Wednesday, June 30, 2021

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

Once again, sitting Republican members of Congress are openly appearing with and siding with known white supremacists in order to earn white supremacist votes, because for all the screaming about how the word "racism" is "meaningless" in 2021 from the right, what it means is "We, the Republican party, want to exclude people from power because they are not white."

For years, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was a thorn in the side of the GOP, lodging extreme remarks on race and immigration that often flew beneath the radar because of his status as a backbencher, but put his party in an uncomfortable spot. Then he crossed the line with his party when he was quoted by the New York Times saying, “White nationalist, White supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Republican leaders who had glossed over King’s past controversies stripped him of his committee assignments, and he soon lost a primary.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) apparently didn’t get the memo that this was a red line. And just as with King, Gosar suddenly appears to be a problem his party can no longer ignore.

The question increasingly for Republicans is how much its tolerance for this kind of thing has changed in the past two years.

Images cropped up on social media Monday night advertising a Gosar fundraiser with America First PAC, a group run by young far-right operative Nick Fuentes, who has promoted white-nationalist ideas and whom the Justice Department has labeled a “white supremacist.” Below is a tweet from former GOP congressman Denver Riggleman (Va.).

Fuentes has defended segregation and bemoaned the United States losing its “White demographic core.” He has cast doubt on the millions of deaths in the Holocaust and engaged in a lengthy metaphor likening the deaths to cookies baking in an oven. He labeled the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol “awesome” and the racist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a counterprotester “incredible.”

There was some question Monday night as to whether the joint event between Gosar and Fuentes was legitimate, and Gosar’s office and campaign haven’t responded to requests for comment. But the congressman appeared to defend it late Monday night.

“Not sure why anyone is freaking out. I’ll say this: there are millions of Gen Z, Y and X conservatives. They believe in America First,” Gosar said in an apparent reference to the America First PAC, which caters to young members of the far right. “They will not agree 100% on every issue. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances and efforts. Ignore the left.”

Crucially, the fundraiser would represent a doubling down for Gosar. Back in February, Gosar was criticized for serving as a keynote speaker at an America First PAC event in Orlando in which Fuentes delivered a white-nationalist speech.

A day later, Gosar defended reaching out to new audiences but said in a speech to another conservative audience, “I want to tell you, I denounce … white racism. That’s not appropriate.” He later told The Washington Post’s David Weigel that the comment specifically referenced Fuentes’s speech. In the speech, Fuentes made the remarks about the Capitol riot being “awesome” and the country losing its “White demographic core.” Fuentes also claimed Black Lives Matter wanted to create “a new racial caste system in this country, with Whites at the bottom.”

Gosar’s extremism, of course, is hardly limited to his ties to the America First PAC. He has lodged conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and claimed protester Ashli Babbitt was “executed” by police. He has done the same with Charlottesville, suggesting it was a false flag by the left. Gosar’s office even confirmed this week that the congressman was in regular contact with “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander ahead of the Jan. 6 riot.

If it was legal to put a bullet in the heads of anyone in America who wasn't a white "Christian" these would be the assholes who would be pulling the trigger on a daily basis. Don't tell me to remain calm or to stop sounding the alarm over people who want people like me dead in the street.

And at this point, we have one of the two major political parties and multiple media outlets dedicated to white supremacy. They don't even bother trying to hide it anymore.

Well, It's Certainly *A* Cosby Show

CNN Reporting this afternoon that Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court has overturned and vacated the sexual assault conviction of Bill Cosby, ordering his immediate release from state prison and barring the case from being prosecuted any further thanks to a previous 2005 plea deal with another prosecutor.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction, setting the stage for the release of the 83-year-old comedian later in the day.

The state’s highest court tossed Cosby’s conviction as a result of an agreement he had with a prior prosecutor that would have prevented Cosby from being criminally charged in the case. This new ruling bars any retrial in the case, court documents say.

Cosby is two years into a three-to-10-year prison term.

Cosby was accused of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, the former Temple University employee whose allegation was the basis of the criminal case, at his estate in 2004. He was charged in 2015 for the alleged attack and arrested just days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired. He was sentenced in 2018.

A written agreement from the previous Montgomery County prosecutor, Bruce Castor, stated that he would not criminally prosecute Cosby in the Constand case. Castor testified that while he was district attorney, he promised not to file criminal charges against the comedian if Cosby would testify in a civil lawsuit that was filed by Constand in 2005.

Castor had determined that the prosecution would have trouble corroborating forensic evidence without Cosby confessing to the alleged charges.

“Seeking ‘some measure of justice’ for Constand, D.A. Castor decided that the Commonwealth would decline to prosecute Cosby for the incident involving Constand, thereby allowing Cosby to be forced to testify in a subsequent civil action, under penalty of perjury, without the benefit of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” the court document said.

Cosby testified during four days of depositions by Constand’s attorneys and the civil suit was settled for more than $3 million in 2006.

Criminal charges that resulted in Cosby’s incarceration were brought in 2015 by Prosecutor Kevin Steele, who succeeded Castor as the county’s district attorney.

The supreme court’s opinion also disagreed with the trial court judge’s decision to let prosecutors call five other accusers in addition to Constand.

Originally, the trial judge had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby’s first trial. However, after the jury deadlocked, the judge then allowed five other accusers to testify at Cosby’s retrial.

This testimony tainted the trial, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said, even though the lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a pattern of behavior


Well, I mean again, I'm not a lawyer, and while I know plenty of them, I have to say "a 2005 plea deal by the same county that precluded future prosecution where Cosby was prosecuted and convicted" is...yeah, that's going to result in overturning on appeal, and like it or not, that's exactly what happened.

PS, the Montgomery County PA who cut the deal with Cosby? Bruce Castor? Went on to become PA AG?

He also went on to become Trump's impeachment lawyer during his second impeachment. You know, this chucklehead


Makes sense now, this does. Good job, Bruce!

School Of Hard Right Knocks, Con't

The parade of county school board meetings here in Kentucky being taken over by angry white parents protesting "critical race theory" (when what they are really against is any effort to improve the situation for Kentucky's Black kids) continues, this time in Oldham County near Louisville.

A week after protesters derailed a school board meeting in Kentucky's largest district, discord around "critical race theory" dominated another school board meeting Monday.

Most of the 25 people who spoke during the public comment portion of an Oldham County school board meeting Monday evening opposed the majority-white, affluent district's diversity efforts, falsely believing them to be "critical race theory."

"What is equity?" one woman asked. "It is to take something where someone earned it and go on and give it to someone else."

She, along a handful of other parents, said she will keep her son home and teach him herself.

"And I will encourage other parents to do it," she said. "Because this does not need to happen in our great county and our great schools."

Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines how racism is baked into and perpetuated by systems and policies, rather than individual actions. It is typically not taught in K-12 schools, and Oldham County officials said it is not taught in the district.

But the phrase has come to be used as an umbrella term for any kind of equity work in schools, as well as ideologies that see students solely based on race.

A conservative-led push against CRT, and often racial equity work, has caused a wave of legislation that would stifle conversations about race in classrooms and a flood of opponents to school board meetings, demanding that the theory be eradicated from classrooms it is not in.

Outgoing Superintendent Greg Schultz began his final school board meeting with a brief update on the district’s Inclusion Coalition but did not provide details or draw a reaction from the crowd.

Started in March 2019, the group of district and school officials, teachers and staff reviewed disparities in discipline and achievement, and the effects of "racism and social marginalization" on students.

More than four-fifths of Oldham County students are white; around one-fifth live at or near the poverty line.

Black students make up about 2% of Oldham County's more than 12,000 kids. Like in other districts, they receive a disproportionate amount of suspensions and face double-digit achievement gaps in test scores compared to their white peers.

Several speakers appeared to misunderstand what the coalition's job is, falsely saying white students are told they are inherently racist or should feel bad due to their skin color. Such beliefs are not taught in school and are not part of critical race theory’s teachings.
So two things, first of all Louisville Courier-Journal education reporter Olivia Trauth is 100% correct in this story. "Critical Race Theory" is absolutely being used as a catch-all bogeyman for efforts of racial inclusion in a district where only 2% of kids are Black, and it's being used around the country right now to apply to any efforts in any field of anything socially related.

Secondly, if this is happening in small-town Kentucky, it's happening where you live too. I stress once again that people need to get involved in local politics, and especially in school board meetings if you have kids in public school.

This is going to be the battle cry of 2022 and 2024 and we're not going to win if we ignore this nonsense.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Last Call For the Big Lie, Con't

The Big Lie is now costing Maricopa County, Arizona taxpayers millions to replace voting equipment tainted by the ridiculous "audit" farce that all but destroy the chain of custody for the machines themselves, and I swear that the county should sue the state GOP for every dollar.

Maricopa County will not reuse most of its voting equipment after it has been with Arizona Senate contractors for its audit of November election results, the county announced Monday.

The potential cost to taxpayers is so far unknown. The county is about half way through a $6.1 million lease with Dominion Voting Systems for the equipment, but it's unclear whether it will have to pay the rest of the money owed under that lease, and whether the county or Senate will be on the hook.

The county's Board of Supervisors wrote in a June 28 letter to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs that they share her concerns about whether the hundreds of vote-counting machines that they had to give the Senate's contractors are safe to use, in part considering the contractors are not certified to handle election equipment in the United States.

The Senate got the voting machines, as well as nearly 2.1 million ballots and voter information from the Nov. 3 election in April after issuing subpoenas and after a judge ruled the subpoenas were valid.

The Senate handed the machines over to contractors in an attempt to tell whether they had been hacked or manipulated during the election, even though a previous independent audit commissioned by the county found that was not the case and the machines counted votes properly.

Hobbs had written in a May 20 letter to the county's Board of Supervisors, recorder and Elections Department director that if the county tries to use the machines again, even if it performs a full analysis in an attempt to determine whether the machines were still safe to use, her office would "consider decertification proceedings." In Arizona, voting systems must be certified to be used in elections.
The county's three-year lease with Dominion for the equipment ends in December 2022. The Election Department still owed about $3.3 million as of May, since the lease is paid monthly.

The subpoenas covered all equipment used in the November election, which included most of the equipment under that lease.

It's unclear whether the county will be able to get out of that lease without paying for the remainder of the cost.

But it's also unclear whether the county would be on the hook for that cost. The Senate signed an agreement with the county that said the county is not liable for any damages to the equipment while in the Senate's custody.

The supervisors have not yet decided whether to ask the Senate to pay for any costs related to replacing the machines under that agreement, said county communications director Fields Moseley.

The county said in a statement Monday it is working with Dominion to replace the subpoenaed equipment so it will be able to serve voters for the November election. County officials are discussing with Dominion the terms for replacing the equipment, Moseley said.

The county broke the chain of custody, or the procedures for properly securing and tracking the machines, when it was required to give the machines to the state Senate under subpoenas, Hobbs wrote in her letter.
Any way you look at it, it's millions flushed down the toilet in order to serve the Big Lie. This is who the Republican party are: a bunch of delusional, dangerous imbeciles who destroy everything in their path on the way to power.
So stop voting for them, America.

The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

Democratic WV Sen. Joe Manchin has finally gotten on board for an all-Democratic party infrastructure reconciliation package, but that doesn't mean there's 50 votes for it if (well, when) Republicans block the bipartisan infrastructure package on the table already.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Tuesday that he's supportive of going forward with a larger, Democratic-only infrastructure bill, but that it shouldn't be linked to a separate bipartisan framework.

Manchin, during an interview with MSNBC, said that he had been assuming since "day one" that Democrats would have to use reconciliation, a budget process that allows them to bypass a 60-vote legislative filibuster, to pass a larger infrastructure bill because Republicans don't want to make changes to the 2017 tax bill.

“We're going to have to work it through reconciliation, which I’ve agreed that that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount, because I haven’t seen everything that everyone is wanting to put in the bill," Manchin said on MSNBC.

Manchin added that the Senate can "go through the process" on putting together a larger package that includes so-called "human infrastructure" knowing that Democrats will "probably have to go to reconciliation and then do what we can afford to do."

Manchin's comments come after he told reporters late last week that he viewed a Democratic-only reconciliation bill as "inevitable," handing a significant boost to Democrats' strategy.

Democrats are still in the early stages of trying to figure out how big to go in a Democratic-only infrastructure bill. But they have no room for error in the Senate where they need all 50 of their members and Vice President Harris to pass an infrastructure bill under reconciliation.

And Manchin has long been viewed as the biggest hold out on greenlighting a Democratic-only bill.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed going as high as $6 trillion, but that figure has garnered pushback from other Senate Democrats, including Manchin, who believe it is too high. Budget Committee Democrats are expected to talk this week to try to hash out more details of the budget resolution that lays out the instructions for the Democratic-only bill.

Manchin is also part of a bipartisan group that has negotiated a smaller plan of roughly $1.2 trillion over eight years, a bill that focuses more on traditional infrastructure including roads, bridges and broadband.
So the bipartisan deal, as I warned last week, will come apart because Republicans will block it. It was always going to come down to reconcilitation, but that will require all 50 Democratic senators, and Schumer hasn't always shown the same ability to whip as Pelosi has over in the House.

Speaking of that, Pelosi only has a few votes to spare too. It's nowhere near a done deal until the final votes, so keep that in mind. There's a lot that could still go wrong here.

For now though, things are heading the right direction.

Clarence And Mary Jane

When even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is admitting that federal criminalization of marijuana no longer makes sense anymore, the time to decriminalize, expunge criminal records for use and sale, and building a fair regulatory field for taxation of marijuana is here.

Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court's most conservative justices, said Monday that because of the hodgepodge of federal policies on marijuana, federal laws against its use or cultivation may no longer make sense.

"A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government's piecemeal approach," he wrote.

His views came as the court declined to hear the appeal of a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks that other businesses are allowed.

Thomas said the Supreme Court's ruling in 2005 upholding federal laws making marijuana possession illegal may now be out of date.

"Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning," he said. "The federal government's current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.”

Thirty-six states now allow medical marijuana, and 18 also allow recreational use. But federal tax law does not allow marijuana businesses to deduct their business expenses.

"Under this rule, a business that is still in the red after it pays its workers and keeps the lights on might nonetheless owe substantial federal income tax," Thomas said.
Now, I'm not completely naive here, I know Thomas wants a federal regulatory framework so we can corporatize growing and turn Big Weed into the next Big Tobacco. It'll be worth hundreds of billions a year and will be yet another industry where massive agriculture interests wipe out small farmers and growers.

At the same time, freeing the thousands in jails and prisons for low-level marijuana possession offenses needs to happen at the local, state, and federal level across the board. What Thomas is saying is that creating the corporate weed industry is the price for clearing prisons.

We always knew that was the case, but if even Thomas is saying this, then it's going to happen sooner rather than later.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Last Call For And Iran, Iran So Far Away, Con't

President Biden is making good on his threat last week that Tehran would pay a price for Iranian suicide drone attacks in Iraq, and Biden followed through with airstrikes late last night.

President Joe Biden's decision to conduct airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups on the Iraq-Syria border Sunday night follows a recent spate of attacks against US military assets in Iraq by a new class of Iranian-made drones that US officials say can evade US surveillance and defenses. 
The latest of these attacks occurred earlier this month when an armed drone detonated at a dining facility at a key entry point in the Baghdad airport used by American soldiers and diplomats, a US military official told CNN. In April, a drone damaged a CIA drone hanger near Erbil. 
The American airstrikes Sunday night hit operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq, according to the Pentagon, targets that were "selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq." 
For months, US intelligence and military personnel in Iraq have been raising alarms about the risk to American forces from these newer, more sophisticated Iranian-made drones. Rather than being guided by a pilot from a remote location, some of these small, fixed-wing drones use GPS navigation, making them far less visible to US surveillance systems and impervious to jamming. 
"Suffice it to say the (CIA) is now paying a great deal of attention to this issue, because those things tend to wake you up a little bit," said one former intelligence official with experience in the region. 
While rocket attacks against US personnel in Iraq have become almost routine, these new Iranian-made drones, so-called suicide drones, are viewed by US intelligence and military personnel as a clear escalation by Iran — and a worrying signal to intelligence officials that the US no longer enjoys autonomy in the skies over Iraq. 
Packed with explosives, the new drones come in varying sizes -- anywhere from a five-foot wingspan to a 12 to 15 feet, according to one US military official -- with the larger iterations carrying up to 30 kilograms of explosives. 
That's far smaller and less lethal than the American-made MQ-9 Reaper drones. But current and former officials say these new Iranian-made drones pose a unique threat in part because Tehran has no deniability -- since no one else is known to have the technology. 
Unlike the more commonly-available Katyusha rockets often fired at US troops in Iraq, US officials say there's no question that Iran is providing them to the complex web of militia groups who seek to oust the United States from Iraq. 
They are also substantially more dangerous, these sources say. 
"Someone could get killed, and more so than in the past, because things are accurate," said one US military official who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. "We think they're actually aiming them -- and the warheads on these things are pretty substantial."    
Cool, so the US war in the Middle East will continue, as-is. I didn't expect Biden to change much, other than not hurtling towards a full-on war like Trump was, but we're unable to win a land war in Europe or Asia right now, and frankly, everyone knows it.

More diplomacy, please.

A Tank Blast From The Past

Mr. Tank himself, Michael Dukakis, has fired a sabot round into the Democratic police funding fight, declaring that Black Lives Matter activists are "nuts" for wanting police funding changed.

A generation ago, Michael Dukakis saw his chances of winning the presidency crushed after Republicans cast him as soft on crime.

Now he is warning his party not to make the same mistake.

The "defund the police" movement is “nuts,” Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, told this column.

“I’m saying to myself, my God, what the hell is going on here?” Dukakis added during a 40-minute phone interview from his home in Brookline, Mass., late last week.

“On one hand, you have folks screaming and yelling about getting rid of policing, which makes no sense at all. And then on the other hand, you have some people totally misinterpreting what community policing is, just as we were really making huge progress,” he said.

The day before the interview, President Biden had laid out his plan to counter a nationwide rise in crime.

Biden’s efforts will prioritize police funding and disrupting the illicit circulation of firearms. The president is encouraging local authorities to use money from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March to hire more law enforcement personnel.

Asked if he thinks Biden strikes the correct balance, Dukakis said: “I think he gets it and understands it. I’m not sure he and for that matter my party is articulating it very well.”

The issue, for Dukakis, is not about taking away or adding “gobs of new money” but about establishing trust between the police and the community.
Three huge problems here as I see it. 
Number one, Dukakis should probably not get involved, no offense, but you don't get much higher on the Democratic loser scale than this guy. 

Number two, look how easy it is for Dukakis to mischaracterize the argument. No wonder Democrats are getting crushed on this.

Number three, there is a non-small subsection of BLM activists that actually do want police abolished, period, rather than any reform efforts (although actual police reform would be, well, firing most police nationwide and starting over). This isn't helping either.

No, this is a fight that Democrats are bound and determined to lose, so of course President Biden is doubling the federal grant fund to hire more cops. It's a lost cause, and Democrats should wisely move on to something else, not that Republicans or the media will ever, ever let them.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Trump-era Republicans aren't messing around and wasting time with Bush-era white resentment politics and all the implications and dog whistles from 20 years ago, they're going right for the politics of white rage, bullhorns and all in predominantly white swing states like Wisconsin.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson preached unity and positivity to the party faithful at the state Republican convention on Saturday, painting Democrats as an angry party bent on fundamentally changing the United States.

Johnson said he's "more panicked" than ever about the state of the country, having run for the first time in 2010 based on the same fears. Johnson defeated Wisconsin Democratic folk hero Russ Feingold in 2010 and again in 2016, outperforming Donald Trump when the former president won Wisconsin — the first Republican presidential candidate to do so since 1984.

"The leaders of the left talk about fundamentally transforming this nation. Do you even like, much less love, something you want to fundamentally transform?" Johnson asked. "America’s not perfect; we had that original sin from slavery, but we’ve made progress. We’ve continuously improved. That’s not good enough for the left."

Johnson has not yet announced whether he will seek a third term, but took the stage to chants of "six more years!" He told supporters the Republican Party's mission statement should be "to unify, unite and heal this nation."

"We’re not going to do that by being angry. We’re not going to do that by imitating what (liberals) do, by being nasty," Johnson said. "We’re going to do that by allowing light to pierce the darkness."

Johnson cited several examples of recent confrontations as evidence that the left has grown increasingly angry, including a man who approached him on an airplane, got in his face and called him a "disgrace," and a woman who followed him through the Milwaukee airport making the same statement.

The senator also referenced Milwaukee's Juneteenth celebration, where he said he had a generally positive experience but was booed and shouted at by a small group of "incredibly profane and nasty" people as he spoke to the press. Johnson blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday last year, but backed off this year. Johnson said he supports the holiday itself, but questions why federal employees need another paid day off.

"I don’t want to make this speech about me, I just want to talk about what’s happening to our culture," Johnson said.

Johnson called on Republicans to run candidates at every level of public office, arguing that the GOP has spent too much time focused on federal elections while letting seats go at the local levels.

"Take back our school boards, our county boards, our city councils. We will take back our culture. We don't have to fear this anymore," Johnson said, advocating the concept of "trickle-up elections."
The most awful thing about 2021 is that we have sitting US senators, ostensibly up for reelection, openly spouting Stormfront, Project Evropa, and VDARE white supremacist dogma, openly, and without reservation, with millions of voters from a major political party approving of it.

If these assholes get control of the federal government again, we're not going to make it.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Last Call For Striking Back in 2022

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer is a political scientist who rose to fame doing in 2018 and 2020 what Nate Silver did in 2008 and 2010: calling the midterms and presidential election nearly perfectly and well ahead of everyone else. Unlike Silver however, Bitecofer is parlaying her knowledge and analysis into a Democratic PAC called StrikePAC, whose job it is to teach Democrats how to fight the Trumpist GOP. Needless to say, she's predicting a Democratic wipeout in 2022 unless Dems get in gear and start listening.

Listening to her, specifically, as her interviews with Salon's Paul Rosenberg reveals.

On "Morning Joe," you said your new PAC "is about bringing a brand offensive against the whole Republican Party. It's not just about Donald Trump, but it definitely includes him." Three things struck me about that. First, that seemed to be exemplified by your ad, "Fuse." Tell me about that one. Why is it shaped the way it is, and why now?

All four of our launch-packet ads are targeted toward different aspects of this branding offensive. "Fuse" is geared towards a national audience. In political advertising, the conventional two types are what we call "persuasion" — which is trying to get voters who don't have a firm vote to come over and vote for you — and the other type is "mobilization," making sure your core voters will show up.

What Strike PAC is doing is not within those two buckets. It certainly has overlap — it's performing both persuasion and mobilization. But what it's arguing is, "Look, the GOP doesn't really run anything except a marketing/branding op and it's predominantly a branding offensive against the left." They don't spend a lot of time on their own brand, but they do spend a lot of time in their messaging on discounting, discrediting and debasing our brand. That will go from everything from economics to the "woke" war, so it's always about showing us as unattractively to voters as possible. We've never answered that.

Democrats, up until now, have been told by their consultants, "Don't worry about it," or "Don't push back on 'socialism' or 'defund the police.'" To their credit, candidates are starting to understand when somebody is lobbing missiles at you, you can't just stand there and pretend it's not hitting. They are starting to try to put forward a response. But the it's a defensive mechanism, it's not offensive. The GOP is saying, "We're going to have a debate about these topics," and when you enter into that field, you are basically on the defense the whole time because you're having a conversation that's been structured by the opposition party.

So that's what "Fuse" is trying to change?

It's flipping that GOP tactic over to our side. It's attacking the Republicans to make a conversation about their anti-democratic power grab, that goes back from contesting the results of 2020, an armed insurrection, Trump actually trying to use the Justice Department to stage a coup, and the Republican Party's wholesale embrace of that.

It's not like Trump did these things and the Republican Party stood against him. They have slowly but surely normalized this anti-democratic behavior. In fact, they have doubled down on it by going into these state legislative sessions trying to restrict voter access for progressive parts of the electorate, even going so far as to put provisions that take the certification process away from nonpartisan actors and into their partisan hands.

That conversation is something you might see if you're me or you, if you're very political, but for the broader electorate it's happening completely invisibly. There's very little media coverage — certainly not saturation coverage like you would see for Clinton's emails — about this power grab, what that means for democracy and what it means for Democrats in the next cycle.

So "Fuse" is about fixing that problem, putting the stakes of 2022 in clear-eyed focus for the other half of the electorate. Because the Republican electorate has been told now for a while that the other side is coming after democracy, right? So it's their belief in a Democratic Party that has been articulated by the GOP. It's completely out of whack of reality, but Republican voters believe that Democrats are trying to "destroy democracy," and what they're doing is saving it. It's not like they don't have a motivation. So we really need this side of the electorate to realize that this meta-conversation about American democracy is on the ballot in 2022.

To me, "bringing a brand offensive" pretty much describes how Republicans have run the vast majority of their national campaigns at least since Ronald Reagan, if not Richard Nixon. Democrats have virtually never done so—not even when Trump first ran in 2016. Why do you think that is?

That's exactly right. You could believe it's a problem that began when polarization really began to take off in the mid-2000s when asymmetry appears, and to some extent that's true, because Republicans developed this technique of making every election a referendum on the Democratic brand. But you're right, it does have its roots back in the 80s.

That said, we really do see a distinct version of the modern GOP that has its origins in that 2004 Bush re-election campaign with Karl Rove, to use the gay marriage issues to turn out on their side, but also to talk about politics — including Senate and House races that might have otherwise been more local — with the intention of making them about the national party, about the national political climate and the national brand. That really starts to solidify with the 2010 midterms. They made it a referendum on Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi, and tied every candidate to that as tightly as they could. So every candidate really didn't stand for re-election on their own performance in office or voting record, things that people think traditionally mattered. Instead, it was all about whether they were a Democrat.

We never made that adjustment at all. In fact, it seems like we don't even really recognize how distinctly different voter behavior in the two coalitions are and how hyper-partisanship has changed things. Whether or not we want that change, it's there, right? We've been grasping for this old-school model of electioneering, it's like when Sega was replaced by Nintendo.

The GOP is running this very strategic, very intentional branding campaign, and we're still talking about politics in terms of policies and things like that. We're arguing that we are making a huge mistake when we're tinkering around in the branches of electioneering infrastructure on the left, because our real problem lies at that root level, where we are not engaged in a campaign technique that matches the moment.

And she's right.

What we need are Lincoln Project style ads from a Democratic source. Not only has Bitecofer figured this out, she's making the PAC to do it.

More power to her.

No Holds Barred

Jon Karl interviews former Trump AG Bill Barr for The Atlantic, and it's exactly what you expect: a self-serving attempt to salvage the vile Barr's place in history as "the only man who stopped Trump" when of course he rolled the dice along with Mitch McConnell that talking Trump down from his most authoritarian impulses would still allow McConnell to keep control of the Senate. It very nearly worked.

Donald Trump is a man consumed with grievance against people he believes have betrayed him, but few betrayals have enraged him more than what his attorney general did to him. To Trump, the unkindest cut of all was when William Barr stepped forward and declared that there had been no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, just as the president was trying to overturn Joe Biden’s victory by claiming that the election had been stolen.

In a series of interviews with me this spring, Barr spoke, for the first time, about the events surrounding his break with Trump. I have also spoken with other senior officials in the Trump White House and Justice Department, who provided additional details about Barr’s actions and the former president’s explosive response. Barr and those close to him have a reason to tell his version of this story. He has been widely seen as a Trump lackey who politicized the Justice Department. But when the big moment came after the election, he defied the president who expected him to do his bidding.

Barr’s betrayal came on December 1, over lunch in the attorney general’s private dining room with Michael Balsamo, a Justice Department beat reporter at the Associated Press. Also in attendance were the DOJ chief of staff, Will Levi, and spokesperson Kerri Kupec. Balsamo was not told the reason for the invitation. When Barr dropped his bombshell between bites of salad, he mumbled, and Balsamo wasn’t sure that he had caught what the attorney general had said.

“Just to be crystal clear,” Balsamo asked, “are you saying—”

“Sir, I think you better repeat what you just said,” Kupec interjected.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr repeated. This time Balsamo heard him.

Balsamo’s story appeared on the AP newswire shortly after lunch ended: “Disputing Donald Trump’s persistent baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.”

The story blew a hole in the president’s claims. Nobody seriously questioned Barr’s conservative credentials or whether he had been among Trump’s most loyal cabinet secretaries. His conclusion sent a definitive message that the effort to overturn the election was without merit.

Barr told me that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell had been urging him to speak out since mid-November. Publicly, McConnell had said nothing to criticize Trump’s allegations, but he told Barr that Trump’s claims were damaging to the country and to the Republican Party. Trump’s refusal to concede was complicating McConnell’s efforts to ensure that the GOP won the two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January 5.

To McConnell, the road to maintaining control of the Senate was simple: Republicans needed to make the argument that with Biden soon to be in the White House, it was crucial that they have a majority in the Senate to check his power. But McConnell also believed that if he openly declared Biden the winner, Trump would be enraged and likely act to sabotage the Republican Senate campaigns in Georgia. Barr related his conversations with McConnell to me. McConnell confirms the account.

“Look, we need the president in Georgia,” McConnell told Barr, “and so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it.”

“I understand that,” Barr said. “And I’m going to do it at the appropriate time.”

On another call, McConnell again pleaded with Barr to come out and shoot down the talk of widespread fraud.

“Bill, I look around, and you are the only person who can do it,” McConnell told him.

Levi, the Justice Department chief of staff, had also been urging Barr to contradict Trump’s assertions. But Barr had said nothing publicly to indicate that he disagreed with the president about the election. In fact, the week after the election, he gave prosecutors the green light to investigate “substantial allegations” of vote irregularities that “could potentially impact the outcome” of the election. The move overturned long-standing policy that the Justice Department does not investigate voter fraud until after an election is certified. The theory behind the policy is that the department’s responsibility is to prosecute crimes, not to get involved in election disputes. Barr’s reversal of the policy was interpreted by some as a sign that he might use the department to help Trump overturn the election.

But Barr told me he had already concluded that it was highly unlikely that evidence existed that would tip the scales in the election. He had expected Trump to lose and therefore was not surprised by the outcome. He also knew that at some point, Trump was going to confront him about the allegations, and he wanted to be able to say that he had looked into them and that they were unfounded. So, in addition to giving prosecutors approval to open investigations into clear and credible allegations of substantial fraud, Barr began his own, unofficial inquiry into the major claims that the president and his allies were making.

“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr told me. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”

The Department of Justice ended up conducting no formal investigations of voter fraud, but as part of Barr’s informal review, he asked the U.S. Attorney in Michigan about Trump’s claim that mysterious “ballot dumps” in Detroit had secured Biden’s victory in the state.

As proof of fraud, Trump’s allies had pointed to videos showing boxes filled with ballots arriving at the TCF Center, in Detroit, to be counted after the 8 p.m. deadline for votes to be cast. But Barr quickly found that there was a logical explanation. It had to do with how the 662 precincts in Wayne County, home to Detroit, tabulate their votes. “In every other county, they count the ballots at the precinct, but in Wayne County, they bring them into one central counting place. So the boxes are coming in all night. The fact that boxes are coming in—well, that’s what they do.”

Furthermore, Trump performed better against Biden in Detroit than he had against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden received 1,000 fewer votes in Detroit than Clinton had, and Trump received 5,000 more votes than he had four years earlier. Trump didn’t lose Michigan because of “illegal” ballots cast in Detroit. He lost Michigan because Biden beat him badly in the suburbs.

Barr also looked into allegations that voting machines across the country were rigged to switch Trump votes to Biden votes. He received two briefings from cybersecurity experts at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. “We realized from the beginning it was just bullshit,” Barr told me, noting that even if the machines somehow changed the count, it would show up when they were recounted by hand. “It’s a counting machine, and they save everything that was counted. So you just reconcile the two. There had been no discrepancy reported anywhere, and I’m still not aware of any discrepancy.”
Barr ran the numbers and came up with Trump's claims being bullshit, and yet he does everything to help the party keep control of Congress because he knows Trump is doomed. And McConnell called Barr to help him salvage what power he had left in the Georgia runoffs.

Hearings aren't anywhere near enough. Barr should be sharing a cell with Trump and McConnell, but it'll never happen.

Sunday Long Read: Black Baseball Matters

Our Sunday Long Read comes to us this week from The Score, where Travis Sawchuk and Ray Danner go on a road trip to cover the Depression-era route of Negro League teams, searching for the lost history of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the box scores of that era.

We traveled east along Lake Erie, on a search for hidden gems. Negro League players followed this same route in the 1930s and 1940s, moving along U.S. Route 20 in buses and caravans of cars until gasoline and rubber rations often forced them onto trains during World War II. The Pittsburgh Crawfords had what was considered at the time to be a luxurious Mack bus. We zipped along I-90 in my old Honda Accord. My friend Ray Danner and I were retracing a small part of their path, searching for their lost history.

Ray waited months for the public library in Erie, Pennsylvania, to reopen when pandemic restrictions eased so he could access its newspaper archive. I was curious about his quest, so I asked to come along on the trip from Cleveland.

Months earlier, Ray listened to Rob Neyer interview Scott Simkus, an author and researcher for, a site where a small group of hobbyists came together to try to pull off the impossible: find every existing Negro League box score from the top leagues. The result of their work means there are no longer thousands of missing box scores, but hundreds.

On the podcast, Simkus told Neyer they were certain there were missing games in places like Memphis; Zanesville, Ohio; and Erie. The missing puzzle pieces are mostly, now, in towns and cities where Negro League teams played during their lengthy tours. Seamheads was looking for volunteers willing to visit the libraries in these places and search the newspaper archives.

Erie? That's not too far away, Ray thought. He reached out to Simkus.

Ray, a history buff and member of the Society for American Baseball Research, knew Major League Baseball had elevated the best Negro Leagues to major-league status in December. Any box score Ray could unearth would eventually be included in official MLB statistics.

His work would help fill out the historical record at Baseball Reference, the preeminent statistical database, and one of his favorite online research tools. On Tuesday, Baseball Reference unveiled its new Negro League data with major-league status, data it licensed from Seamheads.

This was Ray's second trip to Erie. He recovered four box scores on his first trip and knew there were more to be found. Research like this can be tedious and underappreciated. What was the payoff?

"I like history, so it starts there," he said. "There is just an appeal to things that are forgotten or almost forgotten, and bringing them back to life."

Erie's library is right on the waterfront, not far from where Oliver Hazard Perry built his fleet that defeated the British on the lake in 1813. Ray, who works in the Cleveland aquarium's shark tank, has scuba dived to examine shipwrecks in the lake.

In the library's second-floor Heritage Room, which features paintings of Civil War battles, cabinets of microfilm, and shelves of obscure books, we scanned through the Erie Times-News archive at side-by-side terminals. The resource had been digitized but wasn't accessible outside of this room. Ray had a good idea of where to begin. About a half hour in, he turned to me.

"Oh, look at this," Ray exclaimed. "This is beautiful."
What follows is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story of Black baseball from nearly a century ago, the process of reconstructing the missing box scores of the Negro Leagues and the more than two decades that it represented the sport in ways the major leagues never could. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred granted seven Negro League teams Major League status last December, based in part on the work of Sawchuk and Danner.

This is the history we need to preserve, and I'm so glad to see we're finally doing it.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Last Call For The Big Lie, Con't

Arizona Republicans have made good on their threat to strip election-related powers from Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and give them to state GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich with a bill expected to be signed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey next week.

The Republican-controlled State Legislature in Arizona voted Thursday to revoke the Democratic secretary of state’s legal authority in election-related lawsuits, handing that power instead to the Republican attorney general.

The move added more discord to the politics of a state already roiled by the widely derided move by Senate Republicans to commission a private firm to recount the vote six months after the November election. And it was the latest in a long series of moves in recent years by Republicans to strip elected Democrats of money and power in states under G.O.P. control.

The measure was part of a grab bag of proposals inserted into major budget legislation, including several actions that appeared to address conspiracy theories alleging manipulated elections that some Republican lawmakers have promoted. One of the items allotted $500,000 for a study of whether social media sites tried to interfere in state elections by promoting Democrats or censoring Republicans.

The State House approved the legislation late Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, who has the power to accept or reject individual parts of the measure.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have sparred before over election lawsuits, with Mr. Brnovich arguing that Ms. Hobbs would not adequately defend the state against suits, some of them filed by Democrats, that seek to broaden access to the ballot. Ms. Hobbs has denied the charge.

The bill approved on Thursday gives Mr. Brnovich’s office exclusive control of such lawsuits, but only through Jan. 2, 2023 — when the winners of the next elections for both offices would be about to take power. The aim is to ensure that the authority given to Mr. Brnovich would not transfer to any Democrat who won the next race for attorney general.

On Friday, Ms. Hobbs called the move “egregious,” saying Republicans were “weaponizing the process to take retribution against my office.”

The move against Ms. Hobbs continues a Republican strategy of weakening elected Democrats’ authority that dates at least to 2016, when the G.O.P.-controlled legislature in North Carolina stripped the state’s executive branch of political appointments and control of state and county election boards just before Roy Cooper, a Democrat, took over as governor.

Lawmakers said then that Democrats had behaved similarly in the past, citing a Democratic governor’s decision in 1976 to oust 169 policymakers hired by Republicans. But similar tactics have since been employed to weaken new Democratic governors in Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan. Democrats in many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have fought efforts to curb their governors’ emergency powers to deal with the pandemic.

Most recently, Georgia Republicans have been in the forefront of G.O.P. attempts nationwide to exert more control over local election officials. In both Georgia and Kansas, legislators even voted to defang the offices of Republican secretaries of state who had defended the security and fairness of elections.

Most other election provisions in the Arizona budget legislation are billed as safeguards against fraud, almost none of which has been found in the past election. One orders a review of voter registration databases in counties with more than a million residents — that is, the counties that are home to the Democrat-leaning cities of Phoenix and Tucson.

A new Election Integrity Fund would dole money to county election officials to toughen security and to finance hand counts of ballots after elections. That would appear to open the door to more fraud investigations like the Republican-ordered review of November election ballots in Maricopa County, which was carried by President Biden and Arizona’s two Democratic senators.

That effort has been mocked by experts for its high-resolution examination of ballots for evidence of fakery, including bamboo fibers and watermarks that, according to a QAnon conspiracy theory, are visible only under ultraviolet light.
The move is purely to strip a Democratic elected official of legal power as a punitive measure. I hope Hobbs sues the bejesus out of them and wins, but that's unlikely given the makeup of Arizona's state Supreme Court, having all been appointed by Ducey and his predecessor, Republican Jan "Wagging her finger at the Black president" Brewer.

The bigger issue is the continued efforts by the GOP to reduce elections to nothing more than a joke where Republicans are simply declared the winners 100% of the time. Wins by Democrats in GOP-controlled states will be nullified because of "fraud" in 2022, I guarantee it. 

What happens from there determines whether or not we survive as anything other than an authoritarian regime.


The Return Of Retribution Execution, Con't

The Former Guy™ begins his summer name and shame tour to drive out all the Republicans who voted to impeach him, starting across the river in Ohio with his first target for annihilation, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.

Donald Trump on Saturday will kick off his revenge tour against Republicans who defied him in the aftermath of the 2020 election and January 6 insurrection, hoping to convince his supporters to fire Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez
The effort to oust the Republicans who crossed him will be one of the biggest tests of Trump's post-presidential power, assessing whether the former President still has the sway with base Republican voters that he enjoyed during his four years in the White House. Trump's trip to Northeast Ohio is expressly meant to remind voters in the area of Gonzalez's vote to impeach the Republican president earlier this year, and boost Max Miller, a former Trump aide who is challenging the congressman in the district's Republican primary next year. 
Trump cheered as Republicans in the Ohio congressional district erupted in anger after Gonzalez, a two-term congressman who had largely toed the Republican line, voted in favor of impeachment. Some voters accused him of doing the "unthinkable," while others fumed that they had to wait until 2022 to oust him. 
But time has helped Gonzalez, with even his most ardent opponents admitting that the furor around his vote has since dissipated, as voters go about their daily lives and, in part, forget about the outrages of early 2021. 
"If the election was (months ago), I do believe Gonzalez would have lost," said Jim Renacci, a longtime Ohio Republican who is mounting a primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine. "If the election was today, he is probably still in a danger zone... I think it would be a very tough race for him today, but he has got a year to prove himself out and voters do forget." 
Trump's goal this weekend is to make sure that doesn't happen. 
"President Trump will aggressively campaign against any and all RINOS who do not represent the will of their voters," Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for the former president, said, referring to "Republicans in Name Only." 


Republicans are hoping that Gonzalez survives, but there's zero chance of that. It's a swingish Cleveland suburban district, but the bloodlust will change everything after today, and Trump will start the process of collecting another head. Best case scenario for Gonzales is that he's allowed to go about his days without any violence targeting him or his family, as Trump has months and months to rage against him, and the dam will break.

Best case for America is of course that Max Miller, the Trump thug who will certainly crush Gonzalez in the GOP primary next spring, will lose to a Democrat. I'm hoping Trump becomes the deciding factor...for the Democratic Party to keep the House, that is.


Infrastructure, Construction Or Destruction?

To hear Team WIN THE MORNING tell it, President Joe Biden has his infrastructure deal, one that can get 60 Senate votes with significant GOP cooperation, and one that will pass the House as well.

PRESIDENT AHAB: Well, we’ll be damned. JOE BIDEN appears to have all but secured that elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal that both parties have been prattling on about for years. The core group of 10 Senate centrists working on the proposal emerged from a meeting with White House officials Wednesday night and declared that they had a working framework.

TODAY members of that group have been invited to the White House to meet with the president.

Republican Sens. ROB PORTMAN (Ohio) and SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) cautioned that there are still a few details to iron out. But a well-positioned administration source tells us this thing is basically cooked. All that’s left are the handshakes.

SO NOW WHAT? While lawmakers draft up the text, expect the White House to start leaning on Democrats to get in line. We know that so far at least 11 Senate Republicans have agreed to back this plan, but just as many Democrats have expressed reservations, creating tricky math for leadership.

Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) alluded to this predicament on CNN on Wednesday night. “That deal has 20 votes — not 60 votes,” he said, noting that the group of 21 that wrote the plan will now need to sell this to their colleagues.

The whipping campaign will heat up at a time when party tensions are on the rise. Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) — who, at least in the immediate term, looks like the loser in this deal — fumed Wednesday on national television that he’s sick of talking about Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.). (We hear you, senator!) Our colleagues Laura Barrón-López and Nicholas Wu have a story up today about how Biden’s honeymoon with the left is over, as progressives are now calling him out by name.

The winners, aside from Biden? Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) top the list. The Democratic duo comes out of this with not only their bipartisan deal, but also effective veto power over the massive reconciliation bill that Sanders et al. are drafting. Neither moderate senator has offered an assurance they’ll back it, despite demands from liberals.

Indeed, the big remaining question about the almost-done deal — which we’re told includes $559 billion in new spending — is whether progressives will go along. It’s one thing to issue threats via the media, another to reject a personal plea from your president. But progressives will also be taking a risk if they do abide. The list of priorities they’d like to pack into the reconciliation bill runs off the page: paid family leave, child care subsidies, climate investments, free community college, an expansion of Medicare, corporate tax hikes. And who knows what Manchin and Sinema will insist on axing after the thing they wanted most — infrastructure — will already be signed into law.

The optimistic view of the situation, from the White House perspective, goes something like this: Manchin and Sinema will be under enormous pressure to support a reconciliation bill after Biden bucked his left flank to make a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. They also point out that by first moving $1 trillion of infrastructure spending through a bipartisan bill, it reduces the price tag of the reconciliation bill by that same amount, making it easier for moderates to support it. There’s also an argument that with $1 trillion of infrastructure removed from the bigger bill, progressives have some more room now for their other priorities.

Seems a bit rosy, but then again, we would not have predicted the bipartisan talks would go this far.

Finally, the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan is to move these two bills simultaneously, with each bill needing the other to pass. “We can’t get the bipartisan bill done unless we’re sure we’re getting the budget reconciliation bill done,” Schumer said Wednesday night. “We can’t get the budget reconciliation bill done unless we’re sure of the bipartisan [bill].” Democratic leaders are trying to lash Manchin and the moderates to Bernie and the progressives. The message seems to be: If one side’s bill goes down, so does the other’s.
Lot of chances here for Lucy to yank the football away from Charlie Brown, and Nancy Pelosi's margin in the House is extremely thin. If Kevin McCarthy was as crafty as Mitch, he'd find a way to extort huge cuts in the bill in exchange for support that the Squad couldn't sabotage, for instance,but McCarthy's not that crafty, and Nancy is much better at the job.

We'll see how this pans out. I expect further cuts to the already massively scaled-down bill. But we're about to get a huge helping of "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good" again, as our politics have been for all of my adult life on the Democratic side.

Republicans are pretending to be very, very angry about President Biden’s newly-announced plans to pursue infrastructure and jobs proposals on two tracks — one bipartisan, the other via a simple majority “reconciliation” vote.

But behind this display of fake histrionics lies a very real trap, one designed to bait Democrats into turning on one another.

In case any Democrats are tempted to take this bait, don’t. The only response to GOP anger is for Democrats to remain solidly unified, though this situation also illustrates how challenging this will prove.

Biden and House Democratic leaders have announced that they will not pass a bipartisan Senate bill on infrastructure — one in keeping with the newly-reached bipartisan deal — until the Senate completes a second reconciliation package advancing progressive priorities.

In response, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has now erupted in fake-outrage to Politico:

“I’m not doing that. That’s extortion! I’m not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can’t get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I’m not playing that game.”

Meanwhile, a senior GOP aide told Politico that in announcing this two-track strategy, Biden “did real damage” to the possibility of passing the bipartisan bill.

This line was also voiced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who insisted that Democrats are showing their intention to “hold the bipartisan agreement hostage” to getting reconciliation done.

The clear threat here is that Democrats must drop plans to pass a reconciliation package or forget about getting a bipartisan package first. This is empty bluster sitting atop a pile of baloney.

Republicans have long known that Democrats would converge on this endgame. Indeed, Democrats publicly vowed for months to proceed on “two tracks.”

While working toward a bipartisan compromise on bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, Democrats would craft a reconciliation package containing Biden’s other priorities: Child supports, paid family and medical leave, and investments in education, health care and climate.

If the bipartisan deal were reached (as it now has been), Democrats would pass the reconciliation piece by a simple majority. If the bipartisan deal falls apart, they’d pass everything that way. Republicans have always known that even with a bipartisan deal, Democrats will do a lot more alone.

Now Republicans think they can bluff Democrats into killing a whole host of their most cherished priorities as a precondition for their support for something way more modest that largely consists of previously existing highway and covid-19 relief funding? No way.

This is why the GOP threat is an empty one. If Republicans do sink the bipartisan deal, Democrats still have the option of passing a large package by themselves, via reconciliation
The trap here is to try to force Manchin and Sinema to drop the reconciliation bill threat and take the "bipartisan" bill, otherwise Republicans will go on TV and say bad things about them. If Manchin and/or Sinema are dumb enough to fall for this, the game is over, and then Republicans can still scuttle the bill and leave Dems with nothing, blaming Biden It would be a complete victory for McConnell.

But I don't think even Manchin and Sinema are this thickheaded to kill reconciliation even after the GOP pulls the plug on the deal they worked for. It's an empty threat...unless Manchin and Sinema do Republicans' work for them.
However, it may not even make it to the Senate, and increasingly it looks like Pelosi doesn't have the votes in the House.

Progressive Democrats’ concerns that their more centrist colleagues won’t support President Joe Biden’s larger spending and tax agenda are starting to bear out.

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, a member of the fiscally conscious Blue Dog Coalition, said in an interview that he’s planning to vote against a budget resolution that would include reconciliation instructions for trillions of dollars in additional spending. Another moderate House Democrat, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a position that would upset party leaders, said the same.

With those two expected “no” votes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have much more room to maneuver on that first step toward passing a big spending bill, let alone the reconciliation legislation itself that would contain all the details.

She can only lose two more Democratic votes and still adopt the budget resolution in her narrowly divided 220-211 chamber, since no Republicans are likely to vote for it, as budget resolutions are designed to be partisan wish lists.

So again, we'll see.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Big Lie, Con't

The Big Lie continues, and Lee Drutman of the Democracy Fund's Voter Study Group has an in-depth report on just how twisted Republican rank-and-file voters are, who continue to overwhelmingly believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and that increasingly dangerous measures need to be taken in order to correct that "fraud".

On January 6, 2021, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. The mob came directly from a Trump rally where the president had urged them to “show strength” and told them that “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules.”(i)

In the months leading up to the election, Trump had repeatedly claimed that the only way Democrats could win would be through massive fraud. The pandemic shift to mailed ballots gave him and his allies a convenient target for their allegations. After the election, the president doubled down on his claims of fraud. A growing cadre of Republican elected officials and conservative media commentators followed along, pushing the Stop the Steal narrative: Democrats had somehow cheated, and Trump was the rightful winner.

In the months since, Republican politicians across the country have supported the narrative of a stolen election. The embrace has been especially strong in state Republican parties, and especially in states where the contest was relatively close. Republican Party officials who have argued that Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, like Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Nevada Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, have been censured by state party committees.(ii) In Congress, House Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for speaking out against the narrative of a stolen election.

The Stop the Steal movement is also driving a new wave of Republican-drafted state laws that restrict voting access — specifically targeting modes of voting favored by Democratic constituencies(iii) — and that change the ways in which elections are administered, empowering partisan state legislatures over professional election administrators and secretaries of state.(iv)

Meanwhile, Trump himself looms as a significant presence and the likely frontrunner in the 2024 Republican primary, should he decide to run. One sign of his sway over the party is the extent to which Republican elected officials at all levels, as well as conservative advocacy groups, devoted themselves to changing the rules of elections, in response to alleged, but unproven, fraud.(v) These developments raise an obvious question: Is this the future of the Republican Party? One way to answer this question is to ask another: What do Republican voters think about Trump and his claims of a stolen election? And more specifically, what other attitudes are most common among Republicans who most strongly believe the election was stolen and are most loyal in their support of Trump?

Republicans widely supported Trump both before and after the election,(vi) and Republicans also widely believe that the 2020 election was stolen.(vii) But we know less about which Republicans are most bought into the claim of a stolen election and which Republicans are most devoted to Trump.

A typical approach when answering questions such as these is to focus on specific and frequently binary polling questions, such as whether Republicans think of themselves as Trump Republicans or Party Republicans;(1) or whether Republicans believe Joe Biden fairly won the election or that Biden’s win was due to widespread fraud.(2) It’s important to keep in mind that any singular polling question misses the gradations of support or ambivalence.

In this analysis, I take a different approach. Using data from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey), I combine answers across numerous survey questions to generate various “scores” that reflect more complexity and diversity of attitudes among Republican voters. By averaging across multiple questions, we can see how deeply devoted some Republicans are to both the stolen election narrative and to Trump, as well as what other attitudes and outlooks are most prevalent among these devotees.

The results of this analysis confirm much of what many others have observed — Republican support for Trump and the stolen election narrative is broad but not universal. This variation among Republicans is important because it allows us to identify the characteristics of the most devout supporters and better understand the challenges the Republican Party faces in moving past the grievance politics of Trump and his acolytes.

This analysis shows Republicans most committed to both Trump and the narrative of election fraud also tend to have the highest levels of antipathy toward Democrats and toward immigrants, strongest belief that racism is not a problem, highest levels of nationalism, greatest support for traditional family values and gender roles, and strongest belief in a very limited role for government in the economy
The ugliest part of the survey is that 46% of Republicans wanted GOP state legislatures to overturn election results in states Biden won, and another third of Republicans weren't happy about it but would have accepted it. There's a reason state legislative annulment is something both Georgia's and Florida's new election rigging laws allow, and something Texas's proposed law allows as a special legislative session in that state is expected soon. 

That's the plan in 2022 and 2024. Battleground states like Florida, Georgia, NC, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all vulnerable to this nonsense, and the problem of potential violence may be the worst in Michigan

As Michigan state Rep. Donna Lasinski got out of her car at the state Capitol in Lansing on a sunny morning last week, she was greeted by two people carrying what she described as assault rifles while protesters outside the building called for an audit of the 2020 election.

Such disconcerting encounters are not uncommon in Lansing — a reflection of persistent and growing tension gripping Michigan eight months after Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump and more than a year after arrests were made in a plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election have persisted in this state, where local county officials are contending with demands by some residents to review ballots for possible fraud. The mounting calls by Trump supporters to revisit the election results are creating a thorny dilemma for the state Republican Party, which has sought to fend off those efforts, even as GOP officials seek changes to election law.

On Wednesday, a Republican-controlled state Senate committee issued a report forcefully rejecting the claims of widespread fraud in the state, saying citizens should be confident in the results and skeptical of “those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”

The chairman of the Oversight Committee that produced the report, Sen. Ed McBroom, said in an accompanying letter that “at this point, I feel confident to assert the results of the Michigan election are accurately represented by the certified and audited results.”

But the report also recommended changes to the election system, providing fodder for Republican officials who — like their counterparts in other states — are seeking to pass strict new voting rules, hoping to use a quirk in state law to sidestep an expected veto from the Democratic governor.

Last week, a few hundred demonstrators carrying boxes of affidavits signed by thousands of people demanding a state ballot audit showed up at the Capitol. On Tuesday, a GOP legislator introduced a bill to start the audit process, although it so far does not have support among other lawmakers.

The drumbeat for audits has been accompanied by increasingly violent and vitriolic threats against state and local officials. The escalating rhetoric has left legislators from both parties lamenting what happened to the state that was home to moderate political consensus builders such as President Gerald Ford, governor George Romney and the late representative John Dingell.

As Lasinski, the House Democratic leader, walked to her office last week, speakers on the Capitol steps lambasted officials who have resisted requests to review last year’s ballots and asserted that the election was well-run and that Biden received more votes than Trump.

“They are lying,” said Matthew DePerno, a lawyer who is spearheading the petition drive. A small crowd cheered as he denounced Michigan’s secretary of state as a “tyrant” and the state’s Democratic governor as “the Fuhrer” and claimed that county clerks — many of them Republicans — had engaged in racketeering and conspiracy.

“These people have committed crimes,” he said.

“Put them in shackles,” shouted a man in the crowd, to whoops and applause.

Lasinski said the atmosphere has grown more fraught by the day.

“It seems we have become ground zero in this effort we see across the country to suppress democracy and deny the peaceful transfer of power,” she said.

DePerno did not respond to a request for comment.
Already this is a state where the feds had to break up a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by terrorists who wanted to force her to overturn the election, to kill her, or both.

School Of Hard Right Knocks, Con't

 School boards across the country are under literal assault this summer as right-wing insurrectionists are invading board meetings, blocking agendas, and stopping gatherings, all while screaming 'Who will protect little Timmy from Critical Race Theory?!?" There's no better example of this dinner theater of the damned than right here in Kentucky, too.

It took less than 30 minutes for protesters to derail a school board meeting in Kentucky's largest district, as a workshop on a strategic plan rapidly devolved into screaming matches and security kicking out several people.

Jefferson County's school board meeting Tuesday evening echoed scenes from across the nation as opponents of "critical race theory" flood school board meetings, demanding districts' stop teaching it.

Critical race theory, though, is rarely taught at the K-12 level. The academic framework appeared in a Jefferson County Public Schools guiding document for a Black studies elective, but the references were scrubbed as the theory became politicized.

Instead, opponents — including those at JCPS Tuesday — mischaracterize the term to refer to any racial equity effort schools use to improve outcomes for students of color.

A few dozen protesters gathered outside of JCPS' central office shortly before Tuesday's meeting, staging the first in-person demonstration against critical race theory in JCPS.

Most in the predominantly white crowd clutched signs opposing critical race theory: "No CRT in schools," "Kids aren't born racist." A handful of signs mentioned a far-right militia group.

A press gaggle that began with two protesters quickly grew, with a series of people cycling past the mic as members of the crowd drew near reporters.

One man told reporters CRT seeks to divide people. One woman accused JCPS of sneaking CRT into schools under the guise of "equity," even though racial equity and critical race theory are two different concepts.

The group's opposition appeared directed towards the academic framework and more towards JCPS' focus on equity — the practice of giving students what they need to be successful and close racial disparities. Instead, many in the crowd appeared to favor equality — all students getting the same, regardless of what they need.

Asked by a reporter to define critical race theory, one woman inaccurately responded: “It’s judging people strictly on the color of their skin.”

A different woman said they "do not see color of skin." She later approached a Black reporter and asked if he believed he deserved reparations.

Behind her, a woman told reporters she had visited Africa four times — likely more than most African Americans, she said.

“I am amazed by the Africans," she said.

Protesters then moved into the district's school board meeting, falsely believing JCPS was considering building critical race theory into the district's strategic plan — the first item on Tuesday's agenda.

Understand that these clowns aren't protesting actual critical race theory, they are protesting teaching kids about race at all. The people shouting I DON'T SEE RACE are going to make it illegal for anyone else to "see" it either.

Former top aides to President Donald Trump have begun an aggressive push to combat the teaching of critical race theory and capitalize on the issue politically, confident that a backlash will vault them back into power.

These officials, including Trump’s former campaign chief and two former budget advisers, have poured money and organizational muscle into the fight. They’ve aided activists who are pushing back against the concept that racism has been systemic to American society and institutions after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. And some of them have begun working with members of Congress to bar the military from holding diversity trainings and to withhold federal funds from schools and colleges that promote anything that can be packaged as critical race theory.

The immediate goal, two Trump alumni said, is to get legislative language included in a must-pass bill. The larger one is to harness a national movement that could unseat Democrats.

“This is the Tea Party to the 10th power,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser who has zeroed in on local school board fights over critical race theory, said in an interview. “This isn’t Q, this is mainstream suburban moms — and a lot of these people aren’t Trump voters.”

Concerns about critical race theory, which examines how race and racism permeates society, have been percolating for months in what activists describe as a sincere grassroots phenomenon led by parents. Critical race theory dates back to the 1970s, but as the country remains in a prolonged conversation about race following George Floyd’s death, a new political battle over how to teach American history has emerged.

It has increasingly become a major focus of the Republican establishment, which has sought to capitalize on the angst even as some officeholders have failed to define what critical race theory is and the threat it poses. (Critical race theory, for example, does not imply white students should feel guilty about past civil rights issues and is not taught in many of the schools where lawmakers are seeking to ban it).

Their efforts to elevate the issue have worked.
Republicans don't know what CRT is, but they've mutated it into a catchall term for, as  the Louisville Courier-Journal puts it above, "any racial equity effort schools use to improve outcomes for students of color." That's what these assholes are protesting.

They want it all stopped. They want Black folk rendered second-class citizens, with second-class rights. Most of all, they want the history that shaped Black second-class status to be eliminated from schools. They don't want their kids asking questions about why things are different for us, only that it is, and that we deserve it.

This is how they get Zoomers back into the GOP, as the party of "Being white is terrific, and your generation is outnumbered, so get on the winning side now!"

If Democrats ignore this fight, they are going to lose absolutely everything.
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