Friday, December 31, 2021

Zandar's 2022 Predictions

Well, it's time. Here are my ten predictions for 2022. As usual I hope I'm wrong on some of them, but I fear I won't be. Either way, here's hoping that you have a good year ahead.

1) Democrats keep the Senate in 2022.  I can't in good faith call the House at this point. But I do know that as Mitch McConnell has proven, keeping the Senate when you have the White House means there's a lot you can do, and Biden has gotten a record number of federal judiciary appointments.  The next Supreme Court justice could happen at any time, as we've seen. Without the House, things would be terrible. But without the Senate, it'll be catastrophic.

2) Nancy Pelosi steps down as House Democratic Leader. I hate to say it, even after the long years she has proven that she has been the most effective House leader the Democrats have seen in my lifetime, but I think she steps down in 2022 and will not run as Speaker or House Minority Leader in 2023. 

3) Donald Trump is indicted in the state of New York. Don't ask me about the federal charges, but I honestly believe NY AG Tish James is going to try to prosecute Donald Trump, and it's going to be one of the most fateful chapters in our modern political history.

4) COVID-19 deaths will surpass 1.2 million total in the US.  The good news here is that 2022 will thankfully have fewer deaths than 2020 or 2021, but not by much. We'll still have to contend with a very bad winter, but if we can get past that, I think there's finally some hope.

5) The Supreme Court will gut/overturn Roe v. Wade. At this point the writing is on the courtroom wall. Roe is dead, and individual states will move to either regulate safe abortion out of existence, criminalize it with heavy penalties for women, doctors, and health care professionals, make crossing state lines to get a abortion elsewhere illegal, ban it altogether, or all of the above. It won't end abortion, just safe ones. It will change America for a generation.

6) The Supreme Court will also gut executive agencies.  This will be a massive win for corporations, but the bottom line is agencies like OSHA, FDA, CDC, SEC, EPA, you name it, it will be essentially turned off. I don't know what all will be stricken down, but it's going to be a huge mess when it happens. This too will change America for a generation.

7) The Dow will finish the year above 36,000.  I mean that's where it ended the year, so what I basically mean is I'm not predicting a recession, yay! I hope I'm right. If I'm correct on some of these previous predictions, well, things can go badly quickly.

8) Marvel films will make another billion in 2022.  Since it seems movie-watching in theaters is now officially back as of December, May's Doctor Strange sequel, July's Thor: Love and Thunder, and November's Black Panther 2 should easily gross a billion combined, if not more.

Which brings me to my one "out there" prediction at number nine...

Just kidding.

9)  GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy is booted from the House GOP leadership. I don't know who will lead the House GOP in 2023, but I can guarantee you it won't be McCarthy. And I think things will be so bad he'll make his plans known, like Pelosi, that he's "stepping down". The difference is with McCarthy, it won't be a choice.

and finally...

10) ZVTS will roll on for another year. It's because of you guys, you know this, and we'll sail into year 14 and then some. I want to honestly thank you, the readers. When I started this back in 2008, I had no idea where the country would go. I made the journey along with you, and I'm glad you're here, new or old.

Take care of yourselves, folks. You never know.


HoliDaze: Breaking: Bad News Comes In Threes

Harry Reid and John Madden both passed this week, and I am very, very sad to report it, but Betty White passed today at age 99.

Betty White, TV's perennial Golden Girl, has died. She was 99.

"Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever," her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas tells PEOPLE in a statement on Friday. "I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again."

White was gearing up to celebrate her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. Ahead of her centennial year, in January, White opened up to PEOPLE about how she was feeling about turning 100 years old.

"I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age," said the veteran actress. "It's amazing."

According to White, being "born a cockeyed optimist" was the key to her upbeat nature. "I got it from my mom, and that never changed," she said. "I always find the positive."

Of course, the iconic actress also cracked a joke about the secret to her long life, telling PEOPLE: "I try to avoid anything green. I think it's working."

A warm and popular presence on the small screen, White's career dated back to the early days of the medium and spanned decades. Long before her hilarious turns on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the '70s and The Golden Girls in the '80s, in 1952 she appeared in the I Love Lucy-like Life with Elizabeth, a show she also produced.

In 2010, at age 87, she enjoyed an award-laden resurgence, when, after starring on a Snickers commercial during the Super Bowl, polls and petitions overwhelmingly named her the public's choice to host Saturday Night Live, emcee various awards shows and even be a sergeant's date at a Marine Corps ball.

After that, she went on to star and steal scenes on the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, even scoring an Emmy nomination — her 17th, including seven wins. In May 2012 she also debuted on the NBC comedy reality show Betty White's Off Their Rockers, a kind of geriatric Punk'd. As always, she proved a favorite.
People called Milton Berle "Mr. Television" but the medium's true avatar was Betty White. For more than 70 years she dominated the American landscape. She was a presence on stage, screen, and everything in between. Nobody, but nobody did it like Betty, and nobody ever will.

Here's to you, Betty.

Zandar's 2021 Prediction Scorecard

It's that time of year again where I look back at what I thought 2021 was going to be like, and I was, for better or worse, more accurate than a coin flip. Yay! Let's run down the list:

1) Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20th
Correct and Thank God, but we know now just how close we came to this not happening, and if we don't punish the monsters responsible for nearly pulling off a coup, it will be much worse next time. 
2) Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will win the Georgia runoffs and Mitch McConnell will be relegated to Senate Minority Leader.
Correct. Thanks, Donald Trump!

3) Even if Dems get the Senate back, the filibuster and the current size of SCOTUS will remain.
Correct. This was near certain with a 50-50 Senate including Manchin and Sinema.

4) The total US death toll from COVID-19 will surpass 1 million Americans by the end of the year.
Half-point: And only because it was 825K and not quite a million, but my reasoning that the anti-vax idiots would martyr themselves was correct.

5) The Roberts Court will allow states to regulate abortion out of existence.
Correct.  It's happening in Texas right now.

6) Donald Trump will not be indicted
Correct. He was not. 

7) Hunter Biden will be indicted. 
My first real miss of the year, Incorrect.

8)  No movie will break $100 million at the box office in 2021.  
Incorrect, as Spider-Man No Way Home made over a billion, but I was mostly right up until December. I wish I was wrong, because it means movie theaters are back to normal in the era of highly transmissible Omicron.
9) The Dow Jones will be under 25,000 by the end of the year. 
Incorrect, but we do have a serious inflation problem. However, the DJIA was up a whopping 18%+ for the year under Biden.

10) ZVTS will make it through 2021.

Correct, if I'm writing this and you're reading this, I'm right.

Total score: 6.5 out of ten.

Not my best year, but not my worst, either.  2022 predictions will be up later tonight.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

HoliDaze: School Of Hard-Right Knocks

I honestly can't believe anyone in America would want to be a public schoolteacher in 2021. Every single day you have a bullseye on your back, even in states like California.

This fall, a pair of middle school teachers from the Salinas Valley traveled to Palm Springs for the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference. There, on a Saturday afternoon, Lori Caldeira and Kelly Baraki spoke to a few dozen people about a subject they knew well: the difficulty of running a GSA, or gay-straight alliance, in a socially conservative community.

Speaking about recruiting students, Baraki said, “When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing schoolwork. One of them was Googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

Shortly after the October conference, a surreptitious recording of the presentation was handed to a conservative writer known for asserting that transgender adolescents are part of a dangerous “craze.” She published a story Nov. 18 headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids,” criticizing Caldeira and Baraki for actions they had seen as proper: keeping club members’ identities confidential from parents and finding a couple of potential members by viewing their online activity in class.

One day after the article came out, Caldeira and Baraki’s presentation on the difficulties of running their GSA would prove prophetic: Leaders of the Spreckels Union School District suspended the club. Four days later, the district opened an investigation and placed the teachers on administrative leave.

The controversy has roiled the small district south of Salinas and east of Monterey, alarming advocates for LGBTQ youth and marking one of a number of recent incidents in which influential conservative voices have forced the hands of local officials.

The episode raises broader questions about educators’ growing ability to monitor what students do online, which accelerated during the pandemic, and about what responsibility schools have to provide safe spaces such as gay-straight alliances for LGBTQ students who may not have support from peers and parents.

Caldeira and Baraki, who said they have received violent threats since the story went viral in some circles, said they are worried about their students. Both teach at Buena Vista Middle School, which has an enrollment of around 360.

“Can you imagine? Seriously, we have kids in our club right now who are out at school, (but) they’re not out at home. The only two teachers that they have ever spoken to have been taken away,” said Caldeira, her voice and hands shaking as she spoke at a Monterey coffee shop in her first interview since the district suspended the GSA. “I’m sure they’re terrified, because where are they going to go, and who are they going to talk to, you know?”

Caldeira said the club — called UBU (You Be You) — had for more than six years allowed students to ask questions they might not be ready to bring up with their families.

“Our conversations were always student-led, which is why they frequently surrounded LGBTQ topics. Because the kids have questions,” she said. “Their parents think we start that conversation, but we don’t. TikTok starts it, Snapchat starts it, Instagram starts it or their classmates start it, and then we just try to answer the questions as honestly and fairly as we can.”

The district has launched a third-party investigation into the actions of the teachers. Officials declined to be interviewed by The Chronicle, but Superintendent Eric Tarallo, school board President Steve McDougall and Buena Vista Principal Kate Pagaran released a statement Nov. 19 apologizing to parents, while promising that the district would exert tighter control over student clubs and bar teachers from “monitoring students’ online activity for any non-academic purposes.”

At the school board’s Dec. 15 meeting, member Michael Scott said, “I am hopeful a third-party investigation will provide a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding the UBU club and how it was run, that any subsequent action should be responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of the Spreckels community.”

The Palm Springs presentation by Caldeira and Baraki was similar in many ways to talks they’ve given for four or five years, they said. For an hour and 15 minutes, they spoke informally to about 40 people.

Caldeira, who in 2017 won an award for her work with special-needs students, said she requested the presentation not be recorded. “We do deal with middle schoolers,” she said, “and it can be sensitive content at times.”

But the secret audio made its way to Abigail Shrier, author of “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” which has been criticized as unscientific and inflammatory. On Nov. 18, she published the first of four stories about the Spreckels teachers on her Substack newsletter, The Truth Fairy, where she has argued that transgender women “are not women” and that gender-affirming school policies abuse parents’ rights.

Shrier focused heavily on Baraki’s comment about seeing a student’s Google search for “Trans Day of Visibility,” characterizing this as “surveillance” of potential recruits into the GSA.

The Chronicle could not obtain audio of the presentation, but Caldeira confirmed she and Baraki had been accurately quoted by Shrier. However, she said many of the comments were misconstrued and taken out of context.
One, cancel culture, quite literally. The right sure does love destroying people for "wrongthink" and it's why they project so much onto the left.

Two, public schoolteachers in 2021 are targets. Republicans want public schoolteachers gone because they want public schools gone. Let's not overlook this.

Three, the only thing the right wants more than destroying teachers is destroying LGBTQ+ kids, who shouldn't exist in their worldview. At all.

Four, your local MAGA Cultists are taking over your neighborhood school board, city council, county commission, and sheriff's office while you "skip voting this year".

Republicans across America are pressing local jurisdictions and state lawmakers to make typically sleepy school board races into politicized, partisan elections in an attempt to gain more statewide control and swing them to victory in the 2022 midterms.

Tennessee lawmakers in October approved a measure that allows school board candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot. Arizona and Missouri legislators are weighing similar proposals. And GOP lawmakers in Florida will push a measure in an upcoming legislative session that would pave the way for partisan school board races statewide, potentially creating new primary elections that could further inflame the debate about how to teach kids.

The issue is about to spread to other states: The center-right American Enterprise Institute is urging conservatives to “strongly consider” allowing partisan affiliations to appear on ballots next to school board candidates’ names, as part of broader efforts to boost voter turnout for the contests. A coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute and Kenneth Marcus, the Education Department civil rights chief under former Secretary Betsy DeVos — have separately called for on-cycle school board elections as part of sweeping efforts to “end critical race theory in schools.”

In Florida, school boards are among the last elected officials who blocked policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis. If Republicans succeed in pushing the state to strip school board elections of their nonpartisan status and gain more representation on school boards, they could break the last holdouts who regularly defy the governor.

“We’re out there trying to elect good conservatives that will follow essentially the governor’s mission as it relates to education,” said Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), the state Senate’s education chair who also leads the Republican Party of Florida.

“When you have a leader like DeSantis come out and say that there should be no lockdowns, if you have a Republican elected official, you would think they would probably give him the consideration and probably go along with what he asked.
The latest attempts for making school board races partisan affairs come as education has been thrust into the spotlight amid the pandemic and the high profile victory of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, who campaigned on a promise to give parents more say in their kids’ education. It also comes as other crucial battleground issues are bubbling up in education, including classroom lessons on history and race — a subject that has emerged as a boogeyman for GOP policymakers in numerous states who are condemning efforts to teach young people about the nation’s history of discrimination.

With all of these policies converging, there have been clear disconnects among state and local leaders, and even parents, over how to educate their children. Republicans are openly embracing parental rights as a key factor shaping policy in D.C. and many statehouses — seen in proposals to strengthen protections for parents against schools.

“There’s a major underestimation nationwide, even on the political side, that these parents are really frustrated,” said Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County school board member who is also the wife of the Florida GOP vice chair.
The surburban moms who ditched Trump in 2018 are back with a vengeance, because all of them know better than every educator in the state what their child really needs, and they are on the front lines of fascism, leading the way.
The wildfire is already out of control, and we need everyone involved.
Run for local office if you have the resources, I beg of you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

HoliDaze: Breaking: Ghislaine Maxwell Found Guilty

The former UK socialite and confidante of Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell faced decades in prison on charges of sex trafficking a minor and multiple conspiracy charges, and today a federal jury found Maxwell guilty on 5 of 6 of the federal charges against her, meaning she faces up to 65 years in prison.
A jury in a New York federal court has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty on five of six counts related to her role in Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of minor girls between 1994 and 2004. 
Maxwell, 60, was found guilty of five federal charges: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. 
She was acquitted on the charge of enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
Maxwell faces up to 65 years in prison. 
"The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done," US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. "I want to commend the bravery of the girls -- now grown women -- who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom. Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today's result, possible." 
The jury, which was made up of six women and six men deliberated for about 40 hours, across parts of six days.
I honestly thought this was headed for a hung jury and years of trials. No doubt Maxwell will want her conviction overturned ala Bill Cosby by a higher court, but these are federal, not state charges, and Maxwell is basically looking at the rest of her life in a brown jumpsuit anticipating pudding day for the week.

We'll see where this goes, but remember, both Maxwell and Epstein rubbed elbows with a number of very powerful people in US and UK politics.

HoliDaze: A Pair Of Legends Pass

Two very notable deaths this week, first, football broadcasting legend John Madden passed today at age 85.

John Madden, the NFL coach, broadcaster and namesake for the billion-dollar video game franchise, died unexpectedly Tuesday. He was 85 years old.

The legendary coach helmed the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978, winning a Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings in January 1977. But he became as known for what he did after leaving the game in just his early 40s, when he ascended to the broadcast booth and later lent his name to the most successful sports video game franchise of all time.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia, and sons Mike and Joe, as well as several grandchildren.

"On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our condolences to Virginia, Mike, Joe and their families," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather."

"Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others," Goodell continued. "There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today." 
Certainly I grew up with Madden's marquee game calling, particularly watching his Detroit Lions Thanksgiving games at my grandparents' house, and watching CBS's Super Bowl broadcasts as well as playing Madden NFL on consoles in the 90's and 00's.  It just wasn't the same without him once he retired.

And speaking of things never being the same since he retired, that brings us to our other extremely notable passing this evening, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Harry Reid, who rose from abject poverty in rural Nevada to become one of the most influential state and national leaders, died on Tuesday, sources confirmed to The Nevada Independent. He was 82.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Reid was thought to be nearing the end of his life when he underwent surgery in 2018 for pancreatic cancer, which has one of the lowest survival rates. Last summer, however, Reid announced that he underwent an experimental surgery and was declared in “complete remission” and cancer-free.

Over more than three decades of service in Congress, Reid earned a reputation for fighting relentlessly to protect his home state and everyday Americans. As Senate Democratic leader for a dozen years, he played an instrumental role in passing the Affordable Care Act and shepherding through Congress pivotal economic recovery legislation in the wake of the Great Recession.

Reid also spent considerable time focusing on water, energy and public lands, issues at the forefront of a state that was undergoing rapid growth. In 2020, Reid said more than half of his congressional papers dealt, in some form, with the environment.

A savvy dealmaker and sometimes polarizing figure who made as many enemies as he did friends, Reid still earned the respect of colleagues in both parties — sometimes turning former enemies to friends. Soft-spoken with a sharp tongue, Reid compelled those around him to listen.

Reid took a no-holds-barred approach to politics, directly calling bankers to bail out the faltering CityCenter project on the Las Vegas Strip and falsely claiming Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes in 10 years.

He helped Nevada punch above its weight on the national political stage by advocating that the state hold the first-in-the-West caucus in the nation in 2008, a move that has left Nevada’s presidential nominating contest just behind those in Iowa and New Hampshire. The caucus has brought droves of presidential contenders through the state every four years for the last four election cycles, elevating the state’s profile nationally.

He also turned the Nevada State Democratic Party into a well-oiled political operation — nicknamed the Reid Machine — responsible for securing numerous Democratic victories in close races over the last decade.
Everyone talks about all the fights Reid lost to Mitch McConnell, but frankly Reid was a Democratic player well after he left the Senate stage, and he won some critical legislative battles for Obama, including Obamacare and the nuclear option on appointing judges.
Oh, and Reid himself was an amateur boxer, who later became Nevada Gaming Commissioner, survived a Vegas mob car bomb attempt, and even had a movie role in Traffic.

Both of these men defined the roles they filled, and both will be missed.

Here's to you, Madden and Reid.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

HoliDaze: The Vax Of Life

New guidance from CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky now recommends shorter COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols as the Omicron variant is infectious, but within a far shorter window than previously believed.

U.S. health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the omicron variant.

Early research suggests omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus. But the sheer number of people becoming infected — and therefore having to isolate or quarantine — threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

Last week, the agency loosened rules that previously called on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive. The new recommendations said workers could go back to work after seven days if they test negative and don’t have symptoms. And the agency said isolation time could be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages.

Now, the CDC is changing the isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public to be even less stringent.

The change is aimed at people who are not experiencing symptoms. People with symptoms during isolation, or who develop symptoms during quarantine, are encouraged to stay home.

The CDC’s isolation and quarantine guidance has confused the public, and the new recommendations are “happening at a time when more people are testing positive for the first time and looking for guidance,” said Lindsay Wiley, an American University public health law expert.

Nevertheless, the guidance continues to be complex.
It's confusing only if you're not paying attention. As we learn more about COVID-19, the CDC guidance should change along with the virus, and what we know about it. That's what "following the science" actually means, folks.  When confronted with new data, the response changes to the new data. Literally science.

Oh, and the data means less hassle for those who are sick.

But still people will complain.

Monday, December 27, 2021

HoliDaze: Insurrection Investigation

The Guardian's Hugo Lowell determines that Rep. Bennie Johnson and the January 6th Committee are now laser-focused on Trump's role in the insurrectionist coup attempt at the beginning of this year, mainly in his marching orders given in the 24 hours leading up to the terrorist attack on the US Capitol.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, has said the panel will open an inquiry into Donald Trump’s phone call seeking to stop Joe Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January hours before the insurrection.

The chairman said the select committee intended to scrutinize the phone call – revealed last month by the Guardian – should they prevail in their legal effort to obtain Trump White House records over the former president’s objections of executive privilege.

“That’s right,” Thompson said when asked by the Guardian whether the select committee would look into Trump’s phone call, and suggested House investigators had already started to consider ways to investigate Trump’s demand that Biden not be certified as president on 6 January.

Thompson said the select committee could not ask the National Archives for records about specific calls, but noted “if we say we want all White House calls made on January 5 and 6, if he made it on a White House phone, then obviously we would look at it there.”

The Guardian reported last month that Trump, according to multiple sources, called lieutenants based at the Willard hotel in Washington DC from the White House in the late hours of 5 January and sought ways to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January.

Trump first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term, the sources said.

But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, the sources said, on at least one call, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January in a scheme to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s remarks came as part of wider discussions he had with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification, the sources said.

House investigators in recent months have pursued an initial investigation into Trump’s contacts with lieutenants at the Willard, issuing a flurry of subpoenas compelling documents and testimony to crucial witnesses, including Bannon and Eastman.

But Thompson said that the select committee would now also investigate both the contents of Trump’s phone calls to the Willard and the White House’s potential involvement, in a move certain to intensify the pressure on the former president’s inner circle.

“If we get the information that we requested,” Thompson said of the select committee’s demands for records from the Trump White House and Trump aides, “those calls potentially will be reflected to the Willard hotel and whomever.”

A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment about what else such a line of inquiry might involve. But a subpoena to Giuliani, the lead Trump lawyer at the Willard, is understood to be in the offing, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Guardian reported that the night before the Capitol attack, Trump called the lawyers and non-lawyers at the Willard separately, because Giuliani did not want to have non-lawyers participate on sensitive calls and jeopardize claims to attorney-client privilege.

It was not clear whether Giulaini might invoke attorney-client privilege as a way to escape cooperating with the investigation in the event of a subpoena, but Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee, noted the protection does not confer broad immunity.

“The attorney-client privilege does not operate to shield participants in a crime from an investigation into a crime,” Raskin said. “If it did, then all you would have to do to rob a bank is bring a lawyer with you, and be asking for advice along the way.”

The reason I raise Stone is that the repeated reports from Joshua James to Oath Keeper field commander Mike Simmons about a VIP disgruntled about his shoddy treatment — a VIP that is almost certainly Stone — show there was a direct tie from the Willard to one of several militias who were instrumental in breaching the Capitol from multiple points.

Particularly given the confirmation that the government believes he was lying, I’d like to point to some redacted references to a VIP that Joshua James was guarding who was bitching that he wasn’t getting VIP treatment.

This is likely Roger Stone. That’s true because — as Dan Friedman reported — James was “guarding” Stone that day (and Simmons guarded Stone the previous day), the name seems to fit, and Stone has publicly complained about his treatment that day.
So all of this is connected, all of this was planned, all of this is a criminal conspiracy with the intent of overthrowing Joe Biden's duly-elected presidency, and if it isn't punished before the 2022 midterms, it will absolutely happen again, only on a massive scale.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

HoliDaze: The $69 Billion Question

I've been warning about the dangers of cryptocurrency for some time now, and our Sunday Long Read this weekend makes it clear just how dangerous of a multi-billion dollar time bomb it is. Bloomberg's Zeke Faux goes looking for the billions supposedly backing cryptocurrency Tether, which is supposed to be backed by nearly $70 billion in US currency to secure its value. 

The problem is nobody seems to know if this is true or not, and Tether's gotten so big as it has been traded around the world, that the best-case scenario is that there's a massively unregulated offshore hedge fund that's almost certainly being used for billions in criminal money laundering, and worst-case scenario is it's all a Ponzi scheme that burns a nuclear meltdown through the international currency markets and drops us into a global depression overnight.

In July, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen summoned the chair of the Federal Reserve, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and six other top officials for a meeting to discuss Tether. The absurdity of the situation couldn’t have been lost on them: Inflation was spiking, a Covid surge threatened the economic recovery, and Yellen wanted to talk about a digital currency dreamed up by the former child actor who’d missed a penalty shot in The Mighty Ducks. But Tether had gotten so large that it threatened to put the U.S. financial system at risk. It was as if a playground snowball fight had escalated so wildly that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were being called in to avert a nuclear war.

Tether is what’s come to be known in financial circles as a stablecoin—stable because one Tether is supposed to be backed by one dollar. But it’s actually more like a bank. The company that issues the currency, Tether Holdings Ltd., takes in dollars from people who want to trade crypto and credits their digital wallets with an equal amount of Tethers in return. Once they have Tethers, people can send them to cryptocurrency exchanges and use them to bet on the price of Bitcoin, Ether, or any of the thousands of other coins. And at least in theory, Tether Holdings holds on to the dollars so it can return them to anyone who wants to send in their tokens and get their money back. The convoluted mechanism became popular because real banks didn’t want to do business with crypto companies, especially foreign ones.

Exactly how Tether is backed, or if it’s truly backed at all, has always been a mystery. For years a persistent group of critics has argued that, despite the company’s assurances, Tether Holdings doesn’t have enough assets to maintain the 1-to-1 exchange rate, meaning its coin is essentially a fraud. But in the crypto world, where joke coins with pictures of dogs can be worth billions of dollars and scammers periodically make fortunes with preposterous-sounding schemes, Tether seemed like just another curiosity.

Then, this year, Tether Holdings started putting out a huge amount of digital coins. There are now 69 billion Tethers in circulation, 48 billion of them issued this year. That means the company supposedly holds a corresponding $69 billion in real money to back the coins—an amount that would make it one of the 50 largest banks in the U.S., if it were a U.S. bank and not an unregulated offshore company.

On Twitter, on business TV, and on hedge fund and investment bank trading floors, everyone started asking why Tether was minting so many coins and whether it really had the money it claimed to have. An anonymous anti-Tether blog post titled “The Bit Short: Inside Crypto’s Doomsday Machine” went viral, and CNBC host Jim Cramer told viewers to sell their crypto. “If Tether collapsed, well then, it’s going to gut the whole crypto ecosystem,” he warned.

As far as the regulators are concerned, the size of Tether’s supposed dollar holdings is so big that it would be dangerous even assuming the dollars are real. If enough traders asked for their dollars back at once, the company could have to liquidate its assets at a loss, setting off a run on the not-bank. The losses could cascade into the regulated financial system by crashing credit markets. If the trolls are right, and Tether is a Ponzi scheme, it would be larger than Bernie Madoff’s.

So earlier this year I set out to solve the mystery. The money trail led from Taiwan to Puerto Rico, the French Riviera, mainland China, and the Bahamas. One of Tether’s former bankers told me that its top executive had been putting its reserves at risk by investing them to earn potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of profit for himself. “It’s not a stablecoin, it’s a high-risk offshore hedge fund,” said John Betts, who ran a bank in Puerto Rico Tether used. “Even their own banking partners don’t know the extent of their holdings, or if they exist.”

One of the reasons I started ZVTS was to expose and explain the Big Casino games going on at the heart of the housing crisis and the 2008 financial meltdown. Everything in my bones tells me that crypto is going to be the next big meltdown point, and the global economy may not actually recover this time.  And remember, this was all happening back in October.  It's been another three months since this Bloomberg article, and we still don't know.

It's that damn scary.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

HoliDaze: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and have a great Saturday to those of you who don't.

  My daughter believes in Santa and I'm going to keep up the act as long as  possible | Parenting News,The Indian Express

Me, I remain astonished that I'm still at this and have been for twelve and a half years, and that you're all still here with me.

Here's good wishes to all of you.

Friday, December 24, 2021

HoliDaze: Making It Right Again

The Biden administration is recognizing that banning travel from Southern Africa was a pretty big mistake, as it did nothing to stop COVID Omicron from taking over as the dominant strain in the US, and America is finally correcting this silly nonsense for 2022.

The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant, the White House said Friday.

Foreign nationals who are barred from the United States because they have been in one of the eight countries within the prior 14 days will again be allowed on U.S.-bound flights leaving after 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 31, a senior official said, confirming a Reuters report.

The United States on Nov. 29 barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in an "abundance of caution" over the variant detected in South Africa.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted that Biden "will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries" effective Dec. 31.

He said the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted," Munoz tweeted.

Reuters reported earlier U.S. public health agencies had recommended lifting the travel restrictions because retaining them would have not a significant impact on U.S. cases given the widespread current U.S. transmission, confidence that an Omicron-specific vaccine would not be necessary and that existing vaccines and booster shots are highly effective.
Meanwhile stateside, the White House Correspondents' Association is asking to go back to virtual briefings with WH Press Secretary Jen Psaki, citing the extremely transmissible nature of COVID Omicron.

With a fierce new variant of the coronavirus on the loose, White House reporters are urging press secretary Jen Psaki to move her daily briefings online — but it’s an idea Psaki has been cool to so far.

The White House Correspondents’ Association has proposed holding the daily briefings on Zoom or some other online platform to avoid face-to-face contact in the White House’s cramped briefing room.

The WHCA is concerned that reporters face an elevated risk of being infected with the highly contagious omicron variant — or infecting their colleagues with it — while congregating in the 49-seat briefing room or the narrow workspaces behind it.

In a memo sent to members on Tuesday, the group’s president, Steven Portnoy, noted that President Biden himself had said in a speech earlier in the day that omicron cases are likely to be widespread in many workplaces, including at the White House.

Portnoy urged reporters “not directly tasked by their managers with being at the White House to please not come in.” He also wrote that his organization had suggested Zoom to Psaki, but “no changes are expected at this time.”

White House officials have told the WHCA that the administration’s covid protocols — which include mask requirements, and vaccine and booster checks or tests for those entering the White House premises — are sufficient protection against omicron.

But some reporters say they think the White House is more concerned about optics than medical necessity. They suggest the sight of Psaki answering press questions via video hookup might play badly with the public and undermine the administration’s assurances that it has the situation under control.

In a statement, Psaki said the White House has followed the guidance of health experts who have said its current protocols are effective. She added: “We don’t think it sends the right message to the country or the world to close the briefing room or pause in-person briefings.”

Thursday’s in-person briefing at the White House was sparsely attended, possibly reflecting both the approach of the Christmas holiday and Portnoy’s memo urging reporters to avoid the briefing room.

Psaki greeted reporters by quipping that “only the bold and the brave” were covering the briefing.
Considering the way the WHCA has treated Biden, Psaki, and VP Harris,  I want to side on Psaki on this one from a purely emotional standpoint. But the WHCA does have a valid point, and the safety of their correspondents should come first. Virtual briefings are the right call, and I hope that this White House can work this out like adults, unlike the last one.

HoliDaze: The Return

We're going into hibernation for the rest of the year starting today. I'll have some things as they warrant on a daily basis, because the fight against the Stupid doesn't rest, but I'll have our usual end-of-year review and predictions for 2022 as well, and we'll be back in the New Year.

Thanks to all of you who still actually want to read this mess after 13 years.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Last Call For insurrection Investigation, Con't

As widely expected, Donald Trump is taking his silly legal argument on blocking the release of his national archives records from the January 6th Committee all the way to the Supreme Court.

Former President Donald Trump turned to the Supreme Court Thursday in a last-ditch effort to keep documents away from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol led by his supporters.

Trump’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to reverse lower court rulings against the former president, who has fought to block the records even after President Joe Biden waived executive privilege over them. The federal appeals court in Washington previously ruled the committee had a “uniquely vital interest” in the documents and Trump had “provided no basis” for it to override Biden and Congress.

The records include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity,” according to a previous court filing from the National Archives.

Repeating arguments they made before lower courts, Trump’s attorneys wrote Thursday that the case concerned all future occupants of the White House. Their filing came on the day that an administrative injunction issued by the appeals court was set to expire.

Former presidents had “a clear right to protect their confidential records from premature dissemination,” Trump’s lawyers said.

“Congress cannot engage in meandering fishing expeditions in the hopes of embarrassing President Trump or exposing the President’s and his staff’s sensitive and privileged communications ‘for the sake of exposure,’ ” they added.

The House committee has said the records are vital to its investigation into the run-up to the deadly insurrection aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. Before and after the riot, Trump promoted false theories about election fraud and suggested that the “real insurrection” was on Election Day, when he lost to Biden in an election certified by officials from both parties as fair.
Nice stinger at the end there from the AP's Mark Sherman and Nomaan Merchant.

In all seriousness however, the lower court decisions have ranged from "It's the current Chief Executive who makes these decisions" to "Trump is basically full of it and has no argument here." 

What Trump has as an expectation is for the Roberts Court to construct him a new as yet seen right of refusal and protection over national archives documents, provided under law. I don't think they'll do it, because it'll expand to Biden when he's out of office too.

On the other hand, I expect if Trump does get control back, he'll dispense with the need for documents and just start putting people in boxes or in the ground.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem

I've talked about white supremacist domestic terrorist organizations like Three Percent and Proud Boys and Oath Keepers time and time again on ZVTS, but the biggest concentration of armed, trained, lethal white supremacist domestic terrorists remains your local police departments, county sheriffs offices, state police and other law enforcement agencies.

For nearly 10 years, Joseph Moore lived a secret double life.

At times the U.S. Army veteran donned a white robe and hood as a hit man for the Ku Klux Klan in North Florida. He attended clandestine meetings and participated in cross burnings. He even helped plan the murder of a Black man.

However, Moore wore something else during his years in the klan – a wire for the FBI. He recorded his conversations with his fellow klansmen, sometimes even captured video, and shared what he learned with federal agents trying to crack down on white supremacists in Florida law enforcement.

One minor mistake, one tell, he believed, meant a certain, violent death.

“I had to realize that this man would shoot me in the face in a heartbeat,” Moore said in a deep, slow drawl. He sat in his living room recently amid twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, remembering a particularly scary meeting in 2015. But it was true of many of his days.

Before such meetings, he would sit alone in his truck, his diaphragm heaving with the deep breathing techniques he learned as an Army-trained sniper.

The married father of four would help the federal government foil at least two murder plots, according to court records from the criminal trial for two of the klansmen. He was also an active informant when the FBI exposed klan members working as law enforcement officers in Florida at the city, county and state levels.

Today, he and his family live under new names in a Florida subdivision of manicured lawns where his kids play in the street. Geese wander slowly between man-made lakes. Apart from testifying in court, the 50-year-old has never discussed his undercover work in the KKK publicly. But he reached out to a reporter after The Associated Press published a series of stories about white supremacists working in Florida’s prisons that were based, in part, on records and recordings detailing his work with the FBI.

“The FBI wanted me to gather as much information about these individuals and confirm their identities,” Moore said of law enforcement officers who were active members of or working with the klan.

“From where I sat, with the intelligence laid out, I can tell you that none of these agencies have any control over any of it. It is more prevalent and consequential than any of them are willing to admit.”
Police organizations are hotbeds of white supremacists, they are armed and dangerous and they can freely persecute and kill Black and brown folk at will.  The second another Republican government gets in charge at the federal level, these local police will be given absolute free reign like they were under Trump. Biden at least is trying to contain them.

When activists say "defund the police" we mean "stop giving avowed white supremacist killers unlimited money to buy military surplus gear to use against Black folks."

And yes, Moore is right, this is beyond pervasive, it's structural. This is what we mean, precisely, by structural racism: institutions that effectively exist to maintain white supremacy. In the case of police, it's through deadly force.

Remember that.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

Trump is a simple creature. He's a raging malignant narcissist and he wants credit for the vaccine. Of course, he's also convinced his cultists that the vaccine will kill them, but Trump's narcissism is now exceeding his need for his cult.

Former President Donald Trump pushed back on Candace Owens during a recent interview when the conservative commentator appeared to be undermining the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines to hurt President Joe Biden politically.

Trump joined the Daily Wire host for a wide-ranging interview, which was released on Wednesday, in which the two pushed various conspiracy theories surrounding the riot in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. But the issue of vaccines came up and the former president continued to tout the efficacy of the vaccines in a manner that will likely encourage some of the vaccine-hesitant and eventually save lives.

Trump took credit for the incredible speed at which the vaccinations were developed during his administration and in partnership with private pharmaceuticals, reiterating a point he made over the weekend during Bill O’Reilly.

“I came up with a vaccine with three vaccines,” Trump said. “All are very, very good. Came up with three of them in less than nine months. It was supposed to take five to 12 years.”

Owens interjected, “yet more people have died under COVID this year.” She then pivoted to hit the current administration, saying “By the way, under Joe Biden, then under you and more people took the vaccine this year. So people are questioning how …”

Trump interrupted “oh no, the vaccine work, but some people aren’t the ones. The ones who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don’t take the vaccine. But it’s still their choice. And if you take the vaccine, you’re protected.”

“Look, the results of the vaccine are very good, and if you do get it, it’s a very minor form,” he continued. “People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.”
You catch that?
Trump says he came up with the vaccine, three of them. 

This is why Biden thanked him earlier this week. Biden pushed Trump's buttons like a pro.

And now we have Trump pushing the vaccine to his own cultists willing to not take it and die for him.

It's so easy, folks. How did America ever elect this idiot in 2016?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Last Call For These Disunited States, Con't

The Guardian's Jason Stanley warns that America is well on its way towards autocratic fascism, with Trump's attempted coup just the beginnings of the ground being prepared for its dark harvest, and soon the soil will be red and black.

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”

So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.

Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.

Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.

Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.

The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.

My father, raised in Berlin under the Nazis, saw in European fascism a course that any country could take. He knew that US democracy was not exceptional in its capacity to resist the forces that shattered his family and devastated his youth. My mother, a court stenographer in US criminal courts for 44 years, saw in the anti-Black racism of the American legal system parallels to the vicious antisemitism she experienced in her youth in Poland, attitudes which enabled eastern European complicity with fascism. And my grandmother, Ilse Stanley, wrote a memoir, published in 1957, of her experiences in 1930s Berlin, later appearing on the US television show This is Your Life to discuss it. It is a memoir of the normalization years of German fascism, well before world war and genocide. In it, she recounts experiences with Nazi officers who assured her that in nazism’s vilification of Jews, they certainly did not mean her.

Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.

Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.

Fascist propaganda takes place in the US in already fertile ground – decades of racial strife has led to the United States having by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. A police militarized to address the wounds of racial inequities by violence, and a recent history of unsuccessful imperial wars have made us susceptible to a narrative of national humiliation by enemies both internal and external. As WEB Du Bois showed in his 1935 masterwork Black Reconstruction, there is a long history of business elites backing racism and fascism out of self-interest, to divide the working class and thereby destroy the labor movement.

The novel development is that a ruthless would-be autocrat has marshalled these fascist forces and shaped them into a cult, with him as its leader. We are now well into the repercussions of this latter process – where fascist lies, for example, the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, have begun to restructure institutions, notably electoral infrastructure and law. As this process unfolds, slowly and deliberately, the media’s normalization of these processes evokes Morrison’s tenth and final step: “Maintain, at all costs, silence.”
We're in pretty bad shape, folks. It won't take much at this point to put America in a shooting war against itself, but the far more likely outcome is autocratic rule by a strongman like Trump or worse. Unless we're able to overcome the ruthless odds of history, we're headed for a very dark time in our history, even for a country as messed up as America.

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

If Republicans can't assure permanent election control by state legislature fiat, they can always fall back on good ol' voter suppression in counties with large percentages of Black and brown voters, like Georgia's Lincoln County, population 7,600 with more than a quarter being Black folk.

Lincoln County is trying to close all but one polling place for next year’s elections, a move opposed by voting and civil rights groups.

Relocating voters from the county’s seven precincts to a single location will make voting “easier and more accessible” and eliminate the need to transport voting equipment and staff the remaining sites, according to a news release. Community members disagreed.

“Lincoln County is a very rural county. Some people live as far as 23 miles from the city of Lincolnton,” said Denise Freeman, an activist and former Lincoln County school board member. “This is not about convenience for the citizens. This is about control. This is about the good old boys wanting to do what they’ve always done, which is power and control.”

The move was made possible after the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year disbanding the Lincoln County Board of Elections. The chief sponsor of Senate bills 282 and 283 was Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown, whose district includes Lincoln County. The newly-appointed board agreed to move forward with the “consolidation” plan and was expected to vote on it last week, but appeared to lack a quorum, several said.

Multiple public interest groups including the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Common Cause Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Augusta’s Interfaith Coalition are taking a stand against the effort.

Aunna Dennis, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, said the move is an extension of Senate Bill 202, which tightened restrictions on voting and gave the state the authority to take over elections boards.

“They’re trying to do this undercover precinct consolidation, so we’re going to go ahead with the canvassing drive,” Dennis said. Obtaining signatures from roughly 20% of the population of a single precinct would appear to have the effect of blocking the move, at least temporarily.

Dennis attributed the Lincoln County effort to a larger push across rural Georgia.

“I think there are bad actors who are wanting to pilot precinct consolidations and takeovers of elections boards in smaller counties,” she said.

With multiple voting changes from Senate Bill 202 already underway, adding the precinct closures in a county that lacks a public transportation budget – and attempting to pass them over the holiday season – is too much, Dennis said.

“There’s no real justification for something this drastic,” she said. “This is something that is trying to be steamrolled outside the public eye.”


This is exactly what I said would happen after Georgia's "election integrity" bills became law: entire county election boards purged of Black election workers, replaced with white Republican appointees, and voting precincts removed from Black neighborhoods entirely. 

This is also exactly the kind of racist voter suppression nonsense that the Voting Rights Act preclearance measures were supposed to stop, but that was gutted by the Roberts Court years ago and will never be fixed.

So now, Black voters will have to drive 20+ miles to vote, and it will be their fault if they don't "want to take responsibility to vote" when it will take them hours to do so.

It's the same tune across the country. Republicans gain and keep power with intensive gerrymandering, voter suppression, and spreading the Big Lie, and outright stealing elections.

The Big Lie, Con't

Yet more evidence of Trump regime officials directly pressuring state elections officials to commit election fraud and give the 2020 election to Trump that he didn't win, with all indications that Trump will be much more successful in these efforts in 2022 and 2024 unless he's stopped.

A member of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign arranged and participated in a meeting at which a Georgia election worker says she was pressed by a Chicago publicist to falsely admit voting fraud.

The revelation directly ties a senior figure in the former president’s political operation to an extraordinary late-night Jan. 4 meeting in which a $16-an-hour election worker faced pressure to implicate herself in a baseless conspiracy theory, stoked by Trump himself, as he sought to overturn his Georgia election loss.

Harrison Floyd - who was executive director of a national campaign coalition called Black Voices for Trump in 2020 - told Reuters on Monday that he asked Chicago publicist Trevian Kutti to visit the Atlanta area to speak with 62-year-old temporary election worker Ruby Freeman. Floyd said he then participated by phone in a meeting Kutti held with Freeman at a police station in Georgia’s Cobb County.

Kutti was accompanied at the meeting by another Trump campaign figure: Garrison Douglas, who was a Georgia leader in Black Voices for Trump during the campaign and now works as a Republican Party spokesperson in the state. Douglas confirmed to Reuters that he was present at the meeting. Floyd said he recruited Douglas and Kutti because he was unable to attend himself.

In a statement to Reuters on Monday, Douglas said: "On January 4th, I was unemployed and received a call to serve as a volunteer driver, as I had many times in the past. I had no involvement in the meeting beyond the task of driving."

In a phone interview Monday, Floyd said he was asked if he’d be willing to set up the meeting by a man he described as a chaplain with “connections” in federal law enforcement. He declined to name the clergyman or to detail what those connections involved. Floyd said the chaplain, who is white, wanted him to approach Freeman, who is Black, to discuss an immunity deal for her, out of a belief that she would not trust a white stranger. Floyd, Douglas and Kutti are Black.

Floyd said that he had left his role in the Trump campaign before the Jan. 4 meeting. Trump himself “never asked me to go” to Georgia, he said, and board members of the Black Voices for Trump group “had no involvement in this.”

Floyd said he arranged the meeting in an effort to help Freeman. He said he himself believed she was seeking assistance, including immunity from prosecution over claims from the Trump camp that she had committed voting fraud.

Freeman, through a spokesperson, said she never reached out to anyone to seek immunity. Her lawyer, Von DuBose, declined to comment further.
So once again we have a Black female election worker in Georgia who was facing direct pressure to lie  that election fraud existed, with threats of legal punishment if they didn't do so.  The timing once again was less than 48 hours before the Trump coup, and the plan was clearly to use these "accusations of election fraud" to justify Mike Pence blocking electors from enough states to send the election to the House delegations for a Trump theft of the presidency.

All this was planned from the top down, folks. It was 100% a coup, and in 20222 and 2024 the coup succeeds unless Trump's people and a lot of state GOP officials start going to prison and soon.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Last Call For Thune Out, Turn On, Drop Out

Although the story of congressional retirements heading into 2022 remains the nearly two dozen Democrats in the House heading out, Republican Senate number two John Thune of South Dakota is reportedly also looking for the exit off Capitol Hill.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Senate Republican and a potential future leader, is seriously considering retiring after next year, a prospect that has set off an intensifying private campaign from other Republicans urging him to seek re-election.

Mr. Thune is only 60, but a combination of family concerns and former President Donald J. Trump’s enduring grip on the Republican Party have prompted the senator, who is in his third term, to tell associates and reporters in his home state that 2022 could be his last year in Congress.

His departure would be a blow to South Dakota, which has enjoyed outsize influence in Washington, and could upend Senate Republicans’ line of succession. Mr. Thune has been open about his ambition to lead his party’s caucus after Senator Mitch McConnell makes way, and quiet but unmistakable jockeying is already underway between him and Senators John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“John is the logical successor should Mitch decide to not run again for leader,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine said of Mr. Thune, while noting that Mr. McConnell’s hold on their caucus remained “very secure.”

That Mr. Thune would even entertain retirement with the chance to ascend to Senate Republican leader illustrates both the strain of today’s Congress and the shadow Mr. Trump casts over the party. The senator’s departure would represent yet another exit, perhaps the most revealing one yet, by a mainstream Senate Republican who has grown frustrated with the capital’s political environment and the former president’s loyalty demands. The exodus began in 2018 with Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker retiring rather than facing primaries, and has accelerated this year.

Part of Mr. Thune’s hesitation owes to Mr. Trump and the potential for the former president — who lashed out at Mr. Thune early this year when the senator rejected his attempts to overturn the election — to intervene in South Dakota’s Senate primary race. But the larger factor may be the longer-range prospect of taking over the Senate Republican caucus with Mr. Trump still in the wings or as the party’s standard-bearer in 2024.

Mr. Thune has said he will decide his intentions over the holidays. Yet a number of his friends and colleagues have become convinced that he is serious about leaving public life.

Among those alarmed is Mr. McConnell himself, who one adviser said had “leaned in” on pushing Mr. Thune to run again.

“I certainly hope that he will run for re-election, and that’s certainly what I and others have been encouraging him to do all year long,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview.
Jon Martin at the Times makes it clear that doing Trump's personal bidding for another decade after Mitch settles back down here in KY is absolutely not in his cards, and he basically has that seat for life. To give that up makes me think there's a lot more to the story.

It's certainly not that Thune is a moral man, he's a Republican after all.

Sadly, it just means he'll be replaced by a Republican 100% loyal to Trump instead of say, 95%.

The Vax Of Life

The Biden Administration is planning to do what the Trump regime could never be bothered to do: distribute hundreds of millions of COVID test kits free of charge to all Americans in January.

President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday a purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid Covid-19 tests and a plan to distribute them free to Americans who request them through a website, one of a series of new steps he'll unveil as the country faces a potentially crippling wintertime surge of infections. 
The 500 million new tests will be made available next month and will reach Americans through the mail, the official said. The administration is still working to determine how many tests each household may request. 
The new test shipment scheme will come during remarks meant to underscore the White House's plan to confront what is expected to be a large spike in cases driven by the now-dominant Omicron variant in the coming weeks. Already, cases are rising rapidly in areas around the country and hospitals are nearing capacity. 
Among the President's new initiatives is a plan to prepare 1,000 military service members to deploy to overburdened hospitals across the country in January and February, administration officials said. Those service members will include doctors, nurses, medics and other military medical personnel. 
An official said, "God willing" the full 1,000 wouldn't be needed, "but if we do, they are ready and they're mobilized." 
Biden hopes to reassure Americans that if they are vaccinated, they can still proceed with their holiday plans without fear of becoming seriously ill. Conversely, he wants to tell those who have not yet received shots of the potential for severe illness or death in the coming months.
This should have happened six months ago with Delta, but at least it's happening now. Getting half a billion tests into the hands of American families is the right thing to do. 

Still, it's more than the previous guy ever even bothered with, and we can't go back to him, period.

Insurrection Investigation, Con't

The January 6th Committee may be considering referring the insurrectionists for federal criminal charges, and yes, apparently that may include not just Trump's lackeys, but even Trump himself.

When the House formed a special committee this summer to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, its stated goal was to compile the most authoritative account of what occurred and make recommendations to ensure it never happens again.

But as investigators sifted through troves of documents, metadata and interview transcripts, they started considering whether the inquiry could yield something potentially more consequential: evidence of criminal conduct by President Donald J. Trump or others that they could send to the Justice Department urging an investigation.

That move — known as sending a criminal referral — has no legal weight, as Congress has little ability to tell the Justice Department what investigations it should undertake. But it could have a substantial political impact by increasing public pressure on Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who in his first year in office has largely sidestepped questions about what prosecutors are doing to examine the conduct of Mr. Trump and his aides as they promoted baseless allegations of voter fraud.

The questions of criminality go far beyond the contempt of Congress referrals that the House has sent to the Justice Department for Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for their refusal to cooperate with the investigation. (Federal law requires prosecutors to bring contempt of Congress charges before a grand jury upon receiving such a referral.)

According to people briefed on their efforts, investigators for the committee are looking into whether a range of crimes were committed, including two in particular: whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen, despite knowing the claims were not true; and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes.

It is not clear what, if any, new evidence the committee has that might support a criminal referral, when and how it will determine whether to pursue that option and whether the committee could produce a case strong enough to hold up against inevitable accusations that it acted in a partisan manner.

Behind the scenes, the committee’s day-to-day work is being carried out by a team of 40 investigators and staff members, including former federal prosecutors. The panel has obtained more than 30,000 records and interviewed more than 300 witnesses, including about a dozen last week whom committee members say provided “key” testimony.

In recent weeks, the committee has publicly signaled its interest in the question of criminality. Shortly after obtaining from Mr. Meadows 9,000 pages of documents — including text messages and a PowerPoint presentation — the panel’s top Republican, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, read from the criminal code at a televised hearing.

She suggested that Mr. Trump, by failing to stop the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, might have violated the federal law that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding before Congress.

“We know hours passed with no action by the president to defend the Congress of the United States from an assault while we were trying to count electoral votes,” Ms. Cheney said, adding: “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?
Let's get a couple things out of the way first.
One, as the article says, the committee referring anyone, even Trump, for criminal charges means that a referral from the January 6th Committee and a $10 bill will get you a roll of quarters.  Unless Merrick Garland decides there's a case there, nothing's going to happen. No US Attorney, not Cy Vance in Manhattan, not newly minted DC US attorney Matt Graves, is going to do a damn thing at this level without Garland's express permission, and unless the evidence that the Committee turns over to Garland is damning as hell (it might be, frankly) precisely nothing's going to happen here.

Two, it was always going to come down to Garland and the Justice Department's decision. Congress doesn't do prosecuting, folks. and the evidence is Garland won't issue any charges because of rocking the political boat. It's unfortunate, because the next GOP-appointed Attorney General absolutely will bring charges against Democrats up to and including Joe Biden. But Garland isn't going to be pressured into doing jack shit, not by Biden or by anyone.
Three, the usual caveats about the guaranteed violence by Trump cultists if Trump himself is charged. That's the most likely outcome should Garland go forward (or Tish James in New York, which is actually far more likely). America isn't prepared for that. Hell, police and military personnel may support, if not actually be the ones conducting said violence. If Garland has the goods, he needs to act, but understand that there will be a cost in blood, the only question is how much these assholes will extract. Congressional and state Republicans will absolutely vow to take action as well. it will get ugly, folks. I'm not sure if Garland has the fortitude to see this through if he has a case. People are going to be made to suffer, and that has to be part of the calculus.

Having said that, that brings us to point Four: the people who aren't Trump are absolutely fair game for Garland. Rudy, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, all the dickheads that Trump pardoned and then helped him with the damn coup? Let's put those guys back in jail, shall we?

We'll see where all this goes.


Monday, December 20, 2021

Last Call For Ridin' With Biden, Con't

The objective economic data proves pretty convincing when it comes to the Biden Boom in 2021. Joe Biden's comparisons to America's recent presidents finds him on top or at number 2 on all the big economic indicators, according to Bloomberg's Matt Winkler.

U.S. financial markets are outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century, and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden's first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion.

Exceptional returns from dollar-denominated assets, especially the S&P 500 Index in both absolute terms and relative to its global counterparts, can be attributed to record-low debt ratios enabling companies to reap the biggest profit margins since 1950. Corporate America is booming because the Biden administration's Covid-19 vaccination programs and $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan reduced the jobless rate to 4.2% in November from 6.2% in February, continuing an unprecedented rate of decline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Consider that real, or inflation adjusted, gross domestic product surged at an average annual rate of 5.03% in each of the first three quarters of 2021, and is poised to expand 5.6% for the year based on the average estimate of more than 80 economists surveyed Bloomberg. If that forecast proves accurate, it would be more than 2.8 times the average between 2000 and 2019 and double the average since 1976.

All of which makes Biden's first year in the White House the standout among the seven previous presidents, based on 10 market and economic indicators given equal weight. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, no one comes close to matching Biden's combination of No. 1 and No. 2 rankings for each of the measures:
  • Gross domestic product (1)
  • Profit growth (1)
  • S&P 500 performance (2)
  • Consumer credit (1)
  • Non-farm payrolls (2)
  • Manufacturing jobs (2)
  • Business productivity (2)
  • Dollar appreciation (2)
  • S&P 500 relative performance (2)
Per capita disposable income, which rose 1.08% this year, is the only comparable weakness for Biden, trailing Donald Trump’s 2.17%, George W. Bush’s 2.01%, Jimmy Carter’s 1.80% and Ronald Reagan’s 1.42%.

GDP growth in every incoming administration during the past four decades never exceeded 2.74% until 2021. Biden is now positioned to surpass Carter (5.01%) as the GDP champion of presidents since 1976. Much of the credit goes to The American Rescue Plan, which poured $66 billion into 36 million households and reduced the child poverty rate by 50%, helping the U.S. recover faster from the pandemic than most other nations.
The downside to that is record corporate profits that absolutely are not being shared with workers, and in 2021 economic inequality got considerably worse, even with Biden's recovery act putting billions in the pockets of American families, and oh yeah, significant inflation, even more so than under Carter.

Biden, like Carter, now faces the political fallout of the accelerating inflation from global supply chain breakdowns associated with the pandemic even though maintaining stable inflation and interest rates are the primary responsibility of the Federal Reserve, and the Fed said it's prepared to tighten monetary policy in 2022.

Biden, unlike Carter, benefits from the $29 trillion U.S. debt market. In contrast to the 1970s and early 1980s, confidence in the Fed’s ability to get inflation back under control is unimpaired, reflected in the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fluctuating below 1.7% as inflation hovers at 4.1%. When Carter was in the White House, investors lost confidence in the Fed, evidenced by the 10-year yield rising to 12.6% with inflation reaching 9.65%.

The clear message from the market that tells all other markets what to do is that the people with the most at stake are betting on the Biden economy.
The problem is the GOP continues to put on a master class of blaming Biden for Trump's disastrous economy. For those of you keeping score on Tang The Conqueror's marks among the last 8 presidents:

  • Gross domestic product (T-3)
  • Profit growth (5)
  • S&P 500 performance (4)
  • Consumer credit (2)
  • Non-farm payrolls (5)
  • Manufacturing jobs (3)
  • Business productivity (5)
  • Dollar appreciation (8)
  • S&P 500 relative performance (5) 
And remember, this is comparing their first year in office. Trump trashed the dollar in his first year in office and coasted on Obama's economic performance, before cratering the economy entirely in his last year in office.

Biden is kicking ass and bringing the dollar back around. The downside again is the hefty inflation, but Biden can still raise rates and almost certainly needs to.
Keep that in mind. Biden's doing very well.
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