Friday, September 30, 2022

Last Call For Ukraine On The Membrane, Con't

As Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in a fiery speech earlier today that the Donbas region is now part of Russia, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has all but been assured of a fast track to NATO membership, the US is trying even more economic sanctions in the hope they'll cause some pain.
The US is imposing what it describes as “swift and severe costs” on Russia, including sanctions on a figure the Biden administration says is key to Russia’s economy, after President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of regions of Ukraine following what the West casts as “sham referenda.”

Putin signed documents on Friday to formally begin the process of annexing four regions of Ukraine during a ceremony in the Kremlin, a clear violation of international law amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began seven months ago.

US officials have been working behind the scenes to coordinate their response with allies over the course of the last several days and deploy it immediately after Putin’s official action, people familiar with the process said. The response marks an escalation and expansion of the most sweeping sanctions regime ever to target a major economy, one that has been steadily ramped up throughout the more than seven months since Russia’s invasion.

The US, a Biden administration official said, is “targeting additional Russian government officials and leaders, their family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials, and defense procurement networks, including international suppliers supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex” through announcements from the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and State.

The US actions, which include a combination of export controls, visa restrictions and asset freezes, serve as an effort to further clamp down on Russian supply chains – and the individuals directing the efforts - critical to maintaining the war effort. US officials and their allies have closely monitored real-time Russian efforts to circumvent sanctions already in place to curtail access to critical components for the defense industry, and many of the new targets come from that effort.

That includes sanctions from the Treasury Department on a key player in keeping the Russian economy afloat: Elvira Nabiullina, an economist who has been leading Russia’s central bank since 2013.

President Joe Biden sharply condemned Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory in a statement Friday.

“The United States condemns Russia’s fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” Biden said, adding that those actions have “no legitimacy” and will continue to “always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”

He also urged “all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the “United States unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”

“We will continue the United States’ powerful, coordinated efforts to hold Russia to account, cut Russia’s military off from global commerce and severely limit its ability to sustain its aggression and project power,” he said.
The problem is, Putin has been planning this for a long time.

Putin has spent years building up his defenses, amassing hundreds of billions in foreign currency reserves, bringing much of Russia’s industrial base under state control and selling Russia’s vast energy resources to the world. US officials grudgingly acknowledge that Nabiullina has done an effective job managing Russia through this initial phase of the sanctions, just as she did in 2014 after Putin’s Crimea annexation triggered a much less severe round of sanctions from the West.

This time, Nabiullina has deftly raised interest rates, imposed capital controls, and sought holes and workarounds to float an economy under siege – an effort that came even as the US and allies took the unprecedented step of targeting the central bank directly with sanctions shortly after the invasion.

“A good central banker can do things to buoy the currency,” one senior US official said earlier this year. “They have a very good central banker. We knew that then; we know it now

So yes, sanctions have not wrecked the Putin economy just yet, but it has done a lot of damage to the US and EU. Putin is hoping he can force Ukraine to sue for peace with his newly annexed territories intact, especially if energy prices remain sky high.

He may not be wrong. At the very least, we see what the result of that damage has achieved: recent elections in Sweden, Italy, and the Baltics have meant to the rise of Russia-friendly fascism there, and the same is happening here in the US.

Would a GOP controlled Senate block any more aid to Ukraine?

I would say that's a very good possibility.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

Trump's personal federal court judge, Aileen "Loose" Cannon, continues to be a national embarrassment and enduring symbol of Trump corruption, this time proving beyond any doubt that the Trump regime's odious "Special Master" plan was just a delay tactic to prevent Trump from being indicted before the midterm elections.

Judge Aileen M. Cannon told Donald Trump’s lawyers Thursday that they did not need to comply with an order from special master Raymond J. Dearie and state in a court filing whether they believe FBI agents lied about documents seized from the former president’s Florida residence.

Thursday’s ruling was the first clash between Cannon, a Trump appointee who has generally shown the former president deference in litigation over the Mar-a-Lago investigation, and Dearie, a federal judge she appointed as an outside expert in the case, who appears to be far more skeptical of Trump.

After Trump’s lawyers requested a special master, Cannon chose Dearie to review approximately 11,000 documents seized Aug. 8 from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence and determine whether any should be shielded from investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege.

An appeals court separately overruled Cannon’s decision that about 100 additional documents that the government says are classified — some of them top-secret — should be part of Dearie’s review.

Dearie last week told the former president’s legal team that it couldn’t suggest in court filings that the government’s description of the seized documents — including whether they were classified — was inaccurate without providing any evidence. He ordered them to submit to the court by Oct. 7 any specific inaccuracies they saw in the government’s inventory list of seized items.

It would have been a key test of Trump’s legal strategy, as his lawyers decided whether to back up Trump’s controversial public claims that the FBI planted items at his residence and that he had declassified all the classified documents before leaving office — or whether they would take a more conciliatory approach.
Dearie told the Trump team to submit evidence that the FBI "planted" documents at Mar-a-Lago during the August search because the main argument from Trump's legal eagles is that the FBI permanently tainted the investigation by doing so, and that Special Master Dearie was there to serve up justice for this foul misdeed.
Judge Cannon simply threw that order out.
But according to Cannon, who has the authority to overrule Dearie’s orders, such a decision is not required right now.

“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant’s Inventory, its descriptions, or its content,” Cannon wrote.

The Justice Department could appeal.

Trump’s legal team has argued that answering questions about the inventory list and whether the documents are classified could put them at a disadvantage in the face of a possible future criminal prosecution, or a future legal fight over getting the seized documents returned to Trump.

When Trump defense attorney James M. Trusty told Dearie earlier this month that he should not be forced to disclose declarations and witness statements yet, Dearie replied: “My view is you can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Cannon also addressed ongoing disputes Thursday over deadlines set by Dearie as part of his review, siding with Trump’s team and extending the special master review deadline to Dec. 16. She had originally said Dearie could have until around Thanksgiving to settle any disagreements the two parties had over privilege issues.

Dearie had suggested he could work on a more expedited schedule and told the parties they would need to finish their portions of the review by Oct. 21. Trump’s team had pushed back against that deadline, saying it was too fast and that they couldn’t find a vendor to scan the documents that was willing to work on that timeline.

“This modest enlargement is necessary to permit adequate time for the Special Master’s review and recommendations given the circumstances as they have evolved since entry of the Appointment Order,” Cannon wrote in her order.
Cannon is going to such stretching extremes for Trump, it's a wonder Disney isn't looking to cast her a Helen "Elastigirl" Parr for a live-action adaptation of The Incredibles
And now the investigation may be delayed into next year, where Trump is hoping a GOP Congress will interfere with, block, or even eliminate the investigation completely somehow.

All the while, Judge Cannon will do everything she can to bog the investigation down. It's the kind of thing that should lead to her removal as a judge, but the GOP will never allow that.

So on the farce goes, music, pratfalls, and all.

The Loan Arranger Heads For The Hills

As Republican Attorneys General in six states are suing the Biden Administration over student loan relief, the Department of Education is drastically cutting back on who qualifies for the program because of fears it will be eliminated altogether by the Supreme Court.

In a remarkable reversal that will affect the fortunes of many student loan borrowers, the U.S. Department of Education has quietly changed its guidance around who qualifies for President Biden's sweeping student debt relief plan.

At the center of the change are borrowers who took out federal student loans many years ago, both Perkins loans and Federal Family Education Loans. FFEL loans, issued and managed by private banks but guaranteed by the federal government, were once the mainstay of the federal student loan program until the FFEL program ended in 2010.

Today, according to federal data, more than 4 million borrowers still have commercially-held FFEL loans. Until Thursday, the department's own website advised these borrowers that they could consolidate these loans into federal Direct Loans and thereby qualify for relief under Biden's debt cancellation program.

On Thursday, though, the department quietly changed that language. The guidance now says, "As of Sept. 29, 2022, borrowers with federal student loans not held by ED cannot obtain one-time debt relief by consolidating those loans into Direct Loans."

An administration official tells NPR this change will not affect all 4 million borrowers with commercially-held FFEL loans. The official said many FFEL borrowers also have Direct Loans and so can still qualify to consolidate those FFEL loans, though that detail was not included in the department's updated guidance.

Ultimately, this administration official says, roughly 800,000 borrowers would be directly affected.

It's unclear why the department reversed its decision on allowing FFEL borrowers with commercially-held loans to consolidate and then qualify for debt relief.

In a statement to NPR, a department spokesperson says, "Our goal is to provide relief to as many eligible borrowers as quickly and easily as possible, and this will allow us to achieve that goal while we continue to explore additional legally-available options to provide relief to borrowers with privately owned FFEL loans and Perkins loans, including whether FFEL borrowers could receive one-time debt relief without needing to consolidate. Borrowers with privately held federal student loans who applied to consolidate their loans into Direct Loans before September 29, 2022 will obtain one-time debt relief. The FFEL program is now defunct and only a small percentage of borrowers have FFEL loans."

The tell in that statement is "legally-available."

Multiple legal experts tell NPR the reversal in policy was likely made out of concern that the private banks that manage old FFEL loans could potentially file lawsuits to stop the debt relief, arguing that Biden's plan would cause them financial harm.
When FFEL borrowers consolidate their old loans into federal Direct Loans, these private banks essentially lose business. If these banks' financial health depends, at least in part, on the assumption that they would be holding and profiting from these debts over the long-term, then losing borrowers to Biden's debt relief plan could, possibly, constitute harm.

In fact, a new lawsuit filed Thursday by six state attorneys general, makes this very argument. One of the plaintiffs, Missouri, is home to MOHELA, which manages both federal Direct Loans and these old FFEL program loans.

"The consolidation of MOHELA's FFELP loans harms the entity by depriving it of an asset (the FFELP loans themselves) that it currently owns," says the complaint. "The consolidation of MOHELA's FFELP loans harms the entity by depriving it of the ongoing interest payments that those loans generate."
As I mentioned on Wednesday, the issue is standing. In order to sue the government over government policy, you have to show that you are being directly and negatively affected by that policy. Banks being out billions like this definitely seems like something that qualifies, and yes, I expect the courts will side with the banks and the GOP, and this program will end up in the scrap heap.

The people who told you "Biden can cancel all student debt with a stroke of a pen" didn't bother to add "and would be sued for damages and lose in the courts".

Republicans are more than happy to force you to pay back your student loans, too.  They care about banks, not people.

Might want to keep that in mind.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It

The biggest failure in political punditry in the last two decades has been "Demography as Destiny" fronted by people like Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, that Latino voters would flood states like Texas and Florida and make them blue. The thing is though, the Latino community, like the Black community, is not monolithic. A lot of Latino folks consider themselves as white, and vote reliably Republican. What gains Democrats have made with non-white Latino voters in the Trump era have been offset by white Latino Trump voters...and white voters in general.

But the whole "Democrats are going to lose Latino voters to the GOP" thing is a lie too.

Nearly two years after former President Donald Trump won more Latino votes than he did in 2016, a new Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults finds that most say the Democratic Party cares about Latinos and works hard to earn their vote. Significantly fewer say the same of the Republican Party. At the same time, fewer than half of Latinos say they see a major difference between the parties, despite living in a deeply polarized era amid growing partisan hostility.

When it comes to the Democratic Party, the survey finds majorities of Latino adults express positive views of it. Some 71% say the Democratic Party works hard for Latinos’ votes, 63% say it “really cares about Latinos,” and 60% say the Democratic Party represents the interests of people like themselves. By contrast, shares of Latinos say the same of the Republican Party on each statement, though a somewhat greater share (45%) say that the GOP “works hard to earn the votes of Latinos.”

While the majority of Latinos have positive views of the Democratic Party, not all do. For example, about a third (34%) say the statement “the Democratic Party really cares about Latinos” does not describe their views well, and a similar share says the same about the statement “the Democratic Party represents the interests of people like you.”

Negative assessments extend to both parties. According to the survey, about one-in-five Latinos (22%) say neither of these statements describe their views well: “The Democratic Party really cares about Latinos” and “The Republican Party really cares about Latinos.”

In addition, substantial minorities of Hispanic partisans say they have at least a somewhat favorable view of the opposing party on several measures, though sharp differences exist by party affiliation among Hispanics.

Roughly a third of Latino Republicans and GOP leaners (36%) say “the Democratic Party really cares about Latinos” describes their views at least somewhat well, while 21% of Latino Democrats and Democratic leaners say “the Republican Party really cares about Latinos” describes their views at least somewhat well.

Meanwhile, more than half of Hispanic Republicans and Republican leaners (56%) say “the Democratic Party works hard to earn Latinos’ votes” describes their views at least somewhat well, while about a third of Hispanic Democrats and Democratic leaners (35%) say “the Republican Party works hard to earn Latinos’ votes” describes their views at least somewhat well.

At the same time, about half of Hispanics do not see a great deal of difference between what the Democratic and Republican parties stand for, with 36% saying there is a fair amount of difference and 16% saying there is hardly any difference at all between the parties.

Meanwhile, 45% see a great deal of difference between the parties. About equal shares of Hispanic Democrats and Democratic leaners (47%) and Hispanic Republicans and Republican leaners (48%) say there is a great deal of difference between the parties.

These findings emerge from the 2022 National Survey of Latinos by Pew Research Center. The bilingual, nationally representative survey of 3,029 Latino adults was conducted online from Aug. 1-14, 2022. It explores Latinos’ views about U.S. political parties and key issues leading up to November’s midterm elections.


Increasingly, Latinos are becoming America's most important swing voter category. Right now, Democrats still hold a large lead with Latino voters, but that's not a guarantee anymore. With half of Latinos seeing no difference between the parties, Democrats do have to work hard to show that there is.

And the abortion issue may finally be the thing that does it.
A majority of Hispanics (57%) say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, a slightly smaller share than among the U.S. public overall (62%). Four-in-ten Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

Views on abortion diverge sharply by party, reflecting the diversity of attitudes among Hispanics. About two-thirds of Hispanic Democrats (68%) say abortion should be legal in most or all cases. By contrast, about six-in-ten Hispanic Republicans (62%) say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Hispanic independents and those who do not identify as partisans have more evenly divided views. However, opinions among Hispanic independents who lean toward a party closely resemble those of partisans: 69% of Democratic leaners say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 58% of Republican leaners say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

Among Latino Democrats and Democratic leaners, 84% of liberals say abortion should be legal in most or all cases while six-in-ten conservatives and moderates say the same. Meanwhile, among Latino Republicans and GOP leaners, 69% of conservatives say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, compared with 53% of moderates and liberals.

Views on abortion are also sharply divided by religion. About two-thirds of Latino evangelical Protestants (69%) say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while most Latino Catholics (58%) and Latinos with no religious affiliation (73%) say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
There's been a lot of talk about how the Dobbs decision has motivated women to register to vote over the last three months, but I think a lot of pundits are sleeping on the number of Hispanic voters who have been motivated to register and vote over Dobbs as well. 

In a big turnout midterm year like I'm expecting in 2022, Latino voters may be the difference in Dems keeping and losing the House.

Vote like your country depends on it.

Spies Like Us, Con't

A married pair of American doctors, one from John Hopkins, the other an US Army Major, have been indicted for trying to sell US military medical info to an FBI Agent posing as a Russian embassy official.
A Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, were federally indicted for attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Anna Gabrielian and Jamie Lee Henry, who had a secret security clearance as a doctor at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, communicated and met with an undercover FBI agent who they believed was from the Russian embassy, offering sensitive medical information on military members and their family, the indictment alleges.

During an initial Aug. 17 meeting in a Baltimore hotel room, Gabrielian told the undercover agent that “she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail.”

Her spouse had access to not just medical information, she said, but insight into how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and about training the military provided to Ukrainian military personnel. Henry participated in a second meeting later that night.

“My point of view is until the United States actually declares war against Russia, I’m able to help as much as I want,” Henry told the undercover agent, according to the indictment. “At that point, I’ll have some ethical issues I’ll have to work through.”
“You’ll work through those ethical issues,” Gabrielian replied.

In an Aug. 24 meeting with the undercover agent at a Baltimore hotel room, Gabrielian called Henry a “coward” for being concerned about violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA,) a federal law that limits the disclosure of patients’ confidential medical information.

Gabrielian is listed as an instructor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Hopkins, and her profile page says she speaks Russian. Henry received attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender. A Buzzfeed article from that time said she was also to her knowledge and to the knowledge of LGBT advocates the first and only active duty service member who had changed her name and gender within the United States military.

During an Aug. 31 meeting at a hotel in Gaithersburg, Gabrielian provided the agent with medical information related to the spouse of a person currently employed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, and medical information related to someone only described as a veteran of the Air Force.

“Gabrielian highlighted to the [undercover agent] a medical issue reflected in the records of [the military member’s spouse] that Russia could exploit.,” the indictment says.

During the same meeting, Henry also provided medical information related to five patients at Fort Bragg, including a retired Army officer, a current Department of Defense employee, and spouses of active and deceased Army veterans.

This...this is gonna be a hell of a movie.

Trussed Up Like A Turkey

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has had a very, very bad start to her government, you know with the Queen dying and the power crisis and oh yeah, nearly collapsing the pound this week with her new tax cut scheme.

The Bank of England took emergency action on Wednesday to avoid a meltdown in the UK pensions sector, unleashing a £65bn bond-buying programme to stem a crisis in government debt markets. 
The central bank warned of a “material risk to UK financial stability” from turmoil in the gilts market, which was sparked by chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax cuts and borrowing plan last week. 
 The BoE suspended a programme to sell gilts — part of an effort to get surging inflation under control — and instead pledged to buy long-dated bonds at a rate of up to £5bn a day for the next 13 weekdays.
Economists warned that the injection of billions of pounds of newly minted money into the economy could fuel inflation. “This move will be inflationary at a time of already high inflation,” said Daniel Mahoney, UK economist at Handelsbanken. 
UK government bond markets recovered sharply after the announcement. The pound rose by 1.4 per cent on the day by evening trading in London, reaching $1.0877 against the dollar.
The bank stressed it was not seeking to lower long-term government borrowing costs. Instead it sought to buy time to prevent a vicious circle in which pension funds have to sell gilts immediately to meet demands for cash from their creditors.
That process had put pension funds at risk of insolvency, because the mass sell-offs pushed down further the price of gilts held by funds as assets, requiring them to stump up even more cash.
 “At some point this morning I was worried this was the beginning of the end,” said a senior London-based banker, adding that at one point on Wednesday morning there were no buyers of long-dated UK gilts. “It was not quite a Lehman moment. But it got close.” 
 The most directly affected groups were final salary pension schemes that have hedged to ensure their ability to make future payments — so-called liability-driven investment strategies that are very sensitive to fast-moving gilt yields. 
“It appears that some players in the market ran out of collateral and dumped gilts,” said Peter Harrison, chief executive of Schroders, which has $55bn in global LDI business. “We were more conservatively positioned and we had enough collateral to meet all of our margin calls.” 
But a senior executive at a large asset manager said they had contacted the BoE on Tuesday warning that it needed “to intervene in the market otherwise it will seize up” — but the bank failed to act until Wednesday. It declined to comment. 

So yes, the UK bond market almost folded in on itself because the merry idiots in the Tory party decided a massive tax cut that would starve the government's income so they could borrow the rest would fix things. It fixed them, alright. Into the ground.

We'll see where this goes, but I can't imagine the misery for British citizens because of this mess endearing everyone to the Tories for much longer. Liz Truss's government may be one of the shortest in UK history.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Last Call For The Bad Batch, Con't

The sad, pathetic story of Republican House candidate J.R. Majewski is coming to a shuddering halt, after last week's Associated Press story finding that Majewski never served in Afghanistan where he responded with the laughable notion that his tour there was classified. Majewski threatened to sue the AP for libel, in which case the AP decided there had to be more to the story and whoa Betty, was there ever more to the story.

Republican J.R. Majewski has centered his campaign for a competitive Ohio congressional seat around his biography as an Air Force veteran. But one of the big questions that has surfaced is why Majewski was told he could not reenlist in the Air Force after his initial four years were up.

Majewski’s campaign said last week that he was punished and demoted after getting in a “brawl” in an Air Force dormitory in 2001. Military records obtained since then by The Associated Press, however, offer a different account of the circumstances, which military legal experts say would have played a significant role in the decision to bar him from reenlisting. They indicate Majewski’s punishment and demotion were the result of him being stopped for driving drunk on a U.S. air base in Japan in September 2001.

The documents, which were provided to the AP and independently authenticated, present yet another instance where the recorded history of Majewski’s service diverges from what he has told voters as he campaigns while using his veteran status as a leading credential.

In a statement, Majewski acknowledged that he was punished for drunken driving, though he didn’t address why his campaign previously said his demotion was the result of a fight.

This mistake is now more than 20 years old. I’m sure we’ve all done something as young adults that we look back on and wonder ‘what was I thinking?’ and I’m sure our parents and grandparents share these sentiments,” Majewski said.

Since starting his campaign to unseat longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Majewski has repeatedly said he was a combat veteran who served a tour of duty under “tough” circumstances in Afghanistan. By his own account, he once went more than 40 days in the country without a shower due to a lack of running water.

His story came under intense scrutiny last week when the AP, citing military documents obtained through public records requests, reported that he did not deploy to Afghanistan as he claimed, but instead spent six months based in Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, where he helped load and unload aircraft.

The latest revelation that Majewski was demoted for drunken driving adds another wrinkle. Last week, the AP asked Majewski’s campaign why his military service records showed that he was not allowed to reenlist in the Air Force and left the service after four years at a rank that was one notch above where he started.

At the time, his campaign said in an email that Majewski was “in a fight in the dormitory with another servicemember” which “knocked his rank down.” His campaign added that he later gained some of that rank back.

The personnel records obtained by the AP make no mention of a fight. Instead, they state that Majewski was demoted for drunken driving at Kadena Air Base in Japan on Sept. 8, 2001. And rather than gain his rank back — as Majewski’s campaign said — the records indicated he continued to hold the rank of E-2, one notch above entry level, that he was demoted to for the rest of his active duty.

“When you decided to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after indulging in intoxicating liquor you brought discredit upon yourself, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, and the Air Force,” the disciplinary records state, referring to the unit Majewski was assigned to at the time. “Further misconduct by you of any type will not be tolerated.”

The three-page document details Majewski’s punishment, which included a reprimand and 30 days of extra duty in addition to the demotion. It bears Majewski’s signature and shows he consulted a lawyer and waived his right to a court-martial. He also waived his right to appeal the punishment and requested that the document not become public, the records show.

The AP was not able to obtain a “written presentation” from Majewski, which was referred to in the disciplinary paperwork. The campaign did not respond to a request from the AP to provide the document.

Eric Mayer, a former West Point graduate and Army infantry officer later turned military lawyer, reviewed Majewski’s documents at AP’s request. He said that “the overall nature and quality of (Majewski’s) military service can be severely questioned simply by virtue of the fact that he got out as a E-2 after four years.”
To recap, Majewski lied about his military service, he lied about his exit to civilian life, and he lied about his "classified" Afghanistan posting because in reality, he was a drunken, violent asshole who got kicked out of the Air Force like the airman he was.

There's no way this jackass would have been anywhere close to a classified anything with his service record. Like all these MAGA children, he's a loud, stupid bully eho got caught lying.

Hopefully, he'll never be close to a Representative of the US House, either.

The Loan Arranger Faces The Posse

Of all of President Biden's accomplishments in the last 20 months, none infuriates conservatives more than his student loan forgiveness program, which has driven right-wing pundits into fits of rage usually reserved for Barack Obama breathing.

Back in August, Biden’s lawyers argued with half-straight faces that the 2003 HEROES Act — which, as Bloomberg Law has noted, was passed not as a generalized enabling act but “to help borrowers serving in the military in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks” — could be twisted to apply to any national emergency, including pandemics such as Covid-19. This, of course, was nonsense. Among the specific problems with Biden’s argument was that the 2003 HEROES Act does not cover debt cancelation (i.e., transference to taxpayers); that its “direct economic hardship” language does not allow for mass relief; that the application of its “or national emergency” language clearly violates the major questions doctrine; and that the administration’s insistence that the act was designed to allow the executive branch “to act quickly should a situation arise that has not been considered” was flatly contradicted by the fact that the president waited until two-and-a-half years into the pandemic before acting, and then gave relief to the most privileged people in America. But, even if one were to ignore all that, one could still not get past the fact that the powers to which Biden laid claim can be applied only when there is an active emergency, and that the active emergency Biden is citing has now passed.

In May, the Biden administration (correctly) reported that it was obliged to end the use of Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Act at the border because the Covid-19 emergency had passed. In a memo, the Department of Justice explained that, in 2020, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invoked its authority under Title 42 due to the unprecedented public-health dangers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” but that, two years later, “the CDC has now determined, in its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority is no longer warranted in light of the current public-health circumstances. That decision was a lawful exercise of CDC’s authority.”

Or, to put it more simply: Three months before Biden’s move on student loans, the CDC concluded that the pandemic was no longer enough of an emergency to justify extraordinary measures at the border.

That, a quarter of a year later, the same administration asked us all to believe that the same pandemic was bad enough to justify giving hundreds of billions of dollars to college students was always utterly preposterous. Tonight, on 60 Minutes, President Biden confirmed as much in public. The courts — and the voters — must take note.


No pandemic emergency, no need for student debt relief, so it's illegal, because everything Biden does by executive order is "illegal".  Only the thing is you can't just sue the country because you don't like the policies of the person in charge, you have to show standing, that is, the policy is directly hurting you.

So there's no surprise then that the right-wing noise machine has found a think tank lawyer who is ready to go to the mattresses on this as the victim of Biden's nefarious plot to save him tens of thousands in student loan debt, as Judd Legum examines.


One of the biggest challenges in filing a lawsuit to block Biden's debt relief program is fulfilling the technical legal requirement of standing. To file a civil suit in the United States, you can't just point out that someone is doing something that you think is wrong. You have to show that you are suffering immediate and concrete harm.

But who really suffers from student loan forgiveness?

According to the lawsuit, it's Garrison. The lawsuit says that Garrison "financed his college education using federal student loans" and was a Pell Grant recipient. Garrison says he is currently enrolled in another program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Under that program, people working in a public interest capacity can have their loans forgiven after making 120 payments.

Garrison also says he lives in Indiana, which does not tax loans forgiven under the PSLF but does tax loans forgiven in other ways, including under Biden's new program. So Garrison says that the program will require him to pay "a state income tax liability of more than $1,000 for 2022" even though "a $20,000 reduction in his total indebtedness will not change either his monthly payment obligation or the total amount of the loans he must repay." This, the lawsuit states, gives Garrison standing.

There are a couple of issues, however, with Garrison's argument. First, the details of the program have yet to be established by the Biden administration. The administration could simply design the program so that anyone can opt-out. The White House indicated that would be the case in its response to the lawsuit. "The claim is baseless for a simple reason: No one will be forced to get debt relief. Anyone who does not want debt relief can choose to opt out," Abdullah Hassan, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement.

The other issue involves Garrison's state of residence. According to the lawsuit, Garrison lives in Indiana. This is important because Indiana is one of the few states that would tax student loan forgiveness provided by Biden's program. But, until Tuesday morning, PLF's website said that Garrison was based in Washington, DC. Up until very recently, Garrison's LinkedIn page said the same thing.

This is significant because DC would not tax student loan forgiveness under Biden's program, and Garrison's case would be moot.

PLF's lawsuit is also fundamentally contradictory. The lawsuit argues that Garrison has standing because he would pay $1,000 more than he would otherwise. But the "solution" they offer to this problem is for millions of people to pay tens of thousands of dollars more.

It suggests that PLF may be more concerned about the economic and ideological interests of billionaires like Charles Koch than the large segment of the public saddled with student debt.
Gosh, you think?
And why are the Koch Bros against this?
Because the value of student loan debt increases as interest rates rise.  The whole point is to profit off this. Biden is challenging that entire paradigm, especially for Black and brown folks.

No wonder they want to sue the pants off of this program.

The Republican Mask Slips Once Again...

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, said in 2019 that women should be charged with murder if they violated his proposed abortion ban.

In an interview with Pennsylvania radio station WITF, Mastriano was pressed about a bill he sponsored that would generally bar abortions when a fetal heartbeat could first be detected, usually around six weeks. Mastriano’s remarks in that interview were previously unreported.

Under his proposed legislation, Mastriano was asked whether a woman who decided to get an abortion at 10 weeks gestation would be charged with murder. Critics of the bill Mastriano backed, and of other "heartbeat bills," say the approximate six-week timeframe is often before many women know they are pregnant.

"OK, let’s go back to the basic question there," Mastriano said. "Is that a human being? Is that a little boy or girl? If it is, it deserves equal protection under the law."

Asked if he was saying yes, they should be charged with murder, Mastriano responded: "Yes, I am."

After the Supreme Court decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, the future of abortion rights has played prominently on the campaign trail. But few races will prove more important in determining statewide abortion access than the governor's contest in Pennsylvania, where those rights will be heavily influenced by whether Mastriano or his Democratic rival, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, win this fall.

Mastriano has downplayed his past support for stringent abortion restrictions after winning the primary this spring, seeking to paint Shapiro as extreme on the issue while claiming his personal views are "irrelevant" because ultimately the Legislature will write any changes to current state law.

His campaign did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

"My views are kind of irrelevant because I cannot rule by fiat or edict or executive order on the issue of life," Mastriano told the conservative network Real America's Voice in an interview he posted to his Twitter page on Monday. "It’s up to the people of Pennsylvania. So if Pennsylvanians want exceptions, if they want to limit the number of weeks, it’s going to have to come from your legislative body and then to my desk."
Shapiro has said he supports current state law, which bars the procedure after 24 weeks with exceptions. Pennsylvania's Legislature has been under GOP control for years and is likely to still be run by Republicans after this fall's election, making it a strong possibility that Mastriano would be able to sign further restrictions into law should he win this fall.

"Doug Mastriano has said his number one priority is banning abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother — and now, it’s clear he also wants to prosecute women for murder for making personal healthcare decisions," Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for Shapiro’s campaign, said in a statement. "Mastriano has the most extreme anti-choice position in the country — and there is no limit to how far he would go to take away Pennsylvania women’s freedom."
Please note that since the end of Roe, the Republican "compromise" position on abortion is "We won't throw in you in prison if you get one in another state."  Pretty soon, that position is going to become "Actually we will" in a GOP-controlled state in 2023.

If Doug Mastriano wins, Pennsylvania will be that state.

Vote like your country depends on it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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

For months now, WV Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has been threatening "consequences" if he didn't get his pound of flesh in exchange for allowing Biden's Climate Change legislation to pass the Senate. 

The deal he made with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was that Democrats would use budget reconciliation to pass energy legislation that Manchin wanted, including a new pipeline through West Virginia.

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.
Today, we find out Manchin is dropping that legislation from must-pass budget legislation.completely, and folding his hand. The latter was true, he was bluffing, and he got nothing.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday cleared the way for a key vote to take up a government funding extension to succeed after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin dropped a request to include in the stop-gap bill a controversial proposal on permitting reform that had come under sharp criticism from Republicans and liberals.

The vote had been on the verge of failing due to the inclusion of the measure, but now will likely have the support needed for the funding bill to move forward.

Senators released the legislative text of the stop-gap funding bill overnight – a measure that would fund the government through December 16.

In addition to money to keep government agencies afloat, it provides around $12 billion for Ukraine as it continues to face Russian military attack, and would require the Pentagon to report on how US dollars have been spent there. The aid to Ukraine is a bipartisan priority.

The continuing resolution also would extend an expiring FDA user fee program for five years.

Manchin’s permitting proposal would expedite the permitting and environmental review process for energy projects – including a major pipeline that would cross through Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. Senate Democratic leaders had been pushing to pass it along with government funding as a result of a deal cut to secure Manchin’s support for Democrats’ controversial Inflation Reduction Act – a key priority for the party – which passed over the summer.

But Republicans had been warning they will vote against the effort to tie permitting reform to the funding extension, in part because they don’t want to reward Manchin over his support for the Inflation Reduction Act.

Lawmakers are expected to pass a short-term funding extension by week’s end and avert a shutdown but they are up against the clock with funding set to expire on Friday at midnight.

The timing of the fight continues a pattern by Capitol Hill leaders in recent years of negotiating until the last minute to fund the federal government, leaving virtually no room for error in a series of events where any one senator could slow the process down beyond the deadline.
In the end, Manchin overplayed his party switch card against Democrats stabbing him in the back. Instead, his Republican colleagues stabbed him in the front.
It's still possible that this was a double-agent move where Manchin switches parties anyway, Manchin really is dumb enough to do that, but I'm pretty sure today is the day Joe Manchin learned that there are 99 other US senators besides Joe Manchin.
The only person who got played here was Manchin himself.
Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Putin's Pipe-Lying Problem

So, let's set the stage this week for the next phase of the war in Ukraine. There's two big events this week that cover where we're going after Putin's mobilization call-up last week. First, we need a preterxt to war for the newly minted conscripts to fight for, and that's being handled by laughable shams of "referendums" where Ukrainians in occupied Donbas region cities are being forced at gunpoint to "vote for independence from Ukraine" and to join Russia.
White House officials are watching closely and preparing their potential response Monday as four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine continued to vote in referendums that are being effectively carried out at gunpoint and have been dismissed by the West as a sham.

With the results of the Russian-organized voting expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday, US officials anticipate Russia could move quickly to annex the four areas, potentially within days. Doing so would prompt a swift response from the US, which has pledged not to recognize the results, one official said.

The US is not currently expected to respond until Russia has moved to annex the regions, the official said, and whether Russia ultimately attempts to do so remains to be seen.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in recent days that Russia has already decided in advance what will happen after these referendums are finished, stating that by “the end of the month, Russia’s intention will be to formalize the annexation of the four regions into the Russian Federation.”

As they monitor the referendums, top Biden administration officials have become more vocal in recent days about warnings they have delivered in private to Russian officials about the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

“Russia understands very well what the US would do in response to the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine because we have spelled it out for them,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a television interview Sunday, though he declined to characterize who received those warnings or what the consequences would be.
And of course the vote will "show" that Ukraine wants to be part of Russia again, and so we have casus belli manufactured out of nothing, a perfect old school tactic for the social media age.

But the other part of the war in Ukraine is the war against the EU, and Russia made a huge move on that this weekend as well.

European countries on Tuesday raced to investigate unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, infrastructure at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Experts and also Russia, which built the network, said the possibility of sabotage could not be ruled out.

Sweden’s Maritime Authority issued a warning about two leaks in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, shortly after a leak on the nearby Nord Stream 2 pipeline was discovered that had prompted Denmark to restrict shipping in a five nautical mile radius.

Both pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between European capitals and Moscow that has pummeled major Western economies, sent gas prices soaring and sparked a hunt for alternative energy supplies.

“There are some indications that it is deliberate damage,” said a European security source, while adding it was still too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who would profit?”

Russia also said the leak in the Russian network was cause for concern and sabotage was one possible cause. “No option can be ruled out right now,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Neither pipeline was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were found, amid the dispute over the war in Ukraine, but the incidents will scupper any remaining expectations that Europe could receive gas via Nord Stream 1 before winter.

“The destruction that occurred on the same day simultaneously on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” said network operator Nord Stream AG. “It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transport infrastructure.”
Russia is claiming this was a NATO operation to keep EU countries in line, but wouldn't you know it that the price of Russian energy exports went up significantly this week, giving Russia a windfall of money right when Moscow is girding for war, and it has the effect of further destabilizing EU economies in order to keep them out of any Ukraine operations.
Funny how that all ends up working in Russia favor in the months ahead.
So yeah, gonna be an ugly fall and a worse winter in Ukraine, all while the EU has an energy crisis.

It's a dangerous game, but one Putin seems bound and determined to play.

The Law In Texas, Con't

A reminder that Texas Republican Attorney General is still under federal investigation for bribery and corruption and under indictment for securities fraud, he's also been named as part of a lawsuit against the state's bounty hunter abortion law, and he's dodging process servers like a pro after seven years.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his home in a truck driven by his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, to avoid being served a subpoena Monday, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

Ernesto Martin Herrera, a process server, was attempting to serve the state’s top attorney with a subpoena for a federal court hearing Tuesday in a lawsuit from nonprofits that want to help Texans pay for abortions out of state.

When Herrera arrived at Paxton’s home in McKinney on Monday morning, he told a woman who identified herself as Angela that he was trying to deliver legal documents to the attorney general. She told him that Paxton was on the phone and unable to come to the door. Herrera said he would wait.

Nearly an hour later, a black Chevrolet Tahoe pulled into the driveway, and 20 minutes after that, Ken Paxton exited the house.

“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name. As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage,” Herrera wrote in the sworn affidavit.

Angela Paxton then exited the house, got inside a Chevrolet truck in the driveway, started it and opened the doors.

“A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side,” Herrera wrote. “I approached the truck, and loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him. Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck.”

Herrera eventually placed the subpoenas on the ground near the truck and told him he was serving him with a subpoena. Both cars drove away, leaving the documents on the ground.

On Twitter, the attorney general said his sudden departure was motivated by concerns for his family's safety.

"It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family," he wrote in a tweet.
If you tried to dodge lawsuits, investigations, and indictments the way Kex Paxton does, you'd already be in jail. But Paxton has made sure he'll never be tried for his securities fraud indictment, the case being "rescheduled" time and again by Republican-appointed judges as Paxton uses his office to shield himself from the law his office is supposed to enforce.

There's no better example of what corrupt, permanent one-party GOP rules means to America, and how Republican officials will blatantly flout the law in state after state once the Roberts' Court gives them the power to institute perpetual corruption.

And here we have him dodging a process server with his wife driving him to "safety from an attacking stranger". Just corruption all the way through.

And he'll still win in November, as such he'll need that StupidiTag™ going forward...

Monday, September 26, 2022

Last Call For The Nice Italian Fascist, Con't

With a big win in Italian elections on Sunday, right-wing Italian nationalist Giorgia Meloni is expected to be named the country's next Prime Minister, and as I warned about last week, the first thing to go will be most of Italy's refugee and immigration policies.

For years, Giorgia Meloni has railed against Italy’s migration policies, calling them overly lenient and saying they risk turning the country into the “refugee camp of Europe.”

Now that she is Italy’s presumed next prime minister, migration is one of the areas where Meloni can most easily bring in sweeping change.

“The smart approach is: You come to my house according to my rules,” Meloni, of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party, said earlier this month in an interview with The Washington Post.

Her ideas, taken together, figure to significantly tighten the doors to one of the European Union’s front-line destinations for undocumented immigrants.

While in other areas — like spending and foreign policy — Meloni would be more constrained by Europe, E.U. countries have plenty of leeway to handle their external borders, and she has long made it clear that halting flows of people across the Mediterranean is one of her priorities.

But that doesn’t mean it will be complication-free.

Efforts to block humanitarian rescue vessels from docking at Italian ports could prompt legal challenges. And if Meloni chokes off pathways to Italy, the volume of crossings would probably increase to other Mediterranean countries such as Spain — as happened three years ago when Italy was briefly led by an anti-immigration, populist government.

“You can do stuff relatively quickly [on migration] that is draconian, symbolic and sends a clear message: We’re here, we’re doing something. But there’s trouble in store,” said Andrew Geddes, director of the Migration Policy Center at the European University Institute in Florence.

“When you stop the crossings and divert them [elsewhere], that is where you get into conflict with the E.U.,” he said. “It will breathe life into an old conflict.”
The previous conservative government tried this, and got sued to kingdom come and back. We'll see if Meloni is this dumb.

Dudebro Defector Drafted?

You know the funny thing about life is in the end, you get exactly what you deserve good and hard.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted former NSA contractor Edward Snowden Russian citizenship, according to an official decree published on the Russian government portal Monday.

Snowden, who admitted to leaking information about US surveillance programs to the press, has been in Russia since 2013. He is facing espionage charges and up to 30 years in prison in the US.

In November 2020 Snowden and his wife applied for Russian citizenship. He had been already given permanent residency in Russia.


This of course means Snowden is now eligible to be called up to fight for Russia on the front lines in Ukraine.

Good luck with that, Ed.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions, Con't

Long-time friend of ZVTS and generally awesome human Steve M. asks:

If "partisanship," with no party label attached, is the reason unlikable Republicans are competitive in races against more likable Democrats, then where are the examples of the opposite phenomenon? Where are voters embracing Democratic jerks rather than nice, likable Republicans in competitive races

And of course, that's the point. The examples of the "most extreme Democrats" are usually The Squad, and while they sure love to be spoilers in the House, Nancy Pelosi has got them handled, and the examples of their "extremism" is "Palestinians are actual human beings that deserve rights" and "We shouldn't spend $650 billion on the Pentagon." 

Whereas Republican extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Thomas Massie really don't think we should spend money on anything, and that anyone who isn't a white, straight, "Christian" male maybe shouldn't have any rights at all. Oh, and they are going to impeach Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, most if not all of Biden's cabinet, and then demand resignations while shutting down the government until they win.

The difference, as Steve M. says down the page:
But Republicans also seem to have much more party loyalty than Democrats. It's not hard to see why: Their favorite media sources have engaged in pure cheerleading for their party (and relentless demonization of the other party) for decades. The rest of the media is described as "liberal," but it's always ready to shiv a Democrat. (Was there a single positive news story published about Joe Biden between the fall of Afghanistan and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act?) The entire political world hits the fainitng couch when a prominent Democrat issues a blanket condemnation of Republicans, while Republican politicians call Democrats treasonous Marxist America-haters every day.

So it's not surprising that Republican jerks can be competitive. They're Republicans. There's simply more Republican partisanship than Democratic partisanship.
Which is true, OH-9 is the best current example of this. Kaptur has been redistricted out of her Democratic stronghold and into a Republican one, and she should have been a guaranteed loss, excep for in the primaries, Republicans ran the most extreme candidate possible in J.R. Majewski, a January 6th terrorist, election denier, and now military service liar.

Kaptur on the other hand is pulling a Sherrod Brown to stay in Congress.

Being a brand name in northern Ohio helps Kaptur a lot. She's been a recognizable and present figure here for four decades. 
But she says being a midwestern Democrat in a party increasingly run with big city sensibilities on both coasts is a growing challenge for her. 
"What coastal people, God bless them, don't understand, is that we lost our middle class," Kaptur said. 
"We lost so many people who've worked hard all their lives, including in many of these small towns. I understand that. We feel their pain. We went through it together." 
Kaptur is relying on voters like Joe Stallbaum, a member of the sheet metal workers Local 33 Toledo district, a union that endorsed both Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Kaptur this year. 
Stallbaum has been working on a massive renovation of Toledo's convention center for nearly two years and says helping revitalize his hometown fills him with pride. But he also says a lot of his friends and colleagues still feel forgotten. 
"I think there should be a lot more focus on working class people and what we do," he explained. "It just seems like we always get left behind." 
A second-generation construction worker, Stallbaum says he watched a lot of his fellow union members abandon the Democratic Party in favor of Trump in 2016 and other Republicans since then. With union households making up close to 20% of the vote, it helps explain Democrats' struggles in Ohio and other parts of the Rust Belt. 
But Stallbaum believes that Kaptur is different than the national Democratic Party -- she's someone who appreciates and understands blue collar workers. 
"I always felt that Marcy listened to working class people. That's one of the things I like about her. I think she's very approachable. She doesn't seem distant to me. I feel I could have reached out to her anytime I had wanted to." 
A longtime Kaptur supporter, he plans to vote for her again. 
"She's never given me a reason not to support her. Everything she's always done is for Toledo and for our region," he said. "I trust her."

You might think telling Democratic voters in Ohio that coastal Democrats don't give a shit about them, but that she does, is insulting and even a bit racist, and it is.

The alternative is a guy who lied about being in Afghanistan, whose response is "It was classified, I'm a hero", and is sworn to destroy protections for the free press in America.

I'm hoping people side with Kaptur.

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.
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