Nel's New Day

November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Gratitude for Government Actions

Every year on Thanksgiving, many people express gratitude for what happens in their lives. For me, this means my fabulous partner of over 53 years and our joy in working together. We’re grateful for the friends who contribute to our lives through their love, humor, acceptance, and help whenever we need it. We take delight in our loving standard poodle and our delightful cat. Our home is exactly what we want, and we feel safe in the small town where we live.

Beyond that—because I’m a politics junkie—I have much more to list in my gratefulness because they demonstrate that others share with me my desire for human rights and democracy.

Elections:

After a long 15 days, Alaska has declared the winners of its ranked choice votes. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK) returns for a full House term after she won her special election last summer, both elections defeating former VP candidate Sarah Palin. She cares about people, not herself. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will also return to Washington after Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) tried to destroy her for her impeachment vote against him. DDT endorsed opponents of both these winners.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) will be Los Angeles’ first female mayor despite her wealthy opponent outspending her by $91 million.

Two extremely close races flipped the Pennsylvania state House to Democrats for the first time in a decade. The Dems flipped a total of 12 seats in the chamber.

The GOP will likely have 222 members of the House for the 118th Congress, outnumbering Democrats by five. Democrats are suing to overturn districting maps in six states they couldn’t do before 2022 elections: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas.

Georgia will determine whether Democrats have 50 or 51 Senators in the election on December 6.  Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) leads opponent Herschel 51 percent to 47 percent and has an 11-point lead among women voters plus 12 percent of those with a four-year or more college degree.

The week after DDT announced his 2024 presidential campaign, 57 percent thought it was a bad idea. Only 27 percent approved in the Quinnipiac University poll. Among independents, the disapproval was 58 percent to 32 percent. Forty-four percent don’t want Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president, compared to 37 percent supporting him.

Courts:

The Supreme Court, typically supporting DDT, turned him down in his request to block House Democrats from seeing his tax records. Sought for 42 months, the decision listed no dissenting votes, and the records should be immediately turned over to the House committee.

The Supreme Court rejected appeals from a Virginia public school district and the University of Toledo in Ohio to stop sexual harassment lawsuits by female students using the law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds.

A federal judge continued to send Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ beloved Stop WOKE Act into the trash pile, starting when he blocked provisions related to regulating private speech. In August, he wrote:

“Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

DeSantis’ law targeted concepts about race and history that Republicans dislike. In banning any information about critical race theory, DeSantis tried to regulate private businesses’ training sessions with their own private-sector employees. 

The November ruling stopped what the judge called a “positively dystopian” policy restricting how lessons on race and gender can be taught in colleges and universities. DeSantis wants to control what scholars can say in higher education. He quoted George Orwell’s novel 1984:

“’It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,’ and the powers in charge of Florida’s public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of ‘freedom.”

The judge added:

“The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints. Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian.”

DeSantis will certainly appeal, but this ruling is a start. Other lawsuits are fighting the suppression of education in K-12.

With no comment, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the GOP request to remove a day of early voting for the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Herschel Walker. The GOP knows that it needs to block voting to win, causing the Republicans already passing a large number of voter restrictions including cutting the runoff calendar in half with a ban on Saturday voting after a holiday. Georgia’s runoff early voting now runs from November 27 to December 2.

A three-judge 11th Circuit Court panel, two DDT-appointed judges and one from George W. Bush, appear ready to support the DOJ by rescinding the special master appointment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case made by DDT’s pet judge Aileen Cannon. One of the DDT judges told DDT’s lawyer that sweeping up personal items in a court-authorized search was not unusual. The DOJ has also asked for the return of 13,000 documents to investigators examining if DDT illegally retained highly sensitive documents of national defense information after he left the White House and possibly obstructed justice in their retrieval.  

A judge asked DDT’s lawyer that if he can’t establish the seizure is unlawful, “what are we doing here?” Another judge pointed out that a special master has no relationship to unlawful seizure.

A complaint has been filed against a Greenville (MS) municipal judge who signs no-knock search warrants allowing police to go into a home unannounced and then keeps them instead of turning them over to the clerk. Violating the state’s criminal procedure rules, his process hides warrants from the public and The public has no access to the warrants and prevents people from defending themselves when they are charged with crimes.

Congress:

The Senate unanimously passed legislature to make funding for survivors of gender-based violence more inclusive of the neediest communities. This amendment to the Violence against Women Act increased funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services specifically helping Native Hawaiian survivors who were inadvertently excluded from the funding. Roughly two-thirds of sex-trafficking victims in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian.

Another unanimous Senate vote passed the Safe Connections Act to help survivors of domestic violence and other crimes cut ties with their abusers and separate from shared wireless service plans, useful to monitor, stalk, or control victims. Abused victims and dependents in their care won’t have penalties or other requirements to separate from shared plans, and the FCC must make rules to keep calls or texts on hotlines from appearing on call logs.

Almost 200 years ago, the U.S. agreed to seat a member of the Cherokee Nation in the House as a non-voting delegate. A House vote could make that happen. The House has six non-voting delegates, including from the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, who can introduce legislation and sit on committees but cannot vote on the House floor.

President Joe Biden:

Facing opposition from conservative states to his student loan forgiveness of $20,000 per person, Biden will extend the payment pause on federal student loans until 60 days after the relief plan is permitted.

The price of crude oil has dropped from almost $120 in March to $77.50, plunging over one-third of its cost from this year’s highest point. Shipping prices are lower, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) drove investment in U.S. battery equipment manufacturing, taking the industry from China.  

Jason Easley and Sarah Jones wrote about gratitude for Biden:

“After four years of feeling like the country was careening out of control, President Joe Biden assumed office and immediately restored stability and normalcy to the country…. Biden got the pandemic under control, oversaw record-setting job growth, and made a huge downpayment on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and helping the planet. Biden has gotten Congress to function in a bipartisan way and has lived up to his promise to try to help people and make their lives better.

“Things have not been perfect. Inflation remains a stubborn and persistent problem. The Senate filibuster has stopped Biden from achieving goals like voting rights reform, an assault weapons ban, and the codification of Roe.”

Easley and Jones described Biden’s leadership:

“You may not appreciate it at the moment, but you’ll know when it is not there.

“The reason why so many Americans will be able to enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday is that a steady hand is again steering the national ship from the Oval Office.

“The feeling that there has been a dark cloud hovering over the nation has passed.”

Footnote for Biden: For many years, Fox network attacked “liberals” for their “War on Christmas.” Evidently that particular war has ended. Fox’s latest complaint is that Biden is “too pro-Christmas,” led by Laura Ingraham on her prime-time show. (The official lighting of the National Christmas Tree isn’t until November 30.) 

And then there’s the scandal about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaking information to evangelical Christians before his announcements of two cases about reproductive rights. But that’s a longer story!

October 7, 2022

News for the Week – October 6, 2022

Hurricane Ian has passed, and the House January 6 investigative committee has scheduled a hearing for October 13 at 1:00 pm EST. They picked the time because Fox network refuses to film hearings during evening prime time.

Part of the right-wing Proud Boys’ inner circle, Jeremy Bertino of Belmont (NC), a longtime lieutenant of its chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, has pled guilty to seditious conspiracy. He may be a key witness against his five former colleagues, leaders with ties to influential supporters of former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). They face a December trial on charges including plotting to forcibly stop the presidential transition culminating in the January 6 insurrection. Five members of the Oath Keepers are already on trial for the same charge, and four members of the far-right group already pled guilty along with two other Proud Boys. Bertino’s guilty plea and illegal possession of firearms as a convicted felon could be punished by 51 to 63 months in prison. A search of his home revealed six firearms including two semiautomatic AR-15 style rifles with scopes.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), an occasional moderate, is leaving Congress within the next two months to become president of the University of Florida. The state’s GOP governor, Pete Ricketts, can fill the open seat through the 2024 election. Sasse’s term, his second, lasts through 2026, meaning the replacement would have only a two-year term before a reelection.

As in the past, DDT bashed Sasse, one of seven senators voting to convict DDT in his second impeachment. Conservative author Nick Adams posted that DDT should “buy a house in Nebraska and… [Nebraska] Governor Pete Ricketts should appoint President Donald J. Trump to the US Senate to replace Ben Sasse.” DDT has praised DDT for his Adams’ work, Retaking America: Crushing Political Correctness. DDT wrote on Truth Social that he is “looking forward to partnering with Nebraska’s great Republican Party to get a real senator … not another fake RINO.” A new governor in 2023 could appoint the term-limited Ricketts to replace Sasse.

Some of DDT’s gubernatorial candidates are so bad that GOP leaders support their Democratic opponents:

Kansas: Former Gov. Bill Graves is supporting Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly over state AG Derek Schmidt, who worked in Graves administration. Graves joins 160 other Kansas Republicans endorsing Kelly. Schmidt’s relationship with Republicans is so bad that GOP state senator Dennis Pyle is running against him as an independent. Since Kelly became governor, she balanced the budget, funded public schools, restored infrastructure projects, removed the food tax, and cut $1 billion in taxes while shattering records for new business investments and landed major economic development opportunities.

Michigan: Over 150 state Republicans launched a coalition of business leaders, former state lawmakers, and ex-congressman, and top staff from the GOP administrations of Gov. John Engler and Rick Snyder to support Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection bid. The former head of the Michigan GOP is also part of the group

Pennsylvania: GOP leaders, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former Allegheny County state Rep. Jim Kelly, announced they support AG Josh Shapiro running for governor against Doug Mastriano. Other GOP officials including two former congressmen, a former state House speaker, and a former lieutenant governor, added their endorsements.

In Maryland, Democratic Wes Moore is ahead of DDT’s gubernatorial choice Dan Cox by 32 percent to replace term-limited Republican Larry Hogan.  Massachusetts Dem candidate Maura Healy has a 99-percent chance to beat DDT’s gubernatorial choice, Geoff Diehl, replacing term-limited GOP Charlie Baker. In this year’s gubernatorial races, 17 lean GOP and 16 Democratic with three states in the middle, according to fivethirtyeight.com.  (Interactive map)

Gas prices going up? Blame Saudi Arabia, not President Joe Biden. Not only did OPEC cut oil supplies. but Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco also bought the biggest oil refinery in the U.S. at Port Arthur (TX) in 2017. Aramco has full ownership of 24 distribution terminals and exclusive rights to sell Shell-branded gasoline and diesel in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, the eastern half of Texas and the majority of Florida.

Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, is consuming the media with a “on-again” position of buying Twitter after vacillating so long that he was headed for a trial on October 17 for trying to break the deal. Over six months ago, he offered to buy the company after he discovered he couldn’t make changes as a shareholder, limited to 15 percent of Twitter stocks. Since then he has badmouthed the company, driving down its shares by almost one-third at one time while offering to finalize the deal with a large drop in the original $44 billion he offered.

When the deal when completely sour, Twitter took Musk to court, but he didn’t want to be deposed and went back to the original agreement of $54.20 a share if the social media company dropped all litigation. Musk asked for additional time to put together financing because most of his assets are tied up with other companies such as Tesla. That company’s shares have dropped by one-third in the past six months, and Musk’s financial backers for Twitter have started to back out. The judge gave Musk until October 28 to finalize the deal. Earlier offering to sell for less, Twitter’s lawyers said that Musk’s “proposal is an invitation to further mischief and delay.”

Like DDT with his Truth Social, Musk has grandiose ideas for his business model—an all-purpose app for messaging, shopping, video gaming, and web browsing, similar to China’s WeChat app. He envies TikTok’s algorithm keeping users hooked and wants a creator-friendly platform focusing more on video. He even has a name, X—the everything app. In addition, Musk wants users to pay for each posted tweet with small amounts of the cryptocurrency DogeCoin and plans to allow DDT back on Twitter to move his QAnon conspiracies and calls for violence into the mainstream venue.

This week, Musk tweeted proposals for “Ukraine-Russia Peace”: give Russia the illegally annexed Crimea, stop Ukraine from joining NATO, ensure water supply to Ukraine, and ask the UN to run another set of referenda in eastern Ukraine allowing Russia to overtake the regions if Russia wins. Along with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinsky, over 60 percent of the more than one million respondents disagreed, but Musk attributed the vote to the “biggest bot attack I’ve ever seen.” Tesla shares dropped 9 percent, and Musk lost $15 billion from his $252 billion but regained most of it after he said he was going through with the sale.

Buying Twitter means Musk takes on a lot of baggage. The company did win a Dutch case at The Hague in its claim that Twitter did enough by deleting lies spread by three men who claimed a Dutch town was the site of a satanic pedophile ring. Dozens of people “flocked to the municipality of 34,000 people to lay flowers and messages in a graveyard of so-called victims after conspiracy theorists latched on to the claims.”

Yet the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case this term to determine whether tech platforms should be immune from punishment for harmful content posted by users. It regards a woman killed by the Islamic State militant group in Paris during a 2015 attack. She was one of over 100 people killed by ISIS that year, and the family claims videos fed algorithmically on YouTube inspired the extremists. The intent of the SCOTUS case is deciding whether to retain a legal provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Section 230, that protects internet companies from liability for users’ posts. Democrats assert tech companies use Section 230 to avoid accountability for hate speech.

Bits from the White House:

President Joe Biden has pardoned everyone federally convicted of simple possession of cannabis under federal law, over 6,500 people, and urges governors to follow suit. Although states are moving toward legal use of cannabis for medical and recreational use, the substance remains illegal under federal law. Biden also asked Health and Human Services Secretary and the DOJ AG to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

VP Kamala Harris was in a one-car accident when her Secret Service driver hit a curb in a tunnel hard enough that the tire had to be replaced and bringing Harris’ motorcade to a standstill. She was transferred to another vehicle and taken to the White House, but the Secret Service reported only “a mechanical failure” in an alert.

The White House announced a “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights” to hold technology companies accountable for internal biases threatening the civil rights by ensuring AI programs are developed with built-in protections. Examples include discrimination against student loans for those who attend a Historically Black College or University and an algorithm recommending child welfare agencies investigate families of Black children.  

Because of the CHIPS and Science Act, providing $52 billion in public investment in semiconductor manufacture, Micron will spend up to $100 billion during the next 20 years to build up to four plants in upstate New York near Syracuse to manufacture computer chips. The company estimates that the project will create almost 50,000 jobs, with about 9,000 of those in the plants themselves

The GOP complains the loan relief may help Blacks more than Whites because of the racial income gap. Will Republicans then sue to take all benefits away because more Blacks are in poverty than Whites as they reject equal voting rights for Blacks?

Alabama has a gender-based dress code: AL.com reporter Ivana Hrynkiw was told her skirt was too short to view an execution at a prison and open-toe shoes were unsuitable although she had worn the skirt on her job multiple times with no questioning. The prison official approved rain gear—waterproof waders—she borrowed from a photographer and her gym tennis shoes. A judge told a staffer for another judge was told she couldn’t go into the courtroom wearing a pantsuit. And more stories about Alabama sexism!

August 2, 2022

Veterans, Pro-choice Win; Pelosi, Biden Take Heat; ERIC Wins in Missouri

Facing tremendous backlash, Republicans in the Senate caved to vote for legislation expanding healthcare for veterans fighting diseases related to toxic exposure, including from burn pits that burned hazardous materials. After blocking the PACT Act with 42 votes last week, senators voted 86-11 for the bill with the support of 49 Democrats and 37 Republicans. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) missed the vote because of a recent hip-replacement.

Over 3.5 million veterans will benefit from easier access to health and disability benefits. An amendment by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) failed 7-90 that would have eliminated all funding except to Israel for the U.S. Agency for International Development during the next 10 years. Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) amendment would have privatized VA health services for these veterans through private practice, but Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) disagreed with her argument that the VA lacks the resources. Her amendment fell short of the 60-vote filibuster by 48-47.

The 11 Republicans against expanded health care for veterans also voted “no” on the bill in June: Mike Crapo (ID), James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Rand Paul (KY), James Risch (ID), Mitt Romney (UT), Richard Shelby (AL), Thom Tillis (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), and Tommy Tuberville (AL). Paul spoke objected to the PACT Act because too many veterans would receive care; he wanted stricter guidelines. Blackburn said she voted against the bill to retaliate against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democrats running for election. Her odd opposition was to “make certain that [veterans] have access to the care that they need,” which is what the bill does. In Tennessee, 7.4 percent of veterans live in poverty, and the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. The state ranks among the top ten with the least access to healthcare; 11.4 percent of residents lack health insurance.

Kansas held the first election about reproductive rights after the Supreme Court eliminated reproductive rights in Roe v. Wade and overwhelmingly rejected legislative suppression of abortion by 58.8 to 41.2 percent with 95 percent of the votes in. This vote to protect reproductive rights came despite confusion in the text of the initiative: voting “yes” on the ballot issue meant the state legislature could take away abortion rights; voting “no” will protect women under the Kansas constitution that permits abortions through the 22nd week of pregnancy.

To make things worse, text messages sent to voters lied about the effect of voting yes, legal in Kansas that does not prevent disinformation in political messages for constitutional ballot measures. Texts were created by a PAC led by Tim Huelskamp, hard-line former GOP congressman from Kansas, and sent from phone numbers leased from Alliance Forge in Sparks (NV) by Twilo, a San Francisco-based communications company. Huelskamp’s PAC sent the message with no reference to himself or Alliance Forge.

Legislators may also have tried to suppress the vote by putting it on the primary, hoping for a lack of turnout, perhaps 36 percent of voters participating. Instead about 50 percent of the people turned out with returned advance mail ballots 46 percent GOP, 39 percent Democrat, and 15 percent unaffiliated. Republicans outnumber Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-1 in the state. 

The vote was created as a special election at the same time as primaries in which only party-affiliated votes can participate. Legislators may have hoped that unaffiliated voters—29 percent of the electorate—may not have known they could vote on the issue, and lawmakers passed tighter restrictions to create difficulties for registering new voters.

Since the announcement of erasing Roe, over a dozen GOP-led states moved to ban or further restrict abortion. Kansas legislators claim that a new amendment won’t mean a total ban on abortion, but they previously said they are ready for an all-out ban in the January legislative session. Amendment 2, as the initiative is known, does not ban abortion, but it allows the highly conservative legislature to do so.

Anti-abortion activists complained that Kansas had 13 percent more abortions over the past two years, but much of the increase came from closures of clinics in Oklahoma and Texas. The past year saw a 60 percent increase of out-of-state patients in Trust Women, a Wichita abortion clinic during the past year.

In non-election news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) went to Taiwan and met with President Tsai Ing-wen and other lawmakers despite GOP anger that she didn’t follow China’s directions to not go the country that the Chinese won’t recognize. China’s opposition comes from its Communist Party ideology, objecting to support for pro-independence groups and refusing to see Taiwan as a sovereign nation. Pelosi is the first House Speaker to go to Taiwan since Newt Gingrinch (R-GA) went there in 1997.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was the first U.S. president to talk to the Taiwanese president since 1979, the year that the U.S. established relations with China, when he talked with Tsai on December 2, 2016, soon after his election. At that time, Republicans were highly supportive of relations with Taiwan. Reince Priebus, DDT’s chief of staff, visited Taiwan in 2011 and 2015 with a GOP delegation, and Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee called Priebus a friend of Taiwan. Longtime former president of the Heritage Foundation, Edward J. Feulner, had extensive ties with Taiwan. The RNC platform in July 2016 reaffirmed support for Ronald Reagan’s 1982 six key assurances to Taiwan.

During her visit, Pelosi will meet with the chair of Taiwan’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), to discuss the new U.S. law, CHIPS and Science Act, which provides $52 billion of subsidies for U.S. chip factories. TSMC is building a chip factory in Arizona with potential plans for additional factories at the same site.

President Joe Biden orchestrated the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Republicans either criticize him or describe it as a nothing-burger.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson led the crowd by saying, “Feel safer? Of course you don’t.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed Biden’s departure from Afghanistan caused the “possible re-emergence of Al Qaeda.” McCarthy wants a briefing about terrorist threats to America, probably foreign ones and not the serious problems of domestic terrorism.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said, “Joe’s victory is ridiculous”—after she left the Saudi Arabian LIV golf tour at DDT’s resort in Bedminster (NJ). As with all Biden’s accomplishments, she calls it a distraction from the rising inflation rate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blamed Biden for making Afghanistan a “safe haven” for terrorism by withdrawing troops and lambasted him for “a proxy war with Russia that’s just killing more people.” Graham claimed no one was worried about an al Qaeda-attack because of the “Democrats big tax hike coming soon”—meaning the one on businesses making over $1 billion.

Except for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who posted this on his website:

“This is an important accomplishment. All Americans will breathe easier today knowing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, has been eliminated. This strike should be a message to terrorists near and far: if you conspire to kill Americans, we will find and kill you.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called Fox host Harris Faulkner a liar when she claimed that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will tax people making under $400,000 a year, something Biden said he wouldn’t do. After repeating telling Faulkner she was wrong with her accusation, Manchin pointed out savings of $288 billion for Medicare and from lower gas prices. Faulkner lost her cool when Manchin asked her, “Are you scared that we’re going to do something good that will help our country?” 

August 2 saw primaries in five states on August 2: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. Tennessee primaries are on Thursday, August 4. Most results won’t be in until tomorrow—or even several more days—because of the lag in counting votes and waiting for mail-in ballots. Tennessee primaries are on Thursday, August 4.

DDT did win one of his endorsements, ERIC, his pick for the Missouri GOP candidate for the U.S. senate. DDT gave no last name for his endorsement, hedging his bets between Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens for U.S. Senate. In fact, a third ERIC ran for U.S. Senator, comedian Eric McElroy who had no visible campaign.

The winner, Eric Schmitt, might be slightly better than Eric Greitens who resigned from the state’s governor’s seat after accusations of his violence against a mistress and was recently charged by his ex-wife of domestic abuse against herself and their young son. Greitens said enemies recognize “our campaign is a threat to business as usual,” but Schmitt got at least twice as many votes as he did. The state’s GOP U.S. senator Josh Hawley, master of masculinity who ran away on January 6, backed the second in the race, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who was condemned by DDT. Schmitt runs against Trudy Busch Valentine, an heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune.

Schmitt used his position as attorney general in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election by filing an amicus brief to AG Ken Paxton’s (R-TX) lawsuit before the Supreme Court to eliminate legal electoral voters. Head of the only agency opposing the release of an innocent man, Schmitt twice delayed hearings to release Kevin Strickland, imprisoned for 42 years. The state gave Strickland no money for 42-year imprisonment, but donors collected $1.6 million for him.

More about the primaries tomorrow!

May 11, 2022

Abortion Update, DDT’s Endorsements

As expected, the Democratic bill to preserve reproductive rights for women went down 51-49 in the Senate. The 50 Republicans were joined by West Virginia’s “Democrat” Joe Manchin. Nebraska’s Ben Sasse had the gall—or naivety or stupidity—to suggest that GOP could use the refusal of these rights for the chance to expand social safety nets for children and mothers. He obviously hasn’t been observing his own party—or his own votes. In another classic argument against the bill, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) compared women to sea turtles, saying women’s rights should be overturned because of the penalty in destroying sea turtle eggs. If the issue, killing women and losing rights, were not so serious, the responses would be hysterically funny. Like this tweet:

“IF WE COULD LAY EGGS OUTSIDE OUR BODY, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION YOU PIECE OF SHIT.”

Mike Frog explained:

“The human race is not endangered, only white Americans are and they know it. That’s what this is all about.”

There was no hope from the beginning because of the 60-percent mandate for passing and Senate legislation, but 49 Democrats tried. Even Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), usually siding with the Republicans, voted in favor of the bill, but the conservative big business giving her donations, including the pharmaceutical industry, supports women’s reproductive rights, knowing that they spend a lot of money.

Another Supreme Court leak, the fourth one about overturning Roe v. Wade, reports that conservative justices siding with Samuel Alito in removing women’s reproductive rights have switched their votes. Before Alito’s rough draft was leaked, the Wall Street Journal gave behind-the-scenes details about discussion regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that could lead to the elimination of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) claim that he’s not a “moron” when he says the leak comes from someone on the left, but the two most recent links show conservatives are likely the sieve. An attorney close to several conservative justices said about Chief Justice John Roberts’ earlier decisions supporting the Affordable Care Act:

 “There is a price to be paid for what he did. Everybody remembers it.”

Despite the hue and cry about leaks being an assault on the court, the conservative justices are assaulting the people of the United States.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pointed out that one of Roe’s opponents, Brett Kavanaugh, had not been properly vetted before the confirmation because the FBI was blocked from conducting a proper background after accusations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is suffering from more “chalk attacks” written on the sidewalk in front of her home and has again called the Bangor police. The city has removed the writing with the notation of a complaint of “graffiti on public property.”

Election season is upon the U.S. for over six months, and endorsements by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has added to the heartburn suffered by Republicans. Yesterday, they dodged a bullet in Nebraska when serial Christian evangelist groper Charles Herbster missed a GOP primary win for governor. Despite multiple women from both parties witnessing and experiences Herbster’s unwanted advances, DDT, who also sexually assaulted women, told people to vote for him. DDT said, “He’s the most innocent human being … the last person to do any of this stuff.” Herbster, who had hired two DDT campaign leaders, Cory Lewandowski and David Bossie, conceded the election but told his audience to watch Rigged, Bossie’s movie with lies about DDT’s “stolen” election. The term-limited incumbent governor endorsed winner Jim Pillen, whose win probably puts another Republican into the governor’s mansion. The moderate conservative also lost.

All 13 state senators, including five Republicans, pushed back at Herbster’s denial of the “highly credible, corroborated allegations.” With no political experience, Herbster carried other baggage. He declared himself a fifth-generation Nebraska cattle rancher but dropped out of the 2014 governor’s race with allegations that the $18,000 house was not his residence. He owned a $435,000 house he owns in Kansas City (MO) and donated almost $9 million of his own money to his campaign, almost all of it gone.         

Even Kellyanne Conway, who worked for Herbster, knew about the allegations almost a year before the story broke, but she assumed the bipartisan group was just lying. The race was still fairly tight with Herbster picking up almost 80,000 votes at 30.2 percent of the GOP total number and Pillen getting 33 percent.

DDT also lost his favorite in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district, Steve Kuehl, although he didn’t make an endorsement. At his May 1 rally, DDT denounced incumbent Don Bacon, saying, “I hope you vote like hell against that guy.” Bacon voted for the first infrastructure bill and defeated Kuehl by 44 points. Kuehl came in at 14,000 votes, 23 percent of the total. Incumbent Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen handily defeated his two opponents who pushed DDT’s message about “election security.

Nebraska voters also didn’t send Rep. Jeff Fortenberry back to Congress after he was convicted of lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions of $30,000. He had resigned after the conviction but stayed in the race. Despite his legal problems, Fortenberry got almost 10,000 votes at 12 percent of the total. At DDT’s May 1 rally, he defended Fortenberry, saying it was “very unfair” that Fortenberry might end up “in jail for a tiny amount of money.” The former congressman will be sentenced in June for three felonies.  

DDT did come up victorious in the West Virginia congressional race between two incumbents after the state lost one of its seats. Voters preferred the farther right one, Alex Mooney, despite his opponent, David McKinley, voting against massive funds for the state in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Mooney is being investigated for possible use of campaign funds for personal expenses. GOP Gov. Jim Justice supported McKinley. Republicans are hoping to take over the House. If they do, West Virginia should expect less federal money for their impoverished population, crumbling infrastructure, and lack of health care.

Tuesdays are busy. Here’s a calendar of 2022 primaries for all the 435 House members, 34 U.S. Senators, 36 governors, and thousands of state legislators. Five states are up next Tuesday, May 17.

Last week, DDT won his endorsement of J.D. Vance for the GOP U.S. Senate candidate from Ohio after the author of Hillbilly Elegy completely reversed his revulsion for DDT and campaigning on sinking to greater lows that DDT. Before DDT won in 2016, Vance wrote that DDT is either a “cynical asshole” or “America’s Hitler.” In October 2016, he called DDT “noxious,” “reprehensible,” and an “idiot.” Last summer, he told Molly Bang that to get the Republican vote he needed “to just suck it up and support” DDT.

Some Vance “winning” positions:

Vance is backed by the Mercer family, who formerly funded DDT, and venture capitalist Peter Thiel as well as supported by planners of overturning the election, including Steve Bannon.  Fox’s Tucker Carlson also helped Vance’s campaign by telling DDT that the supporter of Vance’s opponent, Club for Growth President David McIntosh, has an embarrassing and “chronic” sexual habit and was at odds with DDT’s position on China and trade. The opponent’s sexual habits were also questioned. DDT picked Vance. It didn’t even matter than DDT couldn’t remember Vance’s initials—or his last name when he endorsed “JP Mandel” at a rally.

Vance’s desperation showed last week when he accused President Joe Biden of intentionally allowing deadly drugs such as fentanyl to come into the U.S. with Biden’s purpose to kill DDT’s supporters in the “heartland” of the country. Yet in Biden’s first year, he captured 50 percent more fentanyl than DDT did in his last year. Deaths from drug overdoses during DDT’s four years increased 45 percent. The rate under Biden is slower. As for targeting “MAGA voters,” overdose deaths increased most among people of color, primarily Black men, not DDT’s typical voter. The highest increase between 2019 and 2021 was also in teenagers age 14 to 18, youth too young to vote. Glenn Kessler, a tough judge, award Vance’s lie with four Pinocchios, the highest number possible. Vance had zero evidence for his false claims.

In 2018, DDT tweeted a wholehearted endorsement for Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) in his re-election campaign, writing he “has done a great job. He has my complete and total Endorsement!” Facing sexual misconduct claims, Reed has resigned. Last year, he said he considered running for New York governor but now has no election plans this year. Instead, he has joined a lobbying firm.

Outside the U.S., Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator whose family stole billions of dollars from the Philippines, is now the new president by a landslide. A revolution threw out his father. Jr. takes over from the brutal Rodrigo Duterte, whose daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the next vice president. One-fifth of the population is below the poverty line. Jr. plans to shield Duterte from any prosecution at the International Criminal Court. What else he plans is uncertain because Jr. avoided debates and interviews.  

January 3, 2022

2022: The GOP March to Fascism

A year ago, hopes were high after Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) had to leave the White House after the inauguration of Joe Biden as president. The plan for mass vaccinations was ready to roll, and reasonable people hoped DDT would disappear at Mar-a-Lago. But then came the insurrection on January 6 when DDT’s followers attacked the U.S. Capitol to overturn the election, and the GOP preparation for another coup continued. Despite over 100 judges ruling that the 2020 election had no wide-spread fraud and the failure of even Arizona’s $6 million ballot-counting by a private company, DDT and his followers—including congressional members—lie about a stolen election, inciting more violence. Texas also failed to change votes, and Wisconsin starts a new “audit” every time the old can’t find fraud.

Biden’s economy is far better than during the past four years, but the mainstream and far-right media refuse to publicize positive information. If the bull market, by now with highly overvalued stocks, turns bearish, it can devolve into another depression. The media calls Biden soft while he plays hardball with Vladimir Putin involving Russian threats against Ukraine—ironic DDT ‘s being Putin’s BFF, even allowing Russians to spy inside the Oval Office. China gallops ahead of the U.S. after DDT failed to manage the problems. Congressional hawks cry for blood, threatening world wars, speeding climate warming, and destroying security and economic growth.

The media may beat up on Biden to increase its audience, seriously shrinking without DDT in the White House. It made hay criticizing the withdrawal from Afghanistan and ignored the collapse’s trajectory for 20 years since George W. Bush declared a preemptive war. The media works on the same sensationalism it got from DDT.  

This year’s elections in other countries will help determine the global direction toward democracy or siding with China. South Korea (March 9) and France (April 10 and April 24 runoff) will decide whether to keep a progressive leader while Australia (probably mid-May) will determine whether it has a conservative Parliament. Its decision will determine relationships with the U.S. or China. Sweden’s center-right parties want to take over Parliament (September 11), and Western European far-right is on the rise.

Polls for the presidential election of Philippines (May 9), already leaning toward China, give a strong lead to the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos with current President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter running for vice-president. In Brazil, leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who governed the country from 2003 to 2011, has a comfortable lead for October’s election after the Supreme Court threw out his conviction of corruption. Right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, known as the Trump of South America, is trailing by 30 percent, and Serge Moro, the judge who help to put Lula into jail, has only six percent.

Before DDT lost his election, he endorsed the authoritarian Bolsonaro, and four days before Poland’s election day last July, he endorsed the winner, incumbent President Andrzej Duda, for his restrictions on the judiciary, media, and civil society. Now he formally supports Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in more opposition to democracy. Because of gerrymandered districts, the election in April or May will likely go to Orbán who consolidated hundreds of media outlets to be controlled by political allies, gamed elections, and expanded his power with the excuse of the pandemic. The title of a Vox report was “How Democracy Died in Hungary.”

Thomas Homer-Dixon, a political science professor at a British Columbia University only 35 miles north of the U.S., wrote an op-ed for Globe and Mail about how the United States could be ruled by a fascist dictator eight years from now. The piece covers implications for Canada, for example if “the U.S. regime demands” the return of “high-profile political refugees fleeing persecution.” The entire piece is here.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), one of two Republicans on the nine-member House investigation committee, said the committee might consider criminal charges against DDT because he did nothing to halt the insurrection for the first 187 minutes. She said, “The Committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred.” Twice, he ignored pleas from his daughter Ivanka Trump to go to the nearby briefing room and tell his followers to “stop,” “to stand down,” “to go home.” She added that the committee knows other people, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), asked DDT to tell his supporters to stop the violence.

According to Cheney, one criminal statute without question is “dereliction of duty,” and the committee must “look at … enhanced penalties for that kind of dereliction of duty.” She declared that DDT is “at war with the rule of law” and if he repeats the lies about a “stolen election,” he does so, knowing that violence will ensue. DDT plans to do exactly that during a press conference on January 6 at exactly the same time as the Capitol prayer service. Cheney called on her Republican party to choose between being “loyal to Donald Trump or … to the constitution.” She concluded, “We cannot be both.”  

Last year, Democrats passed at least a dozen major bills, including a large infrastructure bill and more financial assistance for a country suffering from the disease that DDT permitted to continue as a benefit to his political campaigning. Yet right-wing media, sometimes with the assistance of mainstream media, claim that Biden has accomplished nothing because two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), oppose both the jobs bill, Build Back Better, and the bill to protect voting rights for everyone in red states, both to be addressed during the upcoming year. An appropriations bill must be passed by February 13 to keep the country from shutting down.  

To address the looming monster of the 2022 elections, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will force a vote by January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to change the filibuster if GOP senators block voting rights legislation. A change requires only 50 votes, but Manchin and Sinema block altering it. Sinema even opposes voting rights reform, a serious problem in many states since 2013 when the Roberts Supreme Court overturned part of the 1966 Voting Rights Act. Democrats may try to make the filibuster more difficult that the current method in which one person can stop debate on a bill by calling in with that request.

Voter reform is vital. At least one state, Georgia, permits the legislature to overturn the legal vote in an election by selecting electoral voters who reject the ballot majority. In one poll, only 13 percent was “very confident” GOP state officials would accept election results if Republicans lose.

DDT and his conservative GOP followers, including legislative leadership, work to create another year of turbulence, but polls reflect they don’t necessarily represent the majority of the people. In an ABC News-Ipsos poll, 72 percent agree that the January 6 rioters threatened democracy, and 58 percent think DDT has a great deal or good amount of responsibility for the insurrection. Only 25 percent think DDT has no responsibility for the attack. The media usually reports only the large percentage of Republicans who refused to recognize Biden as the president, but almost two-thirds of the general population accept Biden as being legitmately elected president. Unfortunately, 68 percent of respondents to a CBS poll expect more violence after January 6, 2021.

The courts are also home to a building storm in the next year. Recently, DDT’s two older children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, refuse to comply with subpoenas from New York AG Letitia James for a civil inquiry into the Trump Organization’s possible inflation of assets value for bank loans and understatements of these values elsewhere to reduce taxes. James already questioned DDT’s younger son, Eric, in her office. She cannot file criminal charges in the case but is involved with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s criminal investigation into DDT’s business affairs. DDT’s lawsuit against the civil inquiry is based on his opinion of “political animus” and the claim that his testimony could be used against him, violating his Fifth Amendment rights.   

Always litigious, DDT will likely be embroiled in lawsuits until he dies. He does it to intimidate, to stall, to cost people money, to make news, to look impressive—almost any reason except to win. And now they aren’t costing him any money; GOP donors are paying for them. Before the 2020 election, he and his businesses were part of 4,095 lawsuits during three decades, over 2,100 as the plaintiff. Biden won the 2020 election, but DDT is still suing to overturn the election. Now he’s in the middle of lawsuits to secrete his shady—possibly illegal—involvement in overturning the election and his business affairs. Here is an amazing list and description of notable cases occurring or starting while he was in the White House.

There’s much more about upcoming events, but that’s for another time. As Rachel Maddow would say, “Watch this space.”

August 8, 2021

Whither Infrastructure, DDT?

President Joe Biden’s first bill to repair U.S. physical infrastructure—roads, bridges, railroads, etc.—is limping on its way over the weekend as some Republican senators try to delay it and Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) lambasts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for permitting its existence. The bill, moved forward by Democrats and 18 Republicans, would add $550 billion for the project if it passes a vote after up to 50 hours debate. The bill would then have to pass the House where several Democrats are trying to wait for a second bill for social spending to pass the Senate. Because the second bill would be through the reconciliation process, it needs only 50 votes, probably from Democrats, and cannot be filibustered which demands 60 votes. The question is whether Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would not support the measure.

DDT’s ally Maria Bartiromo attacked Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on her Sunday Fox show, accusing him of “betraying the Republican base” and not providing money for DDT’s wall. In defense of the bill, the far-right senator said that there were things that both parties did and didn’t like. When Cramer repeated that Democrats won’t agree to building a wall, Bartiromo said, “Why not work for the American people!” Then she repeated DDT’s comments about the bill being used against the GOP in 2022 and 2024. DDT has said he won’t endorse any Republican who supports it. Cramer pointed out that “the vast majority of Republicans are very supportive of this” and that DDT “didn’t give one reason why it’s a bad deal other than it’s Joe Biden’s.”

DDT used the infrastructure bill to again insult McConnell, first calling the bill a “disgrace” and then blaming the Senate Minority leader for it. DDT wrote:

“If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package… It is a gift to the Democrat Party, compliments of Mitch McConnell and some RINOs [Republicans in name only], who have no idea what they are doing.”

DDT also stayed in the limelight when his replacement for AG Bill Barr in late December 2020, acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, testified in a closed-door hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about DDT’s efforts to suborn the election in a conspiracy with acting deputy AG Jeffrey Clark. The testimony concerned Clark’s attempts to push top leaders to falsify the election and publicly assert that election fraud investigations went against the Electoral College results. Earlier Barr had stated that DOJ found no fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Rosen refused to follow DDT’s demands, leading DDT to consider replacing Rosen with Clark in January 2021. Clark continues to maintain his official White House communications “were consistent with law.”

Rosen described five encounters with Clark, including one in late December when Clark admitted to meeting with DDT and promised he would not do so again. Clark continued his unauthorized conversations with DDT about casting doubt on Biden’s victory, especially in close states such as Georgia, and drafted a letter for Rosen to send to the state’s legislators, wrongly demanding they should void Biden’s victory in the state because DOJ was investigating voter fraud there. These actions were followed by DDT’s fiery speech on January 6, encouraging his followers’ violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

DDT ranted about election fraud, claiming his victory for president in the 2020 election, in an interview with Fox’s Dan Bongino last night, but his lies were edited out, according to his furious spokeswoman Liz Harrington. Her tweets justifying his statements are here. DDT also claimed he was being politically persecuted by prosecutors in New York.  

While the infrastructure bill keeps chugging along, the U.S. added 943,000 jobs in July, bringing the total during President Joe Biden’s first six months to over four million, the only president with this achievement. June’s job gain was adjusted upward to 938,000 positions. Economic growth is the fastest in 40 years, and the unemployment rate of 5.4 percent is the lowest since the pandemic began. Now people wait to see the effect of COVID-19 problems from the unvaccinated affects.

Thanks to congressional action, the poverty rate in the U.S. may drop to 7.7 percent for the current year, a 45 percent decline from 2018 and the largest drop on record. The money sent to people in the past few months put food on the table and made rent payments as the pandemic forced people out of work. Without stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment insurance—which 26 states refused—the poverty rate would be at 23.1 percent. White people benefited the most: non-Hispanic White people in the U.S. have a projected 5.8 percent poverty rate compared to 11.8 percent for Hispanic people. Although the poverty rate for Blacks will still be 9.2 percent, it would have been 36.0 percent without assistance. 

After concerns that U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan abandoned Afghans helping U.S. forces including interpreting for them, Congress has passed $500 million to fund emergency transportation and housing for them and their families. Another $600 million goes to State Department funding and makes an additional 8,000 “special immigrant visas beyond the exiting 26,500 authorized while easing some eligibility requirements for those visas. Another $71 million in the $2.1 billion emergency spending package went to avert the Capitol Police funding crisis, and $42 million covered the pandemic costs on Capitol Hill, including reimbursements for overtime, protective equipment, cleaning costs, and telework equipment. More funding–$521 million—covers National Guard costs—and $300 million will harden doors and windows on the Capitol campus and install new camera systems. including reimbursements for overtime, protective equipment, cleaning costs and telework equipment. The Senate voted 98-0 and the House, 416-11 for the expenditures.

Republicans claim their objection to the second infrastructure bill is the $2.3 trillion over eight years, under $300 billion a year, to “Build Back Better.” Yet they don’t object to their expenditure of $6.4 trillion—outside the outrageously normal Pentagon budget—on destabilizing wars in the Middle East based on GOP lies. Deaths, either foreign or in the U.S., give Republicans no concern. The GOP expenditure of $6.4 trillion could give the U.S. a completely renewable energy grid. War and militarization annually take almost two-third of the U.S. discretionary spending.

Last year, the Defense Department, its leadership appointed by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), gave $422 billion in frequently non-competitive contracts, $40 billion more than the previous year and $60 billion more than the year before that. The Pentagon is also spending $1.6 million for the F-35 fighter jet so unfunctional that it recently shot itself. At ten percent of GDP, Biden’s jobs package is one-fourth of the 1930s New Deal bringing the U.S. out of the Great Depression.

The GOP 2017 tax cut for the wealthy and big business costs the U.S. $2.3 trillion over ten years, a little more than the progressive American Jobs Plan, thus the U.S. is giving trillions more in tax breaks to the wealthy and big business than helping the economy. Taxing investment income like wages and strengthening the estate tax for the wealthy would bring in $886 billion more each year, over three times what the jobs act would cost. Tax evasion by the wealthy annually costs the U.S. $175 billion, one-third of that from the top 1 percent. Collecting that money would pay for two-thirds of Biden’s jobs plan, but Republicans refuse to allow it in protection of their donors.

At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig reported a loss of perhaps $1 trillion each year because of error, fraud, and lack of staff to get the revenue. The loss of corporate taxes in a half century is phenomenal: corporate taxes provided 23 percent of federal revenue in 1966 compared to seven percent in 2019. Treasury Secretary refers to the “30-year race to the bottom” as tax havens and globalization ease the process of escaping taxes.

From 2000 to 2016, corporate tax receipts averaged about 1.7 percent of total GDP; corporate revenues dropped almost 40 percent and will be over 25 percent less during the next decade.

In the 1950s, revenue from the federal corporate income tax averaged about 5 percent of GDP per year. Last decade, corporate tax revenue averaged just 2 percent of GDP annually. Since 2009, corporate tax revenue has averaged just 1.2 percent, the lowest three-year average in American postwar history.  

The U.S. is at the bottom of the G7 countries.

 

 

 

Biden recommended that an increase for big business would more than pay for the two infrastructure bills, but Republicans are protecting their donors. Instead people will go back to poverty when they no longer receive the benefits from the stimulus bills. Republicans in the 1950s understood the importance of living wages, unions, healthcare, and other rights bringing people out of desperation. A half century later, Republicans use people only as menial labor in order to enrich themselves. That’s the reason they don’t want the second infrastructure bill.

December 29, 2020

Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:33 AM
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Pieces from humor columnist Dave Barry’s long piece about the long year of 2020. Illustrations by Gel Jamlang. (The full version is here.): 

We’re trying to think of something nice to say about 2020. Okay, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know. That’s pretty much it.

In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence. This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.

We sincerely don’t want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand. If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then — to be safe — don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with …

JANUARY:  … which begins with all of Washington, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, gripped by the gripping historic drama of the impeachment of Donald Trump. Remember that? How gripped we were?

To set the stage: Back in mid-December, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment…  Eventually, however, the articles arrive at the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch “The Undertaker” McConnell promises that the impeachment issue will receive full and fair consideration. He is of course joking, but this is not obvious, because even when Mitch is in a jovial mood he looks like a man passing a kidney stone the size of the Hope Diamond.

Meanwhile in other political news, all eyes are on Iowa as it prepares for the caucuses, which are closely scrutinized because they are the first opportunity for a tiny group of unrepresentative voters to engage in an incomprehensible and deeply flawed process by which they anoint presidential candidates who traditionally go on to fail. This year, in an effort to modernize the caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party has upgraded from its old-fashioned manual reporting procedures to a modern, state-of-the-art “app” based on the same software used in the Boeing 737 Max airliner.

In international news, the big story is a U.S. targeted drone strike, ordered by Trump, which kills Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani… Iran responds — this is a good indicator of what kind of year it will be — by shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.

Elsewhere abroad, Chinese news media report that a man in a city named “Wuhan” died of a mysterious virus. This is not considered a big deal in the United States, since it has nothing to do with either impeachment or the Iowa caucuses.

A much bigger international story concerns Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who announce via Instagram that they are sick and tired of being part of the British royal family and want to just be regular normal everyday hard-working folks making millions of dollars solely because one of them was born into, and the other one married into, the British royal family.

In sports, Major League Baseball is rocked by scandal…  All players involved in the scheme will continue to play baseball in exchange for enormous amounts of money.

Speaking of scandal, in …

FEBRUARY: … Washington and its suburbs remain gripped by the U.S. Senate’s historic impeachment trial of President Trump, with Democratic prosecutors arguing that Trump illegally pressured Ukrainian leaders to benefit himself politically, while the Republican defense team, employing an alibi strategy, claims that Trump was playing golf at the time. Under the watchful eye of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is kept from nodding off by a law clerk armed with a pellet gun, everyone, in accordance with Senate rules, repeats everything 127 times, after which the Republican majority, to the surprise of anyone who has the IQ of sponge cake, acquits the Republican president…

Trump delivers the State of the Union address, an awkward affair that begins with Speaker Pelosi refusing to use the traditional “high privilege and distinct honor” introduction; then Trump refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand; then Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s speech; then Trump hocking a loogie onto Pelosi’s suede pumps. Okay, the loogie part did not happen. As far as we know…

In Iowa, Democratic presidential candidates realize they have wasted an entire year trudging around Iowa eating fried objects on sticks and pretending to care about Iowans. Things go more smoothly for the Democrats in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the clear front-runner, which only seems to make him angrier. A new challenger emerges in the form of charisma-impaired billionaire Mike “Mike” Bloomberg…

The No. 1 concern of the American public, based on the amount of passionate debate it generates on the Internet, is the burning issue of whether it is, or is not, okay to recline your airplane seat. Remember? Those were good times… And then, unfortunately, comes …  

MARPRIL: … which starts off calmly enough, as the Democratic Party, desperate to find an alternative to 132-year-old White guy Bernie Sanders, settles on 132-year-old White guy Joe Biden…

We begin to see reports that this coronavirus thing might be worse than we have been led to believe, although at first the authorities still seem to be saying that it’s basically the flu and there is no reason to panic, but all of a sudden there seems to be no hand sanitizer for sale anywhere, which makes some sense although there is also no toilet paper, as if people are planning to be pooping for weeks on end (ha), and then we learn that Tom Hanks — Tom Hanks! — has the virus, and now they’re saying it’s a lot worse than the flu and we need to wash our hands and not touch our faces and maintain a social distance of six feet and use an abundance of caution to flatten the curve (whatever “the curve” is), but they’re also saying we don’t need face masks no scratch that now they’re saying we DO need face masks but nobody HAS any face masks … [Etc.]

MAY: … and we are, as a nation, exhausted. We are literally sick and tired of the pandemic… We disagree about everything — when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether it’s okay to say “China” — everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die… On the other hand, there is starting to be more toilet paper.

President Trump continues to provide leadership during the crisis by repeatedly pointing out that he knows an incredible amount about viruses — more than most medical doctors! — and is frankly doing a terrific job…

In scandal news, the Justice Department moves to drop all charges against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. Outraged Democrats claim this is a travesty of justice; outraged Republicans claim it is proof that the “deep state” tried to stage a coup…

Here we should at least mention the arrival of the Asian “murder hornets.” In any other year they would have been a huge story… But in 2020 there is simply too much competition…

In sports, Major League Baseball tries to come up with a plan to salvage the 2020 season, a task that becomes more urgent each day… The National Football League is also trying to adapt to the pandemic, exploring the possibility of a season with no fans, no coaches and no players.

Toward the end of the month the economy is starting to open up, the virus numbers in many places seem to be improving and people are starting to venture out of their homes… And then …

WHAM, 2020 strikes again, this time in Minneapolis, where the horrendous killing of George Floyd at the hands of police ignites a protest movement that quickly spreads across the nation, sometimes mutating into violence… As we enter … 

JUNE: … the protest movement grows in size and passion with frankly not a whole lot of social distancing… President Trump, angered by reports that at one point he retreated to an underground bunker, states that in fact he was merely inspecting the bunker, this being a responsibility explicitly assigned to the president by the Constitution…The president courageously goes outside (after the protesters have been cleared away) and personally walks several hundred feet to historic St. John’s Church, where he holds up a Bible…

Meanwhile covid-19 cases are rising alarmingly, especially in the South… Trump … holds a rally in Tulsa, where, addressing an issue of concern to all Americans, he explains in detail that the ramp he had to walk down at the U.S. Military Academy graduation ceremony was slippery and steep. The president gets a big hand from the crowd when, displaying leadership, he drinks from a water glass with one hand…

In …

JULY: … covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in some Southern states… President Trump commutes the federal prison sentence of his longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone. The White House states that imprisoning the 67-year-old Stone would be inhumane because he has a medical condition that requires him “to roam free at night seeking fresh human blood.” …

Kanye West announces that he is running for president, representing the Birthday Party. In any other year this would seem ridiculous, but in 2020 a lot of people are like, “Why not?”

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration announces that, after tense high-level negotiations, it has reached a peace agreement under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Portland, Ore., where for many weeks protesters have been seeking social justice via a combination of peaceful demonstrations and arson.

In …

AUGUST: … President Trump escalates his attacks on TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media app that threatens our national security by causing millions of Americans to learn stupid dances while Chinese people are making useful products to sell to Americans…

Trump brokers a historic Middle East peace agreement, which, along with the estimated 45 previous historic Middle East peace agreements, brings the Middle East one step closer to potentially being on the verge of reaching the brink of what could someday become a steppingstone to lasting peace, although you should not hold your breath…

California, as it traditionally does at this time of year, bursts into flames…

In politics, controversy swirls around the U.S. Postal Service, which until now most Americans have viewed as a non-sinister agency whose function, as authorized by the Constitution, is to faithfully, rain or shine, deliver vast quantities of bulk mail to us so we can discard it unread…

Steve Bannon, a former influential Trump aide with the uncanny ability to always look like he just woke up in a dumpster, is arrested by — this cannot be a coincidence — agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Bannon is charged with fraud in connection with a GoFundMe project called We Build the Wall, which is supposedly raising money for Trump’s largely imaginary wall between the United States and Mexico, although according to prosecutors a better name for the project would be We Basically Keep the Money.

Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, calling her, in impromptu remarks delivered as aides hustle reporters away, “a terrific person who I look forward to inviting to the White House.”

Because of the pandemic, both parties hold their conventions virtually, which means that instead of endless hours of repetitious blather, the TV broadcasts consist of endless hours of repetitious blather but without the entertaining visuals of delegates in stupid hats. The Democrats adopt a sweeping platform filled with bold policy initiatives that nobody will ever look at again. The Republican platform consists of, quote, “whatever was in the president’s most recent tweet.”

Speaking of principles, in …  

SEPTEMBER: … the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggers a classic display of Washington-style ethical consistency as both political parties, addressing the issue of when the vacancy should be filled, passionately embrace positions diametrically opposite the ones they passionately embraced in 2016. Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat, arguing that she is “perfectly qualified” for the high court because she is “a woman, but not like super hot.” Critics allege that Barrett belongs to a dangerous religious cult that subjugates women by forcing them to become Supreme Court justices. Everyone prepares for a cordial and informative confirmation process.

The New York Times … reveals that an analysis of Trump’s tax records shows that pretty much his only major success, as a businessman, has been playing the part of a successful businessman on a TV show.

The biggest political event of the month is the much-anticipated Trump-Biden debate, a lively affair featuring a frank and open exchange of sentence fragments highlighted by a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the part of moderator Chris Wallace to silence the president with a Taser…

The pandemic continues to dominate the news in …

OCTOBER: … when the White House announces that President Trump is infected with the coronavirus, as are the first lady, White House staffers and others who have been near the president at events where many people did not wear masks or observe social distancing. This seems to suggest, crazy as it sounds, that the virus — who could possibly have known this? — is an infectious disease that you can catch from other people…

The president begins a course of treatment at Walter Reed that includes an antibody cocktail, anantiviral drug, a steroid and — this really happened — a motorcade ride around the hospital. Trump’s doctors describe the motorcade as “a totally standard medical treatment that is not insanely irresponsible at all.” Meanwhile the virus continues to spread through the White House, eventually infecting everyone in the executive branch above the rank of custodian…

The president recovers quickly and announces that covid-19 is frankly no big deal for anybody who has a large team of doctors, 24/7 access to a world-class medical facility and a helicopter. Then, having learned an important lesson from his experience, the president resumes holding massive rallies where many people do not wear masks.

The Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court after she successfully completes the traditional Judiciary Committee hazing ritual, in which she must answer questions for three consecutive days without saying anything.

Vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris square off in a debate, and the only thing anybody remembers about it 10 minutes later is that a fly landed on Pence’s head.

With October finally over, a divided, weary nation trudges into the crucial month of …

NOVEMBER: … when, at last, it’s Election Day. Millions of voters lurch to the polls, unless they already voted, in which case they remain on the sofa… Several days pass without a clear winner as the various states count ballots via their individual methods under our quirky, zany electoral college system. Florida, which has totally screwed up in previous elections, surprises everybody by reporting the vote count almost immediately, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis to “just go ahead and reuse the results from 2016, since we counted those already.” …

In reality Trump claims that he won the election BY A LOT, but it is being stolen from him via a vast, sophisticated, malignant and purely hypothetical vote-fraud scheme. To combat this fraud, the president forms a crack legal team headed by former sane person Rudy “Rudy Three i’s” Giuliani, who … will hold a news conference at “Four Seasons, Philadelphia.” … The event takes place in the parking lot of a company called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is across the street from a cremation center and down the block from Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore. We are not making this up. Nobody could make this up.

And then, at last, the finish line of this wretched year looms ahead as we stagger into … 

DECEMBER: … while the president continues to insist that he was reelected [and] members of his staff quietly prepare for the transition by updating their résumés and conducting a search for the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes…

President Trump, faced with soaring coronavirus cases and a congressional stalemate over a desperately needed relief package, devotes his energies, as chief executive, to tweeting approximately once per hour that the election was RIGGED. The Trump legal team, alleging that there was a massive organized conspiracy to commit vote fraud, files multiple lawsuits but achieves basically the same legal outcome as Hamilton Burger, the stupendously ineffective district attorney on the “Perry Mason” TV show, who went to court week after week for many seasons and almost never won a case, WHICH ONLY PROVES HOW MASSIVE AND ORGANIZED THIS CONSPIRACY IS.

Finally, after 12 nightmarish months, 2020 draws to a close, and …

… and here we must interrupt our narrative to let you, the reader, in on a little secret: Because of magazine deadlines, we have to turn in our Year in Review in mid-December, before the year is actually over. Normally this doesn’t matter, because the holiday season tends to be a slow news time.

But this is no normal year, and we’re nervous. We worry that something major, by which we mean bad, will happen after our deadline — something involving the presidential election, or the virus, or some awful thing we cannot even imagine… Our point is, we don’t know what else will happen this year, including when it will end. We’re just hoping that it eventually does, and that next year is nothing like it. In that spirit, we’ll close with the wish we always offer at the end of our annual review, although this time it’s more of a prayer:

Happy new year.

[Note: As you know, 2020 was a VERY long year!]

October 29, 2020

More Voting Decisions Cause Chaos

The U.S. Supreme Court may wait until after Election Day to disenfranchisement voters, but the 8th Circuit Court thought doing it right now was just dandy. Today, just four days before Election Day, two federal judges, George W. Bush’s and DDT’s appointees, changed the date when ballots must be delivered in Minnesota, moving the goalpost up by seven days—a full week. The extension was made almost three months ago because of COVID-19, and it was the understanding of all the voters. The opinion stated, “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.” Two of three judges on a panel told voters to make different plans if they haven’t already mailed their absentee ballots. Although the ruling merely ordered the separation of ballots received after Election Day, the intent to remove them is clear. The disenfranchisement comes from deliberate delays in the USPS to suppress the votes. Tim Walz, the state’s governor, said, “It speaks volumes when your goal is to make it more difficult for people to vote.” 

You have to give Republicans persistence. After failing to definitely reduce extension time for returning North Carolina ballots yesterday, they went back to the Supreme Court. The majority again denied the GOP appeal with Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito again dissenting. The 1.4 million voters requesting absentee ballots in the state are seven times more than in 2016, and Democrats are twice as likely as to vote by mail as Republicans.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh had to correct one part of his error-riddled opinion denying Wisconsin its extension time for returning ballots after a Vermont official complained. Kavanaugh had used Vermont to show how “ordinary election rules” were not changed in spite of COVID-19. Earlier in the year, however, Vermont had authorized mailing ballots to all registered voters and processing them before Election Day—just like all the other successful vote-by-mail states do. After Vermont Secretary of State’s office formally requested a correction, Kavanaugh’s new opinion was changed to “ordinary election-deadline rules.” Although a minor change, it shows the sloppiness of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court statements. In Vermont, mail-in votes are still due by Election Day if dropped off at polling places, but ballots are mailed out at least 45 days before Election Day—plenty of time for the two to three weeks needed for voters to receive and return them even with the GOP-orchestrated USPS delay.

Slate listed other Kavanaugh mistakes, but the most horrifying may be Kavanaugh’s belief that states formally declare elections on the night of the election deadline. He maintained any ballots after that time will “flip the results of an election,” a completely erroneous perspective with no legal standing. Justice Elena Kagan had to remind him, “There are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted.” No states “definitively announce the results” on election night, as Kavanaugh declared, no matter how impatient people might be.

In addition, Kavanaugh was wrong when he stated the Supreme Court “has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election laws in the period close to an election.” No majority opinion has ever made that rule. Kavanaugh also quoted, out of context, an article New York University law professor Richard Pildes to support his personal opinion about late-arriving ballots causing crisis, an article supporting time extensions for states’ receiving ballots in opposition to Kavanaugh’s position. He also violated his rule that only legislatures have constitutional authority to make voting rules by preserving Alabama’s ban on curbside voting never addressed by the legislature.

No other justice signed on to Kavanaugh’s misguided statements.

Voters at Texas polls had to wear masks for under one day after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court blocked an order for mask-wearing at the polls. A lower court found the governor’s not requiring masks at the polls violated the federal Voting Rights Act’s disallowance of discriminatory voting practices based on race. The appeals court said the lower court would have jurisdiction to order changes, probably after the election and people already contracted the virus.

Missouri may have the most restrictive laws in the nation for absentee voting. Justification for mail-in voting is narrow, ballots must be mailed and not dropped off (risking not being counted because of GOP-caused postal delays), be received by Election Day, and have a notary authorize the signature. The last item creates a poll tax with the cost of hiring a notary.

Three notable law professors wrote an opinion piece asking federal courts to stay out of state court rulings protecting voting rights under state law. DDT’s judges refuse the federalist argument to honor only decisions from state legislatures and refuse state courts to interpret state law. The conservative “originalists” hope that DDT’s newest justice will give them a comfortable majority to disenfranchise voters across the country although 56 percent of people in the polls want Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from any cases connected to DDT’s reelection attempt. Calling Bush v. Gore a disgrace, the authors bluntly state:

“Federal court have no business interfering in state-law matters.”

The Supreme Court rationale moving George W. Bush into the White House was already rejected by Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission (2015): “legislature” in Article I of the U.S. Constitution means the lawmaking process set up by a state’s constitution. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that nothing in the federal Constitution “instructs, nor has this court ever held, that a state legislature” may regulate “federal elections in defiance of the provisions of the state’s constitution.” This rule also applies to Article II which empowers each state “legislature” to regulate the manner of picking presidential electors but does not empower a state “legislature” to ignore the state constitution creating that legislature, or the state supreme court that authoritatively interprets that state constitution.

A state court interpreting a state election statute to align it with a state constitution is in alignment with the authorization of the federal constitution. States use uniform rules for both state and federal elections; states should not be forced to develop separate rules because of a Supreme Court decision. State legislatures also deputize state courts to oversee elections to conform with state constitutions. One of the authors, Neal Kumar Katyal, is also a former acting U.S. solicitor general.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began his strategy of voter disenfranchisement through disinformation during the 2016 election. Eric Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, explained the project, “We merely need to dampen turn out [sic]. … A shift of a few points in the right places can swing this election.” And it did. All it needed was the standard DDT barrage of lies, over-the-edge rhetoric, and disinformation, called “flood the zone with shit,” by DDT’s former adviser Steve Bannon—this year a heavy use of QAnon conspiracy theories. Rolling Stone writer Andy Kroll used “internal documents, tax records, and interviews about [Roger] Stone and Prince’s efforts [to] illustrate how a lax campaign-finance system and an overtly racist voter-suppression effort created the perfect opportunity to follow Bannon’s directive.”

For donations, DDT’s campaign leaders created a front, the Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund and Project Clintonson, to develop the false scenario of Bill Clinton’s Black son, hoping to smear DDT’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Committee used a UPS store for its address, failed to incorporate with California listed as its legal domicile, had no employees or board members, and declared no “direct or indirect political campaign activities” despite its objective to depress the Black vote. DDT bragged to a group of prominent Blacks he won the election because fewer Blacks voted in the 2016 election.

Nine Supreme Court election rulings between April and October 26 were unsigned orders with no explanations, no full briefings, and no oral arguments. Some of these decisions concerned absentee voting during the pandemic in three states and the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida. Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a Harvard law professor, compared the decisions to a “shadow docket”:

“If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”

Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote in 2000 that explaining is the difference between judges and politicians:

“The political branches of government claim legitimacy by election, judges by reason. Any step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat, which requires compelling justification.”

Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, attributed the growth of the shadow docket to DDT’s administration which filed 36 “emergency” applications in three and a half years. Administrations of George W. Bush and President Obama filed only eight of these applications in 16 years.

Three reasons for giving reasons from Rick Hasen:

“Reasons will help lower courts use the right standards in election cases, rather than having to try to read tea leaves from unexplained court orders…

“[Reasons] bolster the legitimacy of the court in the eyes of the public, something especially important in controversial cases, such as election cases…

“[Reasons] may also discipline justices into deciding similar cases alike, regardless of the identity of the parties.”

DDT’s judges are suppressing votes, but he needs every vote he can get to win swing states, all of them hot spots for COVID-19. Pennsylvania, with 20 Electoral College votes, has a 50-percent increase in the past week. The highly infectious zones roll from northern Mississippi to the Canadian border. New U.S. cases in the last 24 hours, 91,530, and 1,047 more deaths that DDT doesn’t find concerning.

October 4, 2020

More Judicial News to Infuriate DDT

As the media tells about how Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) destroys the United States, a lot of the news slips through the cracks.

A major issue is how courts keep overturning the rules from DDT and his appointees who want to benefit business above the people of the nation. During President Obama’s administration, Republicans had very few executive orders and rule changes to reject. In under four years since DDT’s inauguration, hundreds of lawsuits have fought back DDT’s proclamations. One ongoing report shows DDT’s successes, 22; DDT’s failures, 116. These are a few recent ones:

A federal judge ruled DOJ inappropriately redacted parts of Robert Mueller’s reports and required release of those sections by November 2, on the eve of Election Day.

A California judge has again ruled that census counting must continue through October 31, 2020 after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defied her with an announcement the counting would end on October 5—tomorrow. During the most recent hearing, the judge asked for records regarding the October 5 “target date” but was told the only paper trail was a tweet. The judge asked:

 “Are you saying that is enough reason to establish decision-making? A one sentence tweet?”   

The Census Bureau had originally selected October 31 as the deadline after problems with the pandemic and finally acceded to that date last Friday. Two of three judges on a 9th Circuit Court panel confirmed the lower court in extending the 2020 census, and DDT’s judge dissented. Census Bureau career officials, the Commerce Department inspector general’s office, and the bureau’s Census Scientific Advisory Committee oppose a shorter timeline for counting the census.

Following a ruling in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, the Trump administration will no longer block immigrant teens from accessing reproductive health care, including abortion. Another judge ruled this week against enacting a steep increase in the costs associated with citizenship and immigration application fees.

A federal judge in California temporarily blocked an increase in costs for citizenship and other immigration applications. Citizenship was scheduled to increase 81 percent yesterday, $1,160. Naturalization would go from $725 to $1,170, and asylum applications would cost $50 without fee waivers for low-income applicants. Applying for a deportation suspension or expulsion cancellation would skyrocket from $285 to $1,810.

The judge’s reason for barring the enforcement is Wolf’s possibly illegal appointment for acting head of DHS, according to both a judge and the Government Accountability Office. The appointment of DHS Kevin McAleenan was invalid under the agency’s order of succession, making him lack the authority to amend the order for Wolf’s installation. The lawsuit caused DDT to appoint Wolf for his position which now needs confirmation. Last month, a coalition of 20 state AGs challenged the new restrictive rules for asylum seekers in court. Previously the GAO found Ken Cuccinelli, Wolf’s deputy, was also illegally appointed in an invalid order of succession.

The  A federal judge in Los Angeles overruled limits on visas, (inspired by immigrant-hating Stephen Miller) for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of companies can return to bringing workers from abroad on visas such as the H-1B for highly skilled employees, guest-worker visas for seasonal employees such as those who DDT hires, and cultural exchange visas for people such as au pairs. Earlier, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. turned the issue over to an appeals court. Plaintiffs include the Chamber of Commerce and several industry giants.

A federal judge in Washington state ruled DDT’s and Barr’s national commission on policing violates federal law by including only 18 law enforcement members and excluding civil rights activists, defense attorneys, or mental health professionals. In addition, the judge blocked Barr from publishing a final report because the commission failed to file a charter, post public meeting notices, and have open meetings. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires a balanced membership to prevent its recommendations from being “inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority.” Only five the 112 members of working groups were from outside law enforcement, and speakers lacked diversity until after the lawsuit was filed. Last month, a prosecutor resigned from a working group because the commission “was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past.” DOJ claimed the commission was following the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and could ignore FACA. The W. Bush-appointed judge ruled against that argument.

There was a time when courts claimed they could not make decisions about voting in the months before elections. For example, the Supreme Court will not hear a case from Arizona’s law about “harvesting” ballots, the practice of people returning absentee ballots for other people, until after the election. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/supreme-court-review-arizona-ballot-harvesting-law-73386162 

On the other hand, the lower courts are filled with cases about voting rules to suppress the 2020 vote:

Two federal judges ruled in favor of voting by mail to protect against COVID-19, one upholding a universal postal voting plan in Montana and the other blocking restrictions on absentee ballots in Alabama. Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock can allow the state’s counties to mail ballots to every voter in an effort to reduce COVID-19 spread at polls. Alabama is banned from absentee ballot requirements putting them at risk such as notarized signatures.

In North Carolina, a judge struck down changes on witness requirements for absentee ballots because the state election board had not kept to court orders. A witness must certify a voter completed an absentee ballot, but the board told election officials they could overlook that requirement if the witness information is missing from the ballot envelope. Voters can just sign an affidavit they had mailed the ballot after the ballot was returned. Last month, the judge had ordered the state to keep all absentee ballots until officials had a statewide process to give voters notice of any errors “such as a signature mismatch or deficient witness contact information.” He also stopped the state from enforcing state law banning nursing home staff from helping voters to fill out ballots and/or mail them. In 2018, the state faced a massive ballet theft scam by a GOP operative.

In one loss for the people, two DDT appointees on a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court overturned a lower federal judge ruling to permit Georgia absentee ballots to be accepted three days after Election Day if postmarked on November 3. The ruling requires ballots must be received by 7:00 pm on November 3. An appeal can only go to the supreme Court.

GOP and DDT’s lawsuits to suppress the vote through restrictions use the lie of corruption, an argument rejected by newly retired top GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg. In an op-ed, he writes about the lack of widespread fraud:

“Legions of Republican lawyers have searched in vain over four decades for fraudulent double voting. At long last, they have a blatant example of a major politician urging his supporters to illegally vote twice. The only hitch is that the candidate is President Trump…

“Elections are not rigged.”  

Although DDT has tried to destroy the image of the USPS by making mail delivery unbearably slow, people continue to support the agency that receives no tax money. A majority of Democrats (82 percent) and unaffiliated voters (69 percent) believe the postal service should be operated as a public service, and almost half Republicans (49 percent) agree. In the survey, 72 percent said the USPS was doing an “excellent” or “good” job, a belief almost unchanged from 2014 and 2017 Gallup polls. Two-thirds think election ballots will be delivered in a timely manner.   

In other hopeful news, The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for violating the Hatch Act after her department distributed a Fox network clip of DeVos criticizing Joe Biden. Federal employees are forbidden from political activities on the job.

After NYT piece on DDT’s taxes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that conflicts of interest could invalidate all DDT’s judicial nominations. The sum total of $750 paid in taxes for an entire year for two different years with none for the previous decade has hurt DDT’s campaign. In comparison, DACA recipients—who DDT hates—pay $8.7 billion.

A new court filing from the Manhattan DA suggests a state court investigation into DDT and his businesses for tax and insurance fraud as well as other financial crimes. DDT argued presidents have blanket immunity from criminal investigation, but the Supreme Court ruled against that premise. Because the case is in state court, AG Bill Barr can’t protect him, and no president can pardon him.

Fox network and DDT’s BFF Sean Hannity is being deposed about his promotion of conspiracy theories concerning rumors about the “murder” of DNC staffer Seth Rich. Also deposed are Fox’s business host Lou Dobbs and network staffers about the debunked reporting that Rich’s death came from his leaking Democratic emails to WikiLeaks instead of the Russians. Rich’s parents filed an emotional distress and tortious interference lawsuit against Fox, its reporter Malia Zimmerman, and former guest Ed Butowsky.

As usual, Congress has passed a continuing resolution for the budget instead of a real budget. This one expires on December 11. Signed by DDT, the bill includes both welfare for farmers and $8 billion in food assistance.

March 17, 2020

DDT Changes Spin on Covid-19, Sort Of

Over three years ago on January 13, 2017, before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, his proposed Cabinet officials and other aides received a three-hour briefing about responding to a global epidemic. Detailed briefing books contained scenarios much like the world has experienced during the last few months, complete with warnings about shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs, and other medical essentials. Information stressed the “paramount” importance of a coordinated, unified national response. Materials included available legal authorities to pursue a response, and capabilities and responsibilities of different agencies, and detailed explanations of numerous laws and regulations that might affect their work, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

New officials were dismissive of the briefing, and the books were later found in the trash. In talking about covid-19, DDT has made comments such as “you can never really think” that a pandemic like the coronavirus “is going to happen” despite the briefing. This video tracks DDT as he incessantly minimizes any problems from the virus in the U.S. Documents given DDT and his officials show a specific plan for dealing with a pandemic, a plan that DDT ignored.  

As of tonight, the U.S. has 6,456 confirmed cases, 1,793 from just today, and 109 deaths—21 percent of them occurring today. Confirmed cases are in all 50 states and D.C. In the world, 7,965 have died from covid-19 in 198,229 confirmed cases. China has had neither new cases nor deaths today, but some European countries are hard hit. 

Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, has been the source of advice for DDT as he ignored his infectious disease and immunology experts. Kushner repeatedly told DDT the media exaggerated the severity of the virus outbreak. Knowing nothing about covid-19, Kushner still advises DDT’s direction on the virus strategy. (In the past, Kushner claimed to be an authority on the Palestine-Israel conflict because he read 25 books.) DDT’s disastrous speech last Wednesday in which he banned travel from most of the EU was created by Kushner and DDT’s white nationalist Stephen Miller so he would look as if he had a strategy.

DDT has been so convincing to his supporters that they encourage risky behavior to both themselves and others. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) urged people to go to restaurants and bars, despite warnings from leading expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay away from other people. After DDT echoed Fauci on Monday, tell people to “avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts,” Nunes lied and said he meant “take-out.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) bragged about going to a crowded restaurant and took a selfie with his family (right). “It’s packed tonight!” he tweeted.

In a Kendall (FL) megachurch, the pro-DDT pastor told his congregation to keep coming back to church because God’s house wouldn’t be contagious. He said, “If we die, we die for Christ.” In Tampa (FL), another pro-DDT pastor told people to shake hands with each other.

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, pardoned by DDT last month, tweeted, “This hysteria is being created to destabilize the country and destroy [DDT].”  Other right-wing personalities falsely blame liberal billionaire George Soros for causing the virus.

Frequent Fox guest Mark Steyn, guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s show, falsely blamed San Francisco’s “shelter-in-place” guidelines keeping people at home on “compromised immune systems” in the “big gay town.” He added, “They don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch.” The guidelines cover seven million people with about 5 percent identifying as LGBTQ.

Even the private Facebook page for DDT-supporting first responders hasn’t changed its false message of covid-19 being a “hoax.” The leader said that DDT had to say that the virus is serious to fix the stock markets.

For better PR, DDT has decided to treat the virus more seriously, and Fox is struggling to keep up his 180-degree turn after their major hosts had downplayed its threat, calling it a conspiracy to undermine DDT.  Sean Hannity called it a “massive paradigm shift,” “a bold new precedent,” “America’s leadership.” Laura Ingraham moved from decrying the “panic pushers” to talking about “this dangerous health crisis.” Less favored host Trish Regan was simply taken off the air.

Since his speech almost a week ago, DDT has taken a covid-19 test, tried to stop talking about the importance of the stock market over people’s lives, called the virus a pandemic, and agreed with the House bill to give people food, testing, and paid sick leave. He now rates his response to the virus as ten out of ten although he told governors to get their own respirators and supplies, refused to let the Army Corps of Engineers build facilities for hospitals, and said that people shouldn’t try to get testing.

The government lost months in getting resources from the private sector, states, and academic institutions to test people which stopped efforts in tracking and controlling the virus while it could still be contained. In the beginning officials were afraid to tell DDT anything unpleasant, and when he learned about the virus, DDT was afraid bad news would adversely affect his reelection campaign. Now Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon to give money away for votes. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is an example of that approach. First, he didn’t want paid sick leave; now he says that the Democratic House bill doesn’t go far enough to help people. If the virus had to arrive, people are lucky it’s in an election year when candidates like Cotton needs votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has ignored over 400 House bills to push through young unqualified ultra-conservative judges, is now excited about the current covid-19 bill and another one, perhaps costing $1 trillion. At a press conference today, he said that the Senate won’t leave until the next bill passes and talked about 53 people putting the bill together. Evidently Democrats are included. McConnell also said that he needs to “get permission to vote” on the bill which might mean that DDT has to give him permission. If so, the former third branch of government, Congress, has been subsumed under the executive branch, like the judiciary.  How DDT wants to disperse the funds: airlines, $50 billion; workers $100 billion; corporations $850 billion.

DDT has an advantage from the epidemic. The Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments for the first time since the Spanish flu in 1918, and the case on March 31 concerned the subpoenas from House committees to get DDT’s financial and tax records. There may be no decision by the end of June, meaning that the issue will not be settled until after the November election. Across the nation, federal and state courts are postponing in-person court proceedings.

Even elections are questionable. Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio have rescheduled them, assuming that the virus will be gone by later spring. In Ohio, the governor declared a health emergency to call off today’s voting after a court denied his request, a dangerous precedent for DDT. Arizona, Florida, and Illinois plowed forward and all put Biden in first place. In the United States, only three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington— are smart enough to vote by mail, and 17 states demand a good reason for getting an absentee ballot. Only one of those states permits covid-19 as a reason for a mail-in ballot. Republicans fight against mail-in elections because it provides a paper trail and lets everyone vote without standing in long lines, two ways that the GOP manages to win elections. 

A frequent DDT message is that Democrats are politicizing the virus. Yet ten days ago, he complained about Democrats to Mar-a-Lago guests: 

“They’re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools—you know, destroy the country. And that’s ok, as long as we can win the election.”

Asked when he was going to make the virus apolitical, he said that he would respond to any criticism, already telling two governors to move faster when they pointed out the delayed response to the health crisis. VP Mike Pence has secret meetings with conservative “influencers” about spinning DDT’s efforts regarding the health crisis and providing PR for DDT’s reelection campaign.

Xenophobic DDT insists on referring to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Called out for the term, he attached the Chinese for their theory that the U.S. military started the virus. A U.S. theory, however, accuses the Chinese to developing covid-19 as a bioweapon.

The most amazing DDT story of the week is his attempt to persuade a German company to relocate to the U.S. for its covid-19 vaccine research efforts and share the information only with the U.S. DDT said he would do anything to get the vaccine and offered the company money. DDT would likely buy a lot of shares in the company, but it turned him down.

People have less and less faith in federal response to and DDT’s statements about covid-19. Only 46 percent believe the federal government is doing enough to stop the virus’ spread, down from 61 percent last month. And only 37 percent have any trust in DDT, compared to 60 percent who have not much or no trust in what he says.  

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