Nel's New Day

November 23, 2022

‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and more people will be in mourning, thanks to the U.S. obsession with guns. Mass shootings don’t kill that many people, cry gun fanatics who want no laws for the safety of people in the United States. Although somewhat accurate, every mass shooting creates not only murders and long-lasting injuries but also others who face these losses. Mass shootings occur everywhere that people gather such as festivals, places of worship, schools, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, concerts, shopping areas, and workplaces—locations frequented by most people in the U.S. Yesterday, it happened again. A Walmart manager in Chesapeake (VA) walked into the break room where he killed 6 people and injured another 6. The shooter is dead.

For the third consecutive year, over 600 mass shootings, defined as at least four people shot at a single accident, have hit people in the U.S. With 39 days remaining in 2022, the number this year is up to at least 602 mass shootings. That number skyrocketed from the 273 mass shootings in 2014 when they were first recorded. The current number is over a dozen each week, and the majority of people in the U.S. say “so sad” and “thoughts and prayers” before they move on to believing they won’t be personally affected. This country is unique: the rest of the world is appalled by the U.S. indifference to the violence.

Questions arise regarding many mass shootings, but there is no doubt why someone attacked an LGBTQ club in ultra-religious Colorado Springs last Saturday, killing five and injuring another 19 people. Colorado Springs, home to the anti-queer hate group Focus on the Family founded in 1977, has been virulently anti-LGBTQ, reflecting the ultra-conservative culture of the area. Anti-LGBTQ hate crimes have drastically increased during the past several years; hate crimes related to sexual orientation almost doubled between 2018 to 2019 and those related to gender identity from 2019 to 2020.

The hatred and violent rhetoric fomented against LGBTQ people by many GOP politicians and other Republicans, led by Fox network Tucker Carlson, and anti-trans troll Matt Walsh, left no doubt about the motivation. Far-right groups have gone into libraries to assault drag queens reading books to small children and vandalized drag shows in bars while police ignore the damage. In just 2022, state legislatures introduced over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills. In the same year, candidates spent at least $50 million on political ads attacking LGBTQ rights and transgender youth.

For a few days after the tragedy, conservatives stayed largely quiet about it or tweeted in general terms like conservative Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin who didn’t mention the word “gun” or “shooter.” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who just won her deeply red district by only 500 votes after her Democratic opponent graciously conceded, pushed the lie that she’s never criticized LGBTQ people. 

That honeymoon, such as it is, is over. Conservatives are back to attacking LGBTQ people and their allies. More people would have been killed and injured if Richard Fierro, an Army veteran at Club Q with his wife and child, and not tackled and disarmed the shooter. Extremists now question Fierro’s sexuality because he was at a drag show, call him “groomer” and “faggot,” and assert this story is false. Those commenting on Parler, Gab, Truth Social, The Donald, and Telegram have been vicious about Fiero. Jenna Ellis, right-wing lawyer representing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in his attempts to overturning the 2020 election, said the five murdered people at Club Q showed “no evidence … they were Christians” and therefore are “reaping the consequences of having eternal damnation”—i.e., burning in hell.

Conservatives have more fuel for their fire after public defenders for the killer stated that he, now they, has identified as nonbinary and should be “addressed as Mx. Aldrich.” Much more will be written about this claim than the killer’s criminal background.

The 22-year-old shooter was born two years after Coloradans passed its anti-LGBTQ amendment to the state constitution. It was later overturned as unconstitutional. Yet within the past few years, he hid his violent past by changing his name. People who refuse to recognize the hatred for LGBTQ people will declare, as usually happens with mass shooters, that he was bullied in an attempt to engender sympathy for him.

The question is whether they can cover for his June 2021 arrest when he caused a partial evacuation of a Colorado Springs neighborhood by threatening his mother with “a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition.” Yet he was never prosecuted for charges of kidnapping and felony menacing. That arrest could have kept the shooter from obtaining a weapon under Colorado’s 2019 red-flag law, but the police didn’t follow through. The killer wasn’t stopped from buying an AR-style rifle and a handgun because his records had been sealed. The county sheriff where Colorado Springs is located refused to issue Extreme Protection Orders, and Boebert, who damned drag queen events, cheered him on.

The killer’s maternal grandfather is California state Rep. Randy Voepel, a MAGA supporter of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Voepel lost his seat this year.

Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter who is driving the company into disaster, is also promoting hate crimes against trans people by returning accounts to influencers who have violated Twitter’s anti-trans harassment policies as well as those banned for breaking rules about the abuse of LGBTQ people. One of them is DDT.

Soon to be master of conservative misinformation, Twitter is facing a world of problems. Musk is beginning to realize the massive problems he caused with his missteps:

  • Hundreds of high-level workers left after Musk’s refusal to allow them to work remotely. He also ordered workers to sign a pledge to work longer hours and reduced staff. They were excused only for family emergency or inability to “physically get to Twitter HQ.” In a third email, he told them to fly to San Francisco to be present in person to see him. Although he backed off on the no-remote policy, employees didn’t return, leaving at least six critical systems with no engineers or skeleton crews. The top Twitter trend became “#RIPTwitter,” followed by names of alternative social.
  • Musk has called for “anyone who actually writes software” at the company to meet him. Decimated departments are finance and accounting after the disappearance of all employees working in payroll, U.S. tax, and financial-reporting.
  • Criticizing Musk is justification for firing, even if it’s in private, according to the new owner who bought the company to promote “free speech.”
  • Sara Fischer writes for Axios, “Waves of layoffs and departures [will cause] an increasing volume of glitches, delays and decay around the edges.” She listed problems such as extensive copyright violations for movies, hacked accounts, faulty security measures, and bad content for advertisers.
  • Musk himself doesn’t seem worried about problems caused by sweeping changes to support teams and products.
  • DDT’s return to Twitter came from a poll, and Musk plans the same system for “general amnesty,” letting everyone back on Twitter. Highly unscientific, Twitter polls are open to all users and can be targeted by fake accounts and bots.
  • Apple and Google can ban Twitter from their mobile app stores over content concerns.
  • Racist comments, including those for the biggest Black World Cup stars are permitted to remain.
  • Twitter employees at its Africa headquarters are accusing the company of “deliberately and recklessly flouting the laws of Ghana” and trying to “silence and intimidate” them after they were fired. They demand Twitter comply with the nation’s labor laws and give them additional several pay and other benefits. 
  • Twitter has opened up to anyone without proof of identity causes security problems for fraud, other market problems, etc.
  • Musk refuses to pay millions of dollars in travel bills generated by Twitter executives before he finalized the purchase of the company, saying he didn’t authorize them. He also also issued an order to slow or stop transfers of funds to Twitter’s vendors and contract services. Corporate credit cards for Twitter employees have also been closed.
  • Shares of Musk’s electric-car maker, Tesla, are down over 50 percent, partly because he pulled over 50 Tesla engineers to work at Twitter.
  • A Tesla shareholder sued Musk for the $50.9 billion pay package given him with the claim that he exploited his control of Tesla and its highly-paid board of directors to obtain the package. The suit also claims that Musk and his board didn’t uphold financial responsibilities to shareholders. Musk still controls 20 percent of Tesla shares.
  • National security may be at risk with Musk’s incompetence because the National Weather Service had joined Twitter and is now subject to parody. Accurate up-to-date information is vital in times of rising floodwaters or rapidly moving tornadoes.

Musk’s 2022 losses top over $101 billion as he loses over $400 million every day. Tesla is hurting because of tightened COVID restrictions in China, a recall of over 321,000 vehicles because of a taillight problem, and a criminal investigation into the car after a dozen crashes, some of them fatal. The current probe examines whether Tesla misled customers, investors, and regulators with unsupported claims. (Left: drawing fro Bulwark) 

Conservatives, however, are ecstatic about Twitter’s changes and think guns are more important than people.

November 13, 2022

Mistakes Were Made: FTX, Twitter

While the 2022 midterm elections released the majority of its results this past week, two financial disasters ran with a flood of breaking news in crypto currency and Elon Musk’s new toy, Twitter.

Last Wednesday, Dow Jones dropped about 1,000 points, alerting people to the collapse of FTX, a Bahama-based crypto currency exchange. FTX’s founder Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, lost 94 percent of his assets, going from net worth of $15.2 billion to $991.5 million, in one day of stock losses and resigned. He had secretly moved $10 billion of customer funds to his trading company Alameda Research with about 130 affiliated companies, and about $1-2 billion disappeared. A rescue deal with Binance collapsed, and the company filed for bankruptcy.

Major coins prices regained some of its lost value after the bankruptcy filing only to plummet after the discovery of a hack into FTX. Various tokens worth $663 million were drained from FTX’s crypto wallets, $477 million in the suspected theft, with the remainder believed to be put into secure storage by FTX. Those holding their own cryptocurrency can store it “hot,” “cold,” or a combination. “Hot” is attached to the internet permitting easy access; “cold” refers to wallets not internet connected. Many crypto start-ups used FTX because it paid high yields for assets on its platform. Before the collapse, Genesis locked up $175 million in funds with FTX; Pantera Capital, $135 million.

Crypto exchange Coinbase (COIN) fell nearly percent, and MicroStrategy dropped 10 percent. Crypto-focused bank Silvergate (SI) lost 14 percent. The two largest cryptocurrencies, bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) both declined about 6 percent, similar to declines in the crypto sector. Blockchain and Tech ETF dropped 46 percent since their April debut. The wipeout for cryptocurrency was about $5 billion.

On November 11, Bitcoin’s price hovered around $17,000, down from above $20,000 on November 8 and well below the $68,000 a year ago. Except for supposed “stablecoins,” crypto’s value solely depends on what someone is willing to pay for it, like a lottery ticket.

The bankrupt FTX crypto exchange, according to its new CEO, is “in the process of removing trading and withdrawal functionality” and “moving as many digital assets as can be identified to a new cold wallet custodian.” FTX calls the hacking  “unauthorized transactions.” 

Bankman-Fried spent tens of millions of dollars to reconfigure the culture of finance in both the U.S. and the world. As recently as January, his FTX was worth $32 billion. The story of his rise—and fall—is here as he used his charm, trying to manipulate people into believing his company was a trustworthy investment. Money went into naming the Miami Heat arena and its logo on Major League Baseball umpires’ uniforms, Tom Brady and his wife Gisele Bündchen for spokespeople, and comedian Larry David starring in the FTX Super Bowl ad. Bankman-Fried’s partners are fleeing, Miami Heat is terminating its relationship to look for a new naming rights partner.

Having left the U.S., Bankman-Fried may be under supervision in a Bahamas resort with his co-founder, Gary Want, and FTX director of engineering Nishad Singh on his way to non-extradition haven Dubai. The resort is owned by Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake

A way to avoid banks, cryptocurrency, which isn’t really “currency,” has been quite volatile, but risk-takers have used it in the hope of making a fortune. Melanie Trump used it for her business, and Elon Musk considered requiring bitcoins as payment for participation in his new company, Twitter.

Musk’s recent acquisition of the social media platform has kept the media busy following the constant shifts in what he is doing, starting out with the number of Twitter employees the wealthiest man in the world has fired. He started out with 25 percent of the 7,500 workers as well as almost all the top people in the business. Within a week, that figure expanded to 50 percent, which Jonathan Last called Twitter’s Red Wedding, comparing it to the massacre in The Game of Thrones. Layoffs were particularly extensive in Twitter’s “product trust and safety, policy, communications, tweet curation, ethical AI, data science, research, machine learning, social good, accessibility, and even certain core engineering teams.”

When Musk decided he needed some of them, he called them back, but many refused to return. They have three months salary but will be punished if they talk with any other former employees. (Library computers are probably very busy!) The ones he kept were told they had to report to offices instead of working remotely although that was not the deal when they were hired. Musk also dumped the board of directors and replaced them with his friends while making himself CEO. 

Most executives who weren’t fired walked out—top privacy, security, and safety executives. Axios reporter Sara Fischer tweeted, “Twitter is on life support.” Employees told her “it’s over” because “trust is gone.” According to a spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission, agents were “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.” The agency is prepared to take action to require compliance with a consent order established earlier this year. Three of the resignations were part of the FTC mandated data handling practices. With greater restrictions, European countries are carefully watching Twitter problems.

Part of the investigation into Twitter is Saudi Arabia’s partial ownership because Musk said the company must follow the freedom of expression laws by the country in which it operates. Saudi Arabia has the eighth most Twitter users in the world with limited freedom of speech.  

The big tech moguls and financiers buying into Twitter, like Saudi Arabia, may suffer from buyers’ remorse, possibly losing much of their investment at $54.20 per share. The Saudi’s piece is almost $2 billion. Winners are those who bought shares at a lower price; privatizing stocks in the company forces Musk to reimburse shareholders at the buying cost.  Chief Twit, Musk’s self-identified nickname, is threatening bankruptcy after the company loses $4 million a day and could end up with hundreds of billions of dollars in fines. His financial situation worsened after advertisers, providing 90 percent of Twitter revenue, began to suspend their accounts. After losing at least nine major advertisers, Musk begged them to return on “Twitter Space,” an hour-long livestream, with promises of content moderation and account verification while blaming activists for their Twitter boycott.

For over a week, Twitter increasingly lost credibility, and tweeting comedians impersonated Musk in fake accounts. One of them, Kathy Griffin, encouraged encouraging people to vote Democratic before Musk told them to select GOP candidates. Musk tried to charge $19.95 for his verification accounts with a blue check. When people refused to pay the charge, he dropped the cost to $7.99. For this “Twitter Blue,” Musk didn’t even verify the accounts for accuracy, requiring only an Apple ID and phone number. The expedited timeline for Twitter Blue skipped the company’s internal risk evaluation and didn’t make key upgrades to flag problems. [Left: Musk’s tweet pleading for subscriptions.]

Musk paused the product which was flooded with misinformation and permitted neo-Nazi accounts. A fake account from Lilly, for example, announced free insulin. The expedited timeline for Twitter Blue skipped the company’s internal risk evaluation and didn’t make key upgrades to flag problems.  

Within the first week, Musk may have lost a million users, and many of them are going to Mastodon, a decentralized platform founded in 2016 which rose to 1 million users this month, doubling the past number. Users can set their own content moderation rules and uses hashtags, replies, and “boosting” (like retweeting). Unlike Twitter, Mastodon is a nonprofit and has no ads (#omg).

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, but its value dropped to $25 billion during its first week. He also has a $1 billion annual interest payment for the huge loan to help pay for the inflated price. In addition, fired workers are suing him for violating California and federal law because of his mass layoffs.

As Jonathan Last wrote, “Elon Musk has turned Twitter from a minimally-functioning company into a distressed asset. And he did it in a week.” Musk promised Twitter would not become “a free-for-all hellscape,” but that’s the perfect description of the social media site inundated with racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic posts accompanied by election disinformation and conspiracy theories—many of them promoted by Musk.

The end of Twitter would lose Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) tweets. People may remember  “Nancy Pelosi’s gazpacho police” instead of Gestapo. There was “Bill Gates wants you to eat his fake meat that grows in a peach tree dish.” Most recently, Greene wrote, “I’m sure our enemies are quacking in their boots while we are still over here trying to count ballots.” Alex Bollinger wrote, “On Twitter, people were quacking up about Greene’s latest complaint.” Twitter provided many images, including this one. 

Over at Meta, parent of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg may not being doing as well since his name change. The company’s $234 billion fall last February set the record for the biggest one-day value drop in stock market history, more than Apple’s one-day $182 billion loss in September 2020. Over 11,000 Meta employees, about 13 percent of the work force, were fired. Meta’s stock dropped over 50 percent from $200 six months ago before crawling back up to $113.02.

October 30, 2022

A Prequel to Halloween 2022

Ah, the joys of living in the rural U.S.: yesterday Spectrum, controlling all our media, shut down just as I was posting the following. A few updates: Elon Musk, now controlling Twitter, thinks the attack is a “false flag.” On the Fox network, Jesse Waters said it wasn’t a problem because “a lot of people get hit by hammers.” Meanwhile, Musk is in Romania at the Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle), associated with legendary ruler of Wallachia Vlad the Impaler, for a Halloween party. 

Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, has a new toy to compete with far-right Parler; he closed his $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter and immediately set out to destroy the company.

If you want to join Musk, do nothing. If, however, you are opposed to the increased hate speech and lies under the guise of “free speech,” here are some alternatives:

  • Reset your privacy settings: Directions.
  • Find other companies: Mastodon or the projected Bluesky, initially created in 2019, from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
  • Read the news: Put a news aggregation app on your phone’s homepage, including local events. An RSS reader allows you to make your own list of outlets through apps like Feedly, Newsity, or Inoreader.
  • Sign up for newsletters: Many are on Substack, Medium, Patreon, and Ko-fi or other big social media sites such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
  • Forge personal relationships: WhatsApp, Signal, or Instagram.
  • Be part of a community: Facebook groups, subreddits, relevant Discord groups, or the app CounterSocial.
  • Get updates in an emergency: Agencies posting disasters on Facebook and pushing alerts to your phone. School or workplace alert systems and local alerts through state, city, or county agencies, many using Nixle.
  • Go to live audio: The audio chatroom app Clubhouse was the model for Twitter.
  • Enjoy nonstop scrolling: TikTok is the best Twitter replacement as are videos on Instagram Reels.
  • Stay safe: Be careful about giving new social networks or apps sensitive information such as your contacts, and check all privacy settings. Sign up with an alias email, strong password, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Staying with Twitter?: Protect your data, back up all your tweets and follow lists, delete sensitive DMs, delete old tweets, and lock down privacy and anti-harassment settings.

Called “Chief Twit,” Musk plans to take Twitter private so that he can transform the platform, including any content moderation policies and financial priorities, with less oversight from regulators and not disclosing performance updates.  The New York Stock Exchange has delisted Twitter shares. On the first full day, the company had been radically changed with expectations celebrated by the far-right and deplored by the left.

Musk has tweeted “Anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons will be freed from Twitter jail.” Expect a different definition of these “reasons” because abuse has already increased. For example, the use of the n-word increased almost 50 percent in Musk’s first 12 hours. Musk supporters are enjoying the opportunity to tweet profane slurs, racial epithets, and racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic hate speech.

Musk’s changes in a day:

  • Cutting key staff: Fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and chief legal counsel Vijaya Gadde, costing Twitter $187 million. Twitter’s general counsel Sean Edgett was also fired.
  • Laying off workers: Asked managers to “draw up lists of employees to cut,” up to 75 percent of the 7,500 workforce.
  • Lifting bans: Hasn’t given any names, but Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) will likely switch from his failing Truth Social to spew his hatred and lies on Twitter.
  • Setting up a council to determine decisions.

The New York Post has already fired an employee for posting false and racist content targeting politicians. The tweet and fake news stories called for assassination of President Joe Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Other false tweets claimed GOP gubernatorial Lee Zeldin making violent statements about his opponent Gov. Kathy Hochul and making racial slurs about New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Another false tweet reported Gov. Greg Abbott, running for re-election, intending to “order Border Patrol to start slaughtering illegals.”

General Motors has suspended advertising on Twitter

Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel has laid out Twitter’s future under Musk’s “leadership”:

  • Outside hackers and/or hostile foreign governments focus hacking efforts on Twitter causing catastrophic breaches, loss of personal information, or extended outages.
  • A stripped-down trust-and-safety team cannot cope with government subpoenas or complex law-enforcement requests.
  • The trust-and-safety team cannot block coordinated efforts from fraudsters orchestrating low-level scams and combat or monitor child-sexual-abuse material, sex-trafficking efforts, nonconsensual pornography, and copyright violations.
  • An inexperienced engineer is unable to maintain the site’s functionality with no one to restore it, but the people with expertise in that area of site reliability are not there to help restore it.

General Motors has suspended advertising on Twitter, andsome celebrities are leaving,

Musk claims Twitter will “help humanity, whom I love” and help secure the “future of civilization.”

Even without the extreme push for violence has resulted in threats against election officials, politicians, and their families. Last year, the U.S. Capitol police reported almost 10,000 threats against lawmakers, almost triple of five years ago. Fifteen percent of election officials have reported threatening contact , and 20 percent of election workers are quitting for the same purpose.

On October 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, was viciously attacked in their San Francisco home while the Speaker was in Washington, D.C. David DePape broke a window to get into the home in his search for the speaker.The police came in answer to the 911 call and found DePape striking him with a hammer. Depape had wandered throughout the house (maybe like the January 6 insurrectionists) and then tried to tie up his victim. He said he was “waiting for Nancy.” Pelosi underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and arm injuries.

 DePage’s long rambling blogs exhibited rambling screeds against minorities, politicians, and women with terms such as “pedogate, “great reset,” “voter fraud,” and “da jewbs.”  Like a large number of Republican, DePape is obsessed with lies about a stolen election, trans people, and deadly COVID vaccines. 

Elsewhere, his views strayed in extreme misogyny. In one post DePape wrote, “Woman [sic] are very problematic and should probably be banned from society” and in another argued that, “Children should be take [sic] away from mothers given to fathers and the mothers should be forced to pay child support.” DePape’s strongly anti-Semitic, pro-DDT, and anti-Democrat included pieces from Kanye West and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Friends considered DePape “out of touch with reality” for his beliefs similar to those of at least half the Republican party members. 

President Joe Biden said:

“What makes us think one party can talk about stolen elections, Covid being a hoax, [that it’s] all a bunch of lies, and it not affect people who may not be so well balanced? What makes us think that it’s not going to alter the political climate?”

Internet sites and social media platforms are celebrating or being used as a jumping-off point for more conspiracy theories, including claiming it is a false flag, a lie to promote Democrats’ elections.  Politically weaponizing the attack: DDT’s camp led the GOP charge to politically weaponize the attack on Paul Pelosi. Harmeet Dhillon, DDT’s newest lawyer, tweeted she found it “odd” that he would be vulnerable to assault because of the Pelosis’ security. The House Speaker was in Washington during the attack on her husband in their San Francisco home, and the home had no security. DDT was silent about the attack.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was horrified, but other Republicans were glib about the attack. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin decried violence but said that “we’re going to send [Pelosi] back to be with [her husband] in California,”and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) complained about the lack of sympathy he received from a neighbor he had offended. 

While most far-right politicians stayed largely silent, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green blamed the assault on “rampant” crime and violence “in Joe Biden’s America.” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) tweeted back:

“YOU called for Nancy Pelosi to be executed, @RepMTG. YOU said she should be hung for treason. And now that someone listened, you’re making Paul Pelosi’s attack about YOU. This is what Republicans stand for, America. It’s sick.”

Fox network followed Greene’s theme when Matthew Gertz tweeted the “crime hits everybody” with the blame on Biden who didn’t “bring us together.” Fox spreads lies about crime statistics. Conservatives are convinced of the lie that crime is up in the U.S.—perhaps because it is in red states—but statistics disprove the lie that Fox continues to push. “Violent victimization” is down for the past decade, and property crimes had not significantly increased. The change in percentage is the perception of crime, thanks to GOP lies.

Republicans badly want to blame Democrats for any violence, for example the accusation that a break-in to Secretary of State Katie Hobb’s campaign office for governor. The arrest of the burglar proves that Hobbs’ opponent Kari Lake was wrong.

This last week, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) gave Fox network the Champion of Freedom award from the Senate GOP campaign committee. It resembles a kitchen colander to drain foods and was first given to DDT a few months after the January 6 insurrection for “protecting our Constitution.” Scott may not have noticed that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), working on privacy in the digital age, handed out the first Champion of Freedom in 2004.

October 17, 2022

Week’s News – October 9-16, 2022

Breaking news since yesterday’s post on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: 

  • Russia hit a key energy facility near Kyiv, seriously damaging it and seizing the property. 
  • President Vladimir Putin said that of his 29 targets for this weekend, seven weren’t damaged but would be taken out gradually.
  • Police and military officers are grabbing men off Moscow streets, even those disabled, as well as in apartment building lobbies, and throughout places of business including cafes and restaurants. Not fitting Putin’s announced criteria Putin, they will be forced into the Russian army.
  • Iran publicly denies contributing weapons to Russia but has secretly agreed to send more weapons shipments, including more “kamikaze” drones and surface-to-surface missiles, for Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Iran has one of the largest and most diverse arsenals of short- and medium-range missiles in the Middle East although they tend to have reliability problems. Among other attacks today, Russia used these drones on Kyiv.
  • A religious argument may have been why two men from Tajikistan killed 11 other volunteers at a Russian military training. Tajikistan, home to the killers, is Islam; Russian is largely Christian.

After Florida areas were hard hit by Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis eased his own voting restrictions such as extending time for voter registration and early voting days, adding drop boxes for ballots, and allowing voters to submit mail-in ballots from addresses not in voting records—but only in Republican areas. He gave no help to regions with a majority of Democratic voters and claimed he’s using advice from supervisors of elections and written requests from the GOP counties.

Bexar County (TX) Sheriff Javier Salazar certified that the 49 migrants who Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard with Florida money provided by the federal government are victims of a crime. As such, they can get a special visa allowing them to stay in the U.S. otherwise not available to them.

According to a federal judge, DDT-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy harmed mail delivery with his changes in 2020 and placed orders to stop him from doing it again. A lawsuit charged DeJoy with higher rates of mail not being delivered on time impacting states’ abilities to stop the spread of COVID and a reliable alternative to in-person voting. DeJoy’s demands removed postal boxes, cut back on the number of mail sorting machines, and hindered the extra postal trips that would have cost overtime as DDT objected to mail-in ballots. These changes were made without consulting the overseeing regulator agency.

The ruling came out the day before backlash to Deloy’s hiking postcard and stamp prices as part of his proposed 10-year plan to change mail operations. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has not approved the price increases. People ask why the postal service is the only government agency that needs to make a profit, DeJoy’s voiced reason for slashing jobs, closing postal facilities, and raising prices.

Elon Musk thought he could escape problems by offering to go through with his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, but federal authorities are investigating his conduct in the takeover. Attorneys for Musk revealed a “privilege log” of withheld documents, and an October 6 court filing requests an order to share the materials. The FTC is monitoring whether Musk failed to comply with the antitrust reporting requirement related to investor’s intentions of a passive or active shareholder. A trial will be scheduled in November if the deal doesn’t meet the October 28 deadline.

Tesla’s stock prices have badly suffered from Musk’s erratic behavior since he decided to control Twitter. Its latest price drop brought the current value to $204.99 last Friday, almost exactly half the value almost a year ago on November 4–$409.97–$640 billion vanished. Columnist Wolf Richter reports that Tesla shares are “still ridiculously overvalued… Tesla is not a car company, it’s a religion.”

In Alex Jones’ latest civil trial, a Connecticut jury ordered him to pay almost $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to 15 plaintiffs, relatives of eight victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims. A request had been only $550 million. The judge already ruled that Jones was guilty of defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Jurors will determine how much money he owed each of the plaintiffs.

After the verdict, Jones cheered and begged for donations on his program. He told his audience, “They want to scare us away from questioning Uvalde or Parkland. We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop.”

Major U.S. health insurance companies have made up to $25 billion in profits by fraudulently billing the federal government for nonexistent healthcare changes through the 64 million people using a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, almost half the people eligible for Medicare. Companies—including UnitedHealth, Humana, CVS Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Cigna—falsely report patient ailments, and most of them have been accused of fraud in court. Of the top ten companies, only Centene has not been accused of any fraud. Three companies were accused of paying doctors or nurses more for recording additional diagnoses.

Journalist Natalie Shure explained the scam:

“Privatized Medicare plans cherry-pick healthier enrollees, fudge medical records to make them look as sick as possible, coax doctors into tacking on extra sham diagnoses to bill for, and pay themselves a profit on top of it.”

Shure added that the companies also refuse to provide additional treatment for these allegedly sick patients subscribing to MA. Almost 80 percent of U.S. House members, many of them taking donations from insurance companies, signed onto a letter “to protect the [MA] program from policies that would undermine” its stability. Critics have stated that the MA program is designed to completely privatize Medicare, allowing private insurance companies to extend the fraud for additional billions of dollars. The MA program costs more money per patient than those enrolled in Medicare.

GOP governors tried to look virtuous for their conservative constituents by not pardoning people for simple possession of cannabis, but they made big bucks after the private prison industry ponied up big campaign donations. Major recipients are Greg Abbott (TX), Bill Lee (TN), and Asa Hutchinson (AR). Private prison corporations even report that their profits need harsh drug laws. Florida Republicans also get a large share of private prison industry donations. Thus far, however, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) praised Biden for his pardoning people federal convicted of simple Cannabis possession.

Conservatives are so delighted about the revelation that the president of moderate Brookings Institution secretly lobbied for Qatar’s government that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to join Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in proposing a bill requiring think tanks to disclose donors paying for lobbying. The measure likely won’t pass become right-wing think tanks would block it because they would suffer more than others. Center-left groups such as Brookings already share much of its donation sources, but the Heritage Foundation, for example, claims under two percent of its income is from corporations. The Cato Institute is far more libertarian than Heritage, and the Claremont Institute has a strong MAGA bent.

The proposed law would not have affected John Allen at Brookings because his lobbying for Qatar was finished before he took over Brookings and would be covered by the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Grassley said, “Congress, the executive branch, and the American people deserve to know who’s influencing research and public policy in our country.” He may have to change his mind if conservatives attack the bill. At the age of 89, Grassley is only three points ahead of his opponent, the tightest election he has faced since he started running for office in 1958, 64 years ago.

About 200 same-gender Chinese couples have been married in Utah, thanks to a legal loophole from a combination of two state laws. The state doesn’t have residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licenses, and Utah County permits international marriages online. China does not recognize the marriages, but the couples have an essence of a legal union.

Ben Sasse wants to move from the Senate to heading up the University of Florida because he doesn’t like conflict. Students and faculty, however, are already protesting his arrival because of his LGBTQ discrimination and urging the school’s board of trustees to reject him. He tried to claim that marriage equality is the “law of the land,” reminiscent of the lies that Supreme Court justices used to get confirmed. Sasse’s employment will be formally considered on November 1.  

How crazy are DDT’s supporters? Denis Molla burned down his own camper two years ago so that he could blame the antifa. Now the 30-year-old Minnesota man is sorry because he faces up to four years in prison. He pled guilty to wire fraud after trying to cheat an insurance agency and GoFundMe donors of over $300,000. His lawyer said Molla is “a wonderful husband and father.” (Right: Image of Molla’s handiwork; check for Molla’s anti-left graffiti on his garage door.)  

After Kingsview Asset Management CIO Scott Martin claimed on the Fox Business Neil Cavuto show that he spent $28 for a Taco Bell lunch, his host was stunned—and so were the humorous Twitter responses. Kingsview might want to reconsider keeping Martin as the “chief information officer.”

October 15, 2022

Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Day 235

In breaking news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two volunteer soldiers from a former Soviet Union republic opened fire on other Russian troops at a military training ground for volunteers in the country’s Belgorod region. Eleven people died, and another 15 were wounded. The two shooters were killed.

Since the explosion on Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea, Kremlin accelerated its attacks across all Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin blames Ukraine for the explosion, perhaps caused by Russian intelligence. Suspects—five Russian citizens, two Ukrainians, and an Armenian national—were arrested by Russia. They loaded 22 tons of explosives into a truck and drove from Odesa to Russia through several other countries. Russian authorities partially reopened the roadway part of the bridge hours for only light traffic as well as the railway part of the bridge where oil tankers caught fire.

Strikes on the capital of Kyiv, eastern Lviv, northwestern Kharkiv, southern Odesa, and over a dozen other Ukrainian cities killed at least 19 people, injured another hundreds, and temporarily cut off power and water for millions. Ukrainian air defense system intercepted over half the rockets. Targets included a children’s playground, causing a huge crater;  a glass bridge, a tourist spot crossing the Dnipro River; museums; and the Philharmonic building were hit. The new leader for Russian forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, is known as “General Armageddon,” among other epithets, for his brutality and possibly war crimes first years ago in Syria. He has been suggested as a replacement for Putin in case of a coup.

Russian blames Ukraine for shelling an area within Russian territory at the border, but Ukraine blames stray Russian fire. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “something went wrong” with a Russian missile launched toward Kharkiv.

A Ukraine prosecutor is investigating Russian air strikes as “a classic act of terror” to “provoke a humanitarian catastrophe” and “intimidation tactics toward civilians.” Russia is also threatening to “not renew” its grain and fertilizer export deal unless its demands are met.  

Pushed by war hawk hardlines, Putin’s heavy use of air strikes indicates a failing ground strategy. Troops retreating on three separate fronts lack supplies, worse since heavy vehicles cannot crossing the Kerch Bridge for another nine months. Fear as Putin’s military strategy for the last century is caving to from poor fuel supplies, terrified conscripts, and lack of effective tactics. Russian conscripts must buy their own body armor, especially the modern 6B45 vest which is part of the Ratnik armor personal equipment program costing about $640 after prices soared.

Putin said he had found 222,000 reservist recruits, instead of the 300,000 he wanted, and announced the end of mobilization with the beginning of fall conscriptions. Moscow government officials are leaving in droves after the death of a colleague in Ukraine after Putin’s mobilization. Despite having no combat experience, Aleksey Martynov was conscripted on September 23, sent to the front within a few days, and killed on October 10. In “a mass exodus,” employees left—”IT people, advertisers, marketers, PR people, and ordinary civil servants.” Since the mobilization decree, multiple conscripted Russians mysteriously died before reaching the battlefield and others soon after being deployed in Ukraine. The deaths cause outrage on social media.

Germany has given Ukraine over 16 Biber bridge-layer tanks and ten pontoon bridge machines. Also promised are more Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers and MARS II multiple rocket launchers.

To avoid conscription, Russian men are buying false HIV and hepatitis diagnoses added to the Ministry of Health’s database. HIV costs $620; hepatitis runs for $820. The groups selling these certificates also offer transportation to border countries, job opportunities, and housing as well as offering forged government documents and currency exchanges—all payable in Bitcoin. Unfortunately, buyers cannot confirm if the offered services are genuine.

Instead of weakening Ukraine, Russia strikes confirmed world opinion against Russia, weakened the calls for peace talks, and strengthened declarations to supply more advanced weapons systems and air defenses to the invaded country, speeding up their deliveries. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution with 99 votes; it had only one abstention and no one opposed.

Eight countries, including Ukraine, joined the European Council’s decision on the eighth package of sanctions against Russia. These include oil price caps, new bans on imports and exports, and sanctions against people, legal entities and companies warring against Ukraine.

Strikes temporarily cut power went out in Ukraine, but the stations were built during the Soviet regime and designed to withstand a nuclear attack from the U.S. Now they protect against Russian attacks.

While Putin tries to reduce Ukraine to rubble, he wants help from Belarus and deployed troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border. Yet “elected” leader Aleksandr Lukashenko says he doesn’t want to get into war, and his opposition activists volunteer to fight for Ukraine where they have training with modern weapons and combat which could liberate Belarus. Lukashenk has few combat-ready troops and only Soviet-era hand-me-down equipment.

A Russian submarine off the Brittany (France) coast is being monitored by French, British, and Spanish warships. Two NGOs are also suing France’s TotalEnergies for “complicity in war crimes”; the company allegedly helped fuel Russian planes that bombed Ukraine. Russians control TotalEnergies.

Putin has said he doesn’t need to unleash more massive strikes across Ukraine. Analysts believe Russia could be running out of long-range precision weapons, forcing the military to resort to less-accurate missiles. The 84 missiles used in one day’s attack cost between $400 million and $700 million. Putin said he was willing to hold talks. Russia has been using more “kamikaze” drones, purchased from Iran, as a cheaper and more dispensable alternative, although Iran denies it provides any weapons to Russia. If the military had short pulses of long-range missile fire, they would probably have used them, not concerned about civilian casualties.

To make Russian positions on the west side of the Dnipro River unsustainable, Ukrainian troops have attacked bridges, ferries, and pontoons in recent weeks. In the south, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for the demilitarization of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Ukrainian engineers twice restored back-up power following last week’s Russian shelling.

Ukraine claims it recaptured over155 miles in the annexed southern Kherson region in less than a week. Russians told civilians to evacuate, indicating Putin thinks he’s losing the region. Last month, Ukraine recaptured over 600 settlements from Russia, including 75 settlements in Kherson along with 502 settlements in the Kharkiv area, 43 settlements in the Donetsk region, and seven in the Luhansk region.

After the invasion, Ukraine lost cellular phone and internet networks, and Elon Musk’s spacecraft engineering firm donated about 20,000 Starlink satellite units to Ukraine. Musk had said that the Pentagon must start paying, but a a new tweet states he changed his mind and will continue the funding. Paying $80 million thus far, Space X estimated the U.S. would have to pay over $120 million for the rest of the year and about $400 million for the next year. The terminals are vital in keeping Ukraine’s military online.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller reported that hundreds of kilometers of the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines might need replacement. With a series of bullet points, they have filled with water. The process could last require at least a year.  

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on Hungary and Turkey, the only holdouts of NATO’s 30 member countries, to ratify Finland and Sweden’s memberships. Slovakia was the latest NATO ally to sign ratification documents on Sept. 27.

The UN overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of the four Ukrainian regions and demanded that the Kremlin reverse course. In a vote, 143 states, three-fourths of the 193-member general assembly, supported the resolution. Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Syria joined Russia to vote against the resolution, and 35 countries abstained including some of Putin’s quasi-supporters China, India, Pakistan, and South Africa. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said:  

“Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?”

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” It also supports “the de-escalation of the current situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means” that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders.

International Monetary Fund member countries issued a near-unanimous call for Russia to end its war in Ukraine calling the conflict the single biggest factor fueling inflation and slowing the global economy. Only Russia blocked consensus.

In retaliation for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, Russian hackers crashed 14 U.S. airport websites in a coordinated cyberattack. All exhibited “denial to service” to those who wanted to access them. In this attack, air traffic control, internal airline communications and coordination, and transportation security were not targeted. The pro-Russian hacker group “Killnet” took credit.

Russian propaganda films are warning people attempting to seek refuge in the U.S. about the dangers of LGBTQ people, Blacks, and vegetarians.

In ridiculing Russia’s sham vote to annex Ukrainian regions, Poland held a mock referendum to annex Russia’s embassy in Warsaw. Eight days ago, 97.9 percent of an online vote approved the Czech Republic referendum to annex the Russian city of Kaliningrad, changing its name to Královec. Originally the German city of Königsberg, Kaliningrad, not physically connected to Russia, was given to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. It is Russia’s only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea.

October 9, 2022

News – October 9, 2022 (Some Hopeful)

Twenty miles from Fort Myers (FL) where multitudes of homes were destroyed, a 4,600-resident model community at Babcock Ranch, a 100-percent solar-powered built-to-code storm-resilient town, suffered only ripped pool coverage, broken fence posts, downed trees, and a few missing shingles. It didn’t even lose power. Structures are on land 25 feet higher on average than surrounding communities, and buildings are specified for Category 4 hurricane winds of 145 mph. Drinking water wasn’t contaminated and never shut off from the water system and wastewater plant deep into an underground aquifer. The 700,000 solar panels owned by Florida Power & Light covering 900 acres suffered little damage. Population of the town is expected to grow to 50,000 with six million square feet of commercial space. Houses can be expensive, but some of them start about $300,000. Sadly, Florida will probably rebuild on the beaches with no regulations, and people will again be destroyed in another hurricane.

President Joe Biden’s administration has reunited 500 children separated by the zero tolerance border policy instated by former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The number is almost half the goal of over 1,100 separated children returned to their parents. About 200 families are being processed, and another 150 contacted by the government haven’t responded. Reunited families may temporarily stay in the U.S., and parents separated from their children have work permits for three years. The program also provides mental health service through non-profits. Some children have not seen their parents for four years. The cases meet the definition of torture, according to a study, because “U.S. officials intentionally carried out actions causing severe pain and suffering in order to punish and intimidate mainly Central American asylum seekers to not pursue their asylum claims.”

Headlines have lambasted President Joe Biden’s job losses the past month from 315,000 to 263,000 jobs, “the slowest month of hiring in 18 months” (Fox), after his administration created 10 million jobs in the past 20 months. Yet increasing employment edged down to unemployment of 3.5 percent, and real economists are delighted with the overall picture, predicting no recession.

Compare Biden’s record to that of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) who promised 25 million new jobs in a decade but ended up with 3.1 fewer million jobs when he left office than when he came into office. People might blame the COVID problems, but he increased jobs by only 6.6 million in his first three years and then badly mismanaged COVID in his last year. DDT left office with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover in 1932. President Bill Clinton created 22.745 million jobs during his two terms followed by George W. Bush with 0.523 million new jobs in two terms.

In the 18 months since Biden’s rescue act, over 8 million people jobless in March 2021 now have jobs. Last year’s economy had its fastest growth since 1984, ending 2021 with a three-percent higher GDP than before the pandemic. Unfortunately, a hot economy also kicked off a higher inflation rate exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, higher prices for huge big business profits, and now the OPEC’s cut in oil production. People had money, and their purchases drove up prices. The Federal Reserve started to drive down prices by raising interest rates which angered people who want both low prices and low interest rates.

In one way to lower costs for people, Biden is tackling “junk fees,” the hidden costs from overdrafts on a bank account to terminating cellphone contracts early, usually impacting low-income people the most. The project goes through agencies controlling areas in which these fees predominate—banks, credit unions, debt collection, transportation, etc. For example, payments for credit card late fees fun $12 billion. Eliminating some of these fees may help problems with inflation. Some banks such as Capital One and Citibank have already done away with non-sufficient funds and overdraft fees. Wells Fargo dropped NSF fees but kept the overdraw ones after making $1 billion from January through September 2021.

Two states have delayed anti-abortion laws until litigation moves through the courts. One of the blocked laws is the 1864 anti-abortion legislation passed in Arizona passed during the Civil War, 48 years before Arizona became a state. In Ohio, a county judge blocked the state’s “heartbeat law,” eliminating any abortions after the law pretends an ultrasound noise at six weeks is an embryo’s heartbeat.

A dozen hypocritical Florida members of Congress joined both Florida senators and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to beg Republican Kay Granger (TX) for aid after Hurricane Ian despite their “no” votes on providing the assistance. At least one of them still stands by his “no” vote and praised his colleagues in the Florida delegation for the same action. Their objection is that other states could receive disaster assistance.

Republicans have continued their fury with the Democratic opposition to “trickle-down” economics, the theory that cutting taxes for the wealthy would allow them to hire more workers, a philosophy that failed for much of the 20th century and most recently failed in the 2017 GOP tax cuts for big business and the rich that financially benefited only these categories. Unfortunately, the good news of over 10 million jobs created since Biden’s inauguration and the increased buying power from congressional economic stimulus bills led to inflation and lower stock markets because business wasn’t prepared to provide goods and it raised prices for greater business profit.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may have committed fraud by using federal COVID-19 relief funds for transporting migrants out of the state to northeastern U.S. as part of his anti-immigrant Operation Lone Star. In the 2021 regular session, Abbott persuaded the GOP legislature to approve $1.1 billion for border guards and their supplies but wanted more money. He called a special session to get for another $1.9 billion for another 1,800 guards/troopers and a border wall, Operation Steel Curtain. When Abbott reallocated funds from a number of agencies, he said nothing about using COVID funds and told them that “the agencies’ earlier appropriations have been fully funded with other sources.”

GOP legislators loudly shouted the word “socialism” for the new infrastructure law while grabbing the money and behind the scenes begging for funding before telling their constituents how they, who voted against the laws, are benefiting them. In one of dozens of requests, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) attacked what he called “President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list” and wrote Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about his support for the multimillion dollar grant to improve part of Highway 65 in his district. Emmer called it “a social justice measure.” Perhaps the most hypocritical and crazy congressional member, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) bitterly complained about the bill serving “the America Last’s socialist agenda” before writing three separate letters imploring for funding that would enhance quality of life with the projects he wants. Other congressional members—Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Reps. Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez (R-FL) Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), Rep. Ashley Hinson (IA), Rep. Marwayne Mullin (R-OK)—took the same approaches to smear the bill and pleading for money.

Republicans almost always take the opposite position of President Joe Biden in anything he does, but in the case of the president’s pardons for federal convictions of cannabis possession, they’ve gone off the radar. From the RNC and the congressional and senate committees, only silence. From Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), nothing. Just a couple of weak tweets about “soft on crime” from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), wannabe presidential candidate, and Fox network’s Laura Ingraham.

Last week for Tesla was the worst week since March 2020 when COVID was announced. Electric vehicle production and delivery numbers didn’t meet analysts’ expectations, over 21,000 short despite two new factories in Brandenburg (Germany) and Austin (TX). That was before Elon Musk posted his controversial solution to the Russian invasion that Ukraine should give them part of the Country that Russian president Vladimir Putin wants. Musk also said he was continuing his deal to buy Twitter but would charge cryptocurrency for posts.

Then Musk took China’s side against Taiwan for “peace reunification” in which China controls Taiwan—sort of like Musk recommended for Russia’s control of Taiwan. The response was the same as from Ukraine: Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim answered, “Taiwan sells many products, but our freedom and democracy are not for sale.” Tesla has a large factory in China.

And an oldie but goodie from August. In McAllen (TX), an anti-LGBTQ church put on an unauthorized performance of the popular musical Hamilton that changed language to make it homophobic with its version of Christianity. One of the pastors lied about how “the Hamilton team” gave the church “the license to perform” their version, but Hamilton’s creators called them out on the falsehood. The pastor then admitted the church didn’t request or receive this permission and promised to destroy all images of the production, never stage it again, and pay damages. The pastor had depicted Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, as accepting Jesus Christ as his savior, and gave a sermon comparing homosexuality to drug use. Hamilton’s letters indicated his romantic feelings for his closest male friend, and the play’s creator Lin Miranda helped launch an initiative to support Florida’s Hispanic LGBTQ community. The money for damages goes to the South Texas Equality Project, a coalition of LGBTQIA+ organizations.

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!

September 13, 2022

News – September 13, 2022

Once again, Republicans reinforced their message that they can’t be trusted. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) dropped a bombshell today when he announced for the sixth time that the GOP would pass a national law preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy if Republicans took the Congress in 2022. (The bill actually states “at 15 weeks”—a week less, important when time is of the essence.) When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, the majority assured women that the abortion ban was only state-wide, that they could go to states permitting abortions for the procedure.  

Nationwide, 60 percent in polling support abortions in all or most cases, up from 55 percent in March, according to the Wall Street Journal. Graham said that he chose 15 weeks because “unborn child” (a fetus) the fetus can then feel pain. Studies show that the sensation of pain doesn’t occur until after 24 weeks. Advocates of the bill refer to 15-week abortions as “late-term,” a term used for pregnancies after at least 21 to 24 weeks. Asked about Graham’s proposal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said most GOP senators prefer abortion to be under state law rather than a national restriction.

On May 3, Graham said that each state deciding the legality of abortion “and on what terms … is the most constitutionally sound way of dealing with this issue.” On August 7, 2022, Graham said, “I’ve been consistent. I think states should decide…the issue of abortion.” Yet he proposed a national abortion restriction less than two months before an election largely focused on the loss of women’s rights.

Graham’s press conference announcing his proposed federal anti-abortion bill covered the other big news of the day, the Dow Jones dropping over 1,200 points because of the 0.1 percent August inflation increase. Food and gas continued to drop in prices, but some tech stocks lost up to ten percent. The biggest increase in prices for August was in medical services, a problem that the Inflation Reduction Act is intended to address. Rising rents were also responsible for the inflation increase.  

Another commentary on the filing by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) to keep government-owned classified documents in the National Archives instead of in DDT’s unlocked desk drawers while he is gone for months: DDT’s attorneys compared those documents to tapes found in “the Clinton sock drawer,” when describing personal tapes from Bill Clinton’s interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch as part of a memoir about Clinton’s views on the issues of the day. Branch made follow-up tapes of his impressions, and the resulting book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, came out in 2009. A 2012 ruling from a case filed by the conservative Judicial Watch demanding they have access to the recordings established the difference between a private record and a Presidential Records Act document in post-presidency. According to the ruling by U.S. district judge Amy Jackson, the Presidential Records Act identifies Clinton’s tapes as personal records, “purely private or nonpublic,” not official presidential materials such as the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.  

House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney has asked that the National Archives review DDT administration’s presidential records in a search for “presidential records … outside the agency’s custody and control. She sent this request after the archives staff told the committee that “the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody.” Maloney also asked the archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”

Kenneth Starr has died at the age of 76, after complications from surgery. Widely accused of political bias, the GOP investigator spent most of Bill Clinton’s two terms pursuing the president for investment questions, which never resulted in any evidence, and then followed by impeachment after Clinton’s affair with an intern. Starr’s appointment as Baylor University president in 2010 ended six years later after a sexual assault scandal in which women alleged campus leaders bungled or ignored their complaints. A review noted that administrators, under Starr, possibly accommodated a “hostile environment against the alleged victims. In 2020, Starr took part in DDT’s defense for his second impeachment. Over 20 years earlier during Clinton’s impeachment, DDT called Starr “a total wacko” and “totally off his rocker.”

September 13 is the last day in 2022 for primaries in the U.S. determining candidates in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. (Commentary on winners—and losers—tomorrow.) The count in Sweden’s Sunday vote still hasn’t determined whether the extremists in the far-right Democratic party will take over the nation. But one vote has been determined: Twitter shareholders accepted Elon Musk’s purchase of the company.

At the same time, Musk is working hard to get out of the $44 billion takeover, and Twitter’s stock opened on Tuesday at under $41 per share, almost 25 percent under the deal price. Musk has sent three letters to Twitter in his effort to void the agreement, the last time just days ago citing the $7.75 million severance payment the company made to whistleblower and former head of security Peter Zatko. The contract for the purchase supposedly promised no severance payments outside “past practice.” This letter followed another with Musk’s accusations of Twitter’s misrepresenting the number of spam and fake bot accounts on its platform. Twitter sued, but Zatko, a renowned hacker, testified to the Senate about alleged security and privacy vulnerabilities. The Musk-Twitter trial is scheduled for October 17.

In early August, Musk sold almost $7 billion of his Tesla shares in preparation for a forced purchase of Twitter. Openly criticizing government spending, Musk has taken $7 billion in government contacts with billions more in tax breaks, loans, and other subsidies, making the difference between profit and loss. Last summer, studies showed that Tesla vehicles running on Autopilot software had 273 crashes for the previous year, almost 70 percent of the 392 crashes reported in that time. His 18-year-old trans daughter has also filed legal documents to drop her last name of Musk and cut off any association with her father. Musk has seven children, sharing five with his ex-wife Justine Wilson and the others with ex-girlfriend Grimes.

Sample MAGA views from the third National Conservatism conference in Miami on September 11-13:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said tech companies “cannot be viewed as private entities” because “we know without a shadow of a doubt they are doing the regime’s bidding when it comes to censorship.”

A breakout session called for mandatory military service for anyone making over $250,000 a year.

Not one MAGA hat was seen at the meeting, and DDT was at his golf club in Virginia at that time after a mystery flight into Washington, D.C. Yet most 2024 presidential GOP wannabees, mostly governors and congressional members, were present: Mike Pence, Larry Hogan, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Mike Pompeo, and Liz Cheney.

After a judicial order to pay $49.3 million in his first defamation trial because of conspiracy theories regarding the Sandy Hook massacre, Alex Jones heads into the second trial by plaintiffs Jones claimed were “crisis actors” who lied about the children’s deaths. Parents’ and others’ cyberstalking and threatening harassment came from his encouragement for his audience to “investigate.” Plaintiffs have also asked the court to remove its current management after it filed bankruptcy in August which Jones said would keep Infowars on the air and keep him from “paying any judgements as he appeals.” Jones also uses the court decision to advertise his supplements and forthcoming book.

Jones’ ex-wife, Kelly Jones, also plans to subpoena her ex-husbands phone records, inadvertently given to the plaintiff’s attorney. Given custody of their three children in 2017 after she filed for divorce in 2013, she maintains their father forced the children to lie about her in court and has been non-compliant about court orders. Phone records also show that Jones has been secretly surveilling both Kelly Jones and his current wife, Erika Wulff Jones, through what could be called a “spy ring.” He also had one of his security team follow his wife.

According to his financial records, highly conservative China-hater Ron Johnson, running for a third senatorial term from Wisconsin, made $57 million in the last decade from a company closely aligned with China. He purportedly sold his shares in the company but still receives up to $1 million annually from rent and royalties as owners of its building. His campaign ads have bragged about the jobs he created as a manufacturer, and his company sued the U.S. government for softer trade relations with Beijing. Johnson threatens to start an investigation into President Joe Biden’s alleged relationships with Chinese businesses. 

Ronny Jackson was first known for being DDT’s White House doctor who said DDT could live to be 200 years old. Jackson left because of drinking on the job and inappropriate interactions with subordinates, including sexual and denigrating statements, to be elected U.S. House representative from Texas. Now he’s so excited about royalty that he wants DDT to be crowned the U.S. “MAGA King.” Maybe he didn’t know that Biden’s reference to DDT as “the great MAGA king” was a joke.  

July 19, 2022

Insurrection Hearing Preview, Other News

Tomorrow will be the results from the Maryland primary, the only one in July, and Friday will be the eighth hearing from the House January 6 investigative committee regarding the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. After that a bit of catch up on the week’s happenings. 

Scheduled for 8:00 EST on July 21, the hearing, shown on all major networks except Fox, focuses on Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as he took no action for 187 minutes during the violent attacks on the Capitol and the people inside. Witnesses include former White House aides.

Matthew Pottinger, a member of DDT’s National Security Council who resigned on the night of January 6, 2021, was in the White House for much of January 6, 2021. Former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews also resigned soon after the insurrection, saying she “was deeply disturbed by what I saw.” She added, “Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power.” Pottinger made his decision to quit when he read DDT’s tweet about former VP Mike Pence lacking the courage to do “what should have been done.”

Another person who might provide information about the heated December 18, 2020 White House meeting, Garrett Ziegler, was former aide to then-White House economic adviser Peter Navarro. Once fanatically loyal to DDT, Ziegler connected the White House and a collection of lawyers and conspiracy mongers. He circumvented then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to bring Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne into the White House for the six-hour meeting which turned into a shouting match with proposals such as DDT invoking the Insurrection Act, ordering the National Guard to seize voting machines and re-run elections in states with narrow majorities for Biden. Instead of performing his position’s duties, Ziegler also put together a three-volume, 36-page report for Peter Navarro that manipulated statistics to “prove” DDT couldn’t have lost the 2020 election.

The first seven hearings presented live testimony for over a dozen witnesses and provided clips of recorded depositions from another 40 witnesses, including DDT’s family, former administration officials, GOP officials from key battleground states, and DDT’s legal team. The House committee’s chair, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), cannot attend the eighth hearing in person because he is isolating after testing positive for COVID.

The July 18 hearing was supposedly the last, but information keeps pouring in and more people volunteer testimony. The scheduled final report in September will now be a “scaled-back” interim report, according to Thompson, and more hearings may be scheduled. The hard deadline is January 3, 2023, when the next Congress is sworn in.

The committee has also found DDT’s campaign operative who delivered the January 6 false elector list: Mark Roman gave the names to a House GOP aide, trying to get them to then-VP Mike Pence. Roman gave signed false elector certificates from Michigan and Wisconsin to Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-PA) chief of staff who deputized a colleague to disseminate copies on Capitol Hill. The lists never got to Pence, and he refused to go along with the scheme.

At the July 12 hearing, millions of people learned about Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) attempting to tamper with a witness, but he has a history of this witness tampering:

After DDT fired FBI Director James Comey, DDT told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that he did it to stop the investigation into “this Russia thing,” the ongoing investigations into his campaign’s possible involvement with Russia in the 2016 election.

Comey reported that DDT leaned on him to go easy on Michael Flynn, former national security adviser who pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. DDT said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” After Flynn was convicted, DDT pardoned him following his presidential loss in 2020.

DDT’s personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen saved DDT many times in shady activities, including paying off Stormy Daniels for her silence about her sexual relationship with DDT. A DDT lawyer Rudy Giuliani emailed Cohen that he should “sleep well” because “you have friends in high places.” Another DDT lawyer told Cohen he might get a pardon “if he stayed on message.” Cohen flipped and testified to Congress in 2019 about his concern that if DDT loses the 2020 election, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”  

No charges came from Robert Mueller’s investigation of DDT’s Russia contacts, but the final report listed ten cases in which DDT tried to interfere with the inquiry, including DDT’s attempts to fire Mueller from the special counsel investigation. DDT’s supporters claimed the investigation showed DDT’s innocence, but Mueller concluded, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

After permitting Meadows to escape a subpoena from the House committee for months, the DOJ declared the subpoenas for testimony and documents from the DDT’s former White House chief of staff should be executed. A landmark filing states that former advisers to presidents who have left office are not “absolutely immune” from congressional subpoenas after the president they served leaves office based on need and inability to get it anyplace else. Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, plans to go to the judge to persuade him he has made a mistake.

Meadows survived his illegal registrations in multiple states, but DDT’s lawyers may make him the “fall guy” for attempts to overturn the 2020 election, according to Rolling Stone. The House committee is also investigating his financial dealings to add to the list of unethical and possibly illegal actions he took for DDT. He’s disliked by other DDT-world veterans; some view him “as a two-faced man prone to double-dealing and simply telling people what they want to hear.” They also hold him responsible for endangering them with his lack of COVID supervision in the White House. DDT himself has moved into comments about how he wasn’t always aware of what Meadows did after the election or Biden’s inauguration, DDT’s version of hardly knowing a person when he is tossing them under the bus. Former DDT lawyer Ty Cobb, who has turned on DDT, believes “criminal prosecutions are possible.”

In amazing bipartisanship, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill protecting marriage equality with a vote of 267 to 157 including 47 GOP representatives—over 20 percent of the Republican membership. Several of these seem to be running in redistricted areas that may have a larger population of LGBTQ residents. Legislation repeals the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The law has stayed on the books after a court struck it down. The bill directs the federal government to recognize a marriage valid in a state where it was performed, protecting same-gender marriages in the approximately 30 states prohibiting them. Without this bill, the six Supremes could destroy marriage in these states by overturning Obergefell v. Hodges. Same-gender couples would have legal protections such as giving the attorney general the authority to guarantee all states recognize public acts, records, and judicial proceedings for out-of-state marriages.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that the bill wasn’t needed, that it was “political messaging.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been leading the charge to overturn marriage equality, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY called him unhinged. Cruz is likely readying himself for a presidential run in 2024.

In a Delaware courtroom, Twitter requested an order for Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, to finish his promised $44 billion purchase of the company. Musk won a case for Tesla in the same court last year against the company’s shareholders. The Court of Chancery, composed of seven judges appointed by the governor, has jurisdiction over corporate law determining actions, not finances.

DDT may have profited by $300 million through the leaking of a deal regarding DDT’s social media company to an obscure Miami investment firm. The result of the leak was soaring share prices. Federal prosecutors and regulators are investigating the merger between Digital World and Trump Media, and the SEC is considering whether whether to block the merger. A federal grand jury in Manhattan has issued subpoenas seeking information from the Miami firm. Without the deal, Trump Media could lose $1.3 billion.

The owner of Main Street Armory, a New-York based venue, is canceling the “Reawaken America” tour next month because of community concern regarding white supremacists. The tour has already gone through Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. Far-right- extremist speakers from QAnon groups have included MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, InfoWars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and former U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Christian leaders stated it “promotes Christian nationalism that pushes ‘anti-democratic, pro-violence and Q-Anon-inspired ideology.'” The two-day sessions focus on DDT’s “Big Lie” and COVID misinformation in Jesus’s name with some of the speakers involved in planning and executing the January 6 insurrection.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has saved Biden from another horrible mistake. Thirty years after Biden led the committee endorsing Clarence Justice for a lifetime Supreme Court position, he offered to make a deal for another lifetime judicial anti-abortion appointee in exchange for Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senators can block any judicial appointment from their home state, saving Biden from embarrassment when McConnell failed to live up to any agreement with a Democrat.

July 15, 2022

News – Week of July 15, 2022

More January 6: The House January 6 investigative committee plans a primetime hearing on July 21. The committee also issued a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service requesting records that a Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointee said were mistakenly erased.

More Musk: Elon Musk thinks he can force Twitter to pay $1 billion when he reneges on his $44 billion deal to buy the company, but his banks have signed a deal with him to put up the acquisition money. Both Musk and the banks may have trouble breaking their commitment letters. Bank of America, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley aren’t responding to questions.

More Antiabortion: Montana state Rep. Brad Tschida (R), a former majority leader now running for state Senate, emailed over 100 legislators that a woman’s womb “serves no specific purpose to her life or well-being.” He expanded his argument to the local media stating that there is only one organ in a woman’s body “that is not there to serve a purpose for her and that is her womb.” 

The media got excited when obstructionist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might be joining his party policies. As usual it was wrong. Manchin, a millionaire supported by fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries, followed his pattern of appearing to negotiate before reneging on any agreements. Just like the Republicans for the past decades, he makes promises if Democrats eliminate important provisions and then fails to follow through after they appease him, this time backing down on legislation regarding climate change, tax legislation, lower prescription drug prices, and an extension of enhanced Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsides for two years. Manchin dumped an agreement that would have raised about $1 trillion in revenue by Rolling back 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and big business could have raised about $1 trillion with half the money shrinking the deficit that DDT raised by $7.8 trillion in just four years. Savings from negotiating down prescription drug prices would fund ACA subsidies.

Immediately after Travis Herzog, a Texas meteorologist, warned his audience about power outages, the studio lights went out from a power outage. The rolling blackout was not planned, but engineers switched to generators to stay on air. State-controlled electricity returned in two hours before another power outage. Herzog was describing the extreme heat causing outages. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott had a lot to say about the 53 immigrants who died in a tractor trailer after human traffickers abandoned them in San Antonio but about his failing electric power grid, not so much. 

Eighteen months ago, Abbott’s failures with the power source independent of the U.S. killed hundreds of people in the power outage; now the grid operator wants Texans to turn off appliances during the afternoon in the state producing more natural gas than any other in the nation. In a tight re-election race with Beto O’Rourke, Abbott had promised the grid was fixed after 702 people died in the cold but hasn’t mentioned ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) since early February when he went on social media to praise the power organization designed to avoid federal regulations. The Texas governor appoints three of four state Public Utility Commission members which has co-oversight of ERCOT with the GOP-dominated state legislature.

In mid-May, the grid’s operator asked users to conserve energy because six power plants went offline with no explanation amid soaring temperatures. Excuses during the winter were frozen equipment; legislation was directed to making the grid more resilient in the cold. Nine months ago, an investigation by NBC News and the Texas Tribune found a vulnerable grid with new regulations permitting companies to avoid improvements. Nothing has been done to repair the problem of keeping enough natural gas for the electric plants.

ERCOT’s pricing strategy during February 2021 caused Brazos Electric, a cooperative operating four plants, to go bankrupt instead of passing along a $2 million bill for a few days of power to members and consumers. Brazos took the Texas power system to court, and former ERCOT CEO Bill Magness testified that Abbott was responsible for maximum costs days after the system was back in business, $9,000 per megawatt hour, over 150 times higher than the average price, hoping big business would cut back on usage. Stuck with same price, all consumers got the same price, and household bills were well over $15,000 for one month of power. The problem of natural gas shortages was ignored

Record temperatures in the 110s and high humidity, called “extreme” and “dangerously hot,” continue to cover Texas. The 105 degrees in Houston matched its highest July temperature recorded. Solar energy works well under the scorching sun, but stagnant winds under the heat dome limit wind generation to about 10 percent of capacity. Other states suffering from these problems could borrow energy from the rest of the U.S., but Texas’ independence makes it helpless. Led by conservatives such as Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Texans ignore the problems from climate change. 

Abbott has been using his “Operation Lone Star” for his re-election campaign, a state-run border control program, but the DOJ is now investigating it for civil rights violations. He assigned over 10,000 National Guard members to act as federal border agents although they have no authority to apprehend or incarcerate migrants crossing the border without legal documentation. Deployed National Guard members state they are being misused, forced to leave their families and jobs to stay idle. For media attention, Abbott performed actions such as busing migrants to Washington, D.C. from the southern border, much to the appreciation of the migrants. Instead of arrests for border and drug issues, the charges were largely trespassing when officials ordered migrants onto private property and then arrested. Jailed without charges for weeks, some of the migrants have filed a class-action lawsuit.

Republicans are building their fascist reputation by inviting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to open the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas (TX) from August 4-7. Headlining CPAC held in Hungary last May, he outlined the 12 ways leaders can capture and consolidate power, including the control of media’s information. He silenced Hungarian independent media and controls all the nation’s television, newspaper, and online media outlets. Orbán also took control of the judiciary and attacked the few financial institutions not under the control of his far-right Fidesz Party. In Dallas, he will share the stage with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Fox News host Sean Hannity, and possibly DDT who admires Orbán’s authoritarian leadership style. CPAC stated that Orbán is the “leading voice” in Europe fighting for his people and “everyone who believes in national sovereignty.”

Dominion Voting Systems issued a subpoena to former AG Bill Barr, requiring him to testify in its defamation lawsuit against Fox network. Barr had told the House January 6 investigative committee that he believed the lies about fraud claims regarding Dominion voting machines were “complete nonsense.” Dominion has also subpoenaed DDT’s allies such as attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, also being sued for defamation by Dominion. Fox has claimed that its fraud accusations are protected by the First Amendment but lost its motion to dismiss the case in December 2021. The trial is scheduled for April 2023. Dominion has filed at least eight lawsuits concerning the conspiracy theory after the 2020 election, including Fox’s parent company Fox Corporation after the company refused to give Dominion documents from Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan.

DDT’s former national security adviser John Bolton talked about the work needed to “plan [a] coups d’état” but excused DDT by saying he didn’t really mean to “overthrow the Constitution.” Bolton cited the unsuccessful attempt to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro when DDT recognized Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president. Maduro stayed, and Bolton was fired.

Between 1947 and 1989, the U.S. attempted 72 times to change another nation’s government, including 66 covert operations, not including pre-Cold War interventions in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Cuba.  Obviously, Bolton was too young for those in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Syria (1949, 1956, and 1957), Cuba (1959), Congo (early to mid 1960s), Vietnam (1964), and Chile (1973) after Bolton was an aide to Spiro Agnew in 1972. In the 1980s, Reagan secretly worked to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua by supporting the Contras. During George H.W. Bush’s administration, the U.S. invaded Panama to overthrow Manuel Noriega, and in 1991, the U.S. invaded Iraq while Bolton was still in the State Department. He later advocated for Bill Clinton to send troops into Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and succeeded with George W. Bush in 2003, pushing the myth of WMDs. Bolton would have been involved with military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and argued after 20 years that Joe Biden should not have pulled out of the country. 

World leaders took note of Bolton’s coup offhand remarks. Evo Morales, former Bolivian president ousted from office in 2019, tweeted Bolton’s remarks showed that the U.S. was “the worst enemy of democracy and life.” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, called for an international investigation into Bolton’s statements. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “This is no surprise. The admission simply shows that interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and overthrowing their governments have become the standard practice of the U.S. government.” Turkish media supportive of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tied Bolton’s coup comments to the failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016.

Now Republicans are trying to overthrow the U.S. government.

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