Monday, September 11, 2023

Last Call For Twenty-Two Years Later

As the country marks the 22nd anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, NYC officials are confirming that the total number of first responders who have died to 9/11 related illnesses has now equaled the number of FDNY firefighters who were lost that day.
The number of first responders who have died from 9/11-related illnesses now almost equals the number of firefighters who died during the terror attacks themselves.

A total of 341 New York City Fire Department firefighters, paramedics and civilian support staff who died from post-911 illnesses are now memorialized at the FDNY World Trade Center Memorial Wall, according to the Uniformed Firefighters Association. The memorial commemorates both first responders who died during the attacks and those who died from related illnesses in the years since.

That count almost equals the 343 New York firefighters who died during the 2001 attacks.

The fire department added 43 names to the memorial on September 6, according to a news release.

“As we approach the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, the FDNY continues to feel the impact of that day. Each year, this memorial wall grows as we honor of those who gave their lives in service of others,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in the release. “These brave men and women showed up that day, and in the days and months following the attacks to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site. We will never forget them.”

Exposure to the dust at the World Trade Center has been tied to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease among firefighters who responded to the scene. Additionally, respiratory disease and thousands of cancer diagnoses have been linked to the toxic pollutants released during the attacks.

More than 71,000 people are currently enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry, a long-term study seeking to understand the physical and mental health effects of the terror attacks. In addition to first responders, the attacks have left lasting health impacts on workers in the World Trade Center who evacuated their workplaces, passersby, residents of the surrounding buildings and volunteers who spent time at Ground Zero in the weeks after.

Lt. Joseph Brosi was one of the dozens of firefighters added to the memorial last week. The FDNY veteran died in February after a long battle with lung cancer.

His son Jim Brosi said not a day has gone by where he has not thought about his father.

“We just miss him,” he told CNN. “He was just always present in everything we did.”
As with everything 9/11 related, it's all complex and complicated. 9/11 was one of the watershed moments in global history, one that shifted the axis of billions over the last two-plus decades. But there are those who have lost their lives as a direct result of the attack even now, and that list continues to grow.

Another year passes, and more are lost. Maybe an entire country lost their way, too. I know many of you have been around for far longer, and that like many of my generation, you remember exactly where you were when the towers fell.

Everything changed after that, and very little of it for the better.


The Return Of The Revenge Of The Ghost Of Shutdown Countdown

With the House back in session this week ahead of the September 30th deadline for spending bills, Republicans are giving GOP House Spearker Kevin McCarthy an ultimatum: crash the Biden economy, or we crash you.

Kevin McCarthy is facing the greatest peril to his speakership since he clawed his way into the job eight months ago, with multiple factions of his party feuding and a looming revolt ahead during the battle to fund the government.

Ultra-conservative members of the House GOP are talking in unsubtle terms about turning on McCarthy if he does not take a hard line in negotiations with the Senate and the Biden administration.

More centrist Republicans, too, are increasingly fed up with McCarthy’s efforts to placate the far right. They want him to stop giving ground to lawmakers they see as holding the party hostage to unrealistic demands.

McCarthy is a political survivor — even his critics cannot deny that his skilled nature as an accommodator, his persistence in winning over even his most dogged critics and his deep bench of allies have kept him alive in this highly fractured Republican Party.

But interviews with more than two dozen GOP members and aides reveal that it would take only a few rogue lawmakers hell-bent on his downfall to risk McCarthy’s fate in an entirely new way, sending their party spiraling into a new period of chaos. And even if those defectors fail to actually eject McCarthy, some of the speaker’s confidantes privately concede there may be no way to recover.

Those volatile, competing forces of McCarthy’s conference will collide this month, and could drive the nation to a government shutdown, while reshaping the Republican agenda for the rest of the Congress.

“The speaker faces two choices,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va), a vocal McCarthy detractor who says the party shouldn’t fear a shutdown. “[He] stares down the Senate, stares down the White House, forces them to cave and is a transformational historic speaker ... Or he can choose to make a deal with Democrats.”

If McCarthy chooses the latter option, Good warned, “I don’t think that’s a sustainable thing for him as speaker.”

House Republicans will face all that drama with an attendance strain: At least four of their own may be sidelined from Washington for health or family reasons, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.). That’s on top of a looming resignation on Friday that could put McCarthy’s margin for error at just a couple of votes.

The last time a GOP speaker faced this intense level of fall spending pressure with a Democrat in the White House, it was September 2015. And while John Boehner avoided a shutdown, he didn’t survive the month.
Utah Republican Chris Stewart is resigning on Friday over his wife's health issues, and he won't be replaced until June's special election, so McCarthy's margin will be down to three votes. I expect things to go like they did with Boehner in 2015, only with a lot bigger of a mess after McCarthy is driven out for making a deal with the Dems.

Of course, McCarthy may fold completely and shut down the government for weeks or months and crater the economy, but the voters are going to remember, or maybe he gets deposed before the 30th. At this point, all bets are off.

We'll see. But any outcome will be the GOP's fault.

The GOP Legal Eagles, Con't

The Washington Post's Jackie Alemany on the Capitol Hill beat is at least dispensing with the pretense and is rightfully calling out the GOP efforts to derail the prosecutors trying to bring Trump to justice as the darkness that democracy is dying in.
Investigate the investigator.

That has been the operating thesis of the GOP’s playbook to counter the myriad criminal investigations into Donald Trump, the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Interrogating investigators’ methods and scruples is a strategy that has been utilized by both parties during tumultuous moments, and is a well-worn tool for lawmakers seeking to appease constituents hungry for the appearance of oversight on polarizing issues.

The strategy has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations after years of sustained broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his top allies. A Washington Post-FiveThirtyEight-Ipsos poll last month showed 75 percent of potential Republican primary voters said charges against the former president across various investigations were politically motivated.

But in the wake of 91 criminal charges against Trump, the party’s blitz of attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain, according to legal experts.

“Big picture, this does seem incredibly troubling,” said Caren Morrison, a former federal prosecutor who is an associate professor at Georgia State University College of Law. “For years I’ve told my students that one principle we can always rely on is the principle of prosecutorial discretion — it is unassailable and that is the essence of their power: They can choose which cases to pursue and which cases not to pursue. … We are kind of at a point where nobody agrees on what the rules are.”

So far, congressional investigations have been launched against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, special counsel Jack Smith, and most recently, Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis — all of whom have charged Trump with crimes. And state lawmakers have begun discussions to remove Willis from her seat through a disciplinary commission in Georgia — one of several states that have recently adopted laws aimed at reining in the power of locally elected prosecutors.

Republican House committee chairmen initiated an investigation into Bragg earlier this year seeking communications, documents and testimony related to his investigation of a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump was indicted in the case by a Manhattan grand jury for allegedly falsifying business records in New York.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio), one of the three GOP chairmen who targeted Bragg, announced an investigation into Willis after an Atlanta-area grand jury indicted Trump and 18 of his associates on charges related to attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Jordan requested information regarding any federal funding the office receives, along with any correspondence between Willis’s office and the Justice Department. Republican lawmakers have also gone after David Weiss, the newly appointed special counsel tasked with prosecuting President Biden’s son Hunter after his plea deal collapsed in July. Weiss filed court papers on Wednesday saying he intends to seek an indictment against Hunter Biden by the end of this month.

Jordan and others have drawn sharp criticism from Democrats for what they view as attempts to undermine active and ongoing criminal investigations. In a nine-page letter to Jordan sent on Thursday, Willis blasted the chairman for what she called an unconstitutional attempt “to interfere with a state criminal matter” and transgression of the separation of powers. She also warned Jordan that if House Republicans followed through on threats to deny federal funding to Willis’s office, that “such vengeful, uncalled-for legislative action would impose serious harm on the citizens we serve, including the fact that it will make them less safe.”

Few officials have voluntarily cooperated with the investigations so far, but House Republicans scored a win in the courts after a federal judge declined to block a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee. That ruling forced a former prosecutor who investigated Trump in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Mark Pomerantz, to appear before the committee for a deposition.

“It is not the role of the federal judiciary to dictate what legislation Congress may consider or how it should conduct its deliberations in that connection,” U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil wrote in her opinion. She added that Jordan had identified other valid legislative purposes in deposing Pomerantz, including scrutinizing the use of federal funds in the investigation. The judge also questioned how Bragg could claim that information that had already been published in a tell-all about the investigation into Trump written by Pomerantz could be considered privileged information. Jordan’s office declined a request for comment.

It remains to be seen whether House Republicans will ultimately issue subpoenas to any of the current prosecutors overseeing investigations into Trump, but legal experts and former U.S. government officials say the action would mark a significant escalation that would cross the line separating politics and the criminal justice system.

“Whomever is the accused deserves an adjudication which is, as much as possible, the application of law to facts, and you do everything you can to shield that inquiry from the rough-and-tumble of constituent politics,” said Robert Raben, the former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs under President Bill Clinton. “There are important lines of division that should not be penetrated — and we can squabble about where those lines are — but hauling up an investigator while something is pending to influence something to which you are not a party is inappropriate,” he added.
Amazingly enough, the Post's Alemany seems to agree that the GOP is wildly overstepping its bounds and that the next step in the war will be subpoenas of those directing ongoing investigations and prosecutions of Dnald Trump by House Republicans.

But of course we've gotten to this point precisely because Republicans don't care about destroying the norms of democracy, and they will continue to ignore these norms until they have to pay a price that they can no longer afford.

America, it seems, has little to no appetite for that.
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