Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Last Call For Supremely Unforgiving

It's pretty clear from the oral arguments in today's SCOTUS hearing on President Biden's student debt forgiveness program that there's five, if not six votes to scrap the idea completely, and at the minimum the argument is whether even congressional approval would be constitutional.

Conservative justices holding the Supreme Court’s majority seem likely to sink President Joe Biden’s plan to wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans.

In arguments lasting more than three hours Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts led his conservative colleagues in questioning the administration’s authority to broadly cancel federal student loans because of the COVID-19 emergency.

The plan has so far been blocked by Republican-appointed judges on lower courts.

It was not clear that any of the six justices appointed by Republican presidents would approve of the debt relief program, although Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett appeared most open to the administration’s arguments.

Biden’s only hope for being allowed to move forward with his plan appeared to be the slim possibility, based on the arguments, that the court would find that Republican-led states and individuals challenging the plan lacked the legal right to sue.

That would allow the court to dismiss the lawsuits at a threshold stage, without ruling on the basic idea of the loan forgiveness program that appeared to trouble the justices on the court’s right side.

Roberts was among the justices who grilled the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, Elizabeth Prelogar, and suggested that the administration had exceeded its authority with the program.

Roberts pointed to the wide impact and expense of the program, three times saying it would cost “a half-trillion dollars.” The program is estimated to cost $400 billion over 30 years.

“If you’re talking about this in the abstract, I think most casual observers would say if you’re going to give up that much ... money. If you’re going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on a subject that’s of great controversy, they would think that’s something for Congress to act on,” Roberts said.

Kavanaugh suggested that the administration was using an “old law” to unilaterally implement a debt relief program that Congress had rejected. He said the situation was familiar: “in the wake of Congress not authorizing the action, the executive nonetheless doing a massive new program.”

That, he said, “seems problematic.”

Kavanaugh noted that the administration was citing the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic as authority for the debt relief program. He argued that some of the “finest moments in the court’s history” have been “pushing back against presidential assertions of emergency power.”
I know redicting SCOTUS is a mug's game as I've said in the past, but even I don't have any optimism of a win here. This is just six conservative justices being cruel for cruelty's sake, and they're going to take the opportunity to be terrible people.
If the standing issue is the only defense the Biden administration has here, this case is already pushing up daisies.
Bonus points for everyone who'll blame Biden for this in 2024 and solemnly declare they'll never vote Democratic again, as if somehow abdicating voting leading to Republican wins isn't what put six conservatives on SCOTUS in the first place.

The Big Lie, FOX News Edition

Another court filing in the Dominion Voting Services defamation case against FOX News finds that under oath, FOX chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted some particularly nasty stuff in a deposition last month.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed.

“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

Asked whether he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch responded: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up.” At the same time, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”

Mr. Murdoch’s remarks, which he made last month as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.

Proof to that effect would help Dominion clear the high legal bar set by the Supreme Court for defamation cases. To prevail, Dominion must show not only that Fox broadcast false information, but that it did so knowingly. A judge in Delaware state court has scheduled a monthlong trial beginning in April.

The new documents and a similar batch released this month provide a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble as Fox tried to woo back its large conservative audience after ratings collapsed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss. Fox had been the first network to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden on election night — essentially declaring him the next president. When Mr. Trump refused to concede and started attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.

The filings also revealed that top executives and on-air hosts had reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to various fictitious allegations about Dominion. These included unsubstantiated rumors — repeatedly uttered by guests and hosts of Fox programs — that its voting machines could run a secret algorithm that switched votes from one candidate to another, and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help that country’s longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, fix elections.
Kinda hard for Rupert to throw Trump under the bus when he's admitting to FEC violations in the process, too.
Dominion details the close relationship that Fox hosts and executives enjoyed with senior Republican Party officials and members of the Trump inner circle, revealing how at times Fox was shaping the very story it was covering. It describes how Mr. Murdoch placed a call to the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, immediately after the election. In his deposition, Mr. Murdoch testified that during that call he likely urged Mr. McConnell to “ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud.”

Dominion also describes how Mr. Murdoch provided Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with confidential information about ads that the Biden campaign would be running on Fox.
I'm pretty sure Dominion's going to get every dime of that $1.6 billion and then some. Oh, and just maybe people go to jail?
At any rate, if there still remained any doubt that FOX is not a news organization but the corporatized media arm of the GOP, and therefore shouldn't be subject to journalistic protections in any way, that died this week. 

Good luck with your new owners, FOX.

Ron's Gone Wrong, Mouse Trap Edition

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has just scored a resounding victory in his battle with Disney, and any business in Florida needs to be paying attention lest they become his next target of extortion.

More Florida Republicans who dished out big bucks to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election bid have been appointed to powerful public jobs—this time on the revamped board of a special tax district that oversees the Walt Disney Company.

DeSantis announced Monday that Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer, was appointed to the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District—previously named the Reedy Creek Improvement District—just a year after his private investment firm, Pinehill Capital, cut a check to DeSantis’ campaign for $50,000.

Garcia will now join four other DeSantis allies—also appointed Monday—in replacing senior Disney employees on the district's board, the latest bout in DeSantis’ clash with the entertainment giant since it opposed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022.

The special district had allowed Disney to act as its own government for over five decades, controlling everything from land use to running its own fire department, and saving itself millions in taxes annually.

Now, the district will be at the mercy of DeSantis and his five appointees, as the governor now has the legal power to replace the district’s board unilaterally at his beck and call.

“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said Monday in Central Florida. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”

Joining Garcia on the board is fellow conservative Bridget Ziegler, the wife of the Florida GOP’s chair and co-founder of Moms for Liberty, who also recently donated to DeSantis; Mike Sasso, an attorney who donated over $9,000 to Florida Republican candidates, including DeSantis, last election; Brian Aungst Jr., a Central Florida attorney who specializes in land use law; and Ron Peri, who founded the ministry “The Gathering,” which regularly spews nonsense about “Christian Nationalism” and the decaying of local schools.

Ziegler lashed out at Disney last year when it asked a marching band to cover up its Native American logo to perform at Magic Kingdom. The school’s principal didn't oblige, pulling the band from the performance altogether.

“Shameful to see Disney continue to use children as pawns to advance their WOKE political agenda,” Ziegler blasted to Twitter. “Kudos to staff for not kowtowing to their demands.”

While her recent comments have been critical of Disney, old Instagram posts showed she visited the parks and their on-property hotels with her family in 2015 and 2016.

Since then, however, Ziegler has become a conservative firebrand in Florida, particularly on issues related to education. She’s repeatedly gone on Fox News to rage about critical race theory and gender ideology in Florida schools, calling the former “anti-American.”

The Florida Senate, which is controlled by Republicans and regularly operates at the behest of DeSantis, will have to confirm the governor’s picks. The board members will not be paid a salary.

If approved, the board will garner the power to manage the special district’s infrastructure, services, taxing authority, and more. DeSantis suggested Monday that the board might push for a say in Disney’s content if the corporation wants its tax-friendly home base to remain as is.

“When you lose your way, you gotta have people that are going to tell you the truth,” DeSantis said. “All these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”

No matter how you feel about Disney, a multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerate that own huge percentages of global TV, movies, sports programming and resorts on the entire planet, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ESPN to its own cruise line, understand that now Ron DeSantis owns Disney. If they don't play ball with his agenda, he's in a position to exact billions of dollars in retributive tax punishment on the company, crash the stock, and coerce the company's board to do his bidding as far as hiring and firing goes.

It's flat out extortion, and everyone knows it. Don't expect Disney's lawyers to get much traction, either: DeSantis will simply have his lackeys in Tallahassee change the laws again to favor the state over Disney. 

Now it's very possible that DeSantis will end up overplaying his hand like he's doing with the state's education system, but he can do a lot of damage in the meantime. And yes, what DeSantis is actually doing is exactly what Republicans accuse Democrats of doing all the time: forcing corporate decisions to further their agenda.

Leave it to the fascist to make me actually root for the $200 billion entertainment monolith because it's now the lesser of two evils, for crissakes.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Last Call For The Failbert Files

Author, cartoonist, professional racist shitbag and "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams went on a racist tirade on his YouTube channel that was so vile that it actually got him fired from the funny pages and the bookstores.
Andrews McMeel Universal, the company that syndicates “Dilbert,” said it is cutting ties with the comic strip’s creator, Scott Adams, after his racist remarks about Black Americans led hundreds of newspapers across the country to drop the satirical cartoon.

In a joint statement, Andrews McMeel Chairman Hugh Andrews and CEO and President Andy Sareyan said that the syndication company was “severing our relationship” with Adams and condemned his remarks, saying “we will never support any commentary rooted in discrimination or hate.”

The publisher of a forthcoming book from Adams also said Monday that it would no longer move forward with publishing the title.

The Penguin Random House imprint, Portfolio, said it won’t publish Adams’ upcoming book, “Reframe Your Brain.” The book was set to release in September.

“My publisher for non-Dilbert books has canceled my upcoming book and the entire backlist,” Adams wrote Monday on Twitter. He also said his book agent “canceled” him.

Portfolio published Adams’ previous titles, including “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” and “Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America.”
  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA this is the funniest this guy has been in the entire 21st century so far!
  2. Asshole.
  4. Adams has been a MAGA jackass for years now if anyone had bothered to notice, and Dilbert was pulled from nearly 80 newspapers the last time he went on a racist tirade back in September.
  5. He claimed that his UPN Dilbert show was canceled in 2000 because he's white.
  6. If you haven't seen the Dilbert Show, it was Rick and Morty for Gen X. We thought it was edgy back then and for 2000 it was. It got canceled because the ratings were terrible, even for UPN.
  7. Asshole, still.
  8. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA what an asshole. Even Ol' Teddy Beale despises him.
  9. Racist ASSHOLE. 
  10. Why wasn't he canceled sooner after finally, after three decades, introducing the first Black character in the strip as Dave, the engineer who "identifies as white" back in May? Guess we'll never know.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Ken's Definitely Gone Wrong, Con't

Not to be one-upped by Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and his war on public education, Black and Hispanic history, and LGBTQ+ America, Texas GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton is declaring war on the entire federal government.
Earlier this month, Texas’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit claiming that the $1.7 trillion spending law that keeps most of the federal government — including the US military — operating through September of 2023 is unconstitutional.

Paxton’s claims in Texas v. Garland, which turn on the fact that many of the lawmakers who voted for the bill voted by proxy, should fail. They are at odds with the Constitution’s explicit text. And a bipartisan panel of a powerful federal appeals court in Washington, DC, already rejected a similar lawsuit in 2021.

Realistically, this lawsuit is unlikely to prevail even in the current, highly conservative Supreme Court. Declaring a law that funds most of the federal government unconstitutional would be an extraordinary act, especially given the very strong legal arguments against Paxton’s position.

But the case is a window into Paxton’s broader litigation strategy, where he frequently raises weak legal arguments undercutting federal policies before right-wing judges that he has personally chosen because of their ideology. And these judges often do sow chaos throughout the government, which can last months or longer, before a higher court steps in.

Texas’s federal courts give plaintiffs an unusual amount of leeway to choose which judge will hear their case, an odd feature of these courts that Paxton often takes advantage of to ensure that his lawsuits will be heard by judges who are likely to toe the Republican line. These decisions, moreover, appeal to the deeply conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Paxton filed the Garland case in Lubbock, Texas, where 100 percent of all federal lawsuits are heard by a Republican appointee. Two-thirds of such cases are automatically assigned to Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who will hear this suit.

Hendrix, a Trump appointee to a federal court in Texas, is a bit of an unknown quantity. In his brief time on the bench, Hendrix did hand down one poorly reasoned decision undercutting a federal statute that requires most hospitals to perform medically necessary abortions. But Hendrix’s thin record does not tell us enough to know whether he’d actually be so aggressive as to declare most of the United States government unconstitutional.

The Texas federal bench is also riddled with judges — Matthew Kacsmaryk, Drew Tipton, and Reed O’Connor are probably the best known among them — who’ve largely behaved as rubber stamps for any right-leaning litigant who appears before them. It’s notable that Paxton chose to bring this case in Lubbock, where he was likely to draw Hendrix as his judge, rather than bringing this suit before Kacsmaryk or Tipton (Kacsmaryk hears 100 percent of federal cases filed in Amarillo, Texas. Tipton hears all cases filed in Victoria, Texas). But it remains to be seen whether Hendrix will show the same contempt for the rule of law as a Kacsmaryk or a Tipton.

So, while this case probably isn’t an immediate cause for alarm, it is a reminder that no lawsuit filed in Texas’s federal courts can safely be ignored.
Paxton, who is arguing that the current government spending bill is illegal because of House proxy voting, doesn't actually have to win the case.
He just has to get a judge to issue an injunction while the case is being decided. An injunction against the entire federal government. Boom, immediate government shutdown.
It would get worse, of course. Any new budget would have to be redone on terms of the House GOP Circus of the Damned writing the new plan.  They could then get every cut they want, because the hostage (in this case, the entire US economy) would have been shot already and would be bleeding out. 
Hours would matter, and gamesmanship could lead to a disaster that would break the country's machinery of operation.

Of course, everyone would blame Biden. Biden could ignore the order, but that's an immediate Constitutional crisis, and one with real consequences far into the future.

I'm really hoping this case gets dismissed, but again, all it takes is one crapass Trump judge to derail the country.

We'll see.
It would be a nightmare.

The Jackson Blues, Con't

In seething rage after the state GOP was called out for destroying the state capital's water system, Mississippi Republicans are now moving to put as much of the city of Jackson under state control as they can, and are passing legislation to make the changes permanent. The result is an effort to effectively dismantle the city's government and to rip power from Black leaders in the most Black city in the country.
Citing rising crime, Mississippi’s Republican-controlled House recently passed a bill that would expand areas of Jackson patrolled by a state-run Capitol Police force and create a new court system with appointed rather than elected judges. Both would give white state government officials more power over Jackson, which has the highest percentage of Black residents of any major U.S. city.

The state Senate has also passed a bill to establish a regional governing board for Jackson’s long-troubled water system, with most members appointed by state officials. The system nearly collapsed last year and is now under control of a federally-appointed manager.

The proposals for state control have angered Jackson residents who don’t want their voices diminished in local government, and are the latest example of the long-running tensions between the Republican-run state government and the Democratic-run capital city.

“It’s really a stripping of power, and it’s happening in a predominantly Black city that has predominantly Black leadership,” said Sonya Williams-Barnes, a Democratic former state lawmaker who is now Mississippi policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund. “You don’t see this going on in other areas of the state where they’re run by majority white people.”

Norris notes state government officials have long been unwilling to help Jackson with the water system and other problems.

“We had to go through all this by ourselves. Solo,” he said. “Now, all of the sudden you want to come and take it and say, ‘OK, well, we’re going to take over.’ You know, treating us like kids. We’re not kids.”

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the proposal for courts with appointed judges reeks of apartheid and “plantation politics.”

“If we allow this type of legislation to stand in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s a matter of time before it will hit New Orleans, it’s a matter of time before it hits Detroit, or wherever we find our people,” Lumumba said.

The sponsor of the expanded police and court bill, Republican Rep. Trey Lamar, from a rural town more than 170 miles (275 kilometers) north of Jackson, said it’s aimed at making Mississippi’s capital safer and at reducing a backlog in the judicial system.

“I can assure you that the bill has zero racial intent whatsoever,” said Lamar, who is white, in response to arguments that courts with appointed judges would disenfranchise Jackson voters. “There is nothing racial about the bill on its face, and there is no intent for the effect to be racial."
Not any more racial that cross burnings or poll taxes, folks. 

Nowhere is the Republican playbook to destroy government more apparent than in the Jim Crow South, where a city regularly doomed by a white supremacist state government is set up to fail at every turn, and then the local government services are taken into receivership by the kindly Republicans trying to "save" those people from themselves.

It's American apartheid. Subjecting Black folk to a white court system, a white police department, white water and infrastructure, and white government without any say over their own city.

And yes, Mayor Lumumba is right, cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Omaha are next if the GOP has its way.

You may want to wash your hands of red states and let the people who live there "get what they deserve" but the people who live there don't deserve this.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

Donald Trump, "bastion of free speech" that he is, had pathetically thin skin white in the White House and still does to this day.
IN EARLY 2018, the American national security apparatus was fixated on reports that North Korea was building nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S. or that Russia was plotting chemical weapons assassinations in Europe. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was busy targeting his idea of an enemy of the state: late night host Jimmy Kimmel.

The then-president, according to two former Trump administration officials, was so upset by Kimmel’s comedic jabs that he directed his White House staff to call up one of Disney’s top executives in Washington, D.C., to complain and demand action. (ABC, on which Jimmy Kimmel Live! has long aired, is owned by Disney.)

In at least two separate phone calls that occurred around the time Trump was finishing his first year in office, the White House conveyed the severity of his fury with Kimmel to Disney, the ex-officials tell Rolling Stone. Trump’s staff mentioned that the leader of the free world wanted the billion-dollar company to rein in the Trump-trashing ABC host, and that Trump felt that Kimmel had, in the characterization of one former senior administration official, been “very dishonest and doing things that [Trump] would have once sued over.”

The incident was so bizarre that news of it spread around the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Other administration officials who had nothing to do with the pressure campaign began hearing from their contacts at Disney about how confused they were that the White House kept telling them Trump wanted Kimmel to tone down his anti-Trump humor.

“At least one call was made to Disney [that I know of],” a third former official, who worked in the Trump White House, recalls. Sources spoke to Rolling Stone on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely and to preserve ongoing relationships in Trumpworld and conservative circles. “I do not know to who[m], but it happened. Nobody thought it was going to change anything but DJT was focused on it so we had to do something…It was doing something, mostly, to say to [Trump], ‘Hey, we did this.’”

Rolling Stone was able to identify one target of the White House’s ham-fisted, destined-to-fail pressure campaign: former Disney top lobbyist Richard Bates. The sources say Trump’s staff reached out to Bates to convey the president’s anger regarding Kimmel’s monologues and jabs. Bates, who served as a prominent Disney executive and was a Washington fixture for over 30 years, passed away in December 2020.

The pressure campaign ultimately failed, but the previously unreported effort marked yet another moment in which Trump showed an eagerness to wield the immense powers of his office for personal gain and highly petty reasons. (Indeed, one of Trump’s two impeachments was caused by this very impulse.)

And now, as Trump campaigns for the White House once again, there is no sign that his desire to use federal power in this way has ebbed an inch. In a recent radio interview, the former president said he’s entitled to a “revenge tour” if he wins the presidency in 2024 while claiming he wouldn’t avail himself of the opportunity in the event he’s reelected.

But throughout his presidency, Trump devoted inordinate amounts of time toward threatening late night television shows and celebrities over their jokes about the famously thin-skinned former game show host.
Remember, Trump wanted FCC chair Ajit Pai to pull CBS's broadcast license over Stephen Colbert's constant Late Show mockery of Trump as "obscenity", as well as NBC's Saturday Night Live for the same reason. Now we find out they went after ABC and Jimmy Kimmel too.
You'd better believe that in a second Trump term in 2024, criticism of Tang the Conqueror on the nation's late-night airwaves won't be dismissed so easily. 

The Vaxx Of Life, Con't

The US Energy Department under Secretary Jennifer Granholm say that new information has moved the agency's outlook on the origins of Covid-19 to the lab leak hypothesis, rather than natural occurrence, but this should be taken with grains of large, visible rock salt
The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.

The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.

The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.

The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.

The Energy Department made its judgment with “low confidence,” according to people who have read the classified report.

The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view.

So the majority of the country's agencies that have looked into Covid-19's origins, and the DNI's office, still are concluding that it's natural spread of the virus, most likely from a Chinese "wet market". It would be nice to know what this new intelligence is, frankly.  The agency that did change its mind still assesses the reality with "low confidence" at best.

Perhaps the House GOP Circus of the Damned will make its own "lab leak" to explain why the DoE changed its mind.

The bigger issue remains though that the majority of the agencies involved still consider the natural occurrence theory to be correct three years later.

That didn't change today.

Sunday Long Read: Training The Coup-Coup Birds

Nobody who has followed ZVTS over the last 14 years and change should be surprised that the US Military has been training African officers to take over their respective countries in military putsches over the last several years, because our chief export is "coups" and has been for longer than my entire lifetime. Rolling Stone's Nick Turse has the details:


ONE YEAR AGO, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba was a military leader on the rise. The 41-year-old officer had just overthrown Burkina Faso’s democratically-elected government and was about to be sworn in as the West Africa’s nation’s new president. Wearing a red beret and military fatigues, he appeared on TV and threw down a gauntlet. “To…gain the upper hand over the enemy, it will be necessary… to rise up and convince ourselves that as a nation we have more than what it takes to win this war,” he said.

Just nine months later, an upstart underling—34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore—decided Damiba did not have what it takes to win the war and toppled him. Traore, now the youngest world leader, recently shored up his popularity by ordering a withdrawal of French forces fighting a long-running Islamist insurgency by groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Burkina Faso.

When Damiba seized power last year, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) admitted that the United States had mentored him over many years. Damiba’s putsch was just the latest in a recent spate of coups in West Africa by U.S.-trained officers. But when Rolling Stone asked AFRICOM if Traore was the latest to follow in this tradition, they couldn’t say. “We are looking into this,” said Africa Command spokesperson Kelly Cahalan, noting the command needed to “research” it. “I will let you know when I have an answer.”

Four months later, AFRICOM still hasn’t provided an answer. In fact, the U.S. government appears unwilling to address its role in mentoring military officers who have sown chaos in the region; men who have repeatedly overthrown the governments the U.S. trains them to prop up.

For decades, U.S.-trained officers —from Haiti’s Philippe Biamby and Romeo Vasquez of Honduras to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan— have overthrown U.S.-allied governments all over the world. Rarely, however, have so many coups been so concentrated in a region over such a short period of time.

Last fall, after returning from a trip, alongside other top State Department and Pentagon officials to the Sahelian states of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, Ambassador Victoria Nuland was upbeat. “We went to the region in force. We were looking, in particular, at how the U.S. strategy towards the Sahel is working. This is a strategy that we put in place about a year ago to try to bring more coherence to our efforts to support increased security,” she said during an October conference call with reporters.

After Rolling Stone pointed out that U.S.-trained military officers had conducted seven coups in these same countries—Burkina Faso, three times; Mali, three times; and Mauritania, one time—since 2008, Nuland was less sanguine. “Nick, that was a pretty loaded comment that you made,” she replied. “Some folks involved in these coups have received some U.S. training, but far from all of them.”

The fact is the leaders of all of these coups have received significant U.S. training. Before Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba overthrew Burkina Faso’s president last year, for example, he twice participated in an annual U.S. special operations training program known as the Flintlock exercise. He was also previously accepted into a State Department-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance course; twice attended the U.S.-sponsored Military Intelligence Basic Officer Course-Africa; and twice participated in engagements with a U.S. Defense Department Civil Military Support Element.

In 2014, another U.S.-trained officer, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida—schooled via a Joint Special Operations University counterterrorism training course at Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base and a military intelligence course that was financed by the U.S. government—seized power, during popular protests against a presidential power-grab, in Burkina Faso. The next year, yet another coup in that country installed Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, another prominent Flintlock attendee.

Col. Assimi Goïta, worked with U.S. Special Operations forces for years, participating in both Flintlock exercises and a Joint Special Operations University seminar at MacDill Air Force Base—and also headed the junta that overthrew Mali’s government in 2020. After staging the coup, Goïta stepped down and took the job of vice president in a transitional government charged with returning Mali to civilian rule. But less than a year later, he carried out his second coup.

Similarly, in 2012, Captain Amadou Sanogo, who learned English in Texas, received infantry-officer basic training in Georgia, and underwent military intelligence schooling in Arizona, and overthrew Mali’s democratically elected government. “America is a great country with a fantastic army,” he said after the coup. “I tried to put all the things I learned there into practice here.” In 2008, the Pentagon-funded Stars and Stripes reported that Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the leader of a coup against Mauritania’s elected president, had also “worked with U.S. forces.”

Why did these officers who were trained by the United States to defend their governments topple them instead? If Nuland has any idea, she won’t say. “You need to talk to them about why they are overthrowing their governments,” she told Rolling Stone, referring to the coup-makers.
A lot of crazy conspiratorial right-wing trash keeps popping up next to State Department career diplomat Victoria Nuland's name (see Sy Hersh's Nord Stream pipeline fantasy) but I'll be damned if the truth about her isn't actually worse.

She comes off as Julia-Louis Dreyfus's character in the MCU, and if you haven't seen Falcon and the Winter Soldier or Wakanda Forever, know that she's bad, bad news from an evil US career civil service person standpoint.

Still, this remains a huge problem for the Pentagon and the Biden administration.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Last Call For Sam's Club

Indicted billionaire crypto-scammer Sam Bankman-Fried is now facing a second set of federal indictments involving campaign finance violations, as he illegally spent $10 million on midterm campaigns for Democrats...and more than twice that on Republicans in 2022, and there's more hidden.
On Thursday prosecutors updated their indictments against former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, expanding on allegations the feds initially filed in December. Bankman-Fried ran the now-collapsed FTX crypto-trading platform and made a name for himself as a disheveled, casually dressed boy genius. He made no secret of his desire to use his new wealth to support Democratic candidates. According to campaign finance records, in 2022 he was a prolific donor—the sixth largest overall—who contributed more than $36 million to mostly Democratic candidates and causes. But the indictments on Thursday, which added four new campaign finance charges to the one that was filed last year, seem to support a story that Bankman-Fried began telling after FTX’s collapse. They suggest that Bankman-Fried actually donated far more money than was previously known—to politicians on both sides of the aisle—but that he hid much of it.

According to the new indictments, Bankman-Fried made “over 300 political contributions, totaling tens of millions of dollars,” that were illegal because they were made through another donor giving on his behalf—an arrangement known as a straw donor. The exact total isn’t cited, but the new filing does note that internal bookkeeping records at Alameda Research—an investment firm that Bankman-Fried also operated and which investigators say improperly mixed its assets with FTX’s—suggest that as much as $100 million may have been set aside for political contributions.

One key thing that’s missing from all of this is the names of the recipients of all that money—and, more importantly, whether they were aware of the alleged scheme. Straw donor schemes are not that unusual; during every election cycle, several are discovered and prosecuted. The reasons for using straw donors vary. Sometimes the goal is to exceed the legal limits on how much a donor can give to a candidate, and other times the purpose is to hide from the public eye who a politician’s financial backers really are. According to the new indictment, Bankman-Fried was mostly concerned about the latter and used two different employees to make donations for him—one to give to lefty candidates that Bankman-Fried didn’t want to be publicly associated with, and the other to give money to Republicans.

“All my Republican donations were dark,” Bankman-Fried said in an interview after FTX’s collapse. “The reason was not for regulatory reasons, it’s because reporters freak the fuck out if you donate to Republicans. They’re all super-liberal, and I didn’t want to have that fight.”

Again, according to the indictment, Bankman-Fried’s intentions were to use his donations to influence politicians. At one point, federal prosecutors are alleging, a political consultant working for Bankman-Fried told the FTX executive charged with donating to progressive candidates and groups that they had to donate $1 million to support a candidate who was linked to LGBTQ causes. The consultant wrote in a message to the executive that “in general, you being the center left face of our spending will mean you giving to a lot of woke shit for transactional purposes.” The executive balked, but the indictment says that on Bankman-Fried’s orders, the donations were made.

Donations made for “transactional purposes” could themselves be illegal—campaign finance law says that donations can’t be made in exchange for a quid pro quo. In fact, that’s known as bribery. All the more reason, from Bankman-Fried’s perspective, to keep the donations hidden. But contributions that are so large and so frequent and made for “transactional purposes” also raises the possibility that—unless they were made completely ineptly—the beneficiaries of the donations may well have known who was really supplying the money and why.

Recipients of straw-donor schemes are rarely held accountable when prosecutors file charges. There are a variety of reasons for that, including a general reluctance to charge elected officials and the difficulty of proving their knowledge of the true source of the money. But the schemes also rarely involve such large sums of money—it’s much harder to say a politician didn’t know about donations as large as those Bankman-Fried is alleged to have made, especially when there’s apparent evidence that the donor was so focused on “transactional purposes.”

Of course not all of the money went directly to campaigns—some of the largest donations were apparently to super-PACs, which are not legally allowed to coordinate their activities with candidates. But candidates are often very aware of who the super-PAC donors are. In fact, candidates often fundraise for the super-PACs directly. Whether the money went to a candidate or to a super-PAC supporting candidates, if Bankman-Fried made the donations with “transactional purposes” in mind, it means a lot of politicians likely knew what he was doing.

If Bankman-Fried really did direct as much as $100 million to support politicians across the political spectrum—and everything about Bankman-Fried and his calculations is a big “if” at this point—it’s increasingly difficult to see how those who took the money shouldn’t be held accountable as well.
He didn't try to buy off a few politicians.
He tried to buy an entire Congress

The people in that Congress who took his money knowingly?

They need to go.

Our Little White SUpremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester recently confirmed he's running for a fourth term in 2024, and the response from the Trumpiest state in the union was immediate.

A Kalispell man accused of threatening to injure and murder Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester was arraigned on Feb. 23 on an indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday in a news release.

Kevin Patrick Smith, 45, pleaded not guilty to an indictment filed on Feb. 22 charging him with two counts of threats to injure and murder a United States senator, the news release said.

If convicted of the most serious crime, Smith faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Smith was detained pending further proceedings.

The news release detailed the following, citing court documents:

On Jan. 30, Smith allegedly made numerous threatening calls to Sen. Tester by phone, leaving voicemails at Sen. Tester’s office in Kalispell. In one instance, Smith stated:

“There is nothing I want more than to have you stand toe to toe with me. You stand toe to toe with me. I rip your head off. You die. You stand in a situation where it is physical between you and me. You die.

“I will never stop. … And I would love to destroy you and rip your (obscenity) head from your shoulders. That is no problem. Call that a threat. Send the FBI.

“I would love to (obscenity) kill you. I would love to see your FBI at my door. I would love to see something in the news.”

According to court documents, Smith allegedly acknowledged in the recording that he threatened Sen. Tester, and such threats were “on purpose.”

Court documents further allege that on Feb. 1, the FBI contacted Smith and instructed him not to threaten physical violence toward Sen. Tester. On Feb. 10, Smith again called Sen. Tester, stating in one voice message, “I want you to understand. If I ever pull my trigger, I know what dies.”

As further alleged in the indictment, Smith stated in another voicemail, “It is important for you to understand that I won’t live under your rule.…If it becomes time that I die, I’d take a significant number with me.”

Tester is a Democrat and Montana’s senior senator. He announced this week he will seek a fourth term in 2024.

Tester was reportedly reconsidering running earlier this month and was undecided after the first threat. I'm glad that he wasn't scared off, we need him on the Democratic side.

But we need to be real about the dangers facing Democrats at all levels heading into 2024.

The Vaxx Of Life, Con't

Lee County, Florida Republicans have voted to send a resolution to GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis's desk to ban COVID-19 vaccines in the state and uder Florida law, DeSantis can choose to act on the resolution as an executive order. Forbes Magazine's Bruce Y. Lee:

If the Lee County Republican Party has their way, the state of Florida will be banning the use of Covid-19 vaccines. Yes, you heard that correctly. Based on a majority vote, the Party has passed a so-called “Ban the jab” resolution that will now go to the desk of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) for his consideration. And why does the Party want such a ban? Well, an article for WINK News by Michael Hudak and Taylor Wirtz quoted Joe Sansone, the guy who drafted the resolution, as saying, “The Lee County Republican Party is going to be on the vanguard of this campaign to stop the genocide because we have foreign non-governmental entities that are unleashing biological weapons on the American people.”

Stop the genocide? Foreign non-governmental entities unleashing biological weapons? Holy space-laser-operating-lizard-alien-living-on-a-flat-Earth-with-a-5G-transmitter. And here you thought Covid-19 vaccines were meant to protect people from getting hospitalized and dying from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. Silly rabbit. Tricks are for kids.

The WINK article also included another quote from Sansone that really seemed to embrace some conspiracy theory claims: “If you got this shot, you go home and hug your pregnant wife—she can have a miscarriage through skin contact.” Wait, so now, you’ve got to start worrying about hugging people who have gotten Covid-19 vaccines? How exactly is that supposed to work scientifically? Did Sansone provide any peer-reviewed scientific studies to support his assertion? Most likely not, because good luck trying to find any peer-reviewed scientific studies to support such an assertion.

So, let’s get this straight. The Lee County Republican Party resolution is not just about resisting Covid-19 vaccine requirements. This is not just about refusing to get vaccinated themselves. No, members of the Lee County Republican Party want the State Government to prevent everyone else from getting Covid-19 vaccines. Apparently, they want the State Government to restrict the people’s choice and freedom to get a vaccine that’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the U.S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Talk about overreach.


So, will anyone in FL ask DeSantis directly and on camera if he plans to sign this resolution and ban the vaccine for use in the state? 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Last Call For Greg's Gone Wrong, Too

Not to be outdone by Florida making Black history illegal, Texas is making both Black and Latino history illegal, with new legislation that would ban Black and Latino studies courses and end diversity at Texas universities.

Latino and Black leaders in Texas pushed back on claims that diversity and inclusion hiring programs are illegal as the vast University of Texas System put a hold on such programs at its institutions and campuses.

Kevin Eltife, chairman of the system's board of regents, announced Wednesday that he was delaying new policies on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and launching a review of all of them. The announcement at a board meeting, with no discussion or vote, was reported first by The Austin American-Statesman.

Eltife, a former state senator appointed to the board by Abbott, also a Republican, said that within UT campuses “some DEI efforts have strayed from the original intent to now imposing requirements and actions that rightfully has raised concerns of our policy makers.”

No examples of DEI programs that have strayed were provided at the meeting or in response to an NBC News request.

Eltife’s stop on new policies follows a declaration by Abbott's chief of staff in a letter dated Feb. 4 to state agencies that DEI "has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others." The letter, first reported by The Texas Tribune and posted on Twitter by KHOU in Houston, went on to say that a state agency spending tax dollars to pay for DEI initiatives and resources connected with them is illegal.

That declaration from a higher education system of 13 institutions and more than 244,000 students is drawing pushback from Black and Latino lawmakers and organizations.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said DEI programs are set up through legal departments and are conservative in nature so as not to run afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws.

"It is a complete misrepresentation to say that DEI programs are illegal and that they violate the Constitution or any statute, because they don't," said Bledsoe, who also is a founder of the Black and Brown Dialogue on Policy. The multiracial, cultural group seeks to confront what it says is a "growing threat of racism and policies meant to undermine our human dignity and humanity."
It's racist to teach Black American and Latino American history, you guys!
Of course the real reason is to get Black and Latino folks to leave the state, and destroy the culture and history of those who remain.
So that white folks aren't made "uncomfortable".  That's all that really matters.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine this week marks renewed efforts from the Pentagon to help Kyiv fight back with another round of war-fighting technology.
The Pentagon announced a new package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with a $2 billion commitment to send more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones into the fight.

The announcement comes just days after President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv and pledged America’s continuing commitment to Ukraine. Biden told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people that “Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

In a statement Friday, the Pentagon said the aid includes weapons to counter Russia’s unmanned systems and several types of drones, including the upgraded Switchblade 600 Kamikaze drone, as well as electronic warfare detection equipment.

It also includes money for additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, artillery rounds and munitions for laser-guided rocket systems. But, in an unusual move, the Pentagon provided no details on how many rounds of any kind will be bought. Including this latest package, the U.S. has now committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion is a chance for all who believe in freedom “to recommit ourselves to supporting Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul — and to recall that the stakes of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukraine.”
But increasingly, what Ukrainian officials want, and say they need, is commitment for a major counteroffensive to push Russia out for good.  WaPo's Josh Rogin:

As the Ukraine war enters its second year, the Biden administration is pledging to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes.” That language is calculated to send a message of resolve to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it’s not what Ukrainians want to hear. Though they’re fighting valiantly, Ukrainians are also suffering greatly — and they are begging the West to help them speed up the war, not settle in for an endless slog.

Just a few days before the anniversary of Putin’s unprovoked invasion last year, Biden visited Kyiv and made a rousing speech in Poland promising that the West “will never waver” in the fight for freedom and democracy. A few days earlier, Vice President Harris took the stage at the Munich Security Conference to declare America’s endless commitment to the Ukraine effort.

“The daily agony of war will persist,” she said. “But if Putin thinks he can wait us out, he is badly mistaken. Time is not on his side.”

Nearly all the Ukrainian officials I met in Munich respectfully disagree. It’s not just about weapons (although they insist that more and better weapons are badly and quickly needed). These Ukrainian officials say they’re worried that the Biden administration’s stance could undermine support for Kyiv’s strategy, which is to accelerate the war effort now and avoid a protracted stalemate.

For them, an endless war means a win for Putin and the loss of their country as they know it.

“We are very grateful for the support that is coming, but there is one phrase that makes us very concerned,” Ukrainian member of parliament Yelyzaveta Yasko told me. “Many leaders right now are saying, ‘We will support you as long as it takes.’ And we feel this phrase is quite dangerous.” 
That will be difficult to do though as the GOP Circus of the Damned are increasingly signaling they will block aid on the scale Kyiv needs to win

The topic of Ukraine funding will be front and center when both spending fights and presidential politics heat up later this year. Republicans are seeking to rein in spending across the federal government now that they control the House and will have leverage in negotiations to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, while conservatives on the campaign trail are looking to contrast their priorities against Biden’s in the prelude to the 2024 election cycle.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday on Fox News that US aid to Ukraine was little more than an “open-ended blank check” – a sentiment shared by a handful of House Republicans who have growing power in a narrowly divided Congress.

For now, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill still view it differently, setting up a clash that could come next fall when the fight over government spending kicks into full gear. Republicans leaders will have to contend with a small but vocal bloc of anti-interventionists within their party who view military support for Ukraine as a prime example of US government waste. In a House of Representatives where Republicans control a razor-thin majority and conservative hardliners have a stranglehold on McCarthy’s speakership, those voices can’t simply be ignored.
So we'll see where this goes.

Welcome To Gunmerica, Two Gunmericas Edition

Remember that FOX News being the propaganda arm of the GOP is as much for Republican voters as it is everyone else.


So yeah, spend all day screaming about ILLEGALS BRINGING IN DRUGS and that's the main "threat".

Guns? Number one among Democrats, 4% among Republicans. More Republicans consider fat people a threat.

Gunmerica forever.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Last Call For The Road To Gilead, Con't

A major new national poll conducted by PRRI finds a majority of Americans in most states want abortion legalized in most or all cases, and even in Republican states, only a small percentage want it completely illegal.
Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while roughly one-third (34%) say it should be illegal in most or all cases. More granularly, 30% say abortion should be legal in all cases, 34% say it should be legal in most cases, 25% say it should be illegal in most cases, and just 9% say it should be illegal in all cases.

The share of Americans who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases has continued to increase since PRRI began tracking abortion legality in 2010, when it was at 55%. The share of those who say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases has shrunk (from 42% in 2010 to 34% now), with the proportion who say abortion should be illegal in all cases seeing the largest decline (from 15% in 2010 to 9% now).

However, there has been little movement in attitudes about abortion’s legality in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022. In March 2022, 64% of Americans felt that abortion should be legal, as did a similar share in June (65%). After Dobbs, support for abortion’s legality remained fairly constant in August (64%), September (62%), and December (65%).

Looking at the opposing viewpoint, the share of Americans who say abortion should be illegal in most cases has been stable, but the share who say it should be illegal in all cases has declined slightly over the past year: from 11% in September 2021 to 7% in December 2022.

Just under four in ten Republicans say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases (36% across 2022), while 63% say it should be illegal in most or all cases. Support for legal abortion among Republicans has mostly wavered between 30% and 40% since 2010, while support for abortion being illegal has mostly wavered between 60% and 70% since 2010.

Among Republicans, belief that abortion should be illegal in all cases has declined: in September 2021, 21% of Republicans said abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to 14% who said the same in December 2022, after the Dobbs decision. Prior to 2022, roughly two in ten Republicans opposed abortion in all cases, a share that had held steady since at least 2010.

Republican women (17%) are about as likely as Republican men (14%) to say abortion should be illegal in all cases. However, in March 2022, 20% of Republican women believed abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to 15% who said the same in December. Republican men’s attitudes did not shift significantly during the same time period (15% in March, 13% in December).

Nearly nine in ten Democrats want abortion to be legal in most or all cases (86% across 2022), including nearly half of Democrats (48%) who say abortion should be legal in all cases. Notably, however, support for abortion’s legality in most or all cases has gone up among Democrats, from 71% in 2010.

Throughout 2022, attitudes among Democrats overall remained relatively steady. However, the share of Democratic women who said abortion should be legal in all cases increased slightly, from 46% in March to 52% in December, while the share of Democratic men who said the same remained steady throughout 2022.

Views on abortion among independents generally mirror those of the country as a whole. Across 2022, 68% of independents said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 30% said it should be illegal in most or all cases. Views about abortion legality among both independent men and women remained relatively steady through the year.


 Of course the problem remains that red states are making abortion completely illegal, to the point of crinimalizing it for doctors and medical practitioners, and increasingly, women seeking abortions. If the vast majority of Americans, two-thirds, actually want access to abortion, the time to get rid of Republican lawmakers is now.

Sadly, that won't happen. No Republican who votes for one of the religious zealots believe that the women in their lives would ever actually enforce such a ban against them.

Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis will now only allow events at the state capitol in Tallahassee, including protests and demonstrations, if the goals of groups holding events "align with the state" and the current regime.
The new rules specify that organizations must make their requests through DeSantis administration agency heads, the House speaker or any member of the Senate. The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court can also ask on their behalf.

The DMS letters caught by surprise several groups that have for years requested space in the Capitol to host education events for their particular mission. There are dozens of annual events during the legislative session that include state universities having advocacy days, or specific advocacy groups holding informational and educational days in the Capitol during session to increase awareness of their issues of concern. Most events are uncontroversial and not tied to protesting specific issues being considered, or any specific piece of legislation.

“It seems counterintuitive to our rights that you have to ask an agency to ask on your behalf to use space at the Capitol to simply educate the Legislature,” said a lobbyist who for years has planned Capitol events for clients. “And only if your mission lines up with the agencies’ mission is having space for displays on DMS property potentially allowed.”

“Does this rule really protect the constitutional right to assembly, and the right to petition the governor for a redress of grievances,” added the person, who was granted anonymity because they were concerned about retribution for speaking against the new DeSantis administration policy.

The changes have created concern that any event deemed not in line with a DeSantis administration “mission” could be denied space, a situation that some fear would affect demonstrators who protest controversial pieces of legislation, a common hallmark of Florida’s legislative process.

Each year, protesters have filled the Capitol rotunda, generally in opposition to Republican legislative priorities because that party is in the majority, though recently anti-abortion protesters filled the Capitol to urge the GOP-dominated Legislature to pass legislation that would lessen the period of time a woman can have an abortion from the recently passed 15-week ban.

“It is absolutely absurd and against our First Amendment right,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). “It does not surprise that as GOP bans abortions, attacks LGBTQ+ rights, bans books and passes corporate tax breaks that they want to suppress freedom of speech and First Amendment rights.”

The rule changes also define “demonstration activity,” which covers things like “demonstrating, parading, picketing, speech making, holding of vigils, sit-ins, or other similar activities conducted for the purpose of demonstrating approval or disapproval of government policies ... expressing a view on public issues, or bringing into public notice any issue or other matter.”

Those activities would be less regulated and still allowed outside the Capitol complex. But the new rules include language that allows DMS to request organizers “reduce in size and scope” their event.
The fascism is now on open display in the state and will continue for years to come. If we're not careful, this will be nationwide under a DeSantis federal regime, too.

A Florida man suspected of killing a woman Wednesday returned to the scene hours later and shot four other people, killing a 9-year-old girl and a television news journalist, authorities said.

A Spectrum News 13 crew was in Pine Hills shortly after 4 p.m. covering the slaying of a woman in her 20s who had been found shot in the area around 11 a.m., Sheriff John Mina said.

Keith Melvin Moses, 19, the suspect in the woman's killing, returned and fired at the reporter and a photojournalist who were in or near a vehicle, Mina said.

The reporter, identified by Spectrum News 13 early Thursday morning as Dylan Lyons, died from his injuries, Mina said. The photojournalist, who the outlet identified as Jesse Walden, was critically injured.

Moses then went to a nearby home, walked inside and shot a woman and her 9-year-old daughter, the sheriff said. The girl died. The mother was critically injured.

The suspect was arrested in the area and is being charged in the initial slaying, Mina said. Moses will be charged in the four other shootings later, Mina said.

"The suspect is not saying much right now," Mina said. "It is unclear if he knew they were news media or not."

Mina said there is no apparent connection between Moses and the mother and the child who were shot Wednesday afternoon.

The woman killed earlier was an acquaintance of the suspect, he said.
This week, Florida Republicans are rushing through permitless concealed carry to make it even easier to have a gun to use when you get angry at someone. More people will die, more mothers, more 9-year-olds, more journalists covering previous shootings. DeSantis, of course, doesn't give a damn.

The Galleria Of Crime, Con't

Jared and Ivanka get to talk to Special Counsel Jack Smith for a bit as the federal criminal investigation(s) into Donald Trump continue.
The special counsel overseeing a criminal investigation of former President Donald Trump has issued subpoenas to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, according to a new report.

The subpoenas by special counsel Jack Smith, which demand the couple’s testimony before a grand jury, are related to his probe of Trump’s efforts to remain in the White House after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, The New York Times reported.

Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner served as senior White House advisors to the former president.

Both of them had testified to the select House committee that investigated the Capitol riot by a mob of Trump supporters whipped up into anger by the former president’s false claims of losing to Biden due to ballot fraud.

Smith previously issued a subpoena to former Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he will oppose the demand for his testimony.

And Smith reportedly subpoenaed Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows in the same probe.

The special counsel’s spokesmen declined to comment on the Times report. Attorneys for Ivanka Trump and Kushner did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
So we've got the gang back together here, Meadows, Pence, and now Jared and Ivanka.  Needless to say some six years plus since Trump crapped himself into an Oval Office chair, the fact we're still back at the subpoena stage (and all parties are fighting these still, particularly Pence) doesn't fill me with confidence.

Regardless, Merrick Garland has to get this right, or the country is lost. Period.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Last Call For Trans-Specific Railroading

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Kentucky is about to quickly join several other red states in making trans kids illegal, and criminalizing anyone who "assists in physical or social transition" in any way with felony charges, loss of license, loss of state funding, and worse.
A sweeping new piece of anti-transgender legislation is being fast-tracked through Kentucky’s legislature, quickly being assigned to a committee and racking up 20 co-sponsors after its Tuesday filing.

Under House Bill 470, gender transition services for trans kids would be virtually barred statewide. “Gender transition” is broadly defined in the bill, applying to any service meant to “(assist) a person with a gender transition.” This would include things to help youth transition socially like using the student's correct pronouns or new name.

Physical and mental health care providers found to have helped provide transition-related services, which are backed by major medical organizations, to those under 18 would lose their licenses. If those providers work at a place receiving public money, the funding would be pulled.

Health care providers would be required to report providing any type of gender-affirming care to someone under the age of 18 within 30 days. If they don't, they could face criminal charges. They also would be liable should someone sue over services they provide, while providers who refuse to provide such services would be protected against legal, professional licensing and disciplinary pursuits.

In school, educators would be required to out trans and non-binary kids to their parents if they ask for a new name or pronouns, change their gender expression or there is an “inconsistency” between the sex or gender they were born as and how they feel.

Anyone under 18 could no longer legally change their name if the change appears tied to a “social or physical gender transition.” Documents like birth certificates also couldn’t be amended.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, says it would take effect in January 2024 so any minors currently using puberty blockers would have time for the appropriate medication tapering.
We're making being a trans kid in this state 100% illegal and if anyone doesn't report a soon-to-be illegal trans kid to the authorities, they'll go to jail. The bill essentially classifies medical or social transition as felony child abuse and makes failure to report it a crime as well.

Here's the most insidious part:
Decker’s bill is dubbed the “Do No Harm Act,” although several trans individuals and their allies have testified already this session that even small acts of affirming trans students’ identities, like using the correct pronouns, are shown to reduce the chances that student will consider suicide.
These bastards are going to run this bill through in a matter of days and override a Beshear veto easily even if he does veto it. I'm hoping the bill can be tied up by the Kentucky courts, but I expect it will become law by next year.
And then the state will begin hunting down trans kids. "Do No Harm" act my ass. This will get trans kids killed in KY and they damn well know it, because that's the point of the bill. Make a group illegal to exist and they either flee, die, or end up in jail.

Won't stop there, of course...

Orange Meltdown, Peach State Edition

The foreperson in Fulton County, Georgia's special grand jury investigating Trump's election fraud went to NBC and all but told the world that yes, the jury recommended indictments galore for Team Trump.

A special grand jury that investigated election interference by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies in Georgia recommended indictments for multiple people on a range of charges in its final report, most of which remains sealed, the forewoman of the jury said on Tuesday.

“It is not a short list,” the forewoman, Emily Kohrs, said in an interview.

Ms. Kohrs, 30, declined to name the people recommended for indictment, since the judge handling the case decided to keep those details secret when he made public a few sections of the report last week. But seven sections that are still under wraps deal with indictment recommendations, Ms. Kohrs said.

Special grand juries in Georgia do not have indictment powers. Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., has led the investigation and will decide what charges to bring before a regular grand jury.

Asked whether the jurors had recommended indicting Mr. Trump, Ms. Kohrs would not answer directly but said: “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science.” In the slim portions of the report that were released last week, the jurors said they saw possible evidence of perjury by “one or more” witnesses who testified before them.

“It is not going to be some giant plot twist,” she added. “You probably have a fair idea of what may be in there. I’m trying very hard to say that delicately.”

The investigation in Atlanta has been seen as one of the most significant legal threats to Mr. Trump as he begins another run for the presidency. In November, the Justice Department named a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee two Trump-related criminal investigations. And last month, the Manhattan district attorney’s office began presenting evidence to a grand jury on whether Mr. Trump paid hush money to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign, laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months.

A focal point of the Atlanta inquiry is a call that Mr. Trump made on Jan. 2, 2021, to Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in which he pressed Mr. Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to recalculate the results and “find” 11,780 votes, or enough to overturn his loss in the state.

Yeah, the special grand jury recommended charges for Trump, I'm convinced of that. Whether DA Willis makes those charges, well, that's up to her and a criminal grand jury, just like it would be for any other criminal case in Fulton County.

Willis wouldn't have waited too long on empaneling that criminal grand jury, if it's not already meeting, it soon will be.

And then we'll see if Willis, Georgia, and America are ready for this fight.

Another Supreme Disappointment, Con't

As true to its nature, the Roberts Court refused to hear a challenge to Mississippi's racially motivated gerrymander of US House districts, as Republicans in the state eliminated one of the state's two majority Black districts completely last year, and the Supreme Court will simply let that stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Buck v. Reeves, a case alleging that the state’s congressional maps are racially gerrymandered. The decision affirms that Mississippi is no longer required to get federal preclearance for its congressional maps.

In 2002, a three-judge panel ordered Mississippi to use court-drawn congressional maps “in accordance with the procedures in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” However, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down Section 5, with Chief Justice John Roberts saying at the time that “things have changed in the South.”

Mississippi is a 38% Black state with four congressional districts; one is majority Black and currently represented by a Black Democrat, U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, while the other three are majority white and represented by white Republicans.

District 1 is 65.8% white and 28% Black; District 2 is 30.2% white and 65.9% Black; District 3 is 58.7% white and 35.6% Black; District 4 is 68.7% white and 23.4% Black.

Despite being the state with the largest Black population per capita, Mississippi has only sent two Black representatives to Congress since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War: Thompson and his predecessor, former U.S. House Rep. Mike Espy. The state has not elected a Black U.S. senator or any other statewide official since Reconstruction.

The lower court's decision that there was no case because of the death of VRA Section 5 means that the rest of the Voting Rights Act is essentially dead as well. States can gerrymander districts down to individual streets in order to assure they can have as many districts favoring one party as they want, even if it means deliberately diluting and disenfranchising Black votes and voters.

This court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, will never allow the VRA to be enforced because racism "no longer exists".

Vote while you still can in red states, folks. 
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