Sunday, June 5, 2022

Last Call For It's A Gas, Gas, Gas, Con't

Former NFL running back Herschel Walker is the GOP's US Senate in Georgia, going up against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, and it seems Walker will do anything to win, including outright voter bribes at the pump in Atlanta's Black community.

A long line of cars formed at a Chevron gas station south of downtown Atlanta on Saturday as word spread that a political action committee was handing out $25 vouchers. Now the pro-Herschel Walker group’s giveaway is fueling a different sort of backlash.

The initiative by 34N22 was designed to highlight rising gas prices, a top issue for Republicans hoping to capitalize on inflation and economic uncertainty to unseat U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Motorists in the heavily Democratic area were handed vouchers totaling $4,000 along with flyers promoting Walker, a former football player who is now the Republican nominee. Outside the gas station, volunteers held signs declaring “Warnock isn’t working.”

Democrats and voting rights groups quickly criticized the stunt, questioning how offering fuel vouchers to support a political candidate could be allowed in a state that bans groups from distributing refreshments to waiting voters in line to cast ballots.

“This is illegal,” declared LaTosha Brown, a cofounder of Black Voters Matter.

“Meanwhile, also in Georgia, giving out water to those waiting to cast a ballot is considered illegal voter influence,” said state Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat.

The PAC referred to a memo from attorney Kory Langhofer that asserted the program was “entirely lawful and permissible” because the vouchers were given without any condition, such as a requirement to vote for Walker or appear in an advertisement.

“Warnock’s campaign is upset about 34N22′s community outreach program, not because of any earnest legal concerns, but because they don’t want the public to know Warnock has contributed to record gas prices and the pain Georgians are feeling at the pump,” wrote Langhofer, whose experience includes serving as a lawyer for Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Aides to Warnock, who backed a federal gas tax suspension earlier this year to lower prices, didn’t comment on the initiative.

But several influential Democrats argued that the PAC’s move could have violated Georgia law that states: “Any person who gives or receives, offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”

Among them was state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state who recalled how the office of Georgia’s top election official sent an investigator to a metro Atlanta precinct in 2020 “with firearm on hip and demanded all food and water to be removed.”

“Giving away gas vouchers and Herschel Walker flyers at the same time isn’t legal. Are they gonna do something about it?”
Of course they aren't. Laws like this only get enforced against Democrats in a state like Georgia. There's enough gray area here to say it's legal, so it will be legal when Walker does it, and it will be legal when other Republicans repeat the tactic in other states.

And keep in mind, Walker's camp wouldn't be stooping to this level, this early, if Warnock wasn't already whooping Walker's ass in the race.

Now that Herschel Walker is officially the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has started to mine the treasure trove of opposition research out there on the former NFL star. 
A new ad from Warnock's campaign features Walker talking to right-wing pundit Glenn Beck about Covid-19. Here's the text of what Walker tells Beck: 
"Right now, you know what, I'm gonna say something I probably shouldn't. Do you know right now, I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from Covid as you walk through this dry mist. As you walk through the door, it will kill any Covid on your body. When you leave, it will kill the virus as you leave. This here product -- they don't want to talk about that. They don't want to hear about that." 
Near the end of the commercial, this text appears onscreen: "Is Herschel Walker really ready to represent Georgia?" 
The clip comes from an August 2020 appearance Walker made on Beck's podcast. It's not clear what product Walker is referring to, as it could be dangerous for a person to walk through a disinfecting spray or mist that kills the coronavirus. 
Walker's comments evoke the pitch made by then-President Donald Trump in April 2020, when he suggested that ingesting disinfectants or sunlight might help patients battling Covid-19. 
The new Warnock ad serves as a stark reminder of how incredibly untested Walker is -- and what a massive gamble the former football star represents for Republicans in what is widely expected to be one of the closest and most expensive Senate races in the country this fall. 
Walker has never before run for elected office. He hadn't lived in Georgia for years before launching his bid for Senate last year.
Walker is a time bomb, frankly.  Even CNN's Chris Cillizza has figured it out.

CNN reported last year that several women have accused Walker of making threats against them. In 2002, one Texas woman told police that Walker had threatened and stalked her. Over the years, two other women -- Walker's ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend -- have also accused him of making threats, telling authorities Walker claimed he would shoot them in the head. 
(At the time of CNN's report, a spokeswoman for Walker declined to respond to the allegations or police report, citing his past struggles with mental health and saying that he was unfairly being targeted as a Republican Senate candidate. Walker's spokeswoman also denied the claims made by the candidate's ex-girlfriend.) 
More recently, Walker has run into trouble when asked for his views on issues, most notably guns. Here's what Walker told Fox when asked about the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and what, if anything, he believed should be done about it on the legislative front: 
"Cain killed Abel and that's a problem that we have. What we need to do is look into how we can stop those things. You know, you talked about doing a disinformation -- what about getting a department that can look at young men that's looking at women, that's looking at their social media. What about doing that? Looking into things like that and we can stop that that way. But yet they want to just continue to talk about taking away your constitutional rights. And I think there's more things we need to look into. This has been happening for years and the way we stop it is putting money into the mental health field, by putting money into other departments rather than departments that want to take away your rights." 
Uh ... 
Walker wasn't any clearer on the issue when speaking recently with CNN's Manu Raju. Asked whether he supported new gun laws in the wake of Uvalde, Walker said: "What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff." 
Is it possible that Walker's celebrity status -- and the likely Republican lean of the national playing field -- means that voters in Georgia won't much care about his Covid claims or his inability to offer any thoughts on guns in American society? Sure. But as Warnock's latest ad makes clear, nominating Walker was a major risk for Republicans in a critical state to their majority math.
Walker needs some help, and is absolutely unfit for office, but it's not like that stopped voters before in the case of Trump himself... 

We'll see.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

At least one Democrat wants to tax sales of new AR-15 rifles by a whopping 1,000%, and because it's a taxation issue, it could get through the Senate in budget reconciliation.

The recent violence is prompting one House Democrat to draft a measure aimed at severely restricting access to the AR-15-style weapons used by different gunmen in the carnage. Rep. Donald Beyer of Virginia, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means panel, wants to impose a 1,000% excise tax on assault weapons.

"What it's intended to do is provide another creative pathway to actually make some sensible gun control happen," Beyer told Insider. "We think that a 1,000% fee on assault weapons is just the kind of restrictive measure that creates enough fiscal impact to qualify for reconciliation."

New AR-15-style guns range from $500 to over $2,000 depending on location, NBC News reported. That means a 1,000% tax on the weapon would add $5,000 to $20,000 to their final sales price — and would probably keep it out of reach from many younger Americans.

Some details of the bill still aren't finalized, such as when the tax would kick in and what to do with any revenue raised. It's also unclear how much money it would generate. One out of every five weapons purchased in the US in AR-15 style rifle, per the National Shooting Sports Foundation in a 2014 court brief. Gun sales have surged since then and reached their second-highest level recorded last year.

Law enforcement agencies and the US military wouldn't be subject to the tax, Beyer said. The legislation would also apply only to future assault weapon sales — and not to the 20 million AR-15-style rifles already estimated to be in circulation across the US. Other guns used for hunting and other recreational purposes would also be exempt.

Bullets wouldn't be subject to the new tax. But high-capacity magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition would be aggressively taxed at that level.

Beyer's definition of an assault weapon closely mirrors a measure that Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island is pushing. That bill would ban weapons with at least one military characteristic like a pistol grip or a forward grip.

House Democrats are rallying around their own expansive gun-control package separate from ongoing Senate negotiations on a narrower bill centered on mental health, red flag laws, and a modest expansion of background checks. The House bill is expected to fall flat in the upper chamber due to stiff GOP resistance.

That outcome prompted Beyer to eye reconciliation, the legislative tactic allowing proposed laws to bypass the Senate's 60-vote threshold known as the filibuster and pass with a simple majority. Democrats employed the maneuver in 2021 to approve both the stimulus law and the House-approved Build Back Better bill over united GOP resistance.

One expert says his measure likely qualifies for inclusion in a smaller spending bill containing pieces of President Joe Biden's climate and tax agenda. Democrats hope to revive it by summer's end.

"Taxes get more deference in budget reconciliation than other policies from a parliamentarian point of view," Zach Moller, director of the economic program at the center-left Third Way think tank, told Insider.

"So a pure excise tax that isn't set so high as to end all sales should pass the Byrd rule," Moller said, referring the rule governing what meets the requirements to be included in a filibuster-proof bill.

The federal government already imposes a 10% tax on the importation and sale of handguns, per the Tax Policy Center. The tax rate is 11% for other guns and ammunition.

Beyer said he was open to negotiating the 1,000% tax rate. "There's nothing magical about that thousand percent number. It's severe enough to actually inhibit and restrict sales. But also successful enough that it's not seen as an absolute ban."

There are instances stretching back decades of Democrats seeking massive tax increases on guns and ammo to make them unaffordable. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York said in 1993 that he wanted to tax handgun ammunition "out of existence" to curb crime, The New York Times reported.

Then in 2020, a pair of Democrats introduced similar measures to raise taxes on weapons to prevent gun violence, though not at the scale Beyer is seeking. Both Rep. Hank Johnson and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts put forward plans to triple the tax on handguns to 30%, as well as nearly quintuple the tax rate on shells and cartridges to 50%.

Those went nowhere in Congress — and the Beyer plan faces steep hurdles as well. Democrats will likely be wary of Republicans further casting them as tax-and-spend liberals in an election year where the party faces major headwinds to keep control of Congress. It may also violate Biden's pledge to not increase taxes on people earning under $400,000.
I guarantee you that the bill will never pass the Senate anyway, it won't have 50 votes as long as Joe Manchin is needed to get that total, and it being a midterm year, I doubt the measure would even have 40 votes.
Besides, Republicans will simply "DEMOCRATS WANT TO TAX GUNS BY A THOUSAND PERCENT" in every ad that goes out, and those ads will work in swing states. This wouldn't stop private gun sales, and while yes, it would slow down "I'm going to buy an assault rifle today" sales, the Roberts Court would kill it anyway.

I appreciate the "do something!" aspect, and it does make sense, but it'll never happen.

We live in Gunmerica.

No, this is a horrible idea, and someone in the Democrat

Sunday Long Read: All The President's Crooks

As the January 6th Committee's live hearings get under way later this week, our Sunday Long Read comes from none other than the legendary Watergate-breaking, Nixon-destroying pair of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, writing in the Washington Post with their take on the man they call far worse than Nixon: Donald Trump.

President George Washington, in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. “Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,” he warned.

Two of his successors — Richard Nixon and Donald Trump — demonstrate the shocking genius of our first president’s foresight.

As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest.

And then along came Trump.

The heart of Nixon’s criminality was his successful subversion of the electoral process — the most fundamental element of American democracy. He accomplished it through a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and disinformation that enabled him to literally determine who his opponent would be in the presidential election of 1972.

With a covert budget of just $250,000, a team of undercover Nixon operatives derailed the presidential campaign of Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, the Democrats’ most electable candidate.

Nixon then ran against Sen. George McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat widely viewed as the much weaker candidate, and won in a historic landslide with 61 percent of the vote and carrying 49 states.

Over the next two years, Nixon’s illegal conduct was gradually exposed by the news media, the Senate Watergate Committee, special prosecutors, a House impeachment investigation and finally by the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the court ordered Nixon to turn over his secret tape recordings, which doomed his presidency.

These instruments of American democracy finally stopped Nixon dead in his tracks, forcing the only resignation of a president in American history.

Donald Trump not only sought to destroy the electoral system through false claims of voter fraud and unprecedented public intimidation of state election officials, but he also then attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to his duly elected successor, for the first time in American history.

Trump’s diabolical instincts exploited a weakness in the law. In a highly unusual and specific manner, the Electoral Count Act of 1887 says that at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 following a presidential election, the House and Senate will meet in a joint session. The president of the Senate, in this case Vice President Mike Pence, will preside. The electoral votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia will then be opened and counted.

This singular moment in American democracy is the only official declaration and certification of who won the presidential election.

In a deception that exceeded even Nixon’s imagination, Trump and a group of lawyers, loyalists and White House aides devised a strategy to bombard the country with false assertions that the 2020 election was rigged and that Trump had really won. They zeroed in on the Jan. 6 session as the opportunity to overturn the election’s result. Leading up to that crucial date, Trump’s lawyers circulated memos with manufactured claims of voter fraud that had counted the dead, underage citizens, prisoners and out-of-state residents.

We watched in utter dismay as Trump persistently claimed that he was really the winner. “We won,” he said in a speech on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse. “We won in a landslide. This was a landslide.” He publicly and relentlessly pressured Pence to make him the victor on Jan. 6.

On that day, driven by Trump’s rhetoric and his obvious approval, a mob descended on the Capitol and, in a stunning act of collective violence, broke through doors and windows and ransacked the House chamber, where the electoral votes were to be counted. The mob then went in search of Pence — all to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump did nothing to restrain them.

By legal definition this is clearly sedition — conduct, speech or organizing that incites people to rebel against the governing authority of the state. Thus, Trump became the first seditious president in our history.
This is the article that we should have gotten sixteen months ago from these two, making it very, very clear that Trump should have been expelled from the White House, and that Washington's Republicans were too cowardly, too enmeshed, and too ambitious to stop him, mainly because dozens of them wanted Trump's power for themselves, to remake the country in their image, to complete the dark work that Trump narrowly failed. 

It's good to finally see it, and yes, when the news will be filled with these hearings, this article gives a much-needed perspective on what needs to happen in the weeks ahead.
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