Friday, October 22, 2021

Stacking The Deck

It's redistricting time ahead of the 2022 elections, and no state is more obscenly broken in this respect than Wisconsin, where Democrats actually won 200,000 more state legislature votes last year, and Republicans run the state assembly with a 60-38 margin anyway. The 2022 GOP redistricting plan will actually make that even worse.

Republicans who control the Legislature would maintain a large advantage in Assembly races under a redistricting plan they made public late Wednesday.

The release of their proposed congressional and legislative maps propelled the state's redistricting fight into the next stage.

States must draw new maps every 10 years using census data to ensure districts have equal populations. Where the lines go can give one political party a big advantage over the other for a decade.

Republican lawmakers plan to approve their plans as soon as next month, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is likely to veto them. That would leave it to the courts to decide how to draw the districts.

Under the plans Republicans released Wednesday, 61 of the Assembly's 99 districts would lean Republican, according to recent voting patterns analyzed by Dave's Redistricting, an online platform that allows the public to review maps.

A small number would have only a slight GOP lean, meaning Democrats would have a shot at winning a few of those 61. But the vast majority of GOP seats would be quite safe for their party. (Republicans would also have a shot at winning a handful of the 38 Democratic-leaning seats.)

Because of the number of GOP-advantaged seats, Republicans would likely continue to hold sizable majorities in the Assembly for years.
That 61-38 margin would be the new baseline in a 50-50 election year, and fewer than ten state House districts would be competitive at all, meaning that Democrats would have no chance of regaining control for another decade, and then Republicans would just redraw another 55+ safe districts again in 2031.

It gets even worse when it comes to the state's eight Congressional delegation seats in the US House.

Six of the state's eight congressional districts would have a Republican advantage — four by double digits and two by single digits, according to Dave's Redistricting. The state's remaining two districts — one centered around Milwaukee, the other around Madison — would be overwhelmingly Democratic.
Republicans would actually gain a US House seat. In fact, redistricting in the nation as a whole would give Republicans about 15-20 more US House seats across the country, net. 

Which is the point. After this year, with this GOP, state control of most of the country's state legislatures will be impossible to flip for Democrats.
Permanent one-party state control.
Coming to a state near you...

Ohio Republicans New Trans-Ender Policy

Ohio Republicans have decided that of all the problems facing the Buckeye State right now, the one that needs immediate attention is quite literally making trans kids illegal under state law.
A new bill would prohibit children under age 18 from obtaining hormones treatments, puberty blockers and surgery to transition genders, even with parental consent.

House Bill 454, called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, is sponsored by a quarter of the Ohio House. All are Republicans. There are two sponsors — Reps. Gary Click of Sandusky County and Diane Grendell of Geauga County. Twenty-three Republicans are cosponsoring the bill.

The bill seeks to prevent gender-affirming health of youth under 18 through a handful of actions: Through restrictions on private insurance plans and Ohio Medicaid, potential sanctions on the licenses of medical professionals, potential cuts to public funding of hospitals and clinics, limits to what a school official can keep from parents when a child shares their gender identity in private.

The bill is similar to Arkansas’ SAFE Act, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed on April 5. A day later, the legislature overrode the veto. By July 21, a federal judge stopped the bill from going into effect as a lawsuit over its constitutionality wends its way through the courts.

Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, a Christian conservative policy organization formerly known as Citizens for Community Values, said that his group is championing the bill in Ohio and helped draft HB 454. It contains the same provisions as the Arkansas bill, which the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom helped author.

“We’ve been talking about this issue for a very long time,” he said.

Maria Bruno, Equality Ohio’s public policy director, said it’s appalling to see Ohio children being used as political pawns by lawmakers seeking re-election.

“This bill attempts to ban evidence-based medical treatment that is supported by medical professionals, including but not limited to the American Academy of Pediatricians, the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychiatric Association,” she said
The party of "you'll never take OUR FREEDOMS" and "GOVERNMENT STAY OUT" again has no problem turning the entirety of society into a mechanism of state-enforced monitoring of kids to prevent them being trans, requiring the punishing adults for helping them, and destroying their support networks with no recourse or remorse.

Even the bill's name, Save Adolescents From Experimentation, relegates being trans to "a dangerous phase we have to save kids from" rather than "We should help these kids navigate some really tough choices here and let them know they are loved."


To kids.
Republicans are horrific monsters. And it doesn't matter what DeWine thinks because his veto will be overridden if this many Republicans are co-sponsors.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Last Call For Matt's #MeToo Moment, Con't

Apparently GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz isn't just facing major sexual misconduct charges, his "wingman" Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector from Gaetz's home of Florida, has spilled so much information on Gaetz that federal prosecutors are still cataloguing it all.
Joel Greenberg, the former Florida official whose crimes in the state ensnared Rep. Matt Gaetz in a federal sex trafficking investigation, has been providing the Justice Department with new information as he continues to cooperate with authorities following a guilty plea earlier this year. 
At a brief hearing in Orlando federal court Monday, Roger Handberg, an assistant US attorney, said that Greenberg has made allegations to investigators that "take us to some places we did not anticipate." 
"What investigators do is they follow up on that to try to corroborate the information that's been provided," Handberg said. 
Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner and close friend of Gaetz's, pleaded guilty to six charges in May, admitting that he had knowingly solicited and paid a minor for sex. 
As part of his plea agreement, he was required to give "substantial assistance" to investigators as they build out related cases. His lawyer has said that Greenberg has held a series of proffers, or meetings, with the Justice Department. 
Handberg did not say what investigations Greenberg was providing new information to authorities about, although CNN has reported that Greenberg has told the Justice Department about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex. 
Greenberg faced dozens of criminal charges before his guilty plea, and the ongoing investigations related to him have also roped in a circle of local politicians and businessmen who authorities are scrutinizing for possible fraud. 
In court Monday, Handberg called Greenberg a "prolific criminal." 
"Mr. Greenberg was not alone," Handberg said. 
Gaetz, who is also under investigation for obstruction of justice related to the investigation into him, has not been charged with a crime. He has repeatedly denied having sex with an underage woman. 
The hearing was held following a request by Greenberg's attorney to delay Greenberg's sentencing for a second time so that he could continue to provide information. The Justice Department had not opposed the request. 
Handberg called the need for a second delay "unusual" but added the department was in an "unusual situation given the number of different investigations and lines of investigation we are pursuing."
When federal prosecutors ask that they need to delay a trial because their chief states' evidence witness against you has so much additional credible information to give that they are pursuing additional lines of investigation, you are screwed beyond belief.

Greenberg has been feeding the feds stuff for almost a year now. There's so much of it, they're asking for more time to build their case because it's that big.

If this is a tactic to get Gaetz to turn over on a bigger fish, say, Trump...well, this is how you do it. This has now gone far beyond a #MeToo moment, not to minimize it, but Gaetz could be facing decades in prison if the feds are still racking up the charges.

The Justice Department has added two top prosecutors from Washington to the child sex trafficking investigation of Representative Matt Gaetz, according to two people briefed on the matter, a sign of the complex and high-stakes nature of the inquiry into Mr. Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is one of former President Donald J. Trump’s closest congressional allies.

The prosecutors — one a public corruption investigator with an expertise in child exploitation crimes, and the other a top leader of the public corruption unit — have been working on the Florida-based investigation for at least three months, the people said.

It is not unusual for prosecutors from the Justice Department in Washington to be added to local teams of federal investigators in high-profile cases that require a deep and specific expertise like sex crimes.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) made an unexpected announcement during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

"I think someone may be trying to kill me," Gaetz said shortly after he was recognized on the House floor. "If they are successful, I would like my constituents and my family to know who stopped their arrest."

Gaetz then claimed that he received a death threat from someone who claimed to be a professional hit man on Twitter and who supposedly traveled to Washington D.C.

According to Gaetz, the Capitol Police recommended that the individual be arrested, but the Department of Justice supposedly refused to take action.
Yes, Gaetz made this claim on the House floor on Wednesday. No evidence, no anything, and he claims if he "suddenly dies" that we all know what happened to him.

The real victim in the end is Matt Gaetz, right?

The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

 In the end, the Republican platform is about allowing white supremacy to reign supreme, and for Black folk, especially Black Democrats, to be eliminated.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of former President Donald Trump, he told the Des Moines Register.

Wilburn, a state representative from Ames, is the first Black chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Although he’s become accustomed to hateful comments as an elected official and party leader, “it's important for people to know that this is not normal and it’s not OK,” Wilburn said in an interview.

Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle confirmed his department is investigating the threats, and Story County Attorney Tim Meals said his office has also been made aware of the incidents.

Wilburn authored an opinion piece titled “Iowa Republicans put loyalty to Trump over helping Iowans,” which the Des Moines Register published on its website Oct. 8 and on its print opinion page Oct. 9. The piece was timed ahead of Trump’s rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines Oct. 9. It was the former president's first trip back to the state since he lost the election and a mob of his supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol in January.

After the essay's publication, Wilburn said he received two threatening phone messages and one threatening email to his legislative email address, which all made reference to what he wrote in the article.

“The voicemails include very explicit language. Every other word was the ‘n-word,’” he said.

Wilburn said he could not share more details about the contents of the calls because the investigation is pending. But he said he was compelled to report these instances of harassment, though he has received others, because of the “intensity” of the language.

“What stood out this time was the language that was used — specifically, the very direct statement about lynching,” he said. “And I get angry about that — that people feel that they can come in and make you feel less than human, subhuman, with that type of reference to lynching. There's the history behind that and trying to intimidate Blacks, intimidate African Americans.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann expressed support for Wilburn in a statement Tuesday.

"I strongly condemn the racist threats made toward Chairman Wilburn," he said. "We can have a spirited debate on issues and candidates without threats of violence. I am pleased the authorities are looking into this and hope those responsible are held accountable for their actions."

The Iowa GOP party chair strangly condemns this, he says.
But he'll do everything he can to support Trump.
And that means getting the votes of the people who want to see  Ross Wilburn swinging from an oak tree.

Let's not forget that part.

The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

I've been telling everyone that President Manchin holds 100% of the cards in the Build Back Better/Good Package negotiations because he's stacked the deck, and now we finally get to see the last and most powerful card in his hand if David Corn's story is to be believed, and Manchin actually calls it "Bullshit".

In recent days, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, according to people who have heard Manchin discuss this. Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an “American Independent.” And he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure.

Manchin has been in the center of a wild rush of negotiations with his fellow Democrats and the White House over a possible compromise regarding Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better package, and Manchin’s opposition to key provisions—including Medicare and Medicaid expansion, an expanded child tax credit, and measures to address climate change—has been an obstacle that the Democrats have yet to overcome. As these talks have proceeded, Manchin has discussed bolting from the Democratic Party—perhaps to place pressure on Biden and Democrats in these negotiations.

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chairman of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent.

It is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands. In either event, he would hold great sway over this half of Congress.

Without Manchin’s vote, the Democrats cannot pass the package in the 50-50 Senate. And a vote on this measure is key to House passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan road-bridges-and-broadband infrastructure bill the Senate approved in August. (Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, has also been a problem for the party.) Manchin has met with Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a variety of his fellow Senate Democrats this week in an effort to strike a deal. Through it all, he has insisted that $1.75 trillion is his top and final offer, and he has constantly said no to proposed programs that almost every other congressional Democrat supports. He has told his fellow Democrats that if they don’t accept his position, they risk getting nothing.

Manchin told associates that he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden. But he was encouraged by the conversations with Sanders and top Democrats that occurred at the start of the week and did not yet see a reason to take this step. Still, he has informed associates that because he is so out of sync with the Democratic Party he believes it is likely he will leave the party by November 2022.

Manchin has repeatedly said that he has a significant philosophical difference with most of his fellow Democrats. He has told reporters that he believes major programs in the Build Back Better bill would move the United States toward an “entitlement mentality” and that he cannot accept that. In a recent meeting with Biden, Manchin told the president that he sees government as a partner with the public not the ultimate provider, according to people who heard the senator’s account of the conversation. He explained to the president that in his view Biden didn’t win the presidency last year by championing progressive proposals, and he pressed the president to recall his campaign promise to bring people together. He also reminded Biden that he has vowed not to support any package unless it contains the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of incest or when the life of the mother is at risk
Now that if up there is a big one. David Corn isn't exactly the best person in the beltway Village. He's had #MeToo issues and credibility problems on the Steele Dossier in the past, and been publicly called out on both.
If Corn is right here, it means Democrats need to take President Manchin's deal, accept what he allows you to have, or get nothing and lose the Senate. Note that he's saying it's "likely" that he will leave the party by November 2022. Whether that means siding with the GOP and Biden losing everything, well, now that's up to Biden, isn't it, said the hostage taker.


So we're right back to "Will he, won't he" because frankly, feeding David Corn this rumor would be a GOP operative's dream story sowing Democratic disarray.  What would Manchin gain from going down as the most hated Democratic senator since Joe Lieberman and John Edwards? 

The answer is a shitload of money, frankly.

Besides, it's not like Manchin cares too much about making deals or getting things passed as voting rights went down in flames again in the Senate on Wednesday.

Democrats argued that the bill is a necessity after Republican state legislatures passed laws limiting access to the ballot box following former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

"Across the country, the Big Lie -- the Big Lie -- has spread like a cancer as many states across the nation have passed the most draconian restrictions against voting that we've seen in decades," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "If nothing is done, these laws will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate in their government." 
President Joe Biden issued a harsh statement during the vote, calling it "unconscionable" that Republicans would block the legislation from advancing. 
"The United States Senate needs to act to protect the sacred constitutional right to vote, which is under unrelenting assault by proponents of the Big Lie and Republican Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys-General, and state legislatures across the nation," Biden said. 
Amid the Republican blockade, Democrats on the left have increasingly called on their party's senators to gut the Senate's filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, a Senate Democratic candidate, said in a statement, "every Democratic Senator who votes in favor of this bill today, but won't support getting rid of the filibuster, is engaging in performative politics, and is content with the GOP's complete assault on our democracy." 
But at least two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they are unwilling to change the filibuster rule and are crucial votes for the Biden administration's economic agenda
On the other hand, Corn does have a lot of clicks and views and follow-ups to gain if he's the bad faith actor here and he's being rolled by his sources.

On the gripping hand, well, Manchin himself has been conducting this entire trashing of the Biden plan in bad faith.

Of course if the story is true, the best part is after Manchin gets done playing this game, then it will be Vice-President Sinema's turn to whittle the bill down even more to see what she can get out of the deal as well. Something will pass I expect, but what that something is will be 100% up to the two of them.

The real question is which of these known bad faith actors then is acting in bad faith. I don't know the answer to that, but I do know the answer to the general Manchin/Sinema problem.
Remember, the answer here is more and better Dems, not staying home in 2022. That would render Manchin's antics irrelevant. Sinema too. 53, 54 Democrats in the Senate, and somehow keeping the House, and we're in far better shape.

But if history's any indication, we'll only get five or six more Republicans in the Senate and fifty or sixty more in the House instead.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

Why yes, Trump immigration czar and avowed white supremacist asshole Stephen Miller wanted to militarize the border with Mexico using a quarter of a million troops and then send in special forces kill squads and drones to wipe out drug cartel dealers in the name of fighting terrorism. Defense Secretary Mark Esper refused to go along with the plan, and Esper later quit in November after the election when it became clear that Trump was going to consider using the military to stay in power after his loss.

President Trump’s defense secretary thought the idea was outrageous.

In the spring of 2020, Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, was alarmed to learn of an idea under discussion at a top military command and at the Department of Homeland Security to send as many as 250,000 troops — more than half the active U.S. Army, and a sixth of all American forces — to the southern border in what would have been the largest use of the military inside the United States since the Civil War.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, had urged the Homeland Security Department to develop a plan for the number of troops that would be needed to seal the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico. It is not clear whether it was officials in homeland security or the Pentagon who concluded that a quarter of a million troops would be required.

The concept was relayed to officials at the Defense Department’s Northern Command, which is responsible for all military operations in the United States and on its borders, according to several former senior administration officials. Officials said the idea was never presented formally to Mr. Trump for approval, but it was discussed in meetings at the White House as they debated other options for closing the border to illegal immigration.

Mr. Esper declined to comment. But people familiar with his conversations, who would speak about them only on condition of anonymity, said he was enraged by Mr. Miller’s plan. In addition, homeland security officials had bypassed his office by taking the idea directly to military officials at Northern Command. Mr. Esper also believed that deploying so many troops to the border would undermine American military readiness around the world, officials said.

After a brief but contentious confrontation with Mr. Miller in the Oval Office, Mr. Esper ended consideration of the idea at the Pentagon.

Mr. Trump’s obsession with the southern border was already well known by that time. He had demanded a wall with flesh-piercing spikes, repeatedly mused about a moat filled with alligators, and asked about shooting migrants in the leg as they crossed the border. His aides considered a heat-ray that would make migrants’ skin feel hot.

Around the same time that officials considered the huge deployment to the American side of the border with Mexico, Mr. Trump also pressed his top aides to send forces into Mexico itself to hunt drug cartels, much like American commandos have tracked and killed terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the officials said.

Mr. Trump hesitated only after aides suggested that to most of the world, military raids inside Mexico could look like the United States was committing an act of war against one of its closest allies, which is also its biggest trading partner, the officials said.

In the end, rather than a vast deployment of the military to the border, the Trump administration used an obscure public health rule — which remains in effect to this day — to deny asylum and effectively shut down entry into the United States from Mexico during the pandemic. But taken together, the ideas under discussion that spring underscore the Trump administration’s view of the armed forces as a tool of the presidency that could be wielded on behalf of Mr. Trump’s domestic political agenda in an election year. And it further reveals the breach between Mr. Trump and his top military officials, who worked behind the scenes to prevent what they viewed as the president’s dangerous instincts.

Several aides to the former president did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Last laugh of course belongs to Miller, as Biden is using his "Remain in Mexico" plan to banish thousands of refugees due to COVID-19, and continues using ICE facilities to detain undocumented immigrants inside the US. Nothing's really changed on America's border plan from Trump to Biden, only now that Biden's doing it, it's an "unprecedented border crisis".

Of course, if Trump had won and Miller had gotten his way in a second term, we'd be talking about the thousands of refugees shot and killed by US Army troops on the border instead.

I guess that's progress, right?

The Coming Great Face(Book) Off

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is smart enough to see the writing on the wall, if the Democrats don't break up his social media empire, the Trump cultists will. As such, he's pulling a Google by reportedly forming a parent company where Facebook would be just one of the "brands", according to The Verge's Alex Heath.

Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story.

Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that, over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today. A former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen, recently leaked a trove of damning internal documents to The Wall Street Journal and testified about them before Congress. Antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere are trying to break the company up, and public trust in how Facebook does business is falling.

Facebook isn’t the first well-known tech company to change its company name as its ambitions expand. In 2015, Google reorganized entirely under a holding company called Alphabet, partly to signal that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate with companies making driverless cars and health tech. And Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc. in 2016, the same year it started calling itself a “camera company” and debuted its first pair of Spectacles camera glasses.

I’m told that the new Facebook company name is a closely-guarded secret within its walls and not known widely, even among its full senior leadership. A possible name could have something to do with Horizon, the name of the still-unreleased VR version of Facebook-meets-Roblox that the company has been developing for the past few years. The name of that app was recently tweaked to Horizon Worlds shortly after Facebook demoed a version for workplace collaboration called Horizon Workrooms.
Of course the real reason this is going on is for legal reasons. With multiple attorneys general from nearly all 50 states stalking the company, spinning off into a parent company to protect its nearly trillion-dollar market cap, not to mention Zuckerberg's own 100 billion plus, is just a smart move.

The attorney general for the District of Columbia has announced that he is naming Mark Zuckerberg as a defendant in the district’s lawsuit against Facebook.

Karl Racine made the announcement Wednesday, saying that Zuckerberg had knowledge of decisions that led to the exposure of Facebook user data.

“Based on the evidence we gathered in this case over the past two years and the District’s investigation more generally, it’s clear Mr. Zuckerberg knowingly and actively participated in each decision that led to Cambridge Analytica’s mass collection of Facebook user data, and Facebook’s misrepresentations to users about how secure their data was,” Racine said in a statement to Law & Crime. “The evidence further demonstrates that Mr. Zuckerberg also participated in misleading the public and government officials about Facebook’s role. Under these circumstances, Mr. Zuckerberg should be held liable for his involvement in the decisions that enabled the exposure of millions of users’ data – and that’s why we’re adding him to our complaint.”

“Protecting the Data of Half of the District’s Residents”

It’s the first time a U.S. regulator, including an attorneys general office, specifically named Zuckerberg in a complaint, according to Racine’s office.

“My office filed our lawsuit in 2018, and since then, we’ve reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents produced in litigation and completed a wide range of depositions including former employees and whistleblowers,” Racine said on Twitter. “This lawsuit is about protecting the data of half of all District residents and tens of millions of people across the country. We’ve taken our obligation to investigate wrongdoing very seriously—and Facebook should take its responsibility to protect users just as seriously.”

The parent company move makes a whole hell of a lot of sense. Besides, if Facebook gets burned to the ground, the parent company will live on doing its "metaverse" thing and being just as evil, only bigger.

Or maybe it'll collapse before Zuck's AR glasses turn everyone into privacy destroying spies.

We'll find out next week.  Or sooner!

The Vax Of Life, Con't

We're getting closer and closer to the point where a large number of vaccine providers and hospital staff are going to be arrested by Trump anti-vax cultists in red states like Montana.

The state attorney general's office Monday defended its actions after St. Peter's Health in Helena said three different public officials "threatened" hospital doctors last week over the care of a COVID-19 patient.

The patient had requested to be treated with ivermectin, a drug not approved for use against the disease.

"St. Peter’s Health can confirm that several providers were contacted by three different public officials last week regarding the treatment of a patient in our care. These conversations were deeply troubling to our physicians and staff because they were threatened and their clinical judgment was called into question by these individuals," a hospital spokesperson said in a statement emailed Monday.

The hospital did not name the elected officials in its statement, but Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen's office confirmed his participation in a conference call with hospital executives last week.

A spokesperson for the attorney general disputed the hospital's characterization of the events — which included the Attorney General’s Office dispatching a Montana Highway Patrol trooper to the hospital — as threatening or questioning the medical treatment recommended by doctors.

“The Department of Justice initiated an investigation into very troubling allegations made by the family of a patient at St Peter’s Hospital. After hearing of the allegations and the ensuing investigation, Attorney General Knudsen contacted a board member who set up a telephone conference with hospital executives," spokesperson Kyler Nerison said in the email late Monday. "No one was threatened or had their clinical judgment questioned while the Department of Justice was trying to get to the bottom of the serious allegations that the hospital was mistreating a patient and violating her rights and her family’s rights. The investigation is ongoing.”

In a response to the attorney general’s statement, the hospital again said late Monday that doctors were “harassed and threatened.”

“St. Peter’s works closely with public officials and regulatory agencies, and we occasionally receive inquiries about patient care and patient rights. Last week, several of our providers and care team members who are working tirelessly at the bedside were harassed and threatened by three public officials,” spokesperson Andrea Groom wrote. “These officials have no medical training or experience, yet they were insisting our providers give treatments for COVID-19 that are not authorized, clinically approved or within the guidelines established by the FDA and the CDC. In addition, they threatened to use their position of power to force our doctors and nurses to provide this care.”

After his office was contacted by the responding trooper last week and informed of what the trooper learned after gathering statements, Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher said he found no criminal offense that needed investigating.

St. Peter’s has dealt with a surge of COVID-19 patients, reaching a record-high number of people hospitalized with the virus earlier this month. The hospital, and others around the state, have reported increased hostility against health care workers over requests for treatment and enforcement of measures like mask use and visitor restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus within facilities.
Of course, no action will be taken against the Montana GOP in Helena for doing this. 
It just means the next time, red state officials will order doctors dragged out of hospitals in cuffs.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Our old Russian friend and billionaire fixer Oleg Deripaska got a visit from the G-Men today, or at least two of his several US homes did, as the sanctions against the Putin pal oligarch begin to heat up again.
FBI agents on Tuesday swarmed the home of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in Washington, D.C., an agency spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.

The reason for their presence wasn’t immediately clear. The spokesperson said the agency is conducting “law enforcement activity at the home” but wouldn’t elaborate.

The investigation is being led by federal investigators in New York City, according to two officials briefed on the matter.

A spokeswoman for Deripaska, a billionaire oil tycoon who was placed under U.S. sanctions three years ago, said the FBI also searched a home in New York City. She said both properties belong to Deripaska's relatives.

“The searches are being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions," the spokeswoman said. "The houses do not belong to Mr Deripaska."

Lawyers for Deripaska did not immediately return requests for comment. Asked about the spokeswoman's claim that the investigation is tied to sanctions, the FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

The 11,000-square-foot home sits on one of the most exclusive blocks in Washington.

Next-door neighbor George Conway, the husband of former President Donald Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, walked over to the house Tuesday afternoon to snap a photo of the law enforcement activity. Conway said he has never seen Deripaska at the home.

Deripaska, who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was among two dozen Russian oligarchs and officials who were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April 2018.
Trump may have pardoned Manafort (he had to, you see) but it doesn't mean Deripaska is off the hook by any means. The Justice Department has waned Oleg for a very long time, and it looks like they're going to get him sooner rather than later.


Insurrection Investigation, Con't

The good news is that the January 6th Committee has referred Steve Bannon to the full House of Representatives for criminal contempt and referral to the Department of Justice.
The House committee investigating the January 6 US Capitol attack is expected to formally kick off the process to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's closest allies, in contempt of Congress on Tuesday night when the panel is scheduled to meet and advance a referral to the Justice Department. 
The measure is expected to move to a floor vote without any opposition from the committee members and marks a critical milestone in the investigation as the panel hopes even the remote threat of jail time inspires more Trump-aligned witnesses to cooperate. 
In Tuesday's meeting, the committee will adopt a contempt report, which was released Monday night and outlines the efforts the committee made to get a witness to comply with the subpoena, and the failure by the witness to do so. 
This report is then referred to the House for a vote. If the vote succeeds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Under law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to "bring the matter before the grand jury for its action," but the Justice Department will also make its own determinations for prosecution. 
Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time. 
As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House's choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. Holding Bannon in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historically, criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.
That's the bad news. Nothing's going to happen to Bannon or to any of the other Trump cultists for holding the line. This will be tied up in the courts for years.
And the worse news is there's no confirmed US Attorney for DC to prosecute this or any of the January 6th committee cases in federal court.

Senate Republicans are blocking the confirmation of President Joe Biden's pick to oversee the hundreds of prosecutions stemming from the January 6 attack on the Capitol, people familiar with the matter tell Insider.

The Republicans' "hold" on the nomination is not based on any objection to Matt Graves, a former federal prosecutor whom Biden nominated in July to serve as US attorney in Washington, DC. Instead, his nomination "is being used for leverage," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton told Insider. She declined to specify what Senate Republicans want or which lawmakers are behind the hold.

"We've learned this on condition that we not speak about it specifically, but I can tell you that what we have learned is that the Graves nomination is not being held up for any reason connected to the nomination. And I can also say we do expect approval of this nomination eventually," said Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia in Congress as a non-voting member.

"'Caught in the fire' is how I would put it," she added, "because it doesn't have anything to do with him."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Insider on Monday evening that he was not aware of the hold.​​

Norton, who recommended Graves to the White House following a fast-tracked search process, said she expects the Senate to confirm him in the "near future" and noted "it's not unusual for senators to put a hold on something in order to make a point or as leverage."

"Importantly, this leverage doesn't have to do with the District of Columbia or with the nominee," Norton said.

"This will go away. It's not related to anything that residents of the District of Columbia have concern about," she added.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
Trump of course continues to burn up the clock from his end, now suing the National Archives to prevent the release of any of his documents

Former President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to a House committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden’s initial decision to waive executive privilege.

In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee’s August request was “almost limitless in scope,” and sought many records that weren’t connected to the siege. He called it a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose,” according to the papers filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Trump’s lawsuit was expected, as he had said he would challenge the investigation and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, has defied a subpoena. But the legal challenge went beyond the initial 125 pages of records that Biden recently cleared for release to the committee. The suit, which names the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request, calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers. It requests a court injunction to bar the archivist from producing the documents.

In a joint statement late Monday, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, said they would fight the lawsuit, which they said is “nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct” the investigation.

“There’s a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns,” Thompson and Cheney said. “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.”
And it will 100% work, because it doesn't matter what Bennie Thompson or Liz Cheney thinks, or what President Biden does, the only thing that matters now is what five of nine Supreme Court justices decide, and they will side with Trump.  Even if the documents do get released, the rest of the committee's work will be tied up in the courts for years.

At this point the most likely outcome of the January 6th Committee is...nothing. No consequences for any of Trump's goons, and especially not for Trump himself.  Maybe a report gets released and the end of next year before the GOP takes over the House and dismantles the committee in January 2023, maybe we never see it.  Maybe the Dems somehow keep control of the House and fight on.

But nobody should honestly be expecting a different outcome at this point. It's wishful thinking.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

We've come a long way down the road towards the end of legalized, safe abortion in the United States, and another milepost on that road whizzed by on Monday as the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the possibility of an expedited challenge to Texas's abortion ban.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to a request from abortion-rights advocates and providers to quickly consider taking up their challenge of a restrictive Texas law that bans most abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

The petitioners last month had submitted the unusual request for the Supreme Court to hear the case before final judgment in lower courts.

If the court agrees to consider the case on an expedited basis, it could accept briefs, hear arguments and deliver a ruling much faster than if the case had to wind through the normal court channels. Though the case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, arguments would not be held until December at the earliest, the petitioners said.

The high court directed the respondents in the case to file a response by noon on Thursday. That’s the same time Texas is due to file its reply in a separate challenge of the law, which the Department of Justice brought to the Supreme Court earlier Monday.

A pivotal abortion case is already set for oral argument on Dec. 1. Proponents of abortion rights fear the court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, could weaken or abolish decades-old precedent protecting the right to an abortion before fetal viability.
I mean "not saying no outright" is a good thing, but then again an expedited case means this court could get to kill abortion in Texas far more quickly, leaving the road open to a couple dozen more red states filing Texas "fetus bounty hunter" laws.

Either way, the Mississippi case that the court is hearing in six weeks will almost certainly be the beginning of the end. What I expect is that the expedited case will be taken up and then rendered moot while the Mississippi case is being heard, and I fully expect a national ruling allowing states to invalidate abortion (with individual states having already passed such laws in anticipation).

November 2022 is going to be a far more fraught political environment than it is now, and that's not a good thing.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Last Call For The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

The more you realize that the GOP is the party of white supremacy, and that everyone still involved with supporting the party is a white supremacist, full stop, the more the actions of the GOP make sense. And as much as candidates like Glenn Youngkin in Virginia try to convince voters that he's not in the party of white supremacists, the actual, avowed white supremacists keep showing up at his campaign events to support him.

A routine campaign stop for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin turned chaotic on Saturday night after the candidate's team was forced to boot a local Republican leader and apparent white nationalist from the event, causing a scene that a spokesperson called "antithetical" to the Republican hopeful's message.

The incident happened just before Youngkin was slated to give a stump speech to a crowd of "Latinos for Youngkin" at a local restaurant, when campaign officials approached a man, named Fredy Burgos, who was wearing both a red pro-Trump hat emblazoned with "Build the Wall" and a pin promoting white nationalist and Unite the Right rally attendee Nicholas Fuentes.

Burgos is a longtime far-right activist and former local Republican party official who made waves during the Trump years with a series of bombastic statements that earned him plenty of enemies in local conservative circles. The Washington Post, reporting on a 2018 drive to oust him from his post on the Fairfax County Republican Party committee, wrote that he was a "verbal bomb-thrower whose attacks against Muslims, immigrants and others have turned off moderates."

He even appeared alongside several of Fuentes' white nationalist followers — known online as Groypers — at a Loudoun County School Board meeting recently, which has become a local flashpoint in the nationwide right-wing campaign to ban anti-racist lessons in public schools.

As Saturday's Youngkin event was getting underway, Burgos, who sported a thick mustache and vintage suit vest for the occasion, made a short-lived walk around the inside of the venue, only to be forced out after Salon inquired about his pin and associations.

Notably, Burgos said he only became a Youngkin supporter recently, after Virginia state Senator-turned-"toxic [Youngkin] surrogate" Amanda Chase lost her bid to Youngkin. Prior to the loss, she had taken to calling herself "Trump in heels."
Despite Burgos being booted from the event Saturday, he told Salon he remains a steadfast supporter of the candidate and that he hopes to appear at future rallies.

"I'm a supporter of the ticket," Burgos told Salon after being removed from the "Latinos for Youngkin" event. "They are concerned about the [Build the Wall] hat. I think that they have a problem thinking that other people may have a problem with the hat
Burgos will be back at Youngkin's rallies, because Youngkin needs the votes of Burgos and other Virginia white supremacists. You'd better 100% believe that if Youngkin wins, he'll be implementing the GOP agenda against women, Black folk, LGBTQ+, Latino, and reality.
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