Sunday, January 31, 2021

Last Call For Retribution Execution, Con't

As CNN polling guru Harry Enten reminds us, the GOP belongs wholly to Donald Trump even after -- and maybe directly because of -- his failed coup attempt in January.  The party is still under his near total control, and the vast majority of Republicans expect Trump to run in 2024 and win.
Donald Trump is no longer president. He no longer has the megaphone of Twitter. 
But make no mistake: This is still Trump's Republican Party. 
You see it in the actions of Republican state and local parties trying to punish those who went against Trump. You see this in a majority of congressional Republicans voting to uphold an objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes for President Joe Biden
And more than that, you see it in the polling, which indicates that Trump's in a historically strong primary position for an ex-president. Indeed, he's polling tremendously well among Republicans in the context for any future presidential nominee. 
Republican leaders go against Trump at their potential electoral peril. It's not that other Republicans can't beat Trump. We'll have to wait and see on that. Rather, it's that he could be a very big voice over the next four years. 
After the US Capitol insurrection on January 6, Trump's still cruising in a potential 2024 primary. A majority of Republicans (57%) said in an Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll that he should be the 2024 nominee. 
Against named opponents, Trump easily leads the field. Among those who either voted for Trump in 2020 or are Republicans, Trump's averaging about half the primary vote. No one else is even close. 
Trump pulling in half the vote may seem low given that Trump won over 90% of the vote in the 2020 primaries
His position, though, is extremely unusual for a president who just lost a general election. As I've noted previously, ex-presidents usually don't lead future primary fields. Most party voters are happy to see their presidents glide into the sunset. 
The three presidents who lost their chance at another term in the polling era (Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992) were all lagging behind in early primary polling following their loss. Ford was in second place, Carter was in third place and Bush was in fourth place. None of them commanded anywhere near half the primary vote. 
How well Trump is doing puts extreme pressure on Republicans within the party to adhere to any of the ex-president's doctrine. These members of Congress and other elected (and unelected) officials know that Trump is by far the most powerful politician within the party among the base.
There's a hell of a lot that will happen between now and 2024, I guarantee it. But I'm not sure enough will happen to keep Trump from being the candidate again four years from now.  And let's remember, should Trump actually be convicted or die from old age or disease, the GOP will only end up finding an even nastier authoritarian monster to run the party.

We still have a long, long fight ahead of us. January 2021 felt like it took another decade off my life.

It only gets harder from here.

The Coup-Coup Birds Come Home To Roost, Con't

The FBI is finally realizing the scope and scale of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, the evidence pointing towards hundreds of terrorists in a conspiracy to kidnap and murder members of Congress in order to install Donald Trump in a second term.

When die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump showed up at rally point “Cowboy” in Louisville on the morning of Jan. 5, they found the shopping mall’s parking lot was closed to cars, so they assembled their 50 or so vehicles outside a nearby Kohl’s department store. Hundreds of miles away in Columbia, S.C., at a mall designated rally point “Rebel,” other Trump supporters gathered to form another caravan to Washington. A similar meetup — dubbed “Minuteman” — was planned for Springfield, Mass.

That same day, FBI personnel in Norfolk were increasingly alarmed by the online conversations they were seeing, including warlike talk around the convoys headed to the nation’s capital. One map posted online described the rally points, declaring them a “MAGA Cavalry To Connect Patriot Caravans to StopTheSteal in D.C.” Another map showed the U.S. Congress, indicating tunnels connecting different parts of the complex. The map was headlined, “CREATE PERIMETER,” according to the FBI report, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,” read one posting, according to the report.

FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.

Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

Video and court filings, for instance, describe how several groups of men that include alleged members of the Proud Boys appear to engage in concerted action, converging on the West Front of the Capitol just before 1 p.m., near the Peace Monument at First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Different factions of the crowd appear to coalesce, move forward and chant under the direction of different leaders before charging at startled police staffing a pedestrian gate, all in the matter of a few minutes.

An indictment Friday night charged a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., with conspiracy, saying his actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination.” Another alleged member of the Proud Boys, William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, N.Y., also was charged with conspiracy.

Minutes before the crowd surge, at 12:45 p.m., police received the first report of a pipe bomb behind the Republican National Committee headquarters at the opposite, southeast side of the U.S. Capitol campus. The device and another discovered shortly afterward at Democratic National Committee headquarters included end caps, wiring, timers and explosive powder, investigators have said.

Some law enforcement officials have suggested the pipe bombs may have been a deliberate distraction meant to siphon law enforcement away from the Capitol building at the crucial moment.

The FBI is also trying to determine how many people went to Washington seeking to engage in violence, even if they weren’t part of any formal organization. Some of those in the Louisville caravan said they were animated by the belief that the election was stolen, according to interviews they gave to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Much of the discussion of potential violence occurred at, where Trump’s supporters talked about the upcoming rally, sometimes in graphic terms, according to people familiar with the FBI investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open matter.

After the riot, a statement posted on the website said moderators “had been struggling for some time to address a flood of racist and violent content that appeared to be coming primarily from a small group of extremists who were often brigading from other sites,” leading to inquiries from the FBI.

One of the comments cited in the FBI memo declared Trump supporters should go to Washington and get “violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die.”

Some had been preparing for conflict for weeks.
Once again, this was a coordinated terrorist attack on the US Capitol. The evidence is overwhelming. And growing amounts of that evidence point to direct involvement by the Trump regime.
In the week leading up to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that exploded into an attack on the Capitol, a top Trump campaign fundraiser issued a directive to a woman who had been overseeing planning for the event.

“Get the budget and vendors breakdown to me and Justin,” Caroline Wren wrote to Cindy Chafian, a self-described “constitutional conservative,” in a Dec. 28 text message obtained by ProPublica.

Wren was no ordinary event planner. She served as a deputy to Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at Trump Victory, a joint presidential fundraising committee during the 2020 campaign. The Justin mentioned in her text was Justin Caporale, a former top aide to first lady Melania Trump, whose production company helped put on the event at the Ellipse.

Text messages and an event-planning memo obtained by ProPublica, along with an interview with Chafian, indicate that Wren, a Washington insider with a low public profile, played an extensive role in managing operations for the event. The records show that Wren oversaw logistics, budgeting, funding and messaging for the Jan. 6 rally that featured President Donald Trump.

Chafian told ProPublica that Wren and others had pushed her aside as plans intensified, including as a late effort was made to get Trump to speak at the event.

On Dec. 29, after receiving the budget, Wren instructed Chafian, via text, to hold off on printing event-related slogans “until we decide what the messaging is and we have no clue on timing because it all depends on the votes that day so we won’t know timing for a few more days.” The “timing” appears to be a reference to Congress’ Jan. 6 vote to certify the election results.

Wren’s services were enlisted by a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported Saturday that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, the heiress to Publix Super Markets, committed some $300,000 to fund the Jan. 6 rally.

The funding commitment by Fancelli, who Federal Election Commission records show has donated more than $1 million to Trump Victory, the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee since 2018, was facilitated by the right-wing conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, the Journal reported. Chafian told ProPublica that she herself had been directed by Jones to Wren, who, she was told, had ties to a wealthy donor who wanted to support the January affair. Chafian said the donor is a woman but wouldn’t disclose her name, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Fancelli hasn’t responded to messages left at numbers listed for her.

The Associated Press had previously reported that Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” in an attachment to a National Park Service permit for the Jan. 6 event issued to Women for America First, a pro-Trump nonprofit run by the mother-daughter duo Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer. Chafian had worked on and off with Women for America First since October 2019.

But that title gives little indication of the scope of Wren’s role in managing the “March to Save America” event, where the president would tell thousands of supporters to walk to the Capitol and “demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated,” the records show.

A guidance memo provided to VIP attendees of the Jan. 6 rally further establishes Wren’s centrality to the event. She is listed, along with three other people, as one of the primary points of contact for the demonstration. The Kremers, whose nonprofit was attached to the event, are not mentioned at all.

Wren hasn’t responded to requests for comment about the role she played in organizing the Jan. 6 rally. In a statement to the Journal, she said her role in the event was to “assist many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced event at the Ellipse.” She was last paid by the Trump campaign on Nov. 15, a campaign spokesman said, adding that the campaign “did not organize, operate or finance the event” and any former staffers who worked on the event “did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.”
In other words, all of this was planned from the top, to get Donald Trump to the event so that he would light the final fuse on the Capitol assault. The Trump regime knew what was coming, donors knew what was coming, the terrorists knew what was coming, and the Capitol Police had no clue, and all of that was part of the plan.

In fact, the Capitol Police were left high and dry deliberately, because we now know that Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered the DC National Guard not to interfere with the US Capitol terrorists.

In testimony before the House last week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that "… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."

On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It's not a to-do list. It's a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can't arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that's just for starters.

The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can't share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can't … really do much of anything.

When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that's the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It's clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location. 

As racial justice protests erupted nationwide last year, President Donald J. Trump, struggling to find a winning campaign theme, hit on a message that he stressed over and over: The real domestic threat to the United States emanated from the radical left, even though law enforcement authorities had long since concluded it came from the far right.

It was a message that was quickly embraced and amplified by his attorney general and his top homeland security officials, who translated it into a shift in criminal justice and national security priorities even as Mr. Trump was beginning to openly stoke the outrage that months later would culminate in the storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to focus his administration on the antifa movement and leftist groups did not stop the Justice Department and the F.B.I. from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism. They broke up a kidnapping plot, for example, targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat.

But the effect of his direction was nonetheless substantial, according to interviews with current and former officials, diverting key portions of the federal law enforcement and domestic security agencies at a time when the threat from the far right was building ominously.

In late spring and early summer, as the racial justice demonstrations intensified, Justice Department officials began shifting federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents from investigations into violent white supremacists to focus on cases involving rioters or anarchists, including those who might be associated with the antifa movement. One Justice Department prosecutor was sufficiently concerned about an excessive focus on antifa that the official went to the department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, telling his office that politics might have played a part.

Federal prosecutors and agents felt pressure to uncover a left-wing extremist criminal conspiracy that never materialized, according to two people who worked on Justice Department efforts to counter domestic terrorism. They were told to do so even though the F.B.I., in particular, had increasingly expressed concern about the threat from white supremacists, long the top domestic terrorism threat, and well-organized far-right extremist groups that had allied themselves with the president.

White House and Justice Department officials stifled internal efforts to publicly promote concerns about the far-right threat, with aides to Mr. Trump seeking to suppress the phrase “domestic terrorism” in internal discussions, according to a former official at the Department of Homeland Security.

Requests for funding to bolster the number of analysts who search social media posts for warnings of potential violent extremism were denied by top homeland security officials, limiting the department’s ability to spot developing threats like the post-Election Day anger among far-right groups over Mr. Trump’s loss.

The scale and intensity of the threat developing on the right became stunningly clear on Jan. 6, when news broadcasts and social media were flooded with images of far-right militias, followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement and white supremacists storming the Capitol.

Militias and other dangerous elements of the far right saw “an ally in the White House,” said Mary McCord, a former Justice Department official who teaches at Georgetown University and focuses on domestic terrorism. “That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw” at the Capitol.
We can and should draw a line from Trump to the militias to the US Capitol terrorist attack.
It came within one brave man leading the mob away from the House Chamber of turning into a massacre and a very possible coup. 

Remember that. Remember how close we came to a firefight in the well of the House. How close we came to losing dozens of members of Congress, perhaps enough to allow the seditionists in the GOP to install Trump.

And never forget.

Sunday Long Read: One Step Away

For millions of Americans, a lost job or a major illness can be a serious financial problem. For the increasingly fragile Black middle-class, one bad roll of the dice is absolute disaster and a near-guaranteed fall into long-term poverty.
Among Dee’s friends, talking about money is considered impolite. But that’s not really what stops her. “Most of my peers are white,” she says, “and I get very angry about the systemic inequality evident in our situations, and their seeming obliviousness to it.”

Dee’s family has been middle-class and college-educated going back three generations, “since Black people reasonably could be,” she says. Her maternal grandparents were the children of sharecroppers in the South, migrated north as adults, got graduate degrees, and, unlike millions of Black Americans who were unable to secure mortgages at the time due to racist housing covenants and lending practices, bought a home.

Homeownership was, and remains, the beating heart of wealth accumulation for the American middle class. Our society privileges homeowners in everything from the tax code to the availability of home equity lines to membership requirements for neighborhood associations. You buy a place, that place grows in value, and either you trade up to a bigger place or you keep it until you can pass it down to your kids or your kids get the money from its sale. Stability gives birth to even more stability.

That’s not what happened with Dee’s family. “My grandparents were bludgeoned every time the economy took a downturn,” Dee recalls, in part because of the legacy of redlining and the devaluation of property in Black neighborhoods. “They ended up losing their house. They had enough to live on, but no wealth.” The same happened to her parents. She says they were “destroyed” by the 2008 housing crisis, which disproportionately affected Black homeowners, many of whom, because of longstanding discriminatory lending practices, believed subprime mortgages were the best financing option available to them. Dee’s grandparents managed to make ends meet, but their retirement savings were drastically diminished, and they’ll eventually require some subsidization from Dee.

But Dee, 41, has been struggling for years to find something approximating financial security in her own life. She lives in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, with her partner and two kids. She and her partner make around $200,000 a year. At more than three times the national median household income, this sounds like a big number, but every month, they found their resources depleted. Before the pandemic, they were allocating most of their money toward their mortgage, child care, and student loans. They’d been putting money into their kids’ 529 college savings accounts, but otherwise the focus has been on credit card and student loan debt, which they’ve just started to be able to actually pay off. These days, they’re no longer paying expensive child care bills, but there’s a real threat that Dee’s partner’s job could disappear at any moment, at which point they would immediately start drowning in debt.

Dee describes herself as frustrated and so very, very angry. “Having everything ‘right’ and still living with precarity, literally living paycheck to paycheck, is deeply upsetting,” she says. Which is why her extra income is going toward her kids’ college savings: to prevent them starting their lives already behind, the way she feels she did. The hole Dee dug in search of middle-class stability for her family is so deep that she’d realistically need to double, even triple her income to pull herself out and have enough to stabilize her parents as well.

She doesn’t have a ton of hope that will happen. “I live in America,” she says. “There is no support for middle-class families, and there is no targeted support for those who have suffered from systemic racism. It’s getting harder and harder to maintain a middle-class life.”

Dee’s story is illustrative of just how different the hollowing of the middle class can feel, depending on your race and family history. Unlike many white middle-class Americans who find themselves bewildered by the prospect of going financially backward from their parents, Dee watched as her family’s best-laid plans for a steady, middle-class future were foiled, again and again, by economic catastrophes in which losses were disproportionately absorbed by Black Americans.

As economists William Darity Jr., Fenaba Addo, and Imari Smith recently explained, “for Black Americans, the issue may not be restoring its middle class, but constructing a robust middle class in the first place.” For families like Dee’s, the stability of the middle class has always been a mirage. And you can’t hollow out what’s never actually existed.
And for Black America, that's been true. There's always the risk that you lose it all, because you have to bet it all to get ahead. Every door you come to has a higher and higher price, one that isn't true for tens of millions of white Americans. 
One wrong move in a system that rigged specifically to see you fail, and more often than not, you fail.
You don't always come back.
Black Lives Still Matter.

Biden, The Masked Man(date)

The CDC has readied President Biden's mask mandate for public transportation effective Monday, based on the president's executive order from last week. It's time to mask up, America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order late Friday requiring travelers in the United States to wear face masks at transportation hubs, and on planes and all forms of public transportation. The order goes into effect late Monday, one minute before midnight.

"People must wear masks that completely cover both the mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding, disembarking, or traveling on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares as they are traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories," the CDC says.

Masks are also required at airports, bus and ferry terminals, seaports, and train and subway stations, according to the federal agency.

There are some exceptions. Children under 2 are not required to wear masks, nor are people who cannot safely wear a mask due to a disability. Also: Face masks can be taken off while eating, drinking or taking medication. A mask is also not required when communicating with a person who is hearing impaired and needs to see a person's mouth to communicate.

The CDC says it reserves the right to enforce the order through criminal penalties but "does not intend" to primarily rely on them. Instead, it "encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance as well as support from other federal agencies in implementing additional civil measures enforcing the provisions" of its order, "to the extent permitted by law and consistent with" an executive order President Joe Biden signed last Thursday.

Mr. Biden's executive order specified travelers must wear masks in airports and on commercial planes, trains, public boats and inter-city buses — as part of the White House's effort to fight the spread of COVID-19. It orders the heads of executive departments and agencies to "immediately take action" to require masks be worn in keeping with CDC guidelines — as allowed by law, and as "appropriate."

All U.S. airlines have already established their own mandatory mask requirements for passengers, and banned more than 2,700 passengers for violations of mask policies and other disruptive behavior since May. Mr. Biden's executive order, however, was met with praise from an organization representing flight attendants, who have complained of the difficulty in ensuring passengers wear face masks.

The executive order "will provide much needed back up for flight attendants and aviation workers on the frontlines," said Sara Nelson, president of Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents flight attendants at 17 airlines. "Masks are vitally important to the health of everyone onboard and an especially necessary safety measure in our workspace where proper social distancing is not an option."

Imagine how many thousands of lives would have been saved if this order had been implemented in March of last year. Alas, we'll never know.

At this late stage in the game the order is still both necessary and beneficial because we're basically months behind on efforts to stop the spread of COVID, now well into its third wave of national infections with 150K-250K cases per day and still 2-4K deaths per day. Things are improving marginally, but not by enough to prevent well more than a half-million deaths total by February's end.

However, I can't shake the feeling that given today's hyper-charged political climate by raging Trump cultists, this week is still going to be bad for a lot of bus drivers, taxi drivers, flight attendants and ride-share drivers on top of all that. The mandate will not be well-received by the Trumpists, and we're about to find out if the mandates are even enforceable, if it's not blocked by an emergency injunction this weekend.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The wheels of justice are grinding slowly, but grind on they are as Private Citizen Trump now faces a New York state judge's order to turn over documents to Attorney General Tish James's office.

A New York judge on Friday increased pressure on former President Donald J. Trump’s family business and several associates, ordering them to give state investigators documents in a civil inquiry into whether the company misstated assets to get bank loans and tax benefits.

It was the second blow that the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, had dealt to Mr. Trump’s company in recent weeks.

In December, he ordered the company, the Trump Organization, to produce records that its lawyers had tried to shield, including some related to a Westchester County, N.Y., property that is among those being scrutinized by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

On Friday, Justice Engoron went further, saying that even more documents, as well as communications with a law firm hired by the Trump Organization, had to be handed over to Ms. James’s office. In doing so, he rejected the lawyers’ claim that the documents at issue were covered by attorney-client privilege.

The ruling was a fresh reminder that Mr. Trump — who left office about a week ago under the cloud of impeachment and who is headed for a Senate trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent rampage — faces significant legal jeopardy as a private citizen.

The most serious threats confronting the former president include a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the civil inquiry by the attorney general into possible fraud in Mr. Trump’s business dealings before he was elected.

Ms. James’s investigation began in March 2019, after Michael D. Cohen, the former president’s onetime lawyer, told Congress that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements to secure bank loans and understated them elsewhere to reduce his tax bill.

Investigators in Ms. James’s office have focused their attention on an array of transactions, including a financial restructuring of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago in 2010 that resulted in the Fortress Credit Corporation forgiving debt worth more than $100 million.

Ms. James’s office has said in court documents that the Trump Organization — Mr. Trump’s main business vehicle — had thwarted efforts to determine how that money was reflected in its tax filings, and whether it was declared as income, as the law typically requires
I'm glad that Tish James isn't afraid of Trump or his army of cultists -- you don't rise to New York AG without being willing to take on massive white collar criminal enterprises like the Trump Organization -- but I do fear for her people and for James herself.
We already know Trump cultists are willing to kill for their leader. If Trump is ever actually indicted and perp-walked into a Manhattan precinct, it won't go well I'm thinking, and I have no idea how many nutjobs Trump has inside James's office or among the NYPD, but it's got to be a non-zero number. There are people who will be willing to go after James for him.

Still, the investigation moves on. If James is still getting documents, it may be some time before Trump is charged, and that may be the point.

Big Effin' Family Matters

Needing a scandal to pin on the Biden administration, Team WIN THE MORNING has now declared open season on Vice President Kamala Harris's niece, Meena Harris, all but accusing her of trading on the Harris name just like Trump's family did, daring the Biden administration to respond.

“The Vice President and her family will uphold the highest ethical standards and it’s the White House’s policy that the Vice President's name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities that could reasonably be understood to imply an endorsement or support,” SABRINA SINGH, a spokesperson for the vice president, said in a statement.

But the policy has been trickier to enforce with Meena than some other family members, given how much Kamala’s image is intertwined with her business projects.

After Biden was officially declared the winner last November, transition ethics lawyers informed Meena that she could sell the rest of her Kamala-themed apparel but could not restock the items. Phenomenal’s “Kamala Harris Swimsuit,” “phenomenal Kamala Tank,” and “Kamala T-shirt,” that appeared on the site last fall are no longer sold.

“Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” which was published in June 2020 before Biden picked Kamala as vice president, poses further ethical knots. White House officials say that Meena would be prohibited from publishing that book now because it uses Kamala’s name in the title and her likeness on the cover, which is a drawing of a younger Kamala with MAYA HARRIS, Meena’s mother.

The book doesn’t violate the White House’s policies because she published it before Kamala became vice president, they say. It’s not clear if Meena continuing to accept royalties on the book is permitted, however. Asked if she is still accepting royalties, Meena did not comment.

In a statement, she said that “throughout the primary campaign, general election, and thus far in the administration, I have gone above and beyond to uphold legal and ethical standards.”

As Meena tries to follow the letter of the law, some Biden officials have long been worried about her following the spirit of the rules.
It's not just Harris's family getting these warnings, it's coming directly from President Biden for his own family as well.
In the midst of his campaign for president, Joe Biden took his younger brother, Frank, aside to issue a warning.

“For Christ’s sake, watch yourself,” Biden said of his brother’s potential business dealings, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. “Don’t get sucked into something that would, first of all, hurt you.”

Biden, whose tone was both “jocular and serious,” according to the person, seemed to know then what is becoming plainly obvious now: His family’s business ties threatened to undermine an administration whose messaging is centered on restoring integrity in the White House.

Relatives’ money-making ventures, most prominently his son Hunter’s overseas dealings, have long dogged Biden. But it's taking on a new dimension now that he's in the White House.

Only a week into his presidency, Biden already has had to answer for matters related to his family. A law firm ad promoting Frank Biden’s relationship with the president caused a stir when it ran on Inauguration Day. A federal investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, has invited scrutiny of just how strict a firewall he’ll keep between the White House and the Justice Department. And another of the president’s brothers, James, has previously come under fire for his business dealings.


Unfair as this all is, expect a lot more of this in the weeks and months ahead. And should Republicans win the House or Senate back in 2022, absolutely expect Hunter Biden and Meena Harris to be dragged up in front of angry GOP congressional grilling for hours, if not days.

Cuomo's COVID Conundrum

The mark of a fair, impartial, and solid Attorney General is a willingness to investigate without bias or favor, and while New York AG Tish James is definitely looking into DOnald Trump and the corrupt Trump Organization, she's also looking into Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's possible coverup of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The New York Department of Health underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, according to a new report published Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The 76-page report comes after a months-long investigation by the attorney general’s office into allegations that nursing homes failed to follow coronavirus safety protocols. Her office was also investigating discrepancies between the number of nursing home deaths reported by the state’s department of health and the number of deaths reported by the facilities themselves.

The investigation found that the number of Covid deaths among nursing home residents in some facilities rose by more than 50% when residents who died in the hospital are counted. The state’s official Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes, which stands at more than 8,700, excludes patients who died after being transported to a hospital.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has faced criticism for failing to disclose the total number of nursing-home residents who have died of Covid-19. In her sweeping report, James, also a Democrat, found that “many nursing home residents died from Covid-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in D.O.H.’s published total nursing home death data.”

Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the findings.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Thursday evening that the state’s department of health has clearly and separately reported Covid-19 fatalities that occurred in nursing homes and in hospitals.

“DOH has consistently made clear that our numbers are reported based on the place of death,” he said in a statement. “DOH does not disagree that the number of people transferred from a nursing home to a hospital is an important data point, and is in the midst of auditing this data from nursing homes.”

He added that the audit of the available data is still ongoing, but preliminary findings show that at least 9,700 skilled nursing facility residents have died of Covid-19 in New York, including more than 3,800 deaths inside hospitals.

He added that the confusion over how to record Covid-19 deaths was caused by the Trump administration, which he said failed to provide adequate guidance to states.

The attorney general’s findings put her directly at odds with the governor, who has often boasted about the state’s response to the coronavirus. Cuomo has also brushed off criticism of a health department policy that directed nursing homes to accept residents who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The governor has repeatedly defended his administration’s response to the pandemic, saying that the state was poorly supported by an inept federal government caught off guard by the import of the virus
It's important to note that the AG's report doesn't openly accuse Cuomo's office of wrongdoing, but it does accuse of him of misrepresenting the numbers, and that's something Cuomo must be made to answer for. If the answer is "Because the Trump regime's reporting requirements were batshit crazy" that's one thing, but if it's not, then we have a serious problem on our hands.
We'll see where this goes, but it's important to remember Cuomo's now on his third term as Governor and he has no small amount of power. He won't have to face voters until 2023 should he decide to run for a fourth, as New York famously doesn't have term limits for Governor.

The Fast Train To Fascism

Vox's Sean Illing talks with Yale Professor Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works, about what constitutes fascism and why the Trump regime has shown all the signs of a proto-fascism movement that will be with us for a very long time.

Sean Illing

The conventional view of fascism is that it’s either an ideology or a type of government, but you see it a little differently, right? 
Jason Stanley

It’s not helpful to think of fascism as a regime type, and it’s not helpful to think of it as a set of coherent beliefs. Fascism is usually a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by immigrants, minorities, and leftists. Fascism takes many different forms in different countries, however. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States has long been regarded as the first functionally fascist organization by scholars like Robert O. Paxton.

I prefer to talk about fascist forces following Toni Morrison in a speech she gave at Howard University called “Racism and Fascism” in 1995. And what she says is that the United States has often preferred fascist solutions to its political problems. Now, what does she mean by that? Well, in that speech, she’s discussing the incarceration system that the United States had developed post-Nixon, after the civil rights movement, essentially to disenfranchise Black citizens. And the “fascist forces” were basically a system that relied on a massive militarized police for enforcement. 
Sean Illing

She’s describing a “fascist system” that exists within a larger democratic system
Jason Stanley

You can have a regime that’s a democracy and economic system that’s capitalist, but if you have massive racial injustice and massive inequality, then you’re going to have fascist social and political forces. You’re going to need a militarized police force to deal with potential uprisings from its impoverished minority neighborhoods that protect its fancy neighborhoods.

So we need to think about fascist social and political movements and fascist tactics, and then all of the background conditions that make these tactics effective. And that’s when you have to worry about a fascist leader emerging who has a kind of relationship with his followers where he can tell them that the minorities are rising up against you, that the immigrants are flooding the gates, that the elites have failed you — and that’s how the leader creates a bond with his supporters.

When this dynamic emerges, that’s when you have to worry about the formation of an actual fascist regime. 
Sean Illing

The racism component is easy enough to understand, since fascism feeds on us-them tribalism, but why is nostalgia so central to every fascist movement
Jason Stanley

If you have a dominant group that feels it was robbed of a glorious past, that feels it has to be ashamed of its glorious past, that is often the source of the most committed fascist movements. Nostalgia is an emotion. If you’re feeling anxious and somebody can convince you that your anxiety and fear and instability is due to the fact that you’ve lost something, that something was taken from you, and that you once got respect for, say, just being a white guy or just being a Hindu man, that’s powerful.

During Black Reconstruction, the famous sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois called this the psychological wages of whiteness. He was describing this extra wage you got just for being white in America, the sense that you were special and legitimate, and that was tied to this belief that you were constantly surrounded by illegitimate citizens. That conjures up a sense of loss and anxiety and a belief in a prideful past that had disappeared. And the fascist leader promises to restore that past, to restore that pride. 
Sean Illing

That’s what makes Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan such a perfect distillation of the fascist pitch. Your colleague at Yale, Timothy Snyder, calls this “the politics of eternity,” and it’s worth describing because it captures the toxic power of nostalgia.

Politics is supposed to be about striving for better policies today so that our lives can be improved tomorrow, but Trump reverses this. He anchors his discourse to a mythological past, so that voters are thinking less about the future and more about what they think they lost. It wasn’t about passing legislation or improving lives. Instead, he defined problems in such a way that they could never be solved. We can’t go back in time. We can’t retrieve some lost golden age. So his voters were always condemned to live in disappointment, which keeps that wheel of resentment spinning.
Jason Stanley

Jonathan Metzl’s book Dying of Whiteness is really good on this idea that people crave to see their opponents punished in fascist politics. Timothy Snyder calls this sadopopulism. States like West Virginia or Kansas or Tennessee, to take just a few examples, reject billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid. They cut taxes for the wealthy to destroy their public schools. All of this harms the very white people who are voting. And they’re doing it, interview after interview shows, because they believe that Medicaid expansion would help Black people, or what they consider the undeserved.

So this kind of politics, that revenge and retribution for stealing your past, is far more important than material benefits to yourself. This is the heart of fascist politics. 
Sean Illing

It’s the ultimate fascist hoodwink, right? You inflame grievances while at the same time reinforcing the conditions that brought about those grievances in the first place. 
Jason Stanley

Once you realize that American fascism is inherently connected to race, creating a toxic nostalgia about an America where Black and brown folk are responsible for the country's problems, and that being white is the "best" possible outcome in American society and that status must be defended at all costs, then you understand what MAGA is, why it's so seductive, and why people are willing to fight, die, and kill for it.
The next fascist leader already has a train and tracks ready to go for the trip to hell. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Last Call For The Coup-Coup Birds Come Home To Roost, Con't

It's far past time for the nation to refer to the events of January 6th as what they really were: a coordinated domestic terrorist attack that was designed to aid and abet Donald Trump in taking the presidency from Joe Biden.

The two pipe bombs that were discovered on Jan. 6 near the U.S. Capitol shortly before a mob stormed the building are believed to have been planted the night before, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation and video footage obtained by The Washington Post.

The explosive devices, which were placed blocks from one another at the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees, have been largely overshadowed by the violent attempted insurrection at the Capitol. But finding the person suspected of planting both bombs remains a priority for federal authorities, who last week boosted the reward for tips leading to the person’s arrest from $50,000 to $75,000.

The FBI said its agents are “using every tool in our toolbox” and have interviewed more than 1,000 residents and business owners in the neighborhood where the devices were found. On Friday morning, the FBI released additional information that confirmed The Post’s reporting about the timing of the placement of the bombs and raised the reward offered to $100,000.

The Post spoke to residents, property managers and business owners to obtain exclusive video of the suspect in the moments before the individual allegedly placed the bomb in an alley behind the Republican National Committee, one block from the Capitol grounds.

On Jan. 5 at 8:13 p.m., a security camera captured the suspect carrying a backpack, according to a resident who reviewed the footage and provided a copy to the FBI. The suspect was walking eastbound on C Street SE, headed toward an entrance to an alley that curved toward the Republican National Committee building. The Post did not obtain that footage but confirmed the homeowner’s account with a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

Seconds later, in video obtained by The Post, the suspect can be seen in the alley, known as Rumsey Court. The individual is wearing a light-colored sweatshirt and carrying a backpack near their waist, matching photographs that have been released by the FBI, and walks west past a row of homes. The suspect is believed to be walking toward the area behind the Republican National Committee building and the Capitol Hill Club to place the explosive device, according to the official familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Another video shows the suspect carrying a backpack near their waist as they approach the area where the bomb was discovered on Jan. 6. They appear to be wearing a mask and gloves. According to the law enforcement official, this is the last known sighting of the suspect before the placement of the bomb.

When federal officials asked the public for information about the suspect, they circulated still images drawn from this video. For unknown reasons, the suspect did not immediately leave the area. Another video obtained by The Post shows the suspect retracing their steps on Rumsey Court at 8:16 p.m., again walking westbound toward the RNC building. The individual is moving at a brisk pace and still carrying a backpack near their waist.

One minute later, the suspect is seen walking eastbound on Rumsey Court — away from the area where the pipe bomb was discovered. They are wearing the backpack on their back.

The same person is suspected of placing the bomb at the Democratic National Committee building, according to the FBI. It is not clear which bomb was placed first. On Friday, the FBI released an image of one of the devices. The bureau described the suspect as wearing Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes in yellow, black and gray and said that the person is believed to have placed both bombs between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5.
Again, the plan was coordinated and disseminated, with all indications that Republican members of the Trump regime and Congress were directly involved with the terrorists.

The video’s title was posed as a question, but it left little doubt about where the men who filmed it stood. They called it “The Coming Civil War?” and in its opening seconds, Jim Arroyo, who leads an Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared that the conflict had already begun.

To back up his claim, Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, one of the most far-right members of Congress. Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to the local Oath Keepers chapter a few years earlier, Mr. Arroyo recounted, and when asked if the United States was headed for a civil war, the congressman’s “response to the group was just flat out: ‘We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’”

Less than two months after the video was posted, members of the Oath Keepers were among those with links to extremist groups from around the country who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, prompting new scrutiny of the links between members of Congress and an array of organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.

Nearly 150 House Republicans supported President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to stop certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

Their ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, who like Mr. Gosar was linked to the “Stop the Steal” campaign backing Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election’s outcome.

Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has close connections to militia groups including the so-called Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one member who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, and she appeared at a rally with militia groups.

Before being elected to Congress last year, Ms. Greene used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged “false flag” attack. The liberal group Media Matters for America reported on Thursday that Ms. Greene also speculated on Facebook in 2018 that California wildfires might have been started by lasers from space, promoting a theory pushed by followers of QAnon.

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization whose role in the Jan. 6 assault, like those of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, is being investigated by the F.B.I.
All this looks like guilt by association because it is.  We already have a domestic terrorism alert from DHS now. All indications are that more terrorists attacks against Democrats and the Biden administration are being planned and readied. 
And Republicans in Congress are part of that group of terrorists.

It's About Suppression, Con't

Republicans across the country are making sure that 2020 never happens again, with an all new round of dozens of state legislature bills designed to eliminate tens of millions of Democratic votes in 2022 and beyond.

After an election filled with misinformation and lies about fraud, Republicans have doubled down with a surge of bills to further restrict voting access in recent months, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.

There are currently 106 pending bills across 28 states that would restrict access to voting, according to the data. That’s a sharp increase from nearly a year ago, when there were 35 restrictive bills pending across 15 states.

Among the Brennan Center’s findings:

  • More than a third of the bills would place new restrictions on voting by mail
  • Pennsylvania has 14 pending proposals for new voter restrictions, the most in the country. It’s followed by New Hampshire (11), Missouri (9), and Mississippi, New Jersey and Texas (8)
  • There are seven bills across four states that would limit opportunities for election day registration
  • There are also 406 bills that would expand voting access pending across 35 states, including in New York (56), Texas (53), New Jersey (37), Mississippi (39) and Missouri (21)

The restrictions come on the heels of an election in which there was record turnout and Democrat and Republican election officials alike said there was no evidence of widespread wrongdoing or fraud. There were recounts, audits and lawsuits across many states to back up those assurances. Federal and state officials called the election “the most secure in American history”.

Myrna PĂ©rez, director of the voting rights and elections program at the Brennan Center, said the surge in anti-voting legislation was “countersensical” given that there were Republican and Democratic wins in key races across the country.

“The volume of anti-voter legislation is certainly revealing that a nerve was struck,” she told me. “There are certainly people who are sensitive to the idea of more progress … It ultimately comes down to an anxiety over the browning of America and people in power are afraid of losing their position.”

Many of the restrictions have to do with placing new barriers around voting by mail, a process that a record number of Americans used in 2020 (46% of Americans cast a mail-in ballot in 2020, compared with just 19% four years ago). In Arizona, a state that Joe Biden flipped, Republicans are weighing measures that would make it easier to remove voters from a permanent mail-in voting list and to require voters to get their ballots notarized. In Pennsylvania, there are proposals in the GOP-controlled legislature to get rid of no-excuse absentee voting and to make it easier to reject a ballot based on a signature mismatch – an unreliable way to confirm a voter’s identity.

And in Georgia, a state where Democrats won stunning upsets in the presidential race and two US Senate runoffs, Republicans are exploring whether to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting and to require voters to submit a copy of their ID when they vote by mail. Again, this comes after an election in which there was record vote by mail turnout, and the state’s top election official, a Republican, loudly pushed back on accusations of fraud.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, could veto GOP-restrictions. But in Georgia and Arizona, Republicans control both the legislature and the governor’s mansion. 
There are a host of other voting restrictions states are considering:

Ten states are considering new voter ID requirements, including six states that do not currently require voters to present ID at the polls, according to the Brennan Center.

Two states, Mississippi and New Hampshire, are considering placing new limits on the kinds of IDs that can be used.
Here in Kentucky, the photo-ID requirement and absentee ballot ban was lifted for COVID-19, but that will never happen again, and in 2022 by-mail voting will be gone.
Even though Republicans have no real evidence to restrict voting due to "fraud", what constitutes fraud to them is that Democrats are ever allowed to win elections, and they will put an end to that very quickly. 

The Republican chair of Arizona's state House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Wednesday that would give the Legislature authority to override the secretary of state’s certification of its electoral votes.

GOP Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced the bill, which rewrites parts of the state's election law, such as sections on election observers and securing and auditing ballots, among other measures.

One section grants the Legislature, which is currently under GOP control, the ability to revoke the secretary of state's certification "by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration."

"The legislature may take action pursuant to this subsection without regard to whether the legislature is in regular or special session or has held committee or other hearings on the matter."

A request for comment from Arizona's secretary of state was not immediately returned.

The move comes as the Arizona GOP has faced an intraparty fight after former President Donald Trump fueled baseless claims about the election after the state went to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election — the first time in 24 years a Democrat has won the state. 

So that's just it. In Arizona, Republicans seriously want the power to simply throw out a presidential election with a simple majority of the vote of the state legislature. And why wouldn't they?

Why wouldn't any GOP gerrymandered state legislature simply do that, so that a Democrat can never again win a presidential election in that state, ever?
Why stop at presidential elections?  Why not state elections too?  Why not invalidate every Democratic victory in the state, from the local justice of the peace on up to Governor?

Democracy means nothing to these monsters.

Jim Class Zeroes

Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan will apparently not be running for the Senate seat held by the retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. With Jordan out, the seat doesn't have a frontrunner, but it also means that the Dems don't quite has a big a clown to run against.

That is if they can find anyone...

Jordan would have likely been considered a frontrunner in the GOP primary had he run for Senate. But in a statement Thursday, a spokesperson for his campaign said he would stay in the House rather than launch a Senate bid. His decision was first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Jordan's decision has major implications for the race. As a prominent Trump ally and frequent guest on conservative news channels, Jordan would have been formidable in a Republican primary and could have kept other conservatives out of the race, though he was considered unlikely to entirely clear the field of contenders.

The remaining field of possible candidates is crowded and without an obvious frontrunner. Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer who lost the 2012 Senate race, is considering a bid and is expected to run. Jane Timken, the state GOP chair, is also considering running, and several members of the House delegation in the state are weighing their options.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and former Rep. Pat Tiberi both announced they would not run. But other statewide officials, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, are potential candidates as well.

Republicans are favored to retain the seat in a state that has shifted rightward in the past decade: Trump carried it by 8 percentage points in November. But a crowded and potentially messy primary gives Democrats an opening they would not have had if Portman were running for a third term.

Jordan, who was first elected to Congress in 2006, was on the fringes of the House GOP conference for much of his tenure in the chamber, particularly given his fraught relationship with former House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Ohioan. Jordan became more prominent in the Trump era, and was one of the founders and the first chair of the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-line group of conservatives who ultimately became close Trump allies after he won the presidency.
Frankly, Jordan passing on the seat doesn't change the calculus much. Ohio Dems are in even worse shape than Kentucky Dems, and the one Democrat who could win is already in the US Senate: Sherrod Brown.
Unless he gets cloned, or somebody steps up, this seat is as good as the GOP's for another six years.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Last Call For Retribution Execution, Con't

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz came to Wyoming of all places to go after GOP "traitor" Rep. Liz Cheney, taking his Trump-fueled terrorism beef to her home turf, demanding her resignation from the Republican leadership in the House, and promising to send Washington a "message". This is completely responsible rhetoric in the wake of the January 6th Trumpist terrorist attack on the US Capitol, but apparently Matt Gaetz had to travel 2000 miles from his home state just to be an asshole and to incite more violence.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida railed against GOP Rep. Liz Cheney at the Wyoming state capitol on Thursday, stirring hundreds of Trump supporters and counter protesters after she voted to impeach the former President
The Republican party is now out of power and grappling with its future, and some elected officials like Gaetz are positioning themselves as the bearer of Trump's brand by attacking other Republicans like Cheney, who are hoping to move past it. Republican leaders have warned that the internecine fight hurts the party but Gaetz has decided to put himself at the center of it. 
"We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican party, and I intend to win it," said Gaetz on Thursday. "You can help me break a corrupt system. You can send a representative who actually represents you, and you can send Liz Cheney home -- back home to Washington, DC." 
Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, was one of only 10 Republicans to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for "incitement of insurrection" following the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6. In a statement at the time, Cheney blamed the violence -- including the death of five people -- directly on Trump, saying he "summoned," "assembled" and "lit the flame of this attack." 
"There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution," Cheney said. 
But Cheney's decision has sparked a retaliation in Wyoming, which Trump won in 2020 with nearly 70% of the vote, the most of any state in the country. 
A GOP state senator, Anthony Bouchard, has announced a 2022 campaign against the congresswoman. The Wyoming Republican state party said "there has not been a time during our tenure when we have seen this type of an outcry from our fellow Republicans, with the anger and frustration being palpable in the comments we have received." 
And over 55,000 people have apparently signed onto a petition started by Wyoming resident Shelley Horn to "recall" Cheney. Horn told CNN she doesn't consider herself a political person -- she said she "usually" makes tutus and minds "my businesses" -- but couldn't stomach her congresswoman's decision. 
"You just can't go, 'Oh well, I need to vote with my conscience.' No! Vote for what your people put you in there to do," Horn told CNN. "You're a Republican, you're supposed to back your party regardless." 
Dr. Taylor Haynes, a Trump supporter who lost in the state's 2018 gubernatorial Republican primary, told CNN, "In my view, she's done in Wyoming."
Apparently the GOP war of sedition against the United States will pick up as soon as the GOP Civil War concludes...

No matter who wins, America loses.

The Chuck And Nancy Show

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are moving ahead with plans for the big COVID-19 relief package having sufficiently learned the lesson that given the opportunity to block, delay, obfuscate or deny something that helps the American people, the GOP will take advantage of it as much as they can, and Dems have finally learned that only ruthless, bare-knuckle hardball will beat Republicans.

In separate remarks Thursday, the top two congressional Democrats said time is of the utmost importance as the virus continues to maintain its deadly — and potentially economically disastrous — grip on the U.S.

“We want it to be bipartisan always but we can’t surrender if they’re not going to be doing that,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. “We cannot not have it happen, we have to act.”

Schumer said earlier Thursday morning that “only big bold action is called for,” given the slowdown in the economy. President Joe Biden has pitched a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that would also raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a package that most Republicans have already rejected.

Centrist lawmakers in both chambers have maintained that a bipartisan deal is possible if congressional leadership will make space for one to be negotiated. But senior Democrats are increasingly dismissive of the possibility.

Republicans complained that Democrats were looking to short-circuit Biden’s bipartisan approach too soon.

“That would be a big mistake this early on. And I think they ought to attempt to try to do it the other way,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune.

If they can keep party unity, Democrats can approve coronavirus legislation without GOP support via budget reconciliation. And Schumer gave some of his strongest indications yet that this could happen soon, starting with passage of a budget resolution that unlocks reconciliation’s power.

“The Senate, as early as next week, will begin the process of considering a very strong Covid relief bill. Our preference is to make this important work bipartisan, to include input, ideas and revisions from our Republican colleagues,” Schumer said. “But if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them.”

After Mitch dicked them around for the last eight years, I'm glad that Democrats aren't caving. They know full well that they single reason they have power is because people voted for their campaign agenda, especially in Georgia, Arizona, and Colorado where they gained seats.

Dems have to deliver, and they're finally ready to do it.

The Coup-Coup Birds Come Home To Roost, Con't

If you thought FOX News incendiary device and "he of the perpetually fish-slapped visage" Tucker Carlson wasn't already a white supremacist seditionist, that was before Joe Biden was sworn in, which has apparently pushed Carlson over yet another edge hurtling toward fomenting mass violence against the American government. His opening Biden hate rant Wednesday night was something else, even by his abysmal standards:

Rather than answer our questions or improve our lives, you're bringing in people with guns to remind us that you are in charge, and dissent is illegal. That's a big change. You may have thought you were a decent American in good standing.

Ten years ago, nobody in this country would have called your views extreme. They weren't extreme then. You don't think they're extreme now. You've always considered yourself a pretty moderate person. Live your life and get along with others. That's not possible now, because the rules have changed.

You are now a dangerous insurgent. You are no different from a bloodthirsty Pashtun in Helmand Province, or an ISIS terrorist in Erbil. You're part of a guerrilla insurgency.
And at this point, the next implied sentence, "So if they are going to treat you as a domestic terrorist, maybe you should use terrorist tactics, methods, and weapons", is loud enough for even the dead to hear. It's certainly loud enough for Republicans in the Senate to hear, blocking the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security Secretary.

Senate Republicans plan to object to any efforts to quickly confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security, further delaying his confirmation as the department grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, national security concerns and President Joe Biden's ambitious immigration plans. 
In confirming the GOP's plans to filibuster, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill that "there's a number of problems" with Mayorkas' nomination. 
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pushed to have Mayorkas confirmed quickly, but Cornyn and other Senate Republicans argue that Mayorkas hasn't been properly vetted on immigration issues and are calling for an additional hearing into his nomination. The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote to break the filibuster at 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday. 
After the Senate breaks the filibuster -- which requires 51 votes -- the final confirmation vote will be Monday evening. 
The use of the filibuster -- to stall nominations or legislation -- has long been a favored tool of the minority party, something Schumer did often when trying to derail and delay the Republican agenda under then-President Donald Trump. In recent days, continued use of the filibuster on legislation became a central sticking point over a resolution that would allow the 50-50 Senate to officially organize, but the stall tactic is unlikely to be gutted further in this Congress because of resistance from some moderate Democrats. 
The Senate Homeland Security Committee held an extensive hearing into Mayorkas' qualifications to lead the department last week and voted Tuesday to move Mayorkas' nomination forward.
Republicans are really, really going out of their way to delay Mayorkas getting into his role as DHS Secretary, almost like they are trying to buy time to stop the truth from coming out about January 6th, and giving their followers additional time to possibly disrupt things further...
But that's just paranoia talking.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Last Call For Trading Places, 2021 Edition

Internet-based "pump-and-dump" stock schemes are nothing new. A big investor buys huge amounts of a penny stock and cashes out with a volume big enough to crash the stock price again, leaving all the other investors who bought the stock expecting it to go up with huge margin calls instead. This time though it's the small day-traders who are doing it, and their victims are massive hedge funds expecting continued economic catastrophe as COVID-19 rages on through our Trump-shattered economy.

GameStop is a struggling, kind of boring, mid-size retailer stuck in a legacy business — selling physical video games. But it’s also pretty much the only company anyone on Wall Street is talking about right now after its stock rose 160% in a matter of hours on Monday morning to an all-time high of $159. (By day’s end, GameStop’s price had been cut by more than half, but that still left it up more than 300% this year and almost 3,000% from its 52-week low. And it was up another 15% at Tuesday’s open.)

It isn’t GameStop’s precipitous rise, impressive as that’s been, that has everyone fascinated. Instead, it’s what is fueling that rise: concentrated buying by thousands upon thousands of small individual investors who are using sites like Reddit and Robinhood to drive up what are now being called “meme stocks.” GameStop is the best-known of these meme stocks, simply because its gains have become so outrageous. But it was preceded last year by Hertz and Kodak, which, despite having struggling businesses, saw their stock prices soar when they became Reddit darlings. And now stocks like AMC, Nokia, and Blackberry (which is, yes, still in business) have also caught Redditors’ fancy.

It’s easy to see the meme-stock boom as just a speculative bubble, and evidence of how the current stock market has lost touch with reality. Speculative bubbles in so-called “story stocks” are, after all, familiar things on Wall Street. In the late 1950s, uranium stocks soared, followed a few years later by bowling stocks, and then RV stocks. (In 1969, a company called Skyline Homes saw its shares rise twentyfold.) And we all know what happened to internet stocks in the late ’90s. But in fact, what’s happening with meme stocks is very different from those previous crazes.

In a classic speculative craze, investors may take cues from each other — the fact that everyone is buying internet stocks makes you think it’s smart to buy internet stocks — but they’re not working together to make stock prices rise.

With meme stocks, on the other hand, that’s exactly what’s happening: The small investors on the r/Wallstreetbets subreddit (which has 2 million subscribers) and other sites are taking part in a conscious collective effort to drive the prices of these stocks up. No one is in charge of this effort, though, of course, some voices are louder than others. But it is a self-organized campaign with people using the message boards to communicate with each other, encourage each other, and reassure each other (thus the many posts on r/Wallstreetbets admonishing fellow “autists” — their self-mocking term for each other — to not lose their nerve and to keep holding GameStop’s stock). Thus threads with titles “We are the captains now,” “Have no fear, GME gang. We are consolidating in preparation for tomorrow’s moon landing,” and “GME — it never has to end.”

In other words, what’s happening with GameStop looks less like a speculative bubble and more like a contemporary, internet-mediated version of the “bull raids” that were characteristic of the stock market in the early 20th century, when organized pools of investors would combine to drive stock prices up.

Perhaps more interestingly, it also looks a lot like what happened during the 2016 presidential election. Over the course of that campaign, a loosely organized community of alt-right meme lords and their followers, centered on sites like 4chan and Reddit, adeptly used social media to elevate Donald Trump’s candidacy while barraging Hillary Clinton with an endless flow of memes targeting her supposed inauthenticity and corruption. What they did, in effect, was exploit the opportunities created by social media to disrupt the normal workings of the political system, at least in part for the lolz. The traders on r/Wallstreetbets — which describes itself, tellingly, as “Like 4chan found a Bloomberg Terminal” — are trying to do the same thing to Wall Street. 
Yep, that's right. The memelords of the day-trading set have declared war on Wall Street, and there's enough capital, expertise, and timing experience when combined to cause some major hedge fund managers some real nightmares, simply by having enough leverage when banded together to flip the script on shorted stocks. 

It's probably not going to end well, but maybe this will finally bring about some badly needed Wall Street reform, not that the Biden administration doesn't already have a crapton to do.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The FBI is changing tactics on the Capitol insurrection suspects, moving to build federal conspiracy and sedition cases that carry sentences of decades in prison.

Authorities are sifting through reams of evidence—including more than 200,000 digital tips gathered from social media, members of the public, confidential informants, local news and surveillance footage, according to court filings and people involved in the cases. In recent days, investigators also have started receiving nonpublic evidence gathered from more than 500 grand jury subpoenas and search warrants, officials said, bolstering efforts to gain a clearer picture of what happened on Jan. 6.

Prosecutors already have charged more than 150 people with federal crimes related to participating in the riot, and officials said Tuesday they expected the flood of cases to slow as authorities turn to what was happening behind the scenes.

“We are going to reach a plateau in the very near future,” the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., Michael Sherwin, said, adding that investigators are increasingly focusing on “possible coordination among militia groups” and people from different states who “had a plan to travel here before the sixth and engage in criminal conduct.”

The sprawling investigation includes FBI agents who normally handle a range of other matters, including securities fraud, public corruption, drugs, and gangs, court filings show.

FBI field offices from Arizona to New York have fanned out to make arrests, search homes and interview witnesses, family members and associates. Homeland security agents and local law enforcement have also taken part in the investigation, according to the filings and people involved.

Current and former law-enforcement officials said the effort was comparable with some of the largest investigations in the FBI’s recent history, such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the Boston Marathon attack. The result has been a rapid-fire series of criminal complaints, arrest and search warrants, with grand jury indictments and more arrests, including those involving additional assaults on police officers, expected later this week.

Officials said they expected little to change in the investigation as Biden appointees take over the Justice Department. “If the evidence is there, and we can identify someone, they’re going to be charged regardless of who is in the White House,” Mr. Sherwin said.

Five died amid the violence at the Capitol, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer and a 35-year-old military veteran who was shot by police. Three died while suffering medical emergencies.

Investigators’ next challenge will be taking a cascade of low-level criminal charges like unauthorized entry into the Capitol and using them as predicate offenses that allow agents and prosecutors to dig further in their attempt to build a broader case for conspiracy, law-enforcement officials said.

“The arrest is only the starting point,” said Richard M. Frankel, the former special agent in charge of the Newark, N.J., FBI field office. “Now they can go back and say, ‘Is this an organized effort to violate Congress, and do further criminal acts?’”
In other words, the terrorists are going to be facing the rest of their lives in federal prison, as it should be. There must be overwhelming and catastrophic consequences to these acts, and they have to end any notion that they will be allowed to happen again.

The commander of the D.C. National Guard said the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, requiring higher-level sign-off to respond that cost time as the events that day spiraled out of control.

Local commanders typically have the power to take military action on their own to save lives or prevent significant property damage in an urgent situation when there isn’t enough time to obtain approval from headquarters.

But Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, said the Pentagon essentially took that power and other authorities away from him ahead of the short-lived insurrection on Jan. 6. That meant he couldn’t immediately roll out troops when he received a panicked phone call from the Capitol Police chief warning that rioters were about to enter the U.S. Capitol.

“All military commanders normally have immediate response authority to protect property, life, and in my case, federal functions — federal property and life,” Walker said in an interview. “But in this instance I did not have that authority.”

Walker and former Army secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, along with other top officials, briefed the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday behind closed doors about the events, the beginning of what is likely to become a robust congressional inquiry into the preparations for a rally that devolved into a riot at the Capitol, resulting in five people dead and representing a significant security failure.

The military, which isn’t structured to be a first responder like law enforcement, took hours to arrive at the scene primarily because the Capitol Police and the District government hadn’t asked the D.C. Guard to prepare a contingency force for a riot. The Capitol Police chief also didn’t call Walker to tell him a request for Guard backup was imminent until about 25 minutes before rioters breached the Capitol.

But the restrictions the Pentagon placed on Walker also contributed to the delay. He needed to wait for approval from McCarthy and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller before dispatching troops, even though some 40 soldiers were on standby as a quick reaction force. That standby force had been assembled in case the few hundred Guard members deployed that day on the District’s streets to assist police with traffic control and crowd management needed help, Walker said.

The Pentagon required the highest-level approval for any moves beyond that narrow mission, in part because its leaders had been lambasted for actions the D.C. Guard took during last June’s racial justice protests, including helicopters that flew low over demonstrators in D.C. Top officials concluded those maneuvers resulted from “fragmentary orders” that hadn’t received high-level approval and were looking to prevent a repeat of that situation.

“After June, the authorities were pulled back up to the secretary of defense’s office,” McCarthy said in comments to The Washington Post. “Any time we would employ troops and guardsmen in the city, you had to go through a rigorous process. As you recall, there were events in the summer that got a lot of attention, and that was part of this.”
The people that made the terrorist attack on the US Capitol three weeks ago possible weren't all just the seditious terrorists.  They were US government officials working for Trump.
Homeland Security is taking al this seriously, seriously enough to issue a National Terrorist Advistory System warning.
Using a federal system designed to warn all Americans about terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that anger "fueled by false narratives," especially unfounded claims about the 2020 presidential election, could lead some inside the country to launch attacks in the coming weeks.

"Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence," according to a bulletin issued Wednesday through the DHS National Terrorist Advisory System -- or NTAS.

The system was last used to issue a public warning a year ago, when DHS issued a bulletin over potential retaliation by Iran for the U.S. assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq days earlier. A year before that, DHS issued a bulletin through the same system to highlight the threat from foreign terrorist groups like ISIS or al-Qaida.

But over the past year, domestic terrorists "motivated by a range of issues motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities," and "long-standing racial and ethnic tension -- including opposition to immigration -- has driven [domestic terrorist] attacks," the bulletin issued Wednesday said.

"DHS is concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021 and some [domestic terrorists] may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to target elected officials and government facilities," the bulletin added.
In other words, DHS believes more domestic terrorist attacks from Trump supporters are coming.
So do I.
Be careful.
Related Posts with Thumbnails