Monday, May 31, 2021

Last Call For In Like Flynn, Con't

If you're wondering what former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is up to since the Former Guy™ pardoned him for his role in, you know, betraying his country's government, well it turns out he's openly calling for a military coup to overthrow his country's government. Again.

Avowed QAnon disciple and confessed felon retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has called for a Myanmar-like military coup in America.

“It should happen,” Donald Trump’s former national security adviser said in an astonishing declaration at a QAnon conference Sunday.

Myanmar’s military violently seized control of the country from its civilian government in late January, detained democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and top party members, and killed more than 700 protesters as of early this month. The military justified its action by claiming unproven “election fraud.”

Flynn presented his dark vision of a military coup and dictatorship in the U.S. in response to a question from the audience at the conference.

″I wanna know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” an unidentified member of the audience asked Flynn, though he pronounced the nation as “Minnimar.”

“No reason,” Flynn responded to wild screams of approval. “It should happen.”
It’s not the first time Flynn has called for a military takeover of a democratically elected government. He retweeted a message in December after Trump lost the election that called on the president to declare martial law and keep the White House by force.
They want this so badly they can taste it, and so can tens of millions of Republicans. They've already tried once. They will absolutely try again.

It's About Suppression, Con't

So it turns out late last night Democrats in the Texas state House were able to stop the Texas Senate GOP's voter suppression and election rigging bill by walking out of the final night of the yearly session, denying the GOP the quorum they needed to proceed with the bill, but that's only a temporary delay.

Texas Republicans' push to enact a slew of new voting restrictions was stymied -- at least for now -- by Democrats who walked off the state House floor late Sunday night, leaving majority Republicans without the quorum they needed to approve the bill in the final hours before a midnight deadline. 
Their move effectively killed Senate Bill 7 for this year's legislative session. But it could soon be revived: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Sunday night that he is adding "election integrity" to a list of topics lawmakers will address in a special session he plans to call. 
"Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session," Abbott said. 
Democrats left the chamber at about 10:45 p.m., CT, leaving Republican Speaker Dade Phelan to concede that the House did not have the 100 members necessary for a quorum and to adjourn the House for the night. 
Republicans in Texas had sought to join Florida, Georgia and other GOP-controlled states that have seized on former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election and adopted new restrictions that will make it harder for some of their residents to vote. 
It's not yet clear when Abbott will call the special session. It's also not clear whether Republicans will enter the special session set on approving SB 7 as it's currently drafted or will seek to make further changes.
Frankly, Texas Republicans could easily make the bill even worse, and almost certainly will in order to further punish Democrats. Abbott has months in which to call the session, and Texas Republicans will almost certainly be afforded the time to make the bill as nasty as possible.
Dems won the battle here, and they are to be commended. But the war is almost certainly lost.

Cruisin' For A Losin', Con't

Gov. Florida Man Ron DeSantis is doubling down on his ban on cruise lines requiring vaccine information or even asking for it, saying that the taxpayers of Florida will be very happy with the $5,000 fine per passenger and worker windfall from the cruise companies. 
Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t wavering from his ban on “vaccine passports” as a cruise line has received federal approval to set sail from a Florida port next month if passengers and crew members are inoculated against COVID-19.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, the governor maintained that Florida won’t exempt cruise lines from a new law, which goes into effect July 1, that imposes a fine of $5,000 for each customer asked to provide proof of a coronavirus vaccination. DeSantis said he also expects the state to win its lawsuit challenging federal restrictions that have idled the cruise ship industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are going to enforce Florida law,” DeSantis told reporters Friday at the LifeScience Logistics Distribution Center in Lakeland. “I mean, we have Florida law. We have laws that protect the people and the privacy of our citizens, and we are going to enforce it. In fact, I have no choice but to enforce it.”

DeSantis, who signed the “passport” bill into law on May 3, also said “we provided vaccine for a lot of their workers,” referring to the cruise industry. “Nobody has fought harder, not just for cruises, but the entire leisure and hospitality sector in this state in its history than me,” the Republican governor, who is seeking re-election to his post next year, said Friday.

Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Group, has drawn approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and could begin operating out of Port Everglades by the end of June. The approval requires 100% of crew members and 95% of passengers to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday has given state and federal attorneys until Tuesday to settle Florida’s lawsuit challenging the cruise restrictions. According to court documents, lawyers from both sides held a settlement conference on Thursday and are scheduled to meet again Tuesday.
Norwegian Cruise Line will restart its U.S. sailings, which have been on hold for over a year, with weeklong cruises to Alaska this summer.

The Miami-based flagship brand from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE: NCLH) announced plans to resume cruises from Seattle in August. It would mark the company's first U.S. cruise with since March 2020, when the entire industry was forced to suspend voyages as passenger ships became hot spots for the spread of the virus.

Passengers and crew aboard Norwegian Bliss must be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to board the ship in Seattle.

The announcement from Norwegian notably leaves out when it will resume cruises from South Florida, once home to its largest ships. The plan, released Monday, follows an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis that bars companies that accept state dollars from requiring proof of vaccination from any customers.

Norwegian will resume voyages with fully vaccinated passengers and crew elsewhere.

The cruise company previously stated the state's ban on "vaccine passports" complicates its plan to resume voyages in South Florida, once the cruise capital of the world.

"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we [can't] operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from," CEO Frank Del Rio said during a first quarter earnings call May 6." We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would've gone to Florida. We certainly hope that doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida, it's a very lucrative market, it's close drive market — but it is an issue, [we] can't ignore it."

We'll see who blinks first., negotiation or not.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Last Call For Israeli A Problem, Con't

The one thing that's kept Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in power for the last two years, despite a massive corruption and bribery scandal, is the fact that the opposition hasn't been able to put enough votes together in the Knesset to oust him and form a new government. In fact, Israel is on its fifth attempt to do so in two years, and Netanyahu has remained in power out of sheer bloody-minded inertia.

A diverse coalition of Israeli opposition parties said Sunday that they have the votes to form a unity government to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader and its dominant political figure for more than a decade.

Under their agreement, reached after weeks of negotiations spearheaded by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, former Netanyahu defense minister and ally Naftali Bennett will lead a power-sharing government. Bennett, 49, would serve as Israel’s next prime minister, according to terms of the deal reported by Israeli media, to be succeeded in that role by Lapid, 57, at a later date.

“We could go to fifth elections, sixth elections, until our home falls upon us, or we could stop the madness and take responsibility,” Bennett said in a televised statement Sunday evening. “Today, I would like to announce that I intend to join my friend Yair Lapid in forming a unity government.”

Lapid is expected on Monday to inform President Reuven Rivlin of his ability to form a government with the support of Bennett, and will have a week to finalize coalition deals. At the end of the week, the government will come up for a vote of confidence in the Knesset.

Netanyahu, 71, has struggled to hold onto power after four inconclusive elections in the past two years while facing an ongoing corruption trial. Bennett is one of several former loyalists who have flirted with joining the so-called change coalition, a collection of parties that span the political spectrum but share a desire to end Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.

Their announcement follows the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip this month, which some analysts speculated would help bolster the embattled Netanyahu. At the outset of the fighting, Bennett, a former Netanyahu protege who had been poised to join a unity government with Lapid, said the military operation, which killed more than 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, had ended his interest in joining with the anti-Netanyahu coalition, which has the support of left-leaning and Arab parties.
But after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took hold May 21, criticism of Netanyahu surged again. Some 47 percent of Israelis said they opposed the cease-fire and 67 percent said they expected another round of fighting with Hamas within the next three years, according to opinion polls published last week by Israel’s Channel 12.

Netanyahu’s rivals said the operation lacked a coherent or long-term strategy and that Netanyahu’s failure to stop Hamas rocket fire from raining down on Israel or secure the remains of Israeli soldiers was further proof of his need to leave office.

“With the best intelligence and air force in the world, Netanyahu managed to extract from Hamas an ‘unconditional cease-fire.’ Embarrassing,” tweeted Gideon Saar, another former Netanyahu protege now with the change coalition.
Amazingly enough, it seems that Netanyahu's far right flank has turned on him not because of his nearly two decades of making the Palestinians suffer, but because he hasn't made them suffer enough

Still, even an ousted Netanyahu facing felony prison time will remain dangerous. Count on that.

It's About Suppression, Con't

Texas takes the lead in the voter suppression and election fascism Olympics as GOP state lawmakers passed an omnibus slate of voting and election measures Sunday that will, among other things, allow judges to overturn elections very easily and without evidence, and the Texas Senate broke their own rules in order to pass it.

Texas is one of several Republican-led states — including Iowa, Georgia and Florida — that have moved since the 2020 presidential contest to pass new laws governing elections and restricting voting. The impetus is both Republicans’ desire to appease their base, much of which continues to believe former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and the party’s worries about a changing electorate that could threaten the G.O.P.’s longtime grip on power in places like Texas, the second-biggest state in the country.

In a statement on Saturday, President Biden called the proposed law, along with similar measures in Georgia and Florida, “an assault on democracy” that disproportionately targeted “Black and Brown Americans.” He called on lawmakers to address the issue by passing Democratic voting bills that are pending in Congress.

“It’s wrong and un-American,” Mr. Biden said. “In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”

Republican state lawmakers have often cited voters’ worries about election fraud — fears stoked by Mr. Trump, other Republicans and the conservative media — to justify new voting restrictions, despite the fact that there has been no evidence of widespread fraud in recent American elections.

And in their election push, Republicans have powered past the objections of Democrats, voting rights groups and major corporations. Companies like American Airlines, Dell Technologies and Microsoft spoke out against the Texas legislation soon after the bill was introduced, but the pressure has been largely ineffective so far.

The final 67-page bill, known as S.B. 7, proved to be an amalgamation of two omnibus voting bills that had worked their way through the state’s Legislature. It included many of the provisions originally introduced by Republicans, but lawmakers dropped some of the most stringent ones, like a regulation on the allocation of voting machines that would have led to the closure of polling places in communities of color and a measure that would have permitted partisan poll watchers to record the voting process on video.

Still, the bill includes a provision that could make overturning an election easier. Texas election law had stated that reversing the results of an election because of fraud accusations required proving that illicit votes had actually resulted in a wrongful victory. If the bill passes, the number of fraudulent votes required to do so would simply need to be equal to the winning vote differential; it would not matter for whom the fraudulent votes had been cast.

Democrats and voting rights groups were quick to condemn the bill.

“S.B. 7 is a ruthless piece of legislation,” said Sarah Labowitz, the policy and advocacy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. “It targets voters of color and voters with disabilities, in a state that’s already the most difficult place to vote in the country.”

But Republicans celebrated the proposed law and bristled at the criticism from Mr. Biden and others.

“As the White House and national Democrats work together to minimize election integrity, the Texas Legislature continues to fight for accessible and secure elections,” State Senator Bryan Hughes, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “In Texas, we do not bend to headlines, corporate virtue signaling, or suppression of election integrity, even if it comes from the president of the United States.”
As I've said before, Texas is much less of a red state than it is a non-voting, voter suppression state, and it was already the worst state to try to vote in before this law. 
On top of all this, the law gives poll watchers unprecedented authority to directly interfere with voters, making it a crime for watchers to be denied access to voting areas and election officials. where they are free to harass voters.

Finally, surveillance video of all vote counting must be provided by each county and made public, so that poll watcher groups or anyone can sue individual counties over "election fraud".

Such laws would have been dismantled by the Voting Rights Act previously. But the VRA is dead thanks to the Roberts Court. And new voting laws will never survive a guaranteed GOP filibuster.

Our country my never survive the lack of them.

Sunday Long Read: The Olympia Gambit

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from Vanity Fair's Joshua Hunt, who details the theft of Magritte's Olympia, stolen from a private museum in Brussels and ransomed for millions. It's the story of Section Art, Belgium's dedicated art theft recovery squad, and the people who operate there, because it turns out that art theft and ransom is both profitable and quite possibly done so to fund terrorist attacks.
The doorbell rang at 135 Rue Esseghem, a modest row house in Jette, a Brussels suburb. The concierge was occupied with a pair of Japanese tourists visiting the apartment, which had been home to the surrealist painter René Magritte and his wife, Georgette Berger, from 1930 until 1954, and was now a private museum. It was shortly after 10 a.m. on September 24, 2009. When she excused herself to answer the door, the concierge found two young men waiting at the threshold. One of them asked if visiting hours had begun; the other placed a pistol against her head and forced his way inside.

The armed men quickly rounded up both tourists and the three staff members on duty, leaving them kneeling in the museum’s small courtyard, where Magritte had hosted weekly gatherings for painters, musicians, and intellectuals. With the hostages out of their way, one of the thieves jumped the glass partition protecting the tiny museum’s centerpiece: Olympia, a 1948 portrait of the late artist’s wife, pictured nude with a seashell resting on her stomach. The painting measured 60 by 80 centimeters and was estimated to be worth 2 million euros. Belgian police arrived within minutes, summoned by an alarm triggered by the removal of the painting. But by that time, the thieves had returned to a getaway car that sped off toward the neighboring suburb of Laeken.

It was uncommon in those days for small museums to bother installing surveillance cameras, so police had to rely on sketches of the two suspects, who appeared to be in their 20s. Interpol described one suspect as short, of Asian descent, and an English speaker, while the other was described as a bit taller, of European or North African descent, and a French speaker. Brazen as it was, the robbery seemed to be the work of professionals—a daring, high-value heist carried out with speed and precision by men who knew how to handle weapons, how to deal effectively with hostages, and how quickly to expect a police response. They had also been clever about selecting their target. Magritte, whose surrealist paintings influenced the work of Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns, is a national treasure in Belgium, where a number of museums display his work. But the thieves had avoided larger, more secure metropolitan museums in favor of one exceptionally valuable painting from the artist’s former home, open only by appointment, leaving slim chance they would arrive to find it packed with more visitors than they could manage.

With little to go on, one of the first police officers to reach the crime scene called someone he knew could help: Lucas Verhaegen, a veteran officer with Belgium’s Federal Police force in a specialized unit called Section Art. Last August, when I met Verhaegen at police headquarters in central Brussels, he recalled the investigation from behind his tidy desk, next to a table piled high with old case files. He wore gray slacks, a short-sleeve button-up, and the scuffed black dress shoes favored by detectives and those who play them on TV. His face served as its own good-cop-bad-cop routine: friendly, disarming smile; penetrating blue eyes.

“They know very well what they must do when there is a theft,” Verhaegen said of Belgium’s local police. “But when it’s art theft, what we need is a very good description, a photo; a maximum of information, very quickly, because we know that a lot of stolen objects go abroad. In the first hour, sometimes it’s in another country.”

Verhaegen was 51 at the time of the Magritte heist and had been a cop for two decades. It was a childhood dream that he pursued only after earning degrees in agronomy and biochemistry, then working for a few years in the private sector. His law enforcement career began with a five-year stint on the local police force in Brussels, where he patrolled the central district of Belgium’s capital city. Next he worked as part of a special intervention unit that investigated organized crime and managed underworld informants; he specialized in Eastern Europe. When he joined Section Art in August 2005, Verhaegen’s years of particular experience proved surprisingly useful: Serbian gangs are heavily involved in trafficking stolen art and antiquities, Verhaegen told me, along with organized crime networks that can be traced to Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and elsewhere in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

“Our borders are open,” Verhaegen said. “It’s very easy to do an important art theft here in Belgium and then the same night, or 15 hours later, they are in Croatia or in Albania. There they can sell [the art] to finance their own criminal activities: drugs, arms, prostitution.” 
You know me, I love a good true crime story, especially if it's a sophisticated art heist.  This one's a good story and then some.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Obamacare 2: Bidencare

Getting Medicaid expansion to red states that have turned it down has been a major Biden campaign promise, but keeping that promise won't be easy, or cheap, and like everything else the Dems are trying to do, they're running out of time before they potentially lose the House, Senate, or both.

Democratic lawmakers are rallying around an effort to extend health insurance in states that have refused to expand Medicaid, believing they have a limited window to help millions who’ve been unable to get coverage because of intractable GOP opposition to the Obamacare program.

Democrats had hoped that President Joe Biden’s election, along with the promise of new federal cash from the recent Covid relief package for states to expand Medicaid, would move at least some of the dozen remaining holdout states. But there’s little indication those states are budging, which is energizing a push among Democratic lawmakers for a new federal program guaranteeing coverage for low-income adults long shut out of Medicaid expansion.

“I think in most of them, like Texas, it's not a question of dollars, it’s a question of wanting to be ideologically opposed to any additional role for government in helping impoverished people,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), the House Ways and Means health subcommittee chairman, who’s working on a coverage proposal. “The only way we overcome that is through a federal initiative.”

Expanding coverage to the estimated 2.2 million people lacking affordable health insurance options in the Medicaid expansion holdout states would fulfill a Biden campaign pledge while his other key health care promises, like government drug price negotiations and a public option, face tough odds in Congress. Democrats also believe it would deliver a major win for their party heading into tightly contested midterm elections next year, given that Medicaid expansion has polled well — including in states where Republican leaders have blocked it for years.

However, the new effort carries risks that Democratic lawmakers, White House officials and health care advocates have been struggling to resolve in behind-the-scenes discussions over the past few months, say people involved in those talks. One challenge is designing a program that won’t invite backlash from a health care industry ready to battle Democrats on other sweeping changes. Another concern is inadvertently rewarding states that blocked Medicaid expansion for years. Any plan would also come with a steep price tag.

"There is pretty universal acknowledgment that action is needed to address the population,” said Henry Connelly, spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Everyone is exploring ways to get it done.”

Democratic lawmakers are weighing a few options that could potentially get wrapped into a major economic package they hope to pass along party lines this year. But they haven’t yet agreed on an approach, and Democratic leaders are facing competing demands to use upcoming infrastructure legislation to expand Medicare eligibility and benefits, mandate drug price negotiations and bolster Obamacare subsidies.
Health care advocates caution that Democrats have limited time to address stalled progress on Medicaid expansion — seen as the biggest unfinished piece of the Affordable Care Act — while the party controls Washington for the first time since the law’s passage a decade ago.

“This is the moment,” said Judy Solomon, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “This is probably the only moment that we’ll have for years.”
Maybe I'm being fatalistic but my entire life has been "Democrats with a limited 2-year window of doing the right thing, making limited progress, then seeing a lot of that progress destroyed by Republicans" and yeah, I want to see things improve dramatically, for once.

In a lot of ways it has already.

The Poll-Asked Look, Con't

As CNN's Harry Enten notes, President Biden's poll numbers have improved dramatically among Hispanic voters. Whether or not that translates to the rest of the Democratic party, we'll see.

Hispanic voters were one of President Joe Biden's biggest weaknesses in the 2020 election. Although sources differ on his exact margin, Biden's advantage with Hispanics was the worst for a Democratic presidential nominee since 2004 -- even as he had the strongest performance overall for a Democrat since 2008. 
A look at recent history and polling reveals, however, that Biden may be primed for a comeback among Hispanics for a simple reason: He's now the incumbent. 
Take a look at Gallup polling during the Biden presidency. Aggregating all the polls it has conducted so far (in order to get a large sample size), Biden's approval rating with Hispanics stands at 72% compared to a 55% overall approval rating. 
That 72% is a clear improvement from how Biden did in the election with Hispanics. Biden won 65% of Hispanics, according to the network exit polls. An estimate from the Democratic firm Catalist (which lines up well with what we saw in pre-election polls) had Biden taking 61% of Hispanics. So this Gallup data suggests Biden's support may be up anywhere from 7 to 11 points from the election. 
Biden is doing better overall now than he did in the election. His approval rating is at 55% in the Gallup data we're using here. Even controlling for a higher approval rating overall, Biden has had a disproportionate rise in support from Hispanics. He's now doing 17 points better with Hispanics than overall, while he was doing 10 to 14 points better with them in the 2020 election. 
Keep in mind, too, that unlike in an election, there are undecideds allowed in a poll. If we allocate undecideds equally between approval and disapproval for both Hispanics and overall, Biden's approval rating is about 20 points higher with Hispanics than overall in Gallup polling. 
(An average of recent CNN/SSRS, Fox News, Marist College and Quinnipiac University polls compared to their pre-election equivalent finds that Biden has had a similar disproportionate rise with Hispanics.) 
This 20-point gap between how Hispanics and adults overall feel about Biden is wider than the last Democratic president saw in his first months on the job. 
In aggregated Gallup data with undecideds allocated, Barack Obama's approval rating was 17 points higher with Hispanics than overall in the first four months of his presidency. In the 2008 election, Obama did 14 points better in the exit polls with Hispanics than overall. 
Obama saw an improvement with Hispanics relative to his overall performance, but not to the same extent that Biden may be getting.
So the GOP nonsense that Hispanic/Latino voters are going to the Republican party is...surprise!...absolute nonsense. And now that Joe Biden has had a chance to prove to Americans how much better he is at the job than the Former Guy™ it turns out that people love him.

Go figure.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Last Call For The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

As Steve Benen explains, Joe Manchin's theory that there are good Republicans left in the Senate was tested today, and he and the GOP failed miserably as Mitch McConnell sank the bipartisan January 6th commission with a filibuster blockade.

Indeed, the pieces were in place for Manchin to prove that his approach worked. Most Democrats and Republicans agreed that there was an insurrectionist attack on our seat of government. The parties also agreed on the need for an examination. There were bipartisan negotiations, concessions from both sides, and an eventual compromise agreement.

If Manchin were literally writing a script as to how political disputes should be resolved, it would look exactly like this.

As recently as late last week, the senator assured reporters there was a "very, very good chance" the Senate would pass the bipartisan proposal, adding that he hoped there were at least "10 good, solid patriots" among Senate Republicans.

Manchin didn't just want to believe this, he needed to believe this. If Republicans rejected a bipartisan compromise, prioritizing politics and electoral strategies over country, then his entire vision of how Congress can operate would be shattered.

We don't need to change the Senate's filibuster rules, Manchin tells us, we simply need well-intentioned officials to sit down, talk, listen, compromise, and reach responsible agreements.

It's an idea with hypothetical appeal. But in practice, a clear majority of Senate Republicans just told the conservative Democrat that his model doesn't work. The parties reached a consensus, and GOP leaders decided they didn't much care.

The only responsible way forward is for Manchin to consider the implication of today's lesson. If 10 Senate Republicans won't accept a bipartisan plan for a Jan. 6 commission -- after they endorsed the idea and accepted Democratic concessions -- why in the world would anyone think GOP officials would work in good faith toward a sensible agreement on infrastructure? And voting rights? And immigration? And literally every other meaningful policy dispute under the sun?

Or put another way, now that McConnell and his Republican have discredited Manchin's preferred model, what is he prepared to replace it with?
Manchin's answer of course, is not to replace it at all. 

His answer is to do nothing. As for his collegue Kyrsten Sinema?

She skipped town before the vote, along with nearly ten vulnerable Republicans who don't have to answer in 2022.

So where do we go from here?

Our Little White SUpremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Somebody, in this case Capitol Hill reporting service Congressional Quarterly, finally got around to asking House staffers how they felt being targeted in the January 6th terror attack, and how they are coping. The answer, not very well, especially with their Republican House bosses denying the trauma they lived through.
A congressional staffer froze recently when elevator doors opened and there stood a member of the House who has downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Some congressional employees are shaken by what they see as the whitewashing of the attack, and the denials have reignited lingering trauma.

One House employee who works in the Capitol building and heard the rioters banging on their office door said seeing the lawmakers try to erase the destruction is jarring.

Thirteen staffers interviewed by CQ Roll Call, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about their mental health and how they are coping, point to comments like those from Rep. Andrew Clyde. Despite helping barricade the House chamber from rioters, the Georgia Republican downplayed the events of Jan. 6 at a hearing earlier this month as “acts of vandalism” and said the rioters were “orderly” and looked like “a normal tourist visit.”

Five people died in the attack, including a police officer. Two officers died by suicide after the violence. Some officers have brain injuries; one lost an eye.

“When I see those members in the hallway or the basement, I think to myself that they wouldn’t care if I was dead,” one staffer told CQ Roll Call.

Staffers from both sides of the aisle told CQ Roll Call that denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers themselves experienced firsthand feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy.
When an alert went out on April 2 that there was an “external threat,” some staffers said their hearts raced. They said the previously routine safety notifications now carry a heavier weight, particularly since the vague alert language is the same used to describe the thousands of violent rioters on Jan. 6.

A senior legislative staffer in the House said the April 2 alert and lockdown brought back difficult memories and anxious feelings from Jan. 6.

“Today’s alert was the same terminology as the 6th, ‘external security threat,’” the staffer told CQ Roll Call via text on April 2. “Today it was a car; on the 6th it was an insurrectionist mob.”

Staffers said they know the alerts are intended to keep them safe but the vague language begs more questions than answers.

“It used to be like you’d get a suspicious package notification and be like some kid, some Boy Scout troop or lobbying day person left their bag or something outside someone’s office,” one House legislative director said. “You just kind of assumed the best.”

But his thinking has shifted since Jan. 6.

“Now you’re thinking: There’s a suspicious package. Did someone plant a package so everyone is evacuated and runs outside, where they can have guns? Are they waiting for us? Is it part of a plot?” he said.

Some staffers said they ponder what dying at work would be like and if working in Congress is worth those stakes.

One manager told CQ Roll Call his team is concerned about being targeted, including when trying to enter the building where they work.

“The idea of standing outside Longworth in a 30-person line is making us nervous,” he said. “Now we’re aware that if someone wants to cause harm, there are 30 unprotected staffers all just standing in a row.”

This House legislative director returned to working in Congress during the pandemic, drawn back from the nonprofit sector. He is reconsidering his long-term plan.

“I don’t regret going back to the Hill, but I don’t feel like dying at work,” he told CQ Roll Call.

A Senate Democratic aide who leads a team said he is constantly worried about the safety of his staff.

“I’m not sure all the mental health support in the world will do anything if the danger remains present and anyone with a violent thought in their head can get to the buildings,” he said in April.
Staffers being treated like garbage goes with the territory on both sides of the aisle, but it's got to be something else to see your boss gaslight your own trauma.

So I have to ask, House GOP staffers. You know you're expendable. Why work for these ghouls?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Last Call For Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

We're at the point now where one in six American adults believe "patriots" will have to resort to violence to "save our country" and I'd like to remind you that means about 30 million people or so are ready to throw down for a civil war or three, as a new PRRI poll finds some depressing news.

A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” while the vast majority of Americans (82%) disagree with this statement. Republicans (23%) are significantly more likely than independents (14%) and Democrats (8%) to agree that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.

Similarly, one in five Americans (20%) agree with the statement “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” while a majority (77%) disagree. Nearly three in ten Republicans (28%), compared to 18% of independents and 14% of Democrats, agree with this secondary QAnon conspiracy theory. Trends among demographic groups are similar to those of the core QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fifteen percent of Americans agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while the vast majority (85%) disagree. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as independents (13%) and four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence.

The sources that Americans turn to for news are closely linked with openness to QAnon views. Americans are most likely to say the television news sources they trust most to provide accurate information about politics and current events are the major broadcast networks (17%), such as ABC, CBS, and NBC. One in ten or more report most trusting local television news (13%), Fox News (11%), and CNN (10%). Fewer rely on public television (8%), MSNBC (5%), and far-right news networks (3%) such as One America News Network (OANN) and Newsmax. Three in ten (30%) say that they do not watch television news, and 2% report turning to some other source.

Around four in ten Americans who say they most trust far-right news outlets such as OANN and Newsmax (40%) for television news agree with the statement that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.” Around one in five Americans who do not watch television news (21%) and trust Fox News (18%) agree. Around one in ten Americans or less who trust local news (12%), CNN (11%), broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, and NBC (8%), public television (7%), and MSNBC (5%) believe this core tenet of QAnon.

Nearly half of Americans who trust far-right news (48%) and one-third who trust Fox News (34%) agree with the statement that “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.” About one in five who do not watch television news (22%), those who report trusting local news most (18%), and those who report trusting CNN most (17%) agree with this theory. Fewer Americans who trust MSNBC (14%), broadcast news (12%) or public television (11%) agree.

Around four in ten Americans who most trust far-right news sources (42%) and around one in four who most trust Fox News (27%) agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Less than one in five Americans who do not watch television news (19%) or who trust local news (16%) agree, and less than one in ten who trust CNN (9%), broadcast news (8%), public television (7%), or MSNBC (7%) agree.
The absolutely vile right-wing noise machine is fomenting, best-case scenario here, multiple terrorist attacks against the US government and Democrats in particular. Worst-case, it's 1861 again. I think people are badly underplaying how widespread the threat is here. 

We're talking tens of millions of radicalized Americans, and if even one percent of them acted, it would still be catastrophe for the nation.

I honestly believe it's coming, and soon, and the return of Trump's hate rallies next month will only add napalm to the fires.

The teams behind the poll determined that 14 percent of Americans fall into the category of “QAnon believers,” composed of those who agreed with the statements in all three questions. Among Republicans only, that rises to roughly one in four. (Twelve percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats were categorized as QAnon believers.)

But the analysts went a level further: They created a category labeled “QAnon doubters” to include respondents who had said they “mostly disagreed” with the outlandish statements, but didn’t reject them outright. Another 55 percent of Republicans fell into this more ambivalent category.

Which means that just one in five Republicans fully rejected the premises of the QAnon conspiracy theory. For Democrats, 58 percent were flat-out QAnon rejecters.

Mr. Jones said he was struck by the prevalence of QAnon’s adherents. Overlaying the share of poll respondents who expressed belief in its core principles over the country’s total population, “that’s more than 30 million people,” he said.

“Thinking about QAnon, if it were a religion, it would be as big as all white evangelical Protestants, or all white mainline Protestants,” he added. “So it lines up there with a major religious group.
One in seven American adults are indoctrinated fully into a violent death cult.

We will not emerge from this without a ruinous cost.

(Un)Vaccination Nation

Ohio Republicans are about to get rid of vaccine requirements and make them illegal. Not making COVID vaccine requirements illegal,making all vaccine requirements illegal.

Through PSAs, press appearances with doctors, and even launching an unheard of $1 million lottery for immunized residents, GOP Gov. Mike DeWine wants to persuade Ohioans to choose to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

He said the facts on vaccines, which are credited with saving millions of lives and eradicating smallpox from the face of the earth, will win out.

Republicans in the state General Assembly, meanwhile, are pushing sweeping legislation to weaken Ohio’s vaccination laws — for all vaccines, not just COVID-19. On Tuesday, anti-vaccination activists crammed into the House Health Committee hearing room to testify in support of House Bill 248.

The legislation would ban vaccine requirements on customers, employees or students from businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, K-12 schools, colleges, daycares, or others. It would also prevent governments, insurers, or businesses from offering incentives for people to get vaccinated, or even requesting that people get vaccinated.

In interviews, public health experts warned the legislation would hold the door open for infectious diseases to spread among Ohioans.

Under the bill, a small business owned by asthmatics or cancer survivors — both of whom are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications — would have no legal right to require or even request that employees or customers who come inside be vaccinated. That’s according to Dorit Reiss, a professor with a focus on vaccine policy from the UC Hastings College of Law.

“It’s against business rights, it’s against the individual rights of private businesses, it’s against safety, and it’s in support of the virus,” she said.
Ohio already allows parents to exempt kids from vaccinations out of choice (and the state's vaccination level among children has dropped to 88%), but this would essentially reverse decades of medical science and thousands would end up suffering from preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella.

But Republicans are bound and determined to kill as many Ohioans as possible. Everyone has to suffer and die for their utter stupidity. DeWine, for his part, is trying to stop this bill, but he can easily be overridden.

We'll see if Ohio becomes a third world country.

The Big Lie, Con't

We go from Arizona across the country to New Hampshire, where The Big Lie is running into problems in the Granite State like a stone wall, and Trump continues to be a blockhead.

Outside a nondescript building, guarded 24/7 by state troopers, the leaders of Windham's election audit field questions on the type of tape they're using to seal boxes, why the livestream briefly failed and whether any ballot boxes have gone missing. 
Unlike audits of 2020 election results that have popped up in Arizona and Georgia, New Hampshire's audit arose from a tangible gap in vote tallies in a race for state representative. Auditors have said their early assessment reveals no sign of fraud and instead points to human errors that they don't believe are pervasive statewide. 
Even so, the bipartisan audit has become a flashpoint in this small town. And some conservatives are clinging to claims that the issue in Windham could point to broader election integrity problems throughout New Hampshire or even beyond. 
Harri Hursti, an expert in electronic voting security and part of the three-man team leading the audit, said he's been surprised at the level of "malicious misinformation" swirling around the audit. 
"I'm a little bit surprised at the level of confusion and the level of deliberate trolling," Hursti said. "The level of this is more than I expected. Nevertheless, we have to get the truth out. We have to make sure that people have the facts." 
While the Windham audit wraps up this week, the 2020 election conspiracy theories are sure to persist. Among those amplifying them: former President Donald Trump and his allies. In a statement Monday night, Trump seized on the errors auditors are uncovering in New Hampshire and then claimed -- without any supporting evidence -- that Democrats were somehow behind it. 
"Why aren't Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans doing anything about what went on in the 2020 Election? How can the Democrats be allowed to get away with this?" Trump said. 
Trump's longtime political ally Corey Lewandowski, who lives in Windham, has also seized on the audit as evidence that there are voter discrepancies elsewhere. 
"This isn't just about the town of Windham," Lewandowski said at an event flanked by conservatives who are pushing for an even broader audit in New Hampshire. "We're seeing things take place across this entire country." 
There's no indication that the presidential tallies were miscounted, and Trump's race is not being audited here. He lost the state by nearly 60,000 votes and -- even if Trump had managed to turn his fortunes around -- New Hampshire's four electoral votes would not have been enough to land him back in the Oval Office.
Every audit the doesn't somehow prove a massive democratic party conspiracy somehow still proves and even worse Democratic party conspiracy, you see. It'll never end, until we get rid of elections entirely and just declare Republicans the permanent winners in everything.

At the very least, it'll be used to justify the next wave of political violence against Democratic candidates and voters, and if election nullification comes along like I expect it will in 2022, it will be widespread and lethal violence.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Last Call For Climate Of Rage, Con't

Banks increasingly see fossil fuel technology as something they should divest from because of green energy becoming more efficient and profitable daily, but since the President is a Democrat now, Republicans are here to make sure that if banks actually do that, Republicans will divest of the banks.

More than a dozen Republican state treasurers are threatening to pull assets from large financial institutions if they agree to decarbonize their lending and investment portfolios, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Biden administration — led by special presidential climate envoy John Kerry — has leaned on the banks to help reduce U.S. carbon emissions. That's prompted GOP lawmakers to criticize efforts to "de-bank" fossil fuel firms. The treasurers collectively control hundreds of billions worth of assets. Fifteen of them, led by coal-heavy West Virginia, say they're prepared to use this financial muscle to push back. The effort includes treasurers from other states with large energy industry presences such as North Dakota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

What's happening: The state officials sent a letter on Tuesday to Kerry, who's leading the administration's efforts to enlist banks in its climate policy fight. 
"We intend to put banks and financial institutions on notice of our position, as we urge them not to give in to pressure from the Biden administration to refuse to lend to or invest in coal, oil and natural gas companies," the officials wrote. 
In an interview with Axios, West Virginia state Treasurer Riley Moore said he was prepared to terminate contracts with banks that pull back their fossil fuel industry lending in response to administration pressure. "Frankly, it is not fair for the people of West Virginia to allow a bank to handle our money when they're diametrically opposed to our way of life," Moore said.

What they're saying: Moore called the issue "a matter of life and death for my people." He said coal and gas operators in his state have reported difficulties obtaining financing from banks blaming pressure from the Biden administration to try to "green" their portfolios. "If you just cut these guys off at the knees — gas and coal in a state like West Virginia — and they can no longer conduct their business ... it is going to destroy us," Moore said. He cited the industries' heavy jobs footprint and contributions to the state's tax base. 
A State Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Between the lines: The state officials signing the letter collectively manage more than $600 billion in assets in state treasuries, pension funds and other government accounts, according to publicly available financials and information provided by the state treasurer offices.
Republicans are clearly preparing to turn this into another CANCEL CULTURE and HOW THEY DESPISE THE RURAL WHITE VOTER moment, but I bet the federal government has a lot more financial pull than just $600 billion, guys. Bankers are a lot of things, evil, greedy, mean, but they are not stupid, and they know how to count money.
Besides, it's not like rural white voters can hate Democratic politicians any more than they already do.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

After two years, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance's probe into the Trump Organization has reached the grand jury phase, but that phase could take well into Thanksgiving or longer.
Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters — not just the Trump case ­— during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said
. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Generally, special grand juries such as this one are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company.

Vance’s investigation is expansive, according to people familiar the probe and public disclosures made during related litigation. His investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.

A spokesman for Trump and an attorney for the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. The former president has adamantly and repeatedly denied wrongdoing, deriding the investigation as politically motivated.

A spokesman for Vance (D) declined to comment.
Typically a grand jury hears multiple possible criminal matters and returns bills of indictment if there's enough evidence to go forward in a case, but exactly when the Trump organization case will come up is anyone's guess. It could be June, or it could be November.
We won't know until indictments are unsealed, if at all. The jury could come back and say there's not enough evidence there for the charges Vance is seeking. Maybe it's just the low-end execs, maybe it's Trump's kids, and maybe it's Trump himself, but again, I don't expect charges. NYC would burn for it. Republicans would make sure of that.

In other words, don't expect much, and don't expect anything quickly.

Putin On The Ritz, Con't

President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, the White House said Tuesday, in their first face-to-face encounter since Biden took office.

"The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of Biden's goals for the summit.

The Kremlin also confirmed the date for the much-anticipated meeting.

Earlier this month, Biden was asked whether he was planning to meet with Putin in June when he heads overseas to attend the G-7 summit.

"That is my hope and my expectation. We're working on it," Biden said at the time.

In April, the United States announced a sweeping series of sanctions against Russia over election interference, cyber hacking and other "harmful foreign activities," it said, including reports of Russia offering "bounties" for Taliban attacks against U.S. troops, and Russia's occupation and alleged human rights abuses in Crimea.

"Our objective here is not to escalate," Psaki said. "Our objective here is to impose costs for what we feel are unacceptable actions by the Russian government."

Psaki reiterated that the White House wanted there to be a "stable and predictable relationship" with Russia but conceded "this continues to be a difficult relationship" with "adversarial components."

After Biden announced the sanctions, Biden and Putin spoke on the phone, and Biden proposed a meeting in a third country.
And so in a few weeks, here they will be.  Biden is already promising a full readout and no sneaky off-the-record meetings as with the Former Guy. We'll see how that goes.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Last Call For Return To Mueller Time, Con't

The Justice department is really, really trying to be too cute by half with the order by federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson to release the memo former Trump AG bill Barr used to justify not charging Trump with any federal crimes. On one hand, the DoJ is protecting their own. On the other hand, America needs justice on this.

The Justice Department late Monday night released part of a key internal document used in 2019 to justify not charging President Donald Trump with obstruction, but also signaled it would fight a judge’s effort to make the entire document public.

The filing comes after a federal judge excoriated former U.S. attorney general William P. Barr — and the Justice Department more broadly — for their explanations of how and why it decided not to pursue a criminal case against Trump over possible obstruction of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The Justice Department filing is likely to both fuel and frustrate Trump’s biggest critics, particularly Democrats who have long argued that Barr stage-managed an exoneration of Trump after Mueller submitted a 448-page report into his findings about his investigation into whether the 2016 Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct that investigation.

The central document at issue is a March 2019 memo written by two senior Justice Department officials arguing that aside from important constitutional reasons not to accuse the president of a crime, the evidence gathered by Mueller did not rise to the level of a prosecutable case, even if Trump were not president.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a scathing opinion saying that she had read the memo and that it showed that Barr was disingenuous when he cited the document as key to his conclusion that Trump had not broken the law. On Tuesday, Jackson ordered the public release of the still-secret portions of her opinion discussing the Justice Department's Trump memo.

In that ruling, the judge also accused department lawyers of misleading her about the internal discussions that surrounded the memo and ordered the memo be released, though she gave the government several weeks to decide whether to appeal.

As that deadline neared, the government filed papers seeking both to appeal the ruling and to appease the court by offering a partially unredacted version of the document — making the first two pages public, while filing an appeal to try to keep the other half-dozen pages secret.

“In retrospect, the government acknowledges that its briefs could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused. But the government’s counsel and declarants did not intend to mislead the Court,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote in asking the judge to keep the rest of the document under seal while they appeal her ruling.

The parts of the memo released Monday night offer a deeper glimpse into why the judge was angry — and indicate that the decision not to accuse Trump of a crime had been the subject of previous conversations among Justice Department leaders.
The memo written by Steven A. Engel, then the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and Edward O’Callaghan, then a senior department official closely involved in supervising the Mueller investigation, was addressed to Barr, then the U.S. attorney general.

“Over the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation, we have previously discussed these issues within the Department among ourselves, with the Deputy Attorney General, and with you since your appointment, as well as with the Special Counsel and his staff. Our conclusions are the product of those discussions, as well as our review of the Report,” the lawyers wrote in the newly public section.
In other words, the DoJ really, really does not want to reveal to the country what Barr was advised to do, when Judge Berman makes it obvious in her opinion that the problem is the advice was written at the same time as Barr's decision not to prosecute, which is CYA justification after the fact.  The usual suspects on the right are howling victory chants, saying it proves that there was never anything Trump would have ever been charged with, even if he wasn't in the Oval Office.

But that's the entire point. The memo was written in order to support a conclusion Barr had already reached.

The whole memo would help to prove that, which is why we'll never see it. Merrick Garland could stop it. He will not. His entire staff would quit.

That's unfortunate.

Infrastructure, Weak Con't

We know we're in the final phases of Biden's infrastructure package becoming "No Republicans will vote for it regardless" and shoved through reconciliation because the "collapse" word is now getting involved.

Washington’s bipartisan infrastructure talks may soon look a lot like its cicada population: squashed after staggering around haplessly.

Senate Republicans negotiating with the White House sounded dour notes on Monday evening and are mulling whether to even make a counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s proposal last week. Democrats are increasingly calling for Biden to consider going it alone rather than see the GOP water down his agenda.

An unofficial deadline for a bipartisan accord on infrastructure hits a week from now and negotiators are some $1.5 trillion apart, with severe differences in both size and scope, after more than a month of talks. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Republicans won’t come up “anywhere near the number the White House has proposed,” and Democrats are even more skeptical that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will greenlight a deal they find palatable.

“We’re too far apart. Because I think Mitch’s ultimate purpose is not compromise but delay and mischief,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who sounded less urgent notes in an interview last week. Biden is “entitled to his judgment on this but if I were in a room with him, I’d say it’s time to move on.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the next move is up to Republicans and the White House is “not quite there” at bailing on the talks. The main holdups are moderate Democrats, who are signaling they still aren't quite ready to go it alone on a massive new spending bill, ensuring the plodding talks continue for at least a few more days.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) both said they remain hopeful about talks with Republicans. Asked about the obviously dire state of the talks between Biden and Republicans, centrist Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said: “It’s always darkest before dawn.”
No, this will be DOA by Memorial Day next week, and Dems can move forward and deal with Manchin and the Georgia and Arizona Dems. It'll be fun too.

But we'll finally move forward.

Florida Man Now Controls Social Media

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a laughably unconstitutional bill that punishes social media companies for banning state and local politicians with large fines as a direct response to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube banning Donald Trump.

Florida on Monday became the first state to regulate how companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter moderate speech online, by imposing fines on social media companies that permanently bar political candidates for statewide office.

The law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is a direct response to Facebook’s and Twitter’s bans of former President Donald J. Trump in January. In addition to the fines for barring candidates, it makes it illegal to prevent some news outlets from posting to their platforms in response to the contents of their stories.

Mr. DeSantis said signing the bill meant that Floridians would be “guaranteed protection against the Silicon Valley elites.”

“If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” he said in a statement.

The bill is part of a broader push among conservative state legislatures to crack down on the ability of tech companies to manage posts on their platforms. The political efforts took off after Mr. Trump was barred after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Lawmakers around the country have echoed Mr. Trump’s accusations that the companies are biased against conservative personalities and publications, even though those accounts often thrive online.

More than a hundred bills targeting the companies’ moderation practices have been filed nationwide this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many of the bills have died, but a proposal is still being debated in Texas.

Twitter declined to comment. Google and Facebook did not immediately offer comments on the signing of the bill.

The Florida law makes it illegal to bar a candidate for state office for more than 14 days, in a move that would seem to outlaw the kind of permanent ban the social media platforms applied to Mr. Trump’s accounts. Companies would be fined $250,000 per day for cases where they barred a candidate for statewide office. The fine is lower for candidates seeking other offices.

The law says the platforms cannot take down or otherwise prioritize content from a “journalistic enterprise” that reaches a certain size. Conservatives were outraged last year when Facebook and Twitter limited the reach of a New York Post article about the contents of a laptop it said belonged to Hunter Biden, the younger son of President Biden.

Under the law, platforms are also required to be clear about how they decide to take down content or leave it up. Users could sue the platform if they felt those terms were inconsistently applied.

A late amendment to the bill exempts companies from the law if they own a theme park or an entertainment venue larger than 25 acres. That means the law is unlikely to apply to websites owned by Disney, which operates the Walt Disney World Resort, and Comcast, which owns Universal Studios Florida.

In Florida, as in dozens of other states, the Republican lawmakers’ push to punish social media companies follows the party’s other efforts to feed the demands of a conservative base that remains loyal to Mr. Trump.


So it won't hurt Disney or Comcast, but any other social media site can be sued in Florida if they "limit the reach" of certain "journalistic enterprises". The plan is for conservative media outlets to sue the social media giants for millions in the state on a regular basis, until they admit defeat or something. At the very least, expect lots of actions in Florida state courts, with the hope of discovery and lots of owning of the libs.

Normally in a fight between the GOP and Big Tech I'd be rooting for a meteor to wipe out both sides, but the GOP passing laws to limit what can be allowed to be said online is pretty much a first amendment mess that should have both the press and media companies screaming, because they're next.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

The Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson is in a critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound to her head in an incident in south London, her affiliated group, Taking the Initiative party, has announced on social media.

In a statement on the group’s Facebook page, the party said the incident happened in the early hours of Sunday and followed “numerous death threats”.

A Met police statement said there was nothing to suggest that it had been a targeted attack.

Taking the Initiative’s statement said: “It is with great sadness that we inform you that our own Sasha Johnson has sustained a gunshot wound to her head. She is currently hospitalised and in critical condition. The incident happened in the early hours of this morning, following numerous death threats.

“Sasha has always been actively fighting for black people and the injustices that surround the black community, as well as being both a member of BLM and a member of Taking the Initiative Party’s Executive Leadership Committee. Sasha is also a mother of 3 and a strong, powerful voice for our people and our community.”

Johnson is a prominent member of TTIP, which has been described as “Britain’s first Black-led political party”. She rose to prominence after last year’s BLM protests spread around the country, helping to organise marches and addressing crowds.
London Metro police are investigating this as a random shooting (in London, mind you), while TTIP members say Johnson had received a number of death threats for her activism. 

Black Lives Still Matter.

The Big Lie, Con't

Jeremy Stahl over at Slate is finally asking the right question: what happens when the clown show AZ GOP "audit" magically declares Trump the winner in Maricopa County and in the state of Arizona?
Here’s how Arizona recounts are supposed to normally work: Two counters, under the eye of a supervisor, tally ballots in batches of 10 at a time. Their results must agree, and any discrepancies in each batch must be resolved by a bipartisan board before they are added to the count. Here’s what Smith had been watching inside the audit: batches of 50 ballots, swinging around on a Lazy Susan, as three people speed-read votes in the presidential race and the U.S. Senate race, which were won by Democrats Joe Biden and Mark Kelly.

“Everybody’s got about three and a half seconds to watch two races,” Smith said. For many tables, it appeared to be less time than that. If he were on the floor trying to count ballots himself, Smith said, he believed he would be making mistakes under those conditions. “That table is rolling,” Smith says pointing at a particularly fast-counting group. “Me standing there for five hours, I would not say that it would be ideal.”

To the uninitiated observer, this might seem alarming. But Smith assured me it was nothing to worry about—because, he said, “they’re not recounting the election.”

What were the people busily counting election ballots doing, then? Over the course of three days in Phoenix, talking to participants and critics and watching the event unfold, I couldn’t get a coherent answer. The Arizona audit is a new kind of political ritual, whose purpose exists beyond reason or consensus or fact. More than six months after Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election was certified by Republican officials in Maricopa, Arizona’s largest and one of the largest in the country, this audit is what the Arizona Senate has decided is necessary to resolve continued accusations by the former president and his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen.

Acceptance of error—of alternative facts, as it were—is built into the process: If two counters have the same total, but the third counter disagrees by one or two votes, then the two matching counts become the official tally, overruling the discrepancy. According to observers of the audit, this happens often.

Around the audit site, the political fault lines are multiplying—not merely between Trump supporters and Biden supporters, but between the local Republican officials, who are responsible for election results being verifiable and making sense, and the state Republicans, who are chasing a myth. The irregularities in the numbers are the least of it.

“They destroyed the election,” former County Recorder Adrian Fontes said of the Senate auditors. “And I think that they did it on purpose.”

The statement might sound like partisan hyperbole from a former elected official with an ax to grind. But in the past week, similarly damning calls were issued by every major Republican elected official in Maricopa County. In a meeting on Tuesday, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said plainly, “It’s time to be done with this craziness,” as he and the county’s other top elected officials, who had previously tried to work with the Republican state senators, signed a letter calling for an end of the audit. On Thursday, the Democratic secretary of state said that Maricopa County could no longer safely use the voting equipment that had been handed over to the audit.

The Republican-controlled county board went along with the audit plan initially because the Senate, Fontes said, “had given these guys guarantees it wasn’t going to be a shit show.” Instead, the state Senate ended up handing nearly 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots to a previously unknown company called “Cyber Ninjas,” whose CEO has claimed the election may have been manipulated by a firm with ties to the former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez (who is dead).

“We’ve changed course,” Stephen Richer, the current county recorder who unseated Fontes in the last election, told me of the local Republican response.

That course correction appears to have come too late. Up close in Arizona, it’s clear that the Cyber Ninjas are doing exactly what their CEO, Doug Logan, has accused election officials of doing: miscounting the 2020 election. If and when that new and inaccurate result is made public as part of an official audit report, local leaders believe the consequences will be grave.

“I think a small mushroom cloud will go up over Maricopa County if the Cyber Ninjas report that Donald Trump really was the winner of the election,” Richer says


So what does happen if this farce declares Trump the winner? It's something democrats had better be prepared for, and that means immediate Justice Department intervention. It's good that AZ Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has made it clear last week that the chain of custody of the ballots were completely compromised, but this gets very, very ugly from here if it happens the way I think it will.

It will absolutely threaten the stability of the US government. And should Senator Mark Kelly's election be overturned as well...

The word crisis doesn't begin to settle it.

History says things get violent from here.

It's About Suppression, Con't

Texas Republicans are making voting "more fair" by redistributing polling places "evenly", but only in large urban counties. The result of course is that high-population urban precincts -- all represented by Democrats -- would lose dozens of polling places and suburban precincts represented by Republicans would get more polling places.
The number of Election Day polling places in largely Democratic parts of major Texas counties would fall dramatically under a Republican proposal to change how Texas polling sites are distributed, a Texas Tribune analysis shows. Voting options would be curtailed most in areas with higher shares of voters of color.

Relocating polling sites is part of the GOP’s priority voting bill — Senate Bill 7 — as it was passed in the Texas Senate. It would create a new formula for setting polling places in the handful of mostly Democratic counties with a population of 1 million or more. Although the provision was removed from the bill when passed in the House, it remains on the table as a conference committee of lawmakers begins hammering out a final version of the bill behind closed doors.

Under that provision, counties would be required to distribute polling places based on the share of registered voters in each state House district within the county. The formula would apply only to the state’s five largest counties — Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis — and possibly Collin County once new census figures are released later this year.

A comparison of the Election Day polling locations that were used for the 2020 general election and what would happen under the Senate proposal shows a starkly different distribution of polling sites in Harris and Tarrant counties that would heavily favor voters living in Republican areas.

In Harris County — home to Houston, the state's biggest city — the formula would mean fewer polling places in 13 of the 24 districts contained in the county, all currently represented by Democrats. Every district held by a Republican would either see a gain in polling places or see no change.

In most cases, the districts that would lose polling places are represented by people of color and have a far higher share of potential voters of color than the districts that would gain voting sites. Represented by Republican Mike Schofield, House District 132, a more suburban district on the outer edge of the county, would see the biggest gain with 18 additional polling places. White citizens of voting age make up a plurality — 45.9% — in that district, according to U.S. Census estimates.

House District 141 — represented by Democrat Senfronia Thompson, the longest serving Black person in the Legislature — would lose the most polling places with 11 fewer sites. About 59% of citizens of voting age in that district are Black. Roughly 86% of citizens of voting age are either Black or Hispanic.

In Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, four of the 11 districts in the county would lose voting sites — two represented by Republicans and two by Democrats. But the two Democratic districts would see more significant declines.


Making it harder to vote, but only for large, urban districts with lost of Black voters who tend to vote for Democrats. Every time this is the plan, and this is what the plan is designed to do. North Carolina Republicans weren't able to get away with it because they documented that this was the plan. Texas I figure is going to be smarter than that, and even if they aren't no judge will stop them (and the federal courts now cannot, thanks to the Roberts Court). 

Which of course, is the entire point.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Last Call For All About The Idiocracy Performance, Con't

It seems the only qualification for being a Republican House member is to get on TV and the internet as much as possible and say vile bullshit to piss off Democrats

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) doubled down on her controversial comments comparing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the Nazis because of her mask rules for the House, telling a local Arizona reporter that she had said nothing wrong, and “any rational Jewish person should also oppose “what’s happening with overbearing mask mandates.”

On a Thursday Newsmax appearance, Greene criticized Pelosi for “running a tyrannical, oppressive workplace,” and then made the Nazi comparison:

This woman is mentally ill. You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.

Bianca Buono, a reporter with Arizona’s 12 News, spoke to Greene after the event she held in Mesa, Az. with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and asked her if she stood by her comments “comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust.”

“No one should be treated like a second-class citizen for saying ‘I don’t need to wear a mask,’ or saying that my medical records are my privacy based on my HIPAA rights, and so I stand by all of my statements,” Greene replied. “I said nothing wrong.”

As Mediaite’s Michael Luciano observed regarding HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), “it is impossible for Pelosi or any other non-healthcare provider to violate the act, which prohibits medical providers from disclosing private medical information.”

“And I think any rational Jewish person didn’t like what happened in Nazi Germany, and any rational Jewish person doesn’t like what’s happening with overbearing mask mandates and overbearing vaccine policies,” Greene added.

“Do you understand, though, why some would be upset and offended by the comment?” Buono asked.

Greene didn’t budge, asking Buono if she understood “how people feel about being forced to wear masks or being forced to have to take a vaccine or even have to say that whether they’d taken it or not? These are just things that shouldn’t be happening in America. This is a free country, and it’s just ridiculous to have these kinds of conversations.”
The entire point of Greene is to say horrible things and dare anyone to do anything about her. Since nobody will vote her out of office, and nobody will expel her from the House, she can continue to do this for years if not decades. She remains useful to her GOP colleagues as a lightning rod to occasionally deny.

It's all performance art, and the performance will never, ever, stop.

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