservative justices put him on the advisory committee for a second term before the election on April 4 to replace one of the justices.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) boss, Tucker Carlson, has shown the first January 6 insurrection footage of 44,000 hours on his Fox network show with the message that it was “mostly peaceful chaos.” Very little violence, according to Carlson, at the event resulting in 500 guilty pleas of 1,000 arrests, five deaths, and 160 injuries—over 100 of them against law enforcement officers. “’Deadly insurrection.’ Everything about that phrase is a lie,” Carlson said on his program. He called them “sightseers.”

Carlson said that it was not known how “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley entered the Capitol although Chansley said he went through a broken door almost immediately after it was breached. Carlson said those who entered the Capitol “obviously revere the Capitol”: they “queue up in neat little lines.”

With no evidence, Carlson passed along the false assumption that federal agents helped incite the violence. He said members of the January 6 investigative committee lied about what they saw on the footage and is “grateful” to McCarthy for giving it to him. The chair of that committee Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said:

“Despite repeated warnings as to the sensitive nature of this footage, the Speaker decided it was more important to give in to a Fox host who spews lies and propaganda than to protect the Capitol and the police, members, and staff that serve in it.”

In his introduction to the segment, Carlson repeated the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, that it “was a grave betrayal of American democracy… No honest person can deny it. Yet the beneficiaries of that election continue to lie about what is now obvious.” In his deposition for Dominion Voting System’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, however, Carlson said, “There wasn’t enough fraud to change the outcome.”  

Fox executive Rupert Murdoch should be delighted with Tucker Carlson’s presentation because it will probably bring him a lot of “green.” The question is whether Tucker’s lies on his show about January 6 will worsen Fox’s chances in the Dominion defamation trial starting in April.

Fox has plenty of green even if it lost all its advertisers. Every average average cable/satellite subscriber pays $20 a year for the network, twice as much as CNN charges and three times as much as MSNBC, regardless of whether anyone in the household ever watches Fox News. That’s $1.8 billion in profit per year, no advertisers necessary.

Small is not always a benefit as Elon Musk may have discovered after his massive layoffs. On March 6, users encountered a variety of problems when they logged in—links and images not opening and TweetDeck, the Twitter-owned client for professional users inaccessible. The company’s support account tweeted: “We made an internal change that had some unintended consequences.” The change belonged to the project shutting down free access to the Twitter API, ending third-party clients and drastically limiting the research ability for outsiders. The project had only one site reliability engineer, who made a “bad configuration change” that “basically broke the Twitter API.” After Musk’s layoffs, under 550 full-time engineers remain. The problem was at least Twitter’s sixth high-profile service outage in six weeks. One employee said, “This is what happens when you fire 90 percent of the company.”

Having six conservative Supreme Court justices creating U.S. law is annoying enough, but one low-level federal judge can make a decision for all pregnant women in the U.S. When DDT’s extremist far-right, anti-abortion activist appointment, Matthew Kacsmaryk, decides whether women can purchase the abortion medication Mifepristone, his ruling will be for all U.S. women even if they live where the FDA-approved pill is legal. Plaintiffs don’t have standing because they can’t prove injury, but that no longer stops conservative judges from ruling on a case. Kacsmaryk’s history on the bench leaves little doubt that he will rule against women’s rights in a nationwide injunction. But that’s small government—according to Republicans.  

February 6, 2023

It’s Crazy Out There!

The ignorance of Fox watchers must be phenomenal! The latest balloon conspiracy theory coming from Fox & Friends host Rachel Campos-Duffy is that President Joe Biden had to get “permission from China” before shooting down the balloon. China’s “leverage over the president [was] concerning Hunter Biden.” It’s the laptop, you see. No mention, however, of all the Trump family business connections with China.

Even Republicans who don’t spout far-out conspiracy theories have the party line that Biden should have told the public every step he planned to take: tell every strategy to preserve national security to everyone, including possible enemies, before taking action. The biggest danger from the balloon is the frenzy created by Republicans to terrify people in the U.S. An excellent essay from Jonathan Last in the Bulwark. And the greatest danger to the U.S.: the GOP decision to default on the nation’s debts.

Abortion rights may be constitutional, according to a federal judge in Washington, D.C. originally appointed by Ronald Reagan, because of the 13th Amendment, not explored by the Supreme Court when it overturned Roe v. Wade. At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. ratified the amendment blocking “slavery” and “involuntary servitude.” The judge wrote that the high court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson “was not whether any provision of the Constitution provided a right to abortion. Rather, the question before the Court in Dobbs was whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provided such a right.”

Also fighting for the 13th Amendment argument are several Jewish organizations have filing lawsuits arguing that religious freedom protections in the First Amendment or state constitutions may extend to abortion rights. Lawsuits from The Satanic Temple support this position about abortion restrictions violating religious freedom rights.

Part of the anti-abortion movement, however, are two hospitals in Colorado, a state that with statutory protection for abortion as a fundamental right. The most recent hospital, the only one in Durango with a maternity ward, issued a statement that it will follow the “Catholic church ministry” and no longer provide post-cesarean section tubal ligations cutting the fallopian tubes. Therefore, a woman must have two separate surgeries instead of one—a higher risk that also costs twice the amount and time. The hospital’s previous policy was blocking tubal ligations after vaginal births. The only exception to these rules is a genetic predisposition to ovarian or breast cancer. Other health risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, blood clotting disorders, and uterine abnormalities aren’t grounds for exemption.

Former FBI agent Nicole Parker, former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, and Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are conservatives testifying at Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) first weaponization subcommittee hearing on February 9. They represent the #1 conspiracy theorist in the Senate, a Russian asset, a racist who supported the insurrectionist, and a supposed whistle-blower.

Last summer, the capital of Mississippi, Jackson, had no clean water for two months. In November, the DOJ assigned a federal manager to take care of the utility, and Congress, just before the Republicans took over the House, approved $600 million to cure the water system. The white legislators, however, didn’t want to spend any money, either state or federal for the Black population, and a state Senate bill would allow the governor and lieutenant governor to appoint the majority of a proposed regional water-authority board. The governor would select three of the nine members and the lieutenant governor two others. Gov. Tate Reeves has always been skeptical about Jackson managing its own issues, and the bill could move improvements and debt relief from Jackson into suburban utilities joining the water board.

The Jackson mayor described the attempt as “a colonial power taking over our city,” “plantation politics.” He said:

“It reminds me of apartheid. They dictate our leadership, put a military force over us and we’re just supposed to pay taxes to the king.”

Proposed legislation would also turn parts of Jackson’s police and court systems to state control. Asked about the concerns, GOP state Sen. David Parker, who presented the measure designed by the GOP lieutenant governor, said he could attach an amendment that would prohibit the funds being used outside Jackson’s city limits. That amendment, however, could be overturned later. The state already controls the money derived from Jackson’s one-percent sales tax for funding infrastructure projects.

Presidential wannabe and Florida governor Ron DeSantis decided to take credit for a Biden accomplishment, major funding for rural broadband infrastructure. Or broadbrand, as his sign said. In his big announcement, DeSantis said he was awarding $144 million in grant awards to rural broadband projects in his state. All went well until a reporter asked him if he got the funding from Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan, the new law that none of Florida’s GOP congressional members voted for, including Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. DeSantis finally caved to admit the grants were from the “federal government.”

DeSantis got another free gift for his states, e-books focused on Black history from Chicago-based Haymarket Books, self-described as “a “radical publisher of politics, culture, current events.” Haymarket’s press release:

“We at Haymarket stand in solidarity with all those in Florida and across the country who are organizing to resist. We know that books can be dangerous to those in power, especially when they are in the hands of folks who are organizing to fight for liberation. That’s why we publish them. That’s why they’re trying to ban them.”

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reintroduced his bill to limit senators from serving more than two six-year terms. Last November, he announced he was running for a third term. Senators have served an average of 11.2 years and representatives, 8.5 years. Cruz’s advantage is that the term limit wouldn’t be grandfathered in. If the bill passes, he can run for a fourth term—if he doesn’t become president. He’s still contemplating a second presidential run in 2024. This is the fourth time Cruz has put the bill to change the constitution before the Senate, and it’s highly unlikely to get the necessary two-thirds votes in each congressional chamber, let alone ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. A Democratic state senator has a bill allowing Texas to cap U.S. senators at two terms to “oblige” Cruz.

Benjamin Netanyahu returned as Israel’s prime minister at the beginning of 2023, and thousands of Israelis have gathered for five weeks in protest against the judicial changes, they say changes the nation from a democracy to an autocracy. Lawyers and business leaders oppose the proposed modifications, polarizing Israeli politics and society.

Tighter political control over judicial appointments would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn government decisions of Knesset (legislature) laws. A simple majority of the Knesset could override a court decision, and the legislature could reinstate laws the court already revoked. Also the court could no longer rebuke government decisions with the test of “reasonability” in areas including environmental damage, and damage to quality of life. With the override clause, government could expropriate private property and make all its laws immune to judicial review. Appointments of government positions would have no supervision.

Another government proposal would expands illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. In changing immigration law, Israel would contradict positions to international conventions it ratified. The result would harm not only for international relations but also foreign investments.

The LGBTQ community is also concerned about the possible loss of rights from the homophobia of the new leaders, especially with the legislature override decisions from the court. Israel could shift from being a gay haven in the Middle East to a dangerous place for non-heterosexual people. Same-gender couples cannot marry in Israel, but they currently have the legal benefits of marriage with benefits, inheritance, parenting, adoption, etc., thanks to the Israeli Supreme Court. Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has been banned for over 30 years, but the Religious Zionist Party wants a homophobic theocracy. The right-wing parties struck a deal to use “religious freedom” to take away rights, much like recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Judicial reform will result in more conservative judges in Israel.

Netanyahu is on trial on several corruption charges. The judicial reforms would allow him to replace the current attorney general with his own appointment, someone who could revoke or amend charges against him.

Air pollution causes chess experts to make more mistakes, according to a study which doesn’t bode well for the performance of anyone living in that polluted air. With a modest increase in fine particulate matter, the magnitude of chess player errors increased by almost 11 percent. Professional players already monitor air quality while they play because of this understanding of pollution danger before the study. These results have could apply to anyone needing to think hard for employment, creating an economic cost.

MAGA folk claim they aren’t a cult, but a devoutly Christian Pennsylvania family was found dead in their backyard, leaving several notes that the suicides were a pact. With a multitude of anti-abortion signs in front of the house, they were obviously “pro-life.” The homeschooled daughter’s note made several references to the forces of evil conspiring against both DDT and herself. Definitions of a cult include “us versus them,” black-and-white answers for everything, and indoctrination—all indicated by the insurrectionists and many other DDT supporters.  

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