Sunday, September 25, 2022

Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

The CBS News analysis of the 2022 elections still have the GOP picking up the House, but by a narrower margin than ever, just 10 seats.

The Republicans have a lead. But it keeps shrinking.

While they're still in a very good position to capture a House majority, that majority looks narrower today than it ever has, having ticked down for the second straight month to 223 seats in our model estimate. Republicans were at 226 in August and 230 in July.

Voters are engaged because they think the stakes are so high — for many, bigger than just affecting their pocketbooks.

Two-thirds of voters feel their rights and freedoms are very much at stake in this election — more so even than say their financial well being is.

And each side feels if the opposition gained control of Congress, people like them would have fewer rights and freedoms than they do now.

Voters believe by two to one that a Republican Congress would lead to women getting fewer rights and freedoms than they have now, rather than more rights.

By more than four to one, if Republicans win, voters think any change in rights for LGBTQ people would see them getting fewer rights, not more.

Voters feel that on balance, men and people of faith are more apt to gain rights rather than lose them if Republicans win — but many also feel things would stay the same.

Democrats' lead on the abortion issue is a little bigger now, while Republicans haven't grown their support among voters prioritizing the economy since last month.

Republicans have the same lead they did in August among voters who say the economy and inflation are "very important" to their vote.

Democrats now have a slightly larger lead among those saying abortion is very important than they did in August.

Why? One possible reason: people who say abortion is very important to their vote tend to think Democrats are talking about the issue — more so than other topics. That may be satisfying their need to hear about it.
The main differences between the parties right now are that Republicans don't see civil rights as rights, whereas Democrats do. Republicans feel that women's rights to their own bodies and LGBTQ+ rights somehow infringe upon their freedom, and must be ended. They feel the same way about anti-discrimination rights for Black and brown and Asian folk, as well as adherents of the Jewish and Muslim faiths.

Civil rights are a positive addition for Democrats, and they are a negative subtraction for Republicans.

That's really the core of it.

Pick a side.

Sunday Long Read: A Zodiac Thriller

This week's Sunday Long Read is Aaron Gell's tale in LA Magazine about the 53-year-old Zodiac Killer mystery, with a dogged amateur sleuth's evidence pointing to a new suspect, and the woman who discovered her father may not have been the man she thought he was.
The Hawaiian rainforest where Gloria Doerr has lived since 2017 is a sort of magnet, she says, for people who are running away from something. But even there, in the shadow of an active volcano, sometimes things catch up with you.

For Doerr, 70, it happened this past April. She was spending a tranquil afternoon at home when she learned that her late father, Paul Alfred Doerr, had been linked to one of the most notorious murder sprees of the twentieth century. Her son had stumbled on a podcast interview with Paul’s accuser, Jarett Kobek. An internationally best-selling novelist based in Los Angeles, Kobek had written a whole book, How to Find Zodiac, about how her Dad might just have been the maniac who more than fifty years earlier had terrorized the Bay Area with a string of cold-blooded and seemingly random killings.

By the time she’d finished listening to the podcast, Doerr, a retired real estate agent, was in shock. If this writer had only bothered to pick up the phone and call her before lodging his accusation, she would happily have told him that her father, who died of a heart attack in 2007, while far from perfect, to put it mildly, could be a charming, quirky, and voraciously curious man—a member of Mensa and an early proponent of organic foods.

In the following days, Gloria mentioned the situation to a few close friends, who thought she might have a libel case. She even reached out to an attorney. Though she was reluctant to pay $17.95 for the book, a friend ordered her a copy.

Paul Doerr is hardly the only suspect in the case—far from it. Among the rogue’s gallery of other presumptive Zodiacs are a house painter, a former schoolteacher, a sports car dealer, a theater operator, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. “There are probably 50 or 100 suspects named every year,” sighs Richard Grinell, the former postman who runs the website Zodiac Ciphers and has been following the case for a decade. In October, a self-described “national task force of seasoned investigators” called the Case Breakers pointed to a brand new Zodiac suspect. Their theory was quickly debunked, but not before Fox News picked up the story, leading to hundreds of credulous media reports.

Gloria’s father, in other words, was in good company.

The killer, who is linked to a series of late-1960s attacks in the Bay Area, employed a shifting MO: Often he shot his victims, but on one especially macabre occasion, clad in an executioner’s hood, he tied them up and used a knife. Though he mostly attacked young couples around Vallejo, he also murdered a cab driver in San Francisco. Officially, he is believed to have killed just five and severely injured two, but his modest body count has been far outstripped by his well-tended mystique, bolstered by a sinister handle and a practice of firing off letters to the media and other authorities, often including mysterious ciphers and signed with a crosshairs logo.

Perhaps his greatest cultural contribution, if one can call it that, is having popularized a tone of smug superiority that attention-hungry outcasts, both fictional and real—from Hannibal Lecter and the Riddler to the aforementioned Ted Kaczynski and a substantial subset of 4Chan dwellers—have sought to emulate ever since. Meanwhile, his cryptic puzzles brought a seductive element of interactivity to crime-solving (a married couple decoded his first cipher over breakfast in 1969) and prefigured the citizen-sleuth movement along with its twisted progeny, 9/11 trutherism and QAnon. That might explain why his modest murder spree managed to inspire so much media coverage, including documentaries, a David Fincher film, a bottomless podcast playlist, an array of websites and forums, and enough paperbacks to stock a small, very grisly library.

And now, a new book had been added to the shelf, and Gloria’s father was the main character.


Gell covers the tale of how Jared Kobek and Gloria Doerr met and a lot more. It's a solid true crime read.

And maybe a mystery solved at last.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

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

The largest protests against the Iranian government in more than a dozen years have spread to a number of Iranian cities as the repressive crackdowns of the government of hard-liner President Ebrahim Raisi have triggered a massive response in return.
The largest anti-government protests in Iran since 2009 gathered strength on Saturday, spreading to as many as 80 cities, even as the authorities escalated a crackdown that has reportedly killed at least 50 people and brought the arrests of dozens of prominent activists and journalists, according to rights groups and news media reports.

Internet access — especially on cellphone apps widely used for communication — continued to be disrupted or fully blocked, affecting Iranians’ ability to communicate with one another and the outside world. News from Iran has trickled out with many hours of delay.

While the 2009 protests erupted over an election widely condemned as fraudulent, the current demonstrations seemed focused on the Iranian security forces, with reports of vicious beatings of security officers and firebombings of the local headquarters of the notorious morality police.

In many cities, including Tehran, the capital, security forces responded by opening fire on the crowds. On Boulevard Ferdous and at the Shahrak Ekbatan apartment complex in Tehran, officers fired at windows; in the city of Rasht, they threw tear gas into apartments, according to witnesses and videos on social media.

Iranian state media said Friday that at least 35 people had been killed in the unrest, but human rights groups said on Saturday that the number is likely to be much higher. A previous death toll of 17 issued by the state news media included at least five members of the security services.

The videos posted online and the scale of the response from the authorities are difficult to independently verify, but video and photographs sent by witnesses known to The New York Times were broadly in line with the images being posted widely online.

Deep resentments and anger have been building for months, analysts say, particularly among young Iranians, in response to a crackdown ordered by the country’s hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, that has targeted women.

That comes on top of a litany of complaints over the years over corruption, mismanagement of the economy, inept handling of Covid and widespread political repression. The problems have persisted under Mr. Raisi, who came to power in an election in which any potential contenders were eliminated before the vote, particularly those from the reformist faction.

During the tenure of Mr. Raisi’s predecessor, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, the morality police had been discouraged from enforcing Iran’s often draconian laws against women, particularly the requirement that they wear the hijab in public in the “proper” fashion. But Iran’s powerful supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is now said to be resting in bed after emergency surgery, engineered the ascent of Mr. Raisi, eliminating an important outlet for the frustrations of Iran’s younger generation.

Those frustrations are now boiling over. The small Kurdish city of Oshnavieh reportedly fell to protesters when local security forces retreated after days of intense fighting, the editor of a Kurdish news site said.

“Since last night, Oshnavieh has been governed by the people,” a Kurdish official, Hussein Yazdanpana, said in an interview, adding that women had thrown off their mandatory head scarves in celebration.

“The liberation has far-reaching consequences for other cities,” he said, describing the town as a gateway to other Kurdish areas of Iran.
Ammar Golie, an Iranian Kurd based in Germany who edits the news site NNS Roj, has been in regular contact with residents of Oshnavieh, which is in West Azerbaijan Province and has a population of 40,000 ethnic Kurds. He said the residents had set up roadblocks at the gateway to the city’s only two roads.

Videos posted on social media show large crowds marching in the streets of Oshnavieh, many wearing traditional Kurdish garb, and chanting, “Freedom.” Another video shows intense gunfights over control of the city’s Police Headquarters.

Mr. Golie said local contacts had told him that an army battalion and a unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps from the nearest city, Oroumiyeh, had been deployed to crush the protests and take Oshnavieh back.

“We are expecting blood to be spilled,” Mr. Golie said. “It’s an extremely tense situation.”

The nationwide uprising was ignited by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the morality police on Sept. 16. Ms. Amini was arrested on accusations of violating the hijab mandate. Women have led the past week’s demonstrations, some ripping off their head scarves, waving them and burning them as men have cheered them on.

For seven days and nights, Iranians have taken to the streets, facing bullets, tear gas, beatings and arrests to send a message to the clerics who have led the nation for 43 years. They have chanted for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media
You mean a government willing to use "religious freedoms" in order to control women and ethnic and religious minorities in a theocratic police state may not be able to maintain popularity for long without having to constantly resort to lethal force?
There's a lesson here for those to choose to learn it.

Dems Playing The Money Game

And they're finally playing it to win, dropping $60 million to help Democrats in state legislature fights, where we've seen that Republican domination has only led to misery and fascism.

A Democratic-aligned group is investing nearly $60 million in state legislative races in five states, a significant sum in an often overlooked political arena where Democrats have struggled for decades.

The group, the States Project, said it was focusing on flipping a single seat in the Arizona State Senate that could swing it to Democratic control and on winning back both chambers of the Michigan and Pennsylvania Legislatures. The group also aims to defend Democratic majorities in Maine and Nevada.

The large infusion of cash from the States Project amounts to a recognition of the critical role that state legislatures play in American politics, orchestrating policy on abortion access, what can be taught in schools and other issues that animate voters. In every state except Minnesota, Virginia and Alaska, a single party controls both chambers.

Next year, the Supreme Court could give the legislative bodies yet more power if it endorses a theory, often called independent state legislature doctrine, that would give state legislatures nearly unchecked authority over elections. Left-leaning groups like the States Project argue that state legislative contests this year in several key battlegrounds could have an outsize impact on future elections.

“The alarm bells are ringing in our state legislatures,” said Adam Pritzker, a founder of the States Project and a Democratic donor. “With the rise of the Tea Party and the balance of power dramatically shifting toward the right, the rest of us have been asleep at the wheel for too long at the state level. And now, this threat is truly off the charts.”

The $60 million investment represents all of the States Project’s spending for the 2022 election cycle. The group estimates that it has already contributed about half of the money to candidates and legislative caucuses.

While Democrats have historically been outgunned by Republicans at the state legislative level, in part because of gerrymandered districts created after the Tea Party wave of 2010, they have ramped up their spending over the past few years and are coming closer to parity this year.

On the television airwaves, Republican candidates and outside groups have spent roughly $39 million, while Democrats have spent roughly $35 million, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, Republicans have spent nearly $1 million more than Democrats on ads since July.


The time for this fight was in 2010 and 2014, we'd be in far better shape as a functioning representative democracy if the people representing us weren't violent, racist white supremacy conspiracy theorists with theocratic delusions

And yet we elect the people who are like us as a whole. The problem remains that white America wants to go back to the supremacy era of the 50's (1950's, 1850's, 1750's, take your pick) and at this point it's going to be incredibly hard to stop them.

But we can do it.


The Road To Gilead Goes Through Arizona, Con't

Just six weeks before midterm elections, a state Judge has lifted a Roe-era injunction on Arizona's Civil War-era abortion ban and it will be allowed to take effect, criminalizing the procedure across the state.

An Arizona law that bans abortions in nearly all circumstances can again be enforced after a Pima County judge lifted an injunction that had left the pre-statehood law dormant for nearly five decades.

That decision Friday was immediately praised by abortion foes and lamented by abortion rights advocates — and it stands to be a potentially galvanizing force just ahead of November's midterm elections.

Republican state Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the court to rule on the injunction after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country.

The court's decision earlier this year, in the Mississippi case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, put the question of abortion policy back in the hands of states.

Arizona had conflicting laws on the books, leading to the court challenge and confusion among abortion providers about what was legal and what was not.

The Friday ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson provides clarity in allowing enforcement of the old law, which bans abortions in all cases except when necessary to save the pregnant person's life.

But abortion rights advocates are likely to appeal, meaning the state of abortion law in Arizona is still far from settled. Providers expressed shock, outrage and enduring confusion over the ruling, which came a day before another abortion law was set to go into effect.

“Today’s ruling by the Pima County Superior Court has the practical and deplorable result of sending Arizonans back nearly 150 years," Brittany Fonteno, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement. "No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom and how we live our lives today."

The basic provisions of the law were first codified by the first territorial Legislature of Arizona in 1864: It mandates two to five years in prison for anyone who provides an abortion or the means for an abortion. The state adopted the law with streamlined language in 1901; it remains on the books today as ARS 13-3603.

"We applaud the court for upholding the will of the legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue," Brnovich said in a statement Friday. "I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans."

The abortion fight will definitely be on the ballot in Arizona, where women will have to decide whether or not they want a law written before women and Black folk even had the right to vote rule their lives.

2018 was a 49-49% split among white women, and Democrats did very well. But if 2022 is another year where white women vote majority Republican again though, it's going to be bad.

Vote like your country depends on it, because it does.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Last Call Fof The Bad Batch

What should have been an easy win for House Republicans in Ohio in another unconstitutional district that they gerrymandered specifically to get rid of long-time Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur has seemingly blown up n their faces thanks to their terrible candidate to replace her, secessionist and serial liar J.R. Majewski.

House Republicans have withdrawn their advertising for Ohio Republican J.R. Majewski, a MAGA-aligned candidate who was at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots, Axios has learned.

What's happening: The National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew about $1 million in ad reservations for the district, according to a GOP source familiar with its strategy, all but surrendering the seat to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Why it matters: Kaptur's redrawn district — which backed Trump by three points in 2020 — once looked like an easy pickup for House Republicans. The GOP is now at risk of squandering another race because Republican primary voters nominated an extreme candidate.

Details: Majewski, an Air Force veteran, has been under fire for sympathizing with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and saying that every state that backed Trump in 2020 should secede from the United States
The AP reported this week that Majewski misrepresented his military service, inaccurately claiming he was deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. In reality, he spent six months loading planes at an air base in Qatar. 
The AP wrote: "His post-military career has been defined by exaggerations, conspiracy theories, talk of violent action against the U.S. government and occasional financial duress."

Zoom in: Democrats have been relentlessly hammering Majewski on television over his extremist views. "He broke through police barricades at the Capitol, then blamed police for the riot. Now he wants to break our country apart," one Kaptur ad says. "He's not just radical, he's dangerous!"
Majewski lied about his military service, he lied about his direct involvement in the January 6th terrorist attack, and he has no business being a free man walking the streets, let alone in the House. Even this Republican party is giving up on him because what they hate most isn't Democrats, Democrats serve as targets and useful enemies they can focus on. 
Majewski had a press conference on Friday to address allegations raised by the AP piece -- and, according to Toledo Blade reporter Luke Ramseth, he said that he could not provide details about his purported deployments to Afghanistan because they were classified.

"The orders and military records that I have been able to obtain from my personal files shows that all of my deployments are listed as classified," he said.

However, Majewski claimed that he flew into "multiple bases" in Afghanistan, although he provided no specifics. He also said he had pictures of himself in Afghanistan, although he only said he might share them.

What's more, Majewski issued threats to sue the Associated Press, and said that in Congress he would push for new laws to make it a crime to "besmirch veterans" such as himself.

With six weeks left of Majewski's stupid lies and threats to the media and Kaptur ads to wreck this idiot, I'm betting that Kaptur pulls this off and keeps her seat.

And Dems get one step closer to keeping the House.

The Jackson, Hole Con't

The most corrupt, most broken Republican state government in America continues to get worse as the nation's poorest state, Mississippi, deals with twin scandals of welfare money embezzlement and state capital Jackson's wrecked water system, and this is coming from someone who has lived in KY for the last 16 years.

First up, the state welfare director that oversaw the slush fund is pleading guilty to both state and federal charges and cooperating with prosecutors.

Former welfare agency director John Davis is set to plead guilty on Thursday to two federal charges and 18 state counts of fraud or conspiracy related to his role in the Mississippi welfare scandal, according to separate federal and state court filings.

The new federal charges pertain to welfare funds Davis allegedly helped funnel to the companies of retired professional wrestler Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr., son of famed WWE wrestler Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase. Davis and Teddy DiBiase Jr. had developed a close relationship during Davis’ term as welfare director from 2016 to 2019, as Mississippi Today has reported in its investigative series “The Backchannel.”

Davis instructed two nonprofits receiving tens of millions in welfare funds from his department to pay Teddy DiBiase Jr. under what the federal court filing called “sham contracts” to deliver personal development courses to state employees and a program for inner-city youth, “regardless of whether any work had been performed and knowing that no work would ever be performed.”

Davis, who had not previously faced federal charges for his role in the welfare scandal, is the latest defendant to plead guilty and agree to aid prosecutors. In April, Nancy and Zach New pleaded guilty to state charges in the welfare case as well as to separate federal fraud charges they faced related to public school funding. The News are cooperating with federal investigators, who continue to probe the welfare scheme and who else may have been involved.

The federal bill of information unsealed Wednesday, to which Davis is set to plead guilty, also describes four unnamed co-conspirators in the scheme. Based on the incorporation dates provided in the filing for the co-conspirators’ affiliated organizations or companies, Mississippi Today identified three of the alleged co-conspirators as Nancy New, director of Mississippi Community Education Center; Christi Webb, director of Family Resource Center of North Mississippi; and Teddy DiBiase Jr., owner of Priceless Ventures, LLC and Familiae Orientem, LLC.

A fourth unnamed co-conspirator, a resident of Hinds County, is unidentifiable in the filing.

Davis and the three alleged co-conspirators are each facing civil charges in an ongoing lawsuit Mississippi Department of Human Services is bringing in an attempt to recoup welfare money from people who received it improperly.

“As a result of the actions of DAVIS, the Co-Conspirators, and others, millions of dollars in federal safety-net funds were diverted from needy families and low-income individuals in Mississippi,” the federal filing reads.


The Brett Favre stuff is only $3-4 million of the $77 million stolen. A lot of people are going to jail on this one, folks.

A class action lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday seeking $5 million in damages related to Jackson's ongoing water crisis.

The lawsuit alleges the city of Jackson's water supply has been neglected for decades, culminating in its complete shutdown in August 2022. Before the water supply failure, the lawsuit states Jackson's water was not fit for human consumption due to high levels of lead and other contaminants.

The plaintiffs claim they were poisoned by lead and other contaminants in Jackson's drinking water.

"This didn't start a couple weeks ago. This started years ago," said lead plaintiff Priscilla Sterling.

The lawsuit names the city of Jackson, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former mayor Tony Yarber, former public works directors Kishia Powell, Robert Miller and Jerriot Smash; Siemens Corporation, Siemens Industry, Inc., and Trilogy Engineering Services LLC as defendants.


Meanwhile, House Democrats want to get Jackson the money they need, as state Republicans wasted, spent elsewhere, or outright stole the money to keep the water system going.
House appropriators are considering sending as much as $200 million to address the drinking water crisis in Jackson, Miss., as part of the stop-gap spending measure to fund the government past Sept. 30.

Documents obtained by POLITICO show draft language that would deliver the money directly from EPA to the city, bypassing the Republican-controlled state government. Democrats, including Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), have accused the state of withholding resources from the majority Black state capital.

The numbers: Thompson told POLITICO he is pushing for $200 million in emergency funds for a first phase to address the dilapidated water infrastructure in Jackson.

Jackson’s 150,000 residents were without drinking water for weeks this summer after flooding on the Pearl River caused the system’s water pressure to drop precipitously. The city has also issued a series of boil water orders throughout the year due to dangerous water quality.

Jackson’s water system, which was built in 1914, is in a dire state of disrepair, according to a 2020 EPA review. The total cost for upgrading it is unclear, but estimates have ranged as high as $1 billion. The city has not completed a long-term plan for addressing its problems. Thompson said $200 million is “what appears to be reasonable” now, in the absence of a plan.

Keep in mind that the victims in both of these scandals are some of Mississippi's poorest Black communities. It's 2022, and Republican environmental and economic racism continues in full swing across red state after red state.

It has all my life, and it will continue well after we're all gone.

Like A House Afire, Con't

The latest Cook Political Report analysis of the House has Republicans at 212 and Dems at 192, with 31 tossups, 22 Dem seats and 9 GOP seats. Republicans only have to pick up 6 of those 22 Dem toss-ups to win the House back.

Every Dem win of those 9 GOP toss-ups will be critical, including Cincinnati's competitive district, OH-1. Dems can keep the House, but it's going to require some heavy lifting.

It's a far better picture than even last month or in June, when Republicans were expected to pick up 40+ seats as opposed to the 15-20 now.

Dems can win this, but they're going to have to get some very close wins in those toss-up districts.

Republicans are still favored, but nowhere near as much as they were. That's progress.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Last Call For The Road To Gilead Goes Through Michigan

Michigan GOP Attorney General candidate Matt DePrano wants to outlaw Plan B contraceptive medication in the state, apparently wanting to prosecute possession and sales and treating it like hard drugs like fentanyl. 

At an event last month, Michigan attorney general candidate Matt DePerno (R) said that Plan B is no different than fentanyl and should be banned in Michigan.

“You gotta figure out how to ban the pill from the state,” DePerno said in audio, taken from a conversation at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas last month and provided by a Democratic source on the condition of anonymity. When asked about ideas on how to ban the contraceptive, DePerno said: “But you have to stop it at the border. It would be no different than fentanyl. The state has to ban it, and it should be banned. But it’s just an issue of how do you enforce it; how do you make sure that it stops? That’s your problem.

Plan B is a form of emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. The pill, also known as the “morning-after pill”, has nothing to do with the United States’ borders or fentanyl. It is a legal and safe medication that millions of people use.

Since the 1970s, Americans have had a constitutional right to contraception. Married couples were guaranteed the right in the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision. And unmarried people have the right through the 1971 Eisenstadt v. Baird decision.

“If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child,” wrote Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in the majority opinion for the Baird case.

Now that abortion is no longer a constitutional right for all Americans, the Republican Party is trying to diminish American rights even further with talks of banning contraception and revisiting the right to gay marriage.
Which anyone who has read ZVTS for even a couple of months would have figured out, that Republicans were never going to stop at ending Roe. They are coming for all of it, the entire civil rights and women's rights eras, and dropping us back in 1950, and in more than a few cases, in 1850 or even 1750.

Vote Like Your Country Depends On It.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

If Donald Trump thought his legal troubles were bad now, last night the 11th Circuit just ruled against his "special master" nonsense, all but tossing Judge Aileen Cannon's ruling out the window on appeal.
A federal appeals court is allowing the Justice Department to continue looking at documents marked as classified that were seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and resort. 
The emergency intervention upends a trial judge's order over those documents that blocked federal investigators' work on the documents. 
A special master's review of that subset of about 100 records, which would've allowed Trump's legal team to see them, is now partially stopped. The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, is able to continue his work reviewing the rest of the material seized from Mar-a-Lago, to make sure records belonging to Trump or that he may be able to claim are confidential aren't used by investigators. 
"It is self-evident that the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of the classified records did not result in 'exceptionally grave damage to the national security,'" the three-judge panel from the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals stated. "Ascertaining that necessarily involves reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods are compromised." 
Team Trump of course will demand a full panel hearing (called en banc) from the entire 11th Circuit now,  but it turns out he can't get one.

We'll see. This was always going to go to SCOTUS anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Last Call For Orange Metldown, Con't

NY State Attorney General Tish James has dropped the hammer on Donald Trump, filing a $250 million fraud suit involving the Trump Organization and Trump family.

For 20 years, Donald Trump and his family enriched themselves through "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentations," New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges in a new lawsuit that accuses the Trumps of "grossly" inflating the former president's net worth by billions of dollars and cheating lenders and others with false and misleading financial statements.

The civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks a $250 million judgment and a prohibition on any of the Trumps leading a company in the state of New York.

Among other allegations, the suit claims that the former president's Florida estate and golf resort, Mar-a-Lago, was valued as high as $739 million, but should have been valued at around one-tenth that amount, at $75 million. The suit says that higher valuation was "based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed for residential use even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property."

James is referring her findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who could possibly open a criminal investigation into bank fraud, according to a footnote in the lawsuit.

Through "persistent and repeated business fraud," the Trumps convinced banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than deserved, according to the lawsuit, which named the former president, three of his adult children, the company, and two of its executives, Allan Weisselberg and Jeff McConney.

"Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on the Statements to increase -- a desire Mr. Weisselberg and others carried out year after year in their fraudulent preparation of the Statements," the lawsuit said. "The scheme to inflate Mr. Trump's net worth also remained consistent year after year."

Weisselberg last month pleaded guilty to unrelated criminal charges of tax evasion brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which has been conducting a parallel investigation.
And just in time for Manhattan AG Alvin Bragg opening his fraud trial next month against the same Trump Organization.  SDNY US Attorney Damien Williams, and the IRS will also be notified of the case and its evidence, as this could very well turn into both a state and federal tax fraud case against Trump and not just his company.

Trump's in real trouble now. The civil burden of proof is a lot lower than any criminal proceeding would be, meaning that hitting Trump in the pocketbook is very much a real option.

Trump no doubt will fundraise off this, and I expect he'll announce his candidacy in order to force Republicans into pressuring James to drop the case. The only question there is timing.

But for now, the game begins in earnest.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Big Mad Edition

Ol' Vlad, seeing his boys laughed out of huge swaths of Ukraine territory earlier this month, is now promising Even More, Less Trained Russian Troops™ for the Fellas to play with.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of his country’s military Wednesday, calling up reservists in a significant escalation of his war in Ukraine after battlefield setbacks left the Kremlin facing growing pressure to act.

In a rare national address, he also backed plans for Russia to annex occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine, appearing to threaten nuclear retaliation if Kyiv continues its efforts to reclaim that land.

It came just a day after four Russian-controlled areas announced they would stage votes this week on breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia, in a plan Kyiv and its Western allies dismissed as a desperate “sham” aimed at deterring a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops.

Vowing that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect what it considers its territory, Putin accused the West of nuclear blackmail and warned: “This is not a bluff.”

Speaking after him, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said an initial 300,000 reservists would be called up.

Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized, he said. Another clause in the decree, which came into effect immediately, prevents most professional soldiers from terminating their contracts and leaving service until the partial mobilization is no longer in place.
Gosh, I don't understand, I was told the Special Military Operation to Liberate Russians in Ukraine, or Operation SMOL RU, was going fantastically and that Kyiv was going to surrender at any minute. Also, if Putin has to liberate Ukraine by setting the whole country on nuclear fire and liberate them from breathing, well that's a price he's willing to pay, I guess.
He's mad. Big mad.

A month ago I would have at least said he was on the verge of actually capturing the Donbas, but that all fell apart after Biden brought in the HIMARS and suddenly the Russkies are on the run.

Now, Russia *is* winning the economic sanctions war with the EU still, but it's not like he can cut gas to EU any more than the zero Gazprom is delivering now.

We'll see.

Here Comes The (Actual) Judge

Team Trump's hearing today with the Justice Department and Special Master Judge Raymond Dearie did not go very well for them. At all.

After the FBI found highly classified documents inside his Mar-a-Lago home, former President Donald Trump sought review of the materials by a special master. Now that his choice for that position has been appointed, Trump’s attorneys struggled in their efforts to have the review process play out in the way they prefer.

On Tuesday, a skeptical Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie pressed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly on their refusal to disclose whether he declassified any of the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago — and if so, which ones.

“The government gives me prima facie evidence that these are classified documents,” Dearie said, referring to the plain markings on the records. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

Dearie gave Trump’s lawyer James Trusty ample opportunity to explain why his consideration shouldn’t end there.

On the eve of the hearing, Trump’s lawyers had filed a four-page letter urging Dearie to back off from his demand that they disclose declassification arguments.

“We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property,” Trusty wrote in the filing. “Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.”

Dearie said he agreed that Trump’s lawyers have the right to assert that position, but he suggested that they would have to live with the consequences of that course of action.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” the judge said.

Throughout the litigation, top Justice Department officials — including Jay Bratt, the chief of Counterintelligence and Export Control Section in National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez — have noted that Trump’s legal team has danced around the declassification issues. Their legal briefs have not said that Trump declassified any of the documents, which were marked “Top Secret” and above. The lawyers only said that Trump may have declassified them.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the judge needled Trump’s lawyers on what he’s supposed to do in light of the fact that the government provided “prima facie evidence” of classification, such as the markings on the documents.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said

When Dearie spoke offhandedly of lawyers’ “litigation strategy,” Trusty played down the notion that he was engaged in “gamesmanship.” Trusty denied the implication.

Under the terms of the order of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, the special master’s review should be completed some time after Thanksgiving. Trump’s attorneys have asked Dearie to extend the deadline.

Dearie appeared to recognize that he is on a time crunch — and seemed unlikely to budge from it.

“I’m going to do the best I can with the time available to us,” Dearie said.

The Department of Justice has a pending appeal before the 11th Circuit, seeking an emergency stay that would prevent the government from having to disclose the classified documents for review. The stay also seeks to allow them to continue scrutinizing the documents in their ongoing criminal investigation.
This entire exercise is a woeful disaster, and Dearie seems to appreciate that fact. He's clearly not going to let the Trumpies get away with this. None of this would be happening without Judge Aileen Cannon's shameful mess of a ruling earlier this month, and Dearie is stuck being the person of history right now. He's decided to do the best job he can.

We'll see if the 11th Circuit acts on the Justice Department's emergency stay request or not, but it's pretty obvious that the Trumpies are in for a world of hurt from Judge Dearie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Last Call For The Road To Gilead, Con't

The road to Gilead runs through Red State Republican men (and women) who want to criminalize not just abortions, but miscarriages and contraception too, resulting in women filling for-profit prisons for "reproductive crimes" if they get their way.
A businessman turned state representative from rural Oil City, Louisiana, and a Baptist pastor banded together earlier this year on a radical mission. 
They were adamant that a woman who receives an abortion should receive the same criminal consequences as one who drowns her baby. 
Under a bill they promoted, pregnant people could face murder charges even if they were raped or doctors determined the procedure was needed to save their own life. Doctors who attempted to help patients conceive through in-vitro fertilization, a fertility treatment used by millions of Americans, could also be locked up for destroying embryos, and certain contraception such as Plan B would be banned. 
"The taking of a life is murder, and it is illegal," state Rep. Danny McCormick told a committee of state lawmakers who considered the bill in May, right after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked. 
"No compromises, no more waiting," Brian Gunter, the pastor who suggested McCormick be the one to introduce the legislation, told the committee. 
Only four people spoke against the bill during the committee meeting— all women. They pleaded with the lawmakers to grasp the gravity of the proposed restrictions, which went farther than any state abortion law currently on the books, and warned of unintended consequences. 
"We need to take a deep breath," said Melissa Flournoy, a former state representative who runs the progressive advocacy group 10,000 Women Louisiana. She said the bill would only punish women and that there wasn't enough responsibility being placed on men.
But in the end, only one man and one woman, an Independent and a Democrat, voted against it in committee. Seven men on the committee, all Republicans, voted in favor of the bill, moving it one step closer to becoming law.

A faction of self-proclaimed "abolitionists" are seeking to make abortion laws more restrictive and the consequences of having the procedure more punitive than ever before.
Emboldened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they say they will not be satisfied until fetuses are given the same protections as all US citizens — meaning that if abortion is illegal, then criminal statutes should be applied accordingly. While major national anti-abortion groups say they do not support criminalizing women, the idea is gaining traction with certain conservative lawmakers. And the activists and politicians leading the charge are nearly always men, CNN found. 
This year, three male lawmakers from Indiana attempted to wipe out existing abortion regulations and change the state's criminal statutes to apply at the time of fertilization. In Texas, five male lawmakers authored a bill last year that would have made getting an abortion punishable by the death penalty if it had gone into law. A state representative in Arizona introduced legislation that included homicide charges — saying in a Facebook video that anyone who undergoes an abortion deserves to "spend some time" in the Arizona "penal system." And a male Kansas lawmaker proposed a bill that would amend the state's constitution to allow abortion laws to pass without an exception for the life of the mother. 
While most in the anti-abortion movement believe that human life begins at conception, "abolitionists" are particularly uncompromising in how they act on their beliefs — comparing abortion to the Holocaust and using inflammatory terms such as "slaughter" and "murder" to describe a medical procedure that most Americans believe should be legal in all or most cases.  
Bradley Pierce, the attorney who helped draft the Louisiana bill, said his organization has been involved with many of the "abolition" bills that have been introduced in more than a dozen states. All of this proposed legislation would make it possible for women seeking abortions to face criminal charges. 
An overwhelming majority of Americans said in a Pew Research Center poll they don't believe men should have a greater say on abortion policy, but that is what is happening. Experts told CNN that the male dominance fits within the anti-abortion movement's current framing as being focused on "fetal personhood" and "fetal rights" as opposed to maternal rights. 
This movement to criminalize women who have abortions even to save their own lives? That's 100% men wanting control of women, full stop. Reducing them to birthing units, and if they die in childbirth, that's God's will. Or, you know, the will of the state putting them in jail for decades if they survive it.

"Maybe women shouldn't be having sex, the dirty sluts" is the inevitable response, never mind the rape and sexual assault millions of women go through each year.

That really is the road to the fictional Gilead from The Handmaid's Tale, complete with raging white supremacy on top of the misogyny, because it would be Black and brown women suffering the most from laws like this, when Black and Native women in particular have astronomical birthing mortality rates as it is.

No, this is about control. Dobbs was about putting women in their places, beneath a man that they serve.

Vote these assholes out.

The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin hasn't made a lot of friends this year, and as I said earlier this year, Senate Republicans have every reason to sink his environmental deregulation bill so that Manchin enacts the "consequences" he threatened a few months ago, those consequences being a party switch to the GOP ahead of midterms. Senate Republicans are well aware of this, and are telling Manchin his bill won't survive a filibuster, and to get on board with the GOP now.

Senate Republicans say Joe Manchin can’t count on them to save his energy permitting deal with Democratic leaders, potentially upending efforts to attach the centrist’s proposal to a must-pass government funding bill.

With progressives already balking, several Republicans said Monday night that they might not provide the votes needed to break a filibuster of permitting reform, a key cog of this summer’s Democratic climate, health care and tax deal.
Though easing construction of energy projects is a longstanding core GOP goal, the party’s senators said they were under no obligation to cough up perhaps a dozen or more votes that Democrats need to get Manchin’s vision done.

Republicans have introduced their own proposal, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and supported by nearly the entire GOP conference. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Democrats would have better luck attaching that Republican permitting legislation to this month’s government funding bill than adding Manchin’s plan, which remains unreleased.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that “I don’t think you can count on any Republicans to vote for something they haven’t seen.” But there’s another factor: Manchin’s agreement with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass their party-line domestic policy centerpiece this summer — with permitting reform as a side agreement, requiring votes from both parties to pass later.

“Given what Senator Manchin did on the reconciliation bill, [it’s] engendered a lot of bad blood,” Cornyn said. “There’s not a lot of sympathy on our side to provide Sen. Manchin a reward.”

The uncertainty around Manchin’s proposal is the Hill’s central drama as Congress sprints to finish its work before the midterms. The Senate is expected to move first on a stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1, likely extending current government funding through Dec. 16.

Ukraine aid is likely to be included, though the GOP is expected to block coronavirus and monkeypox funding from the measure. That leaves the main question of whether Congress can approve Manchin’s proposal for speeding up construction of energy projects, including West Virginia’s Mountain Valley natural gas line.

Manchin is warning Republicans that it would be “horrible politics” for them to reject legislation that would speed up both fossil-fuel and clean energy projects.

“Something you’ve always wanted, and you get 80 percent of something, and you’re gonna let the perfect be the enemy of the good?” Manchin said. “It’s a shame that basically the politics is trumping policy that we’ve all wanted for the last 10 or 12 years.”

Negotiators still aren’t close to an agreement — making it highly unlikely that any bill will move this week, according to senior aides. Without a deal in the coming days, both chambers could be working right up until next week’s deadline, despite an eagerness among Democrats to avoid chaos in their final legislative stretch before the midterm elections.

Democrats believe Republicans are exacting revenge on Manchin and Democrats for steamrolling them this summer. The majority party passed a microchip bill with bipartisan votes, then announced a deal between Manchin and Schumer that plowed hundreds of billions of dollars into fighting climate change, imposed a corporate minimum tax and extended expiring health care subsidies.

“I think they just don’t want to give another win to either a Democratic Senate or a Joe Manchin,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
It's true, Republicans don't want to give Manchin another Democratic win. But a Republican win, where Manchin bails on the party, gets his pipeline for WV as part of must-pass budget negotiations, and his sub-Biden approval numbers back in his home state skyrocket again?
Manchin may take that deal.
The other theory is that he's bluffing, and there's plenty of evidence for that, too.

We'll see.

Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

We've now reached the campaign stretch where the reality of Republicans being the party out of power in a midterm is asserting itself as races in Georgia, Florida, and Texas are going to be at best, extremely close, and at worst, double-digit Republican wins.

The latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll paints a bleak picture for Georgia Democrats in November, with every statewide candidate aside from U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock facing a sizable deficit less than two months before the election.

The poll of likely voters released Tuesday showed the U.S. Senate race deadlocked between Warnock, who had 44%, and Republican Herschel Walker, who was at 46%. That’s within the poll’s margin of error
. An additional 3% of voters indicate they’ll back Libertarian Chase Oliver, while 7% are undecided.

That close race is one of the only bright spots for Democrats in the poll, which was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Policy and International Affairs.

Gov. Brian Kemp led Stacey Abrams 50% to 42% in the AJC poll, one of the first polls that shows the Republican incumbent north of the majority-vote mark he needs to win a second term without a runoff.

About 1% of likely voters backed a third-party candidate, and 6% were undecided.

A majority of voters — 54% — approve of how Kemp is handling his job as governor.

Some 51% of likely Georgia voters want the Republican Party to win control of Congress, while 70% say the country is on the wrong track.

And just 37% approve of President Joe Biden’s performance in office, statistically unchanged since the last AJC poll in July. While Biden’s approval rating is rebounding in some other battleground states, he remains underwater in Georgia.
Further down the ticket, Democrats fare no better. Republican nominees for lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state had double-digit leads over their Democratic challengers. With less than 50 days until the election, there’s little time to reverse the trend.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has gained on Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the high-stakes race for Texas governor and now has a 9-point cushion, up from 7 points last month.

According to a new poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, Abbott leads O’Rourke 47% to 38%.

The poll, conducted Sept. 6-13, surveyed 1,268 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Abbott’s recent flood of TV ads, which for weeks went unanswered, and voters’ slight rightward tilt on abortion, the border and crime may have helped the two-term incumbent build on a 46%-39% lead in August, two political scientists agreed.

“A clear change in the election is that the Abbott campaign started advertising and they went negative while being the only campaign on the air,” said poll director Mark Owens, who teaches political science at UT-Tyler. “Registered voters who say they saw the advertisements supported Gov. Abbott 23% more often.”

University of Houston professor Brandon Rottinghaus said Abbott’s “solid and even growing lead” is a natural result of “the incumbency advantage” — his edge in money, broadcasting airtime and name recognition.

After a spring and summer in which the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school boosted O’Rourke, the traditional heating up of campaigns after Labor Day has brought Abbott to more friendly terrain on matters of most concern to voters, Rottinghaus said.


In Ohio, Florida and NC Senate races, Republicans remain ahead by 3-5 points at 538. Dems are holding the fort in Nevada, Arizona and NH however. The bright spot is Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman is looking like he's going to win.

That would make it 51-49 if Warnock can hold on. But the other Dem bright spot is Wisconsin, which is as close as Georgia right now. Mandela Barnes is in a neck-and-neck race with Sen. Ron Johnson.

The House, well, Republicans continue to have the same 70% odds that Democrats do in the Senate. We'll see.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

While the Senate is looking to pass Joe Manchin's Electoral Count Reform Act in the lame duck session after midterms, House Democrats have a tougher bill on tap from, of all people, Liz Cheney and Zoe Lofgren.
A bipartisan duo on the Jan. 6 committee on Monday rolled out legislation aimed at preventing future attempts to overturn elections, and House leaders are eyeing a vote as early as this week.

The Presidential Election Reform Act, unveiled by Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., centers on overhauling the Electoral Count Act, an archaic law that governs the counting of electoral votes, which former President Donald Trump and his allies sought to exploit to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election.

The 38-page bill would make clear the vice president's role in counting votes is simply ministerial and raise the threshold for objecting to electors from one member of the House and Senate to one-third of each chamber. It would require governors and states to send electors to Congress for candidates who won the election based on state law prior to Election Day, according to an official summary, meaning states couldn’t change their election rules retroactively after an election.

The legislation is expected to be reviewed by the Rules Committee on Tuesday. Last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., notified members that the full House might consider the bill this week, which could occur as soon as Wednesday.

“Our proposal is intended to preserve the rule of law for all future presidential elections by ensuring that self-interested politicians cannot steal from the people the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed,” Cheney and Lofgren wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and the Senate toward this goal.”

The measure takes a different approach than the Senate's version, which is the product of months of bipartisan negotiations and scheduled for a committee markup later this month. For instance, the Senate bill would require one-fifth of each chamber to force a vote to object to electors.
To her credit, Cheney and Lofgren are trying to head off a potential SCOTUS disaster next summer where conservatives on the court declare that state legislatures can do whatever they want on voting without any oversight while the Voting Rights Act remains gutted and toothless thanks to John Roberts himself.

The bill has little to no chance in the Senate however, because Manchin's electoral reform bill doesn't actually do anything to clear up the legal questions over electors, state legislatures, and the VP, and Republicans want it to remain that way until at least after SCOTUS decides the NC election case.

We'll see. Cheney's going down swinging...but her career is over.  That's not a bad thing.

The History of Gunmerica, Kentucky Edition

It was almost 25 years ago that Paducah, Kentucky was rocked by one of the first modern school shootings in America, two years before Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado became a national watershed moment. Now, the shooter in that tragic event is eligible for parole while serving a life sentence, and Kentuckians are asking a lot of questions about how we get where we are now a quarter-century later.
When 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on his fellow students during a before-school prayer meeting in 1997, school shootings were not yet a part of the national consciousness. The carnage that left three students dead and five more injured at Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky, ended when Carneal put down his weapon and the principal walked him to the school office — a scene that seems unimaginable today.

Also stretching today’s imagination — Carneal’s life sentence guaranteed an opportunity for parole after 25 years, the maximum sentence permissible at the time given his age.

A quarter century later, Carneal is 39 with a parole hearing next week that comes at a very different time in American life — after Sandy Hook, after Uvalde. Today police officers and metal detectors are an accepted presence in many schools, and even kindergartners are drilled to prepare for active shooters.

“Twenty-five years seemed like so long, so far away,” Missy Jenkins Smith recalls thinking at the time of the sentencing. Jenkins Smith was 15 when she was shot by Carneal, someone she considered a friend. The bullet left her paralyzed, and she uses a wheelchair to get around. Over the years, she has counted down the time until Carneal would be eligible for parole.

“I would think, ‘It’s been 10 years. How many more years?’ At the 20-year anniversary memorial, I thought, ‘It’s coming up.’”

Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social welfare and education at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied school violence, said public opinion around school shootings and juvenile punishment has changed a lot over the last 25 years. In the 1980s and 1990s, Astor provided therapy to children who had committed very serious crimes, including murder, but were rehabilitated and not jailed.

“Today all of them would have been locked up,” he said. “But the majority went on to do good things.”

Jenkins Smith knows first-hand that troubled children can be helped. She worked for years as a counselor for at-risk youth, where her wheelchair served as a stark visual reminder of what violence can do, she said.

“Kids who would threaten school shootings, terroristic threatening, were sent to me,” she said. Some are now adults. “It’s great to see what they’ve accomplished and how they’ve changed their lives around. They’ve learned from their bad decisions.”

But that doesn’t mean she thinks Carneal should be set free. For one thing, she worries that he is not equipped to handle life outside of prison and could still harm others. She also doesn’t think it would be right for him to walk free when the people he injured are still suffering.

“For him to have a chance at 39. People get married at 39. They have children,” she said. “It’s not right for him to possibly have a normal life that those three girls he killed will never have.”

Killed in the shooting were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger.

Astor said that when it comes to the worst crimes, like many people, he struggles with the question of what age children should be held strictly accountable for their actions. As a class exercise, he has his students consider the appropriate punishment for a perpetrator at different ages. Should a 16-year-old be treated the same as a 12-year-old? Should a 12-year-old be treated the same as a 40-year-old?

Without any national consensus, you end up with a patchwork of laws and policies that sometimes result in very different punishments for nearly identical crimes, he said.

It's not my call as to whether Carneal gains parole. If the parole board decides that, then he'll have served his time. But three dead and kicking off the modern era of school shootings should come with a price. An entire generation of kids followed him into blood and hell. And an entire generation of Republicans made sure the gates to hell would remain open, and paved with firearms.

We do have a choice in November here in Kentucky.

Just sayin'.

The Island Of Misfit Americans, Con't

Five years after Hurricane Maria destroyed most of Puerto Rico's power infrastructure as the Trump regime all but guaranteed continual poverty, austerity, and misery there after the Trump regime privatized that power grid, another storm has hit the island and knocked out power to the entire population, and we'll see if the response this time is any different as millions of Americans suffer again.

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon after knocking out power to all of Puerto Rico, its governor said, as forecasters warned that the storm could bring as much as two feet of rain and cause life-threatening floods and landslides.

Nearly 1.5 million customers were without electricity on Sunday afternoon, according to, which tracks power interruptions.

Because of the hurricane, the power grid was out of service, the governor, Pedro Pierluisi, said on Twitter. “Protocols have been activated based on established plans to address this situation,” he said.

The collapse of the electrical grid came five years after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico and knocked out the island’s power. Since then, unreliable electricity has been a mainstay of life on the island, leading to a slow recovery and widespread protests by frustrated residents.

The power company LUMA warned on Sunday that full power restoration could take several days. It said that the storm was “incredibly challenging” and that restoration efforts would begin when it was safe to do so.

“The current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hampering our ability to fully assess the situation,” it said on its website.

Hurricane Maria struck the island as a Category 4 storm and produced as much as 40 inches of rainfall and caused the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people. On Sunday morning, Fiona strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane.

Fiona made landfall, meaning the eye of the storm crossed the shoreline, along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico near Punta Tocon around 3:20 p.m. local time, the National Hurricane Center said.

Significant flooding had already occurred, and it was likely the rain would continue through Monday morning, said Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center.

“It’s basically going to park itself over the island tonight and produce very, very, very heavy rainfall,” Mr. Rhome said.

While still a tropical storm, Fiona brought flooding to Guadeloupe, an island southeast of Puerto Rico, and there was at least one storm-related death in the capital, a government official said on Saturday.

In Puerto Rico, rainfall totals could reach 12 to 16 inches, with local maximum totals of 25 inches, particularly across eastern and southern Puerto Rico, forecasters said. The rain threatened to cause not only flash flooding across Puerto Rico and portions of the eastern Dominican Republic but also mudslides and landslides.

Fiona had winds of about 85 miles per hour and prompted hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico and the coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo, the center said.
Several days is better than the months after Maria, and Biden is not Trump. Emergency efforts by this administration will be swift and effective.
But the larger problem of Puerto Rico's American population remains: no representation in Congress or in elections, and as with DC, the GOP will block any attempt at statehood because it would make control of the Senate more difficult for them. 

We'll see what the response is this week.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Last Call For The Big Lie, La Gran Mentira Edition

The Big Lie in 2020 is "Trump really won." The slightly smaller Big Lie is that Democrats are losing Hispanic voters across the country, and that heavily Catholic Latino immigrants are a naturally conservative base for MAGA, and that Democrats are doomed in 2022 and beyond as a result.

It hasbeen nearly two years since Donald Trump made surprising gains with Hispanic voters. But Republican dreams of a major realignment of Latino voters drawn to G.O.P. stances on crime and social issues have failed to materialize, according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

The poll — one of the largest nonpartisan surveys of Latino voters since the 2020 election — found that Democrats had maintained a grip on the majority of Latino voters, driven in part by women and the belief that Democrats remained the party of the working class. Overall, Hispanic voters are more likely to agree with Democrats on many issues — immigration, gun policy, climate. They are also more likely to see Republicans as the party of the elite and as holding extreme views. And a majority of Hispanic voters, 56 percent, plan to vote for Democrats this fall, compared with 32 percent for Republicans.

But the survey also shows worrying signs for the future of the Democratic message. Despite that comfortable lead, the poll finds Democrats faring far worse than they did in the years before the 2020 election. Younger male Hispanic voters, especially those in the South, appear to be drifting away from the party, a shift that is propelled by deep economic concerns. Weaknesses in the South and among rural voters could stand in the way of crucial wins in Texas and Florida in this year’s midterms.

Anthony Saiz, 24, who reviews content for a social media platform in Tucson, Ariz., said he had to take on a second job baking pizzas at a beer garden to make ends meet. Mr. Saiz voted for President Biden in 2020 and considers himself a Democrat because he grew up in a Democratic household. But under Mr. Biden, he said, the cost of living seemed to have doubled for him even as he moved into a smaller apartment.

“The choices he has been making for the country have been putting me in a bad spot,” he said of Mr. Biden.

How Latinos will vote is a crucial question in the November elections and for the future of American politics. Hispanic voters are playing a pivotal role in the battle over control of Congress, making up a significant slice of voters — as high as 20 percent — in two of the states likeliest to determine control of the Senate, Arizona and Nevada. Latinos also make up more than 20 percent of registered voters in more than a dozen highly competitive House races in California, Colorado, Florida and Texas, among other states.

Democrats have long assumed that the growing Latino electorate would doom Republicans, and the prospect of an increasingly diverse electorate has fueled anxieties among conservatives. The 2020 election results — in which Mr. Trump gained an estimated eight percentage points among Hispanic voters compared to 2016 — began changing both parties’ outlooks. The Times/Siena poll shows that historic allegiances and beliefs on core issues remain entrenched, though some shifts are striking.

While majorities of Hispanic voters side with Democrats on social and cultural issues, sizable shares hold beliefs aligned with Republicans: More than a third of Hispanic voters say they agree more with the G.O.P. on crime and policing, and four out of 10 Hispanic voters have concerns that the Democratic Party has gone too far on race and gender. Hispanic voters view economic issues as the most important factor determining their vote this year and are evenly split on which party they agree with more on the economy.
Hispanic voters are large enough now that they are not monolithic, especially in states like Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California. But this is a huge difference from "Trump won Hispanic voters in swing states".

A dozen Republican candidates in competitive races for governor and Senate have declined to say whether they would accept the results of their contests, raising the prospect of fresh post-election chaos two years after Donald Trump refused to concede the presidency.

In a survey by The Washington Post of 19 of the most closely watched statewide races in the country, the contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates was stark. While seven GOP nominees committed to accepting the outcomes in their contests, 12 either refused to commit or declined to respond. On the Democratic side, 17 said they would accept the outcome and two did not respond to The Post’s survey.

The reluctance of many GOP candidates to embrace a long-standing tenet of American democracy shows how Trump’s assault on the integrity of U.S. elections has spread far beyond the 2020 presidential race. This year, multiple losing candidates could refuse to accept their defeats.

Trump, who continues to claim without evidence that his loss to Joe Biden in 2020 was rigged, has attacked fellow Republicans who do not agree — making election denialism the price of admission in many GOP primaries. More than half of all Republican nominees for federal and statewide office with powers over election administration have embraced unproven claims that fraud tainted Biden’s win, according to a Washington Post tally.
Again, more than half of GOP candidates refuse to believe Joe Biden won in 2020.  These candidates will never concede their losses, and in more than a few states controlled by the GOP, I fully expect them to be awarded victories due to "widespread voter fraud" that doesn't actually exist.

And if 2024 goes badly enough, I expect that entire states will be awarded to the GOP 2024 presidential candidate regardless of voter totals.

Vote Like You Still Can.

A Jackson, Hole, Con't

The Brett Favre/Gov. Phil Bryant welfare corruption scandal in Mississippi gets even worse as the capital city of Jackson will need billions to repair its water system, and now we see that instead of using federal money to do things like fix Jackson's water pipes, state Republicans used the corrupted state welfare program that Gov. Bryant turned into his personal slush fund to go after Democrats in the state, while current GOP Gov. Tate Reeves covered it all up.

Within Mississippi’s ever-unfolding welfare scandal, government officials didn’t just use federal funds to lavish their friends and family.

They also allegedly leveraged the money to quell their political foes, according to a defendant in the case and another individual connected to a nonprofit within scheme.

Christi Webb, director of the welfare-funded nonprofit Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, supported her friend and then-Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, in his race for governor against then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in 2019.

To the apparent dismay of state Republican leadership, Webb hired the Democrat’s wife, Debbie Hood, in mid-2018 to run the local Chickasaw County office of the statewide anti-poverty program called Families First for Mississippi. The state welfare department was pushing tens of millions of welfare dollars through Webb’s nonprofit – $11.5 million forensic auditors found was misused over a four-year span.

But around April 2019, as the governor’s race began heating up, a local Republican lawmaker allegedly took that dismay a step further and delivered a threat to Webb: Fire Debbie Hood or lose your public funding.

“FRC will never receive another dollar from the state if you don’t fire Debbie Hood,” a north Mississippi Republican lawmaker told Webb, Webb’s attorney Casey Lott alleged.

“He explicitly said, ‘I’m the governor’s messenger,’” Lott added, referencing then-Gov. Phil Bryant.

Mississippi Today spoke with another person connected to the nonprofit who also witnessed and confirmed the lawmaker’s demand but did not wish to be named.

Bryant, who oversaw over the Mississippi Department of Human Services and appointed the welfare agency’s director, has increasingly faced public scrutiny for his role in what has been called the largest embezzlement scheme in state history.

The former governor, who has not been charged with a crime, wielded control over how the welfare agency and its partner nonprofits spent federal welfare funds, Mississippi Today has uncovered in its ongoing investigative series “The Backchannel.” And Bryant even appeared to help NFL legend Brett Favre and a nonprofit official write a grant to skirt around federal regulations, according to text messages first published by Mississippi Today this week.

Bryant’s attorney in the civil case, Ridgeland-based attorney Billy Quin, declined to comment Saturday for this story. Quin is a former special assistant attorney general under Hood, and the attorney publicly supported Hood for governor in 2019, social media posts show.

Jim Hood’s 2019 campaign manager Michael Rejebian confirmed the account on Saturday. He said that after Debbie Hood learned of the threat, the campaign began trying to run down what happened and, “we came to the conclusion that Tate (Reeves) had his fingers in it.”

“It didn’t surprise us because that’s his M.O.,” Rejebian said.

Ultimately, the Hood camp did not make Debbie Hood’s treatment an issue in the race because “she did not want this to be a distraction to the campaign and what her husband needed to do,” Rejebian said.

Rejebian called Debbie Hood a conscientious person who took the job at the Family Resource Center to help people, and that she wouldn’t have known about the funding structures.

But the questions about what happened to Debbie Hood, Rejebian said, prompted murmurs about what was really occurring at Families First, which would less than a year later be exposed for being the vehicle of millions of dollars worth of theft
Again, what we're looking at here is the direct result of corrupt, one-party rule in one of the poorest states in America. Millions were stolen directly, Billions were pushed elsewhere, and the state's Black population was victimized at every turn. Both governors, the current and former, need to go to prison along with "NFL legend" Favre.

They won't, of course.

Sunday Long Read: A Morally Bankrupt Strategy

In our Sunday Long Read this week, The New Yorker's Casey Cep details how corporate consumer giants like Johnson & Johnson knew their products caused cancer and did know for more than 50 years. When faced with judgement however, these companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars simply declare bankruptcy and throw out their verdicts because they "can't pay".

God gives you only one body, Deane Berg always said, so you’d better take care of the one you’ve got. A physician assistant at the veterans’ hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, she knew that spotting between periods wasn’t unusual for a forty-nine-year-old woman, but she went to the doctor anyway. Her two daughters had already lost their father to lung cancer, so Berg wanted to stick around.

Just perimenopause, the doctor concluded after a cursory examination. Probably a blood clot, the nurse practitioner told her when a subsequent ultrasound showed something on an ovary. “It’s not going to be cancer,” the gynecological surgeon said before removing both ovaries on the day after Christmas in 2006. But, when Berg went for her follow-up, she read the words on the pathology report before the surgeon had a chance to break the news: serous carcinoma. She cried, and the surgeon did, too. She would now need a full hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and a great deal of luck. Every year, around twenty thousand women are given a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in the United States, and more than half that many will die of the disease.

Berg told herself that twenty-six years of caring for patients might help her get through the treatments ahead. But her experience with veterans’ port-a-caths did not make it any less painful to have them implanted in her own abdomen and chest; nausea and headaches were no more manageable because she’d counselled others through them. And nothing prepares a person for losing her hair and much of her hearing or developing nerve damage in her hands and feet or having her teeth crack from chemo. Weak and immunocompromised, Berg left her job at the hospital, which meant she had more time to study the handouts about ovarian cancer that nurses had given her when she was diagnosed.

One of those pamphlets was distributed by Gilda’s Club, a group founded by friends of the comedian Gilda Radner, who died of the disease in 1989, when she was only forty-two. The pamphlet included a list of risk factors, which Berg went through one by one. No, she didn’t have a family history of reproductive cancer; no, she hadn’t struggled with infertility and had never used fertility drugs; no, she had never had cancer before; no, she had never had an unhealthy diet or been overweight. Then she came to a section about talcum powder. After reading it, she went to look at the big container of Johnson & Johnson body powder she kept in her bathroom to use after daily showers and the little bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder she took with her whenever she travelled. Both listed talc as an ingredient.

Berg immediately posted a message on the forum of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, asking if any other women thought their cancer might have been caused by talcum powder. Only two people replied. The first was a cancer researcher in Illinois who had been trying for more than a decade to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to warn American customers that talc could be a carcinogen. The second was R. Allen Smith, Jr., an attorney in Mississippi. He was interested in talking to her about a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson; she wasn’t convinced he was a real lawyer.

Smith did in fact practice law, and, years before, his father, a doctor, had tipped him off to a contentious debate over the safety of talc—one that continues to this day. A study published in 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pooled data from four earlier long-term observational studies and involved a quarter of a million women, found no statistically significant link between talc and ovarian cancer. But, as its authors noted, the underlying studies did not always distinguish between powders that contained talc and those which did not, and were not consistent in asking participants how often or for how long they’d powdered themselves. Many other studies, meanwhile, found a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talc for feminine hygiene—in their underwear, on their sanitary napkins, for storing their diaphragms.

Determining the etiology of diseases is difficult, especially when it comes to cancers, which often have long latency periods and multifactorial causes. But the evidence against talc had grown substantial enough by the time Berg was diagnosed that many U.S. manufacturers, including the makers of crayons, condoms, and surgical gloves, had erred on the side of caution and stopped using it in their products. Why hadn’t Johnson & Johnson done the same, when an alternative, cornstarch, was cheap, abundant, and safer?

Johnson & Johnson is one of America’s most trusted companies, and as Berg moved through her cycles of chemotherapy she kept thinking about a slogan for its body powder: “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.” For more than thirty years, she had taken that advice, applying the powder between her legs to prevent chafing. But that powder wasn’t like her chemo drugs: their side effects were awful, but they were keeping her alive. The powder felt, instead, like an unnecessary gamble, one she thought other people should be warned about.

All along, Berg had worried about her daughters—not only how they’d fare if she died but whether her diagnosis meant they had a greater inherited risk of cancer. In 2007, to find out, she underwent genetic testing and learned that she had neither of the two main mutations that increase the odds of developing reproductive cancers. Two years later, she had her ovarian tissue tested, and the pathologist found talc in one ovary. Shortly afterward, with her cancer in remission, she decided to sue, in what became the first baby-powder lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson to ever make it to trial.

Almost every American, from nursery to deathbed, uses Johnson & Johnson products: baby shampoo, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Rogaine, and O.B. tampons; Tylenol, Imodium, Motrin, and Zyrtec; Listerine mouthwash and Nicorette gum; Aveeno lotion and Neutrogena cleanser; catheters and stents for the heart; balloons for dilating the ear, nose, and throat; hemostats and staples; ankle, hip, shoulder, and knee replacements; breast implants; Acuvue contact lenses. But what few of those consumers grasped until a series of baby-powder cases began to go to trial was that, for decades, the company had known that its powders could contain asbestos, among the world’s deadliest carcinogens.

Slippery to the touch and soft enough to flake with your fingernail, the mineral talc is found all around the world, in deposits that can be more than a billion years old. Such deposits are sometimes laced with actinolite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, and tremolite. These accessory minerals, better known in their fibrous form as asbestos, grow alongside talc like weeds in a geological garden. As early as 1971, Johnson & Johnson scientists had become aware of reports about asbestos in talc. They and others also worried about a connection between cancer and talc itself, whether or not it contained asbestos. By the time of Berg’s diagnosis, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer had designated talc containing fibrous particles a carcinogen and the genital application of any talc powder possibly carcinogenic. The F.D.A. had safety concerns, too, but its authority over products like baby powder was and remains, in the words of Ann Witt, a former senior official at the agency, “so minimal it’s laughable.”

Johnson & Johnson has always insisted, including to this magazine, that its baby powder is “safe, asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer”; however, a 2016 investigation by Bloomberg and subsequent revelations by Reuters and the New York Times, based in part on documents that surfaced because of discovery in suits like Berg’s, exposed the possible health risk related to its powders. Following those reports, tens of thousands of people filed suits against the company, alleging that its products had caused their cancers. In 2020, after juries awarded some of those plaintiffs damages that collectively exceeded billions of dollars, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer supply the talc-based version of its product to American stores.

And then, quietly, the company embraced a strategy to circumvent juries entirely. Deploying a legal maneuver first used by Koch Industries, Johnson & Johnson, a company valued at nearly half a trillion dollars, with a credit rating higher than that of the United States government, declared bankruptcy. Because of that move, the fate of forty thousand current lawsuits and the possibility of future claims by cancer victims or their survivors now rests with a single bankruptcy judge in the company’s home state, New Jersey. If Johnson & Johnson prevails and, as Berg puts it, “weasels its way out of everything,” the case could usher in a new era in which the government has diminished power to enforce consumer-protection laws, citizens don’t get to make their case before a jury of their peers when those laws fail, and even corporations with long histories of documented harm will get to decide how much, if anything, they owe their victims.

And Berg got nothing close to what she deserved for the company giving her cancer. Neither did any of the other plaintiffs who sued after her.  J&J now has several subsidiaries, and none of them are responsible for decades of talc asbestos poisoning, and is still doing hundreds of billions in business every year.


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