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Trumps Indictment: Historical and Future Implications II

Tyrant of Words
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Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

Yesterday was the 75th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. It's a nice reminder of what those resisting an authoritarian regime are advocating for.

Image: [Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum, via Wikipedia Commons]

Source: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-10-2023

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

People, are you paying attention to this?

December 11, 2023
DEC 12, 2023

As is sometimes the case in American politics, a bill that many people are likely not paying a great deal of attention to is likely to have enormous impact on the nation’s future.

That $110.5 billion national security supplemental package was designed to provide additional funding for Ukraine in its war to fight off Russia’s invasion; security assistance to Israel, primarily for missile defense systems; humanitarian assistance to citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine, and elsewhere; funding to replenish U.S. weapon stockpiles; assistance to regional partners in the Indo-Pacific; investments in efforts to stop illegal fentanyl from coming into the U.S. and to dismantle international drug cartels; and investment in U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enhance border security and speed up migrant processing.

President Joe Biden asked for the supplemental funding in late October. Such a package is broadly popular among lawmakers of both parties who like that Ukraine is holding back Russian expansion that would threaten countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If Russia attacks a NATO country, all NATO members, including the U.S., are required to respond.

Since supplying Ukraine with weapons to maintain its fight essentially means sending Ukraine outdated weapons while paying U.S. workers to build new ones, creating jobs largely in Republican-dominated states, and since Ukraine is weakening Russia for about 5% of the U.S. defense budget, it would seem to be a program both parties would want to maintain. Today, even Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “If Ukraine loses, the cost to America will be far greater than the aid we have given Ukraine. The least costly way to move forward is to provide Ukraine with the weapons needed to win and end the war.”

But now that former president Trump has made immigration a leading part of his campaign and a Trump loyalist, Mike Johnson (R-LA), is House speaker, Republican extremists are demanding their own immigration policies be added to the package.

Those demands amount to a so-called poison pill for the measure. The House Republicans' own immigration bill significantly narrows the right to apply for asylum in the U.S.—which is a right recognized in both domestic and international law—and prevents the federal government from permitting blanket asylum in emergency cases, such as for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. It ends the asylum program that permits people to enter the U.S. with a sponsor, a program that has reduced illegal entry by up to 95%.

It requires the government to build Trump’s wall and allows the seizure of private land to do it.

When the House passed its immigration measure in May 2023, the administration responded that it “strongly supports productive efforts to reform the Nation’s immigration system” but opposed this measure, “which makes elements of our immigration system worse.”

And yet House Republicans are so determined to force the country to accept their extreme anti-immigration policies, they are willing to kill the aid to Ukraine that even their own lawmakers want, leaving that country undersupplied as it goes into the winter.

When he brought the supplemental bill up last week, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised the Republicans that he would let them make whatever immigration amendments they wanted to the bill to be voted on, if only they would let the bill get to the floor. But all Senate Republicans refused, essentially threatening to use the filibuster to keep the measure from the floor until it includes the House Republicans' demands.

This unwillingness to fund a crucial partner in its fight against Russia has resurrected concerns that the Trump-supporting MAGA Republicans are working not for the United States but for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who badly needs the U.S. to abandon Ukraine in order to help him win his war.

Media outlets in Moscow reinforced this sense when they celebrated the Senate vote, gloating that Ukraine is now in “agony” and that it was “difficult to imagine a bigger humiliation.” One analyst said: “The downfall of Ukraine means the downfall of Biden! Two birds with one stone!” Another: “Well done, Republicans! They’re standing firm! That’s good for us.”

Today, allies of Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán were in Washington, D.C., where they are participating in an effort to derail further military support for Ukraine (an effort that in itself suggests Putin is concerned about how the war is going). Flora Garamvolgyi and David Smith of The Guardian explained that the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, which leads Project 2025—the far-right blueprint for a MAGA administration—and which strongly opposes aid to Ukraine, is hosting a two-day event about the war and about “transatlantic culture wars.”

This conference appears explicitly to tie the themes of the far right to an attack on Ukraine aid. Orbán has dismantled democracy in his own country, charging that the equality before the law established in democracies weakens a nation both by allowing immigration and by accepting that women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people should have the same rights as heterosexual white men, principles that he maintains undermine Christianity. In Hungary, Orbán has cracked down on immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights while gathering power into his own hands.

cont below

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

In the U.S. the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and its allies—including former Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson and Arizona representative Paul Gosar—openly admire Orbán’s Hungary as a model for the U.S. Indeed, some of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws Florida governor Ron DeSantis has pushed through the Florida legislature appear to have been patterned directly on Hungarian laws.

Orbán—a close ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who embraces the same “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy” Orbán does—is currently working to stop the European Union from funding Ukraine. Now Orbán’s allies are openly urging their right-wing counterparts in the U.S. to join him in backing Putin. A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy told Garamvolgyi and Smith: “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul today noted that even the delay in funding has hurt the U.S. “Delaying a vote on aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan will do great damage to America's reputation as a reliable global leader in a very dangerous world. Delay is a gift to Putin, Xi, and the mullahs in Iran,” he wrote. “The stakes are very high.”

Republican determination to push their own immigration plan seems in part to be an attempt to come up with an issue to compete with abortion as the central concern of the 2024 election. As soon as he took office, Biden asked for funding to increase border security and process asylum seekers, and he has repeatedly said he wants to modernize the immigration system. To pass the national security supplemental appropriation, he has emphasized that he is willing to compromise on immigration, but the Republicans are insisting instead on a policy that echoes Trump’s extreme policies.

Immigration, on which Orbán rose to power, has the potential to outweigh abortion, which is hurting Republicans quite badly.

We’ll see. The story out of Texas, where 31-year-old Kate Cox has been unable to get an abortion despite the fact that the fetus she is carrying has a fatal condition and the pregnancy is endangering her health and her ability to carry another child in the future, illuminates just how dangerous the Republicans’ abortion bans are. Under Texas’s abortion ban, doctors would not perform an abortion, so Cox went to a state court for permission to obtain one.

The state court ruled in Cox’s favor, but Texas attorney general Ken Paxton immediately  threatened any doctor who performed the abortion, and appealed to the Texas Supreme Court to block the lower court’s order, saying that allowing Cox to obtain an abortion would irreparably harm the people of Texas. All nine of the justices on the state supreme court are Republicans.

Late Friday night the Texas Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s order, pending review, and today, Cox’s lawyers said she had left the state to obtain urgently needed health care. This evening the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Cox, saying she was not entitled to a medical exception from the state’s abortion ban.

The image of a woman forced by the state to carry a fetus with a fatal condition at the risk of her own health and future fertility until finally she has to flee her state for medical care is one that will not be erased easily.

Meanwhile, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has disappeared. His lawyer says he was told Navalny was “no longer listed” in the files of the prison where he was being held, and Navalny’s associates have not been able to contact him for six days.

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-11-2023

Fire of Insight
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Joined 30th Sep 2022
Forum Posts: 236

" Late Friday night the Texas Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s order, pending review, and today, Cox’s lawyers said she had left the state to obtain urgently needed health care. This evening the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Cox, saying she was not entitled to a medical exception from the state’s abortion ban. "

One would expect the above from a stone-age  
theocracy who hang or stone to death women
for not wearing a head scarf.

It's reported that the unviable pregnancy
will be terminated in another state.

Will we see, in the near future, people from
one State seeking political, religious and medical
asylum in another State, perhaps, en masse?

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

The fact that the fetus she is carrying has a fatal condition and the pregnancy is endangering her health and her ability to carry another child in the future makes me wonder what DOES qualify for a medical exception to these republicans? If she were one of their wives, sisters, or daughters?

Good on her for leaving the state to seek the medical help she needs. There are ongoing efforts to make it harder for pregnant women to leave Texas for states where the procedure is legal. Thank goodness for the federal judge in Texas who ruled that the bans do not apply to helping women get abortions out of state.

Joshua Bond
Tyrant of Words
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Joined 2nd Feb 2017
Forum Posts: 1577

It seems the prayer "I thank thee God I was not born a women" belongs deeply to all three Abrahamic religions.

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

I don't know. Jack Smith asking a conservative majority SCOTUS to decide whether Trump is immune to prosecution because of the presidency seems a gamble, but here we are.

December 12, 2023
DEC 13, 2023

Last night, Special Counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to decide Trump’s claim that he is immune from any and all criminal prosecution for anything he did while in office. That claim is central to Trump’s defense; he has requested the charges against him be dismissed because of that immunity.

When Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case in which Trump is charged with trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, dismissed this claim, Trump’s lawyers appealed and asked for the case to be frozen while the appeal worked its way up through the courts. By going straight to the Supreme Court, Smith appears to be trying to stop Trump from delaying the trial until after the 2024 election.  

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it will hear the case. So far, Justice Clarence Thomas refuses to recuse himself, even though his wife Ginni was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. His refusal suggests that the Supreme Court’s new ethics rules are as toothless as their opponents charged.

In another filing last night, Smith revealed that the government expects to introduce the testimony of three experts who will speak to the use of cell phones by Trump and one other person after the 2020 election, including on January 6, a revelation that Los Angeles Times legal analyst Harry Litman suggested must “have the Trump camp totally freaked out.”

Inflation slowed again in November, dropping to 0.1% as gasoline prices fell, so that the annual inflation over the past year has dropped to 3.1%.

Fallout continues from the Texas Supreme Court’s decision that a woman carrying a fetus with a fatal condition cannot abort that fetus even though it threatens her own health and future fertility. President Joe Biden promised today to continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care, saying: “No woman should be forced to go to court or flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs. But that is exactly what happened in Texas thanks to Republican elected officials, and it is simply outrageous. This should never happen in America, period.”

But for all the importance of these major stories, the outstanding story of the day is that the Republican Party appears to have decided to undermine financial support for Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion.

This is simply an astonishing decision. Majorities in both the House and the Senate want to pass supplemental aid to Ukraine, which both protects North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and provides jobs in the United States, but an extremist minority in Congress is stopping passage of a measure that would provide more weapons to Ukraine.

There is no doubt previous funding has been effective. A newly declassified intelligence memo shows that Russia had an army of 360,000 before the war and that thanks to the Ukraine resistance it has lost 315,000 troops—87% of its army—forcing it to squeeze more recruits out of its civilian population. It has also lost 2,200 out of 3,500 tanks, forcing it to turn to Soviet-era equipment.

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who was in Washington, D.C., today to try to convince Republicans to pass such a measure, noted that Ukraine has regained half the land Russia seized in the February 2022 invasion, forced Russian warships out of Ukrainian territorial waters, and opened export corridors to get Ukrainian grain to countries that desperately need it. At the same time, he said, Ukraine’s economy is growing at a 5% rate, suggesting it will be less dependent on foreign aid going forward.

In The Atlantic, David Frum, who has criticized Democrats on immigration policy, pointed out that Biden and the Democrats have made a real effort to negotiate with extremist Republicans but the Republicans are simply refusing to engage. Frum concluded that Republicans do not want to make a deal. Either they want to perform a ritual in which Republicans demand and Democrats comply, or they want to keep the border as a campaign issue, or they actually oppose aid to Ukraine. And yet, Frum reiterates, majorities in both the House and the Senate want the supplemental aid package to pass.  

Republicans appear to want to keep the issue of immigration front and center in 2024, hoping that people will focus on it rather than on abortion, especially in states like Texas.

Poland’s newly elected prime minister Donald Tusk today vowed that he would “loudly and decisively demand the full mobilization of the free world, the Western world, to help Ukraine in this war,” but Russia expert Fiona Hill told Politico’s Maura Reynolds that U.S. funding will be key to determining whether Ukraine wins back control of its territory. That decision, she says, is really about our own future.

Permitting Putin to win in Ukraine, she says, would create a world in which the standing of the U.S. in the world would be diminished, Iran and North Korea would be strengthened, China would dominate the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East would be more unstable, and nuclear weapons would proliferate.

“Ukraine has become a battlefield now for America and America’s own future—whether we see it or not—for our own defensive posture and preparedness, for our reputation and our leadership,” Hill told Reynolds. “For Putin, Ukraine is a proxy war against the United States, to remove the United States from the world stage.”

“The problem is that many members of Congress don’t want to see President Biden win on any front,” Hill said. “People are incapable now of separating off ‘giving Biden a win’ from actually allowing Ukraine to win. They are thinking less about U.S. national security, European security, international security and foreign policy, and much more about how they can humiliate Biden. In that regard,” she said, “whether they like it or not, members of Congress are doing exactly the same thing as Vladimir Putin. They hate that. They want to refute that. But Vladimir Putin wants Biden to lose, and they want Biden to be seen to lose as well.”

Today, Biden noted that Russian media outlets have been cheering on the Republicans. "If you're being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you're doing,” he said. “History will judge harshly those who turned their back on freedom's cause."

Congress is set to leave for the holiday break on Thursday, returning in the second week of January. Biden urged Congress “to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess—before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-12-2023

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

December 13, 2023
DEC 14, 2023

In a day that was chock full of political stories in which Republicans were launching attacks on Democrats, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) made a key point. “We have not passed an emergency supplemental, a Farm Bill, or regular Appropriations,” he said. “The story is not what they are doing. The story is what they are not doing.”

Schatz was referring to specific, vital measures that are not getting through Congress: the outstanding funding bill for aid to Ukraine and Israel, border security, and humanitarian aid for Gaza; the Farm Bill, which governs the nation’s agricultural and food assistance programs and needs to be renewed every five years; and the regular appropriations bills that Congress must pass and that House extremists tossed out former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over because they wanted deep cuts that he had agreed with President Joe Biden not to make.

But there is a larger point behind Schatz’s observation. Republicans, especially the extremist wing, have garnered power by promising to stop the government from acting. The extraordinary gerrymandering in Republican-dominated states following Operation REDMAP in 2010 created such safe districts that Republicans did not need to worry about losing elections. That safety meant that their role was not to offer real legislative solutions to problems, but rather to gin up support for the party nationally by pushing party talking points on right-wing media. Those talking points focused on slashing the government, which they claimed was hurting their constituents by defending secular society and providing benefits to undeserving minorities and women.

Now, though, the Republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives, and they actually need to get work done. But extremist Republicans’ skill set involves pushing talking points to create a false reality that demands gutting the government, not legislating, which requires compromise and deep understanding of issues.

We appear to be watching Republicans’ fake image crash against reality.

This morning was the scheduled date for the House Oversight Committee’s closed-door deposition from President Biden’s son Hunter. Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) subpoenaed him in early November, trying to find evidence that the president participated in illegal business deals before he became president. But, in fact, the committee is making its case entirely by innuendo—it has turned up no evidence of any such schemes—and publicly misrepresented the closed-door testimony of Hunter Biden’s former business partner to say the opposite of what it did.

So Hunter Biden’s lawyers called their bluff, saying the younger Biden would be happy to testify…but only in a public hearing, so that his testimony could not be misrepresented. The committee refused that offer, saying he must appear behind closed doors, a condition that seemed to undercut their claim they want transparency.

Today, Hunter Biden turned the tables on their habit of giving press statements by showing up himself outside of the Capitol to reiterate that he would answer “any legitimate questions” in a public hearing. “Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say. What are they afraid of?”

He offered his own statement. “Let me state as clearly as I can,” he said. “[M]y father was not financially involved in my business, not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist,” he said. “There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he said.

He portrayed his father as a loving parent who supported him through his addiction struggle, and noted that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had showed naked photos of him in a committee hearing, taking “the light of my dad’s love for me” and presenting it “as darkness.”

Republicans say they will prosecute Hunter Biden for contempt of Congress because he defied a subpoena. But that, too, is awkward, as a number of Republican representatives—including Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH)—ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Pushing the idea that there is a “Biden crime family” is a transparent effort to create confusion by suggesting that the Bidens are simply the Democratic version of the Trumps, whose family business, the Trump Organization, was found guilty of tax fraud in January 2023. Judge Arthur Engoron also found that company, along with Trump and his two older sons and two other employees, liable for bank fraud in September 2023 and is currently considering fines of at least $250 million and ending the Trumps’ ability to do business in New York. Testimony in that trial concluded today.

With no comparable Biden Organization, Republicans are trying to invent one.

Their effort to convince voters that President Biden is corrupt has led to the tail wagging the dog as, after hearing constantly about how lawless Biden is, their supporters have demanded that House Republicans launch an impeachment inquiry into him. Today, House Republicans unanimously voted to open such an inquiry, though the lack of evidence made them caution that such an inquiry did not mean they would ultimately impeach the president.

When asked what he’s hoping to gain from an impeachment inquiry, Representative Troy Nehls (R-TX) answered: “All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby.”

Biden reacted with uncharacteristic anger, calling out Republicans for ignoring the many imperative issues before them in order to “waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.” He listed the nation’s unfinished business: funding for Ukraine and Israel, immigration policy, and funding the government to avoid “self-inflicted economic crises like a government shutdown, which Republicans in Congress are driving us toward in just a few weeks because they won’t act now to fund the government and critical priorities to make life better for the American people.”

Biden pointed out that having wasted weeks after tossing out their own House speaker and “having to expel their own members”—a reference to George Santos (R-NY), whom the House expelled two weeks ago—Republicans are now “leaving for a month without doing anything to address these pressing challenges.”

cont below:

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

Republicans’ image has met reality today in another way, as well. In 2020, former president Trump insisted that Biden would tank the economy, but in fact, under Biden it has bloomed. Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average, one of the key measures of the stock market, climbed to a new all-time high, topping out at over 37,000. At the same time, unemployment has sat below 4% for months now, and inflation has fallen, showing that “Bidenomics” has been hugely successful.

Tonight, though, Trump doubled down on Republican talking points, telling an audience in Iowa that unless he is reelected—presumably to reverse Biden’s policies—“we’ll have a depression the likes of which I don’t believe anybody has ever seen.”

But in an interesting rejection of House talking points in favor of reality, this evening the Senate passed a clean $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which gives a 5.2% pay raise to military personnel, by a vote of 87 to 13. House Republicans had loaded the measure up with a wish list of attacks on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity initiatives.

Tomorrow the measure will go to the House, where extremist Republicans angrily oppose it, but experts expect it will pass nonetheless.

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-13-2023

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

December 14, 2023
DEC 15, 2023

Today is one of those days when the main story is not what’s on the pages, but what the stories say when they are themselves seen as a pattern.

This morning the Associated Press ran a story by national political reporter Brian Slodysko titled “The Republican leading the probe of Hunter Biden has his own shell company and complicated friends.” It told the story of how Representative James Comer (R-KY), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, has a financial history that looks a great deal like that of which he accuses the Bidens, including a shell company that appears to ethics experts to have problematic connections to a campaign donor.

Comer is leading the House impeachment effort against President Joe Biden, an effort that Philip Bump of the Washington Post eviscerated today when he took apart Republicans’ accusations point by point. The Associated Press story is interesting not because it tells us something we don’t know—the story of Comer’s shell company is what led him to attack Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) as a “Smurf” last month—but because of how far and wide it spread.

By this evening, Slodysko’s story had been reprinted by ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, and a number of smaller outlets.

The strength of that story, after years in which the Republican narrative was largely unchallenged in popular political culture, reminds me of the rise of the so-called muckrakers of the Progressive Era. That is, journalists from the 1870s onward wrote a lot about the shift in power during the Gilded Age toward the very wealthy and the politicians they bought. But it was only in the 1890s that journalists, writing for magazines like the landmark publication McClure’s Magazine, began to gain traction as cultural leaders.

Key to that shift was the sense that those who had been directing the country for decades were vulnerable, that they might lose their perch on top of the political, social, and economic ladder.

The vulnerability of the dominance of today’s MAGA Republicans has been exposed in part by the fecklessness of House Republicans, whose lack of interest in governing is evident from their focus on passing bills loaded with extremist demands that signal to their base but are nonstarters for actually passing the Senate and getting the president’s signature. Yesterday  those same House Republicans voted unanimously to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden although they are unable to identify any reason for that inquiry.

The Larry, Moe, and Curly aspect of their leadership seems to have made them appear to be low-hanging fruit for investigative journalists. When Hunter Biden yesterday stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and called House Republicans out for not daring to let him testify in public while they were using their privileged positions to show naked pictures of him in a hearing, he did the same thing McClure’s writers did: he personalized politicians’ abuse of their power.

That, in turn, makes it easier for people who might not otherwise note the large swings of politics to understand exactly what the Republicans are doing.

The vulnerability of the MAGA Republicans showed up in another way, today, too. Today is the eleventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a 20-year-old murdered 20 children between the ages of six and seven years old, and six adult staff members. In that wake of that mass shooting, Americans demanded background checks for gun purchases, a policy supported by 90% of Americans. But the measure was killed in the Senate by lawmakers who represented just 38% of the American people.

Since then, Republicans have blocked legislation to regulate guns and have instead offered thoughts and prayers after each mass shooting.

That dominant narrative was turned on its head today when Mothers for Democracy/Mothers Against Greg Abbott released a devastating ad in which a young girl falls into a swimming pool and, rather than jumping in to save her, her mother prays for God to save her while observers—including a man who looks like Texas governor Greg Abbott—offer thoughts and prayers as the child drowns. “Thoughts and prayers are meaningless when you can act,” the ad says. “Act Now. Demand gun reform.”

The vulnerability of MAGA Republicans was also underscored today at the trial of former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has already been found liable for defaming Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, to determine what damages he owes them.

Giuliani told reporters on Wednesday that he would testify in his own defense, but his lawyer stopped that plan after Giuliani continued to attack the women this week. In his closing statement at the trial, Giuliani’s lawyer could suggest only that the former New York City mayor is “a good man.” “He hasn’t exactly helped himself with some of the things that have happened in the last few days,” the lawyer said, adding, “My client, he’s almost 80 years old.”

Trump’s insistence that he actually won the 2020 election is part of the MAGA Republicans’ need to portray themselves as invulnerable. They must never be seen to lose. Indeed, on Tuesday, Trump once again went on at great length, claiming he won the 2020 election. He also doubled down on the idea that he will become a dictator, feeding the idea that he is invulnerable. But those who participated in his scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election are admitting that Biden won the election or are cooperating with prosecutors, and his own legal cases are speeding up.

Meanwhile, MAGA Republicans are holding up a crucial aid package for Ukraine, insisting that immigration reform is such a grave national security issue it must take precedence over Ukraine aid. In their focus on immigration, they are following Trump’s lead: he is telling crowds that countries are dumping people from their “insane asylums” in the U.S., explicitly referring to the serial killer portrayed in the film The Silence of the Lambs.

And yet, despite that alleged national crisis, the House recessed today for three weeks without addressing it. Several Republicans indicated to Politico’s Playbook that they are not actually interested in a deal, since “polling consistently shows that immigration is the most toxic issue on the campaign trail for Biden. Why take that off the table as an attack on him in 2024?”

Meanwhile, Ukraine is running out of ammunition.

cont below

Tyrant of Words
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Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

The White House is urging Congress to stay in session to deal with the supplemental funding bill and immigration reform, saying Republicans are “actively undermining our national security interests” to “go on vacation.” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has kept the Senate in session, saying it will stay and vote on a package next week. For his part, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) tweeted that “we must secure our own border before we secure another country’s,“ and that while work should continue on the package, “the House will not wait around to receive and debate a rushed product.”

The House’s holiday recess meant that former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) left Congress today, rather than waiting for the end of his term. MAGA Republicans led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL) made history in October by engineering his ouster from the speaker’s chair and grinding the work of the House to a halt. On his way out, McCarthy suggested that Gaetz has reason to be concerned about an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into his alleged sexual misconduct and misuse of funds.

In the 1890s, once the dominant narrative cracked, an entire industry rose as journalists investigated those whose access to power had for decades protected them from scrutiny.

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-14-2023

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

December 15, 2023
DEC 15, 2023

CNN reporters today pulled together evidence from a number of sources to explain how “a binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.” The missing collection of documents was ten inches thick and contained 2,700 pages of information from U.S. intelligence and that of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies about Russian efforts to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

The binder went missing in the last days of the Trump presidency and has not been recovered. Its disappearance has raised “alarms among intelligence officials that some of the most closely guarded national security secrets from the US and its allies could be exposed.”

Reporters Jeremy Herb, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Evan Perez, and Zachary Cohen have pieced together the story of how in his last days in office, Trump tried to declassify most of the information in the binder in order to distribute copies to Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets. According to an affidavit by reporter John Solomon, who was shown a copy of the binder, the plan was to begin releasing information from it on the morning of January 20, 2021, so that it would hit the news after President Joe Biden had been sworn in.

But late on January 19, while Solomon was copying the documents, White House lawyers recalled the copies to black out, or redact, sensitive information, worrying that while most of the facts in the binder were apparently already public, the methods of collection and persons involved were not. At some point in that process, an unredacted copy of the binder disappeared.

A former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol last year that she thought Meadows took the unredacted binder with him.

Today, in statements that seemed very carefully worded, Meadows’s lawyer, George Terwilliger, told CNN: “Mr. Meadows was keenly aware of and adhered to requirements for the proper handling of classified material, any such material that he handled or was in his possession has been treated accordingly and any suggestion that he is responsible for any missing binder or other classified information is flat wrong.” Terwilliger told the New York Times: “Mark never took any copy of that binder home at any time.”

The missing binder was not among the material the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered from Mar-a-Lago last year, and intelligence officials briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee about the missing information (the CNN story does not say that the House Intelligence Committee has been briefed). In April 2021, Trump allegedly offered to let the author of a book about him see the binder, saying “I would let you look at them if you wanted…. It’s a treasure trove…it would be sort of a cool book for you to look at.”

The story of yet more missing classified information highlights that Judge Aileen Cannon, who was confirmed to her position after Trump lost the 2020 election, has permitted Trump to slow down United States of America v. Donald J. Trump, Waltine Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, the pending criminal case in which he and two aides are accused of mishandling classified documents under the Espionage Act as well as making false statements and engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Perhaps even more strongly, at a time when House Republicans have declined to fund Ukraine’s war against Russia’s 2022 invasion, the story serves as a reminder of the role Russia played in Trump’s 2016 election and how, during Trump’s time in office, he continued to cultivate a relationship with Russia’s authoritarian president Vladimir Putin and to turn his back on America’s traditional democratic allies, including those in NATO. (At one point, he told National Security Advisor John Bolton, “I don’t give a sh*t about NATO.”)

Indeed, Trump has suggested he would take the U.S. out of NATO if he returns to office, breaking the coalition that held first the Soviet Union and then Russia at bay since World War II. Such a betrayal would weaken all of the security alliances of the United States, according to Eastern European specialist Anne Applebaum, exposing the U.S. as an unreliable ally. As democracies ceased to work together, they would have to work with authoritarian governments, and after American political influence declined, so would the economic influence that has protected our economy. Authoritarian leaders like Putin would be the winners.

News about the missing binder also highlights just how hard Trump worked to convince his loyalists that that connection was a hoax. Although all U.S. intelligence services and the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee assessed that, in fact, Russia did intervene in the election to get Trump into the White House, many Trump loyalists continue to believe Trump’s lie that such interference did not happen.

Trump’s determination to convince his followers that “Russia, Russia, Russia” was a hoax was in part an attempt to get out from under the legal implications of working with a foreign country to win an election but also, perhaps more profoundly, an attempt to make his followers believe his lies over reality. If he could make them believe him, rather than the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate, they would be his to command.

Russia, Russia, Russia was an important precursor to the Big Lie that Trump, rather than Joe Biden, won the 2020 presidential election. The Big Lie has failed at every test of evidence, and yet Trump loyalists still say they believe it.

Today, former Trump ally Rudy Giuliani continued to defend the idea that the 2020 election had been stolen, even after a jury of eight Americans said he must pay the eye-popping sum of $148,169,000 to Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman for defaming them by saying they had participated in election fraud—he made that up—and for emotional distress. Freeman and Moss had asked for $24 million each.

Of that verdict, $75,000,000 was for punitive damages, illustrating that spreading Trump’s lies so that they hurt individuals comes at a whopper of a cost. Giuliani had refused to cooperate in the case, although he admitted to the truth of the underlying facts, and he had continued to attack Moss and Freeman to reporters during the trial.

Trump’s election lies that hurt companies are also costly, as the Fox News Corporation found when it settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million over the media company’s lies about the 2020 election.

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) tried to address Trump’s attack on our democracy when this week they inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act a provision saying that no president can withdraw from NATO without approval from the Senate or from Congress as a whole.

“NATO has held strong in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine and rising challenges around the world,” Kaine said. He added that the legislation “to prevent any U.S. President from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO reaffirms U.S. support for this crucial alliance that is foundational for our national security. It also sends a strong message to authoritarians around the world that the free world remains united.”

Rubio added, “The Senate should maintain oversight on whether or not our nation withdraws from NATO. We must ensure we are protecting our national interests and protecting the security of our democratic allies.”

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-15-2023

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

December 16, 2023 (Saturday)
DEC 17, 2023

Today [ or, rather, yesterday was ] the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when 30 or more men boarded three trading vessels in Boston Harbor. They broke open 342 chests of tea and dumped about 90,000 pounds of the valuable leaves overboard.

The pointed destruction of a cargo worth about $1.7 million in today’s dollars escalated the ongoing struggle between the British government and thirteen of its North American colonies.

Trouble had been growing since the end in 1763 of what the colonists knew as the French and Indian War. That conflict dramatically expanded British possessions in North America, but at the cost of badly stretching the Treasury. To raise revenue, the king’s ministers and Parliament placed a number of taxes on the colonists, including the 1765 Stamp Act. This law hit virtually everyone by taxing printed material from newspapers and legal documents to playing cards.

The Stamp Act shocked colonists. At issue was not just money, but a central political struggle that had been going on in England for more than a century: could the king be checked by the people or were his powers unlimited? Colonists were not directly represented in Parliament and believed they were losing their fundamental right as Englishmen to have a say in their government. They responded to the Stamp Act with widespread protests.

In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act but claimed for Parliament “full power and authority to make laws and statutes…to bind the colonies and people of America…in all cases whatsoever.” This act echoed the 1719 Irish Declaratory Act, which asserted that Ireland was subordinate to the British king and Parliament. It also imposed new taxes.

As soon as news of the Declaratory Act and the new taxes reached Boston in 1767, the Massachusetts legislature circulated a letter to the other colonies standing firm on the right to equality in the British empire. Local groups boycotted taxed goods and broke into warehouses whose owners they thought were breaking the boycott. In 1768, British officials sent troops to Boston to restore order.

Events began to move faster and faster. In March 1770, British soldiers in Boston shot into a crowd of men and boys who were harassing them, killing five and wounding six others. Engraver Paul Revere made an instantly-famous image showing soldiers in red coats smiling as they shot at colonists, including Black man Crispus Attucks. The altercation became known as the Boston Massacre.

Parliament removed all but one of the new taxes—the tax on tea—but trouble continued to simmer. In 1771 and 1772, an official in New Hampshire ordered a search of sawmills for white pine that bore the mark of the King’s Broad Arrow, three blazes on a tree— one straight up and two making an upside-down V— designating trunks thicker than 12 inches as the property of the king. New Englanders had never liked the law that claimed their valuable forests for Royal Navy masts, and had ignored it when they could.

But in April 1772, officials charged six sawmill owners with milling trunks that had been marked with the King’s Broad Arrow. One of the owners was arrested and then released with the promise that he would provide bail the next day. Instead, the following morning he and 30 to 40 men, their faces disguised with soot, assaulted the government officials and ran them out of town.

The so-called Pine Tree Riot suggested that British authority could be defied. Just two months later, a Royal Navy customs schooner, the HMS Gaspee, ran aground in Rhode Island while chasing a packet boat suspected of smuggling. As the captain waited for high tide to float the schooner free, Rhode Island men rowed to the ship, boarded it, and burned it to the waterline.

Eight of the men who participated in the Pine Tree Riot were later charged with assault, but the local judges who sentenced them let them off so lightly the verdict could easily be seen as support for their actions. The government had even less luck prosecuting the men who burned the Gaspee: it could not identify suspects. But its threat to extradite colonists to England for trial seemed to the colonists to prove the British government intended to strip them of their civil rights.

Then, in May 1773, Parliament tried to bail out the failing East India Company by giving it a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies. This would make tea cheaper in the colonies than it had been. It seemed to colonists the plan was to convince people to accept the cheaper tea…and thus establish Parliament’s right to govern without colonists’ input.

Ships carrying the East India tea sailed for the colonies in fall 1773, but mass protests convinced the captains of the ships headed to every city but Boston to return to England. In Boston the royal governor was determined to land the cargo. On December 16, 1773, after attendees at a meeting at Boston’s Old South Meeting House heard that the governor refused to let ships loaded with tea leave the harbor until the tax was paid, a group of colonists hid their faces, some with soot, other with overt symbols of their new identification with North America rather than England: as Indigenous Americans.

The men boarded three ships moored at a wharf in Boston Harbor, hauled the chests of tea out of the holds with the ships’ block and tackle, broke them open with axes and pry bars, and dumped the tea at an exceptionally low tide, turning the harbor into muck. They were careful to make sure that no other cargo was harmed and that none of the tea was stolen. They were making a political statement.

Parliament responded by closing the port of Boston, moving the seat of government to Salem, stripping the colony of its charter, requiring colonists to pay for the quartering of soldiers in the town, and demanding payment for the tea.  

By fall 1774, concern about the government’s actions had grown deep enough that delegates from the colonies met for six weeks at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia to figure out how to respond, and also how to work together to advance a constitutional opposition to tyranny, as Boston leader Samuel Adams put it.

Over the next two years, American politicians would find an answer to the question of whether the king could be checked by the people. They would get rid of monarchs altogether and declare that the people had the right to govern themselves.

[W. D. Cooper, “Boston Tea Party,” The History of North America (London: E. Newberry, 1789); Library of Congress, public domain. Accessed on Wikipedia Commons.]

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-16-2023-saturday

Broadside, New-York, December 23, 1773, New York Historical Society.

Tyrant of Words
United States 116awards
Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

This does extend WAY beyond the U.S.

December 17, 2023
DEC 17, 2023

It seems that former president Donald Trump is aligning his supporters with a global far-right movement to destroy democracy.

On Saturday, in Durham, New Hampshire, Trump echoed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s attacks on immigrants, saying they are “poisoning the blood of our country”although two of his three wives were immigrantsand quoted Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attacks on American democracy. Trump went on to praise North Korean autocratic leader Kim Jong Un and align himself with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, the darling of the American right wing, who has destroyed Hungary’s democracy and replaced it with a dictatorship.

Trump called Orbán “the man who can save the Western world.”

Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, a professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University, explained in The Conversation what Trump is talking about. Autocrats like Orbán and Putin—and budding autocrats like Trump—are building a global movement by fighting back against the expansion of rights to women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ people.

Russian leaders have been cracking down on LGBTQ+ rights for a decade with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church, claiming that they are protecting “traditional values.” This vision of heteronormativity rewrites the real history of human sexuality, but it is powerful in this moment. Orbán insists that immigrants ruin the purity of a country, and has undermined women’s rights.

Riccardi-Swartz explains that this rhetoric appeals to those in far-right movements around the world. In the United States, “family values” became tied to patriotism after World War II, when Chinese and Soviet communists appeared to be erasing traditional gender roles. Those people defined as anti-family—LGBTQ+ people and women who challenged patriarchy—seemed to be undermining society. Now, as dictators like Putin and Orbán promise to take away LGBTQ+ rights, hurt immigrants, and return power to white men, they seem to many to be protecting traditional society.

In the United States, that undercurrent has created a movement of people who are willing to overthrow democracy if it means reinforcing their traditional vision. Christian nationalists believe that the secular values of democracy are destroying Christianity and traditional values. They want to get rid of LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, immigration, and the public schools they believe teach such values. And if that means handing power to a dictator who promises to restore their vision of a traditional society, they’re in.

It is an astonishing rejection of everything the United States has always stood for.

The White House today responded to Trump’s speech. White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said: “Echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists and threatening to oppress those who disagree with the government are dangerous attacks on the dignity and rights of all Americans, on our democracy, and on public safety…. It’s the opposite of everything we stand for as Americans.”

Notes: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/december-17-2023

Personal thoughts: They ( MAGA ) want a king who reflects the contents of their heart.

[ . . . ]“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.” - Samuel 10:18-19

Tyrant of Words
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Joined 11th Apr 2015
Forum Posts: 13772

December 18, 2023
DEC 18, 2023

Reporters at ProPublica have uncovered yet more news about the right-wing network of wealthy donors who have supported Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. According to Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Mierjeski, and Brett Murphy, in January 2000, on a plane flight home from a conservative conference, Thomas complained to Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) about his salary. He warned that if lawmakers didn’t give Supreme Court justices a pay raise, “one or more justices will leave soon.”

After the trip, Stearns wrote to Thomas that he agreed “it is worth a lot to Americans to have the constitution properly interpreted.” Stearns immediately set out to pass legislation separating the salaries of Supreme Court justices from the rest of the judiciary, and then raising pay for the Supreme Court justices alone. But the top administrative official of the judiciary, L. Ralph Mecham, in June 2000 wrote to then–chief justice William Rehnquist to suggest that this was the wrong approach for this “delicate matter.”

“From a tactical point of view,” Mecham wrote, “it will not take the Democrats and liberals in Congress very long to figure out that the prime beneficiaries who might otherwise leave the court presumably are Justices Thomas and Scalia. The Democrats might be perfectly happy to have them leave and would see little incentive to act on separate legislation devoted solely to Supreme Court justices if the apparent purpose is to keep Justices Scalia and Thomas on the Court. Moreover, the fact that Representative Stearns is a conservative Republican may not help dissuade the Democrats and liberals from this view.”

Mecham distinguished between Republicans he thought of as “liberals,” and those, presumably like himself, Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia, who were pushing “to have the constitution properly interpreted.” By this, he meant those who wanted the concept of “originalism” to undermine the federal government’s regulation of business, provision of a basic social safety net, promotion of infrastructure, and protection of civil rights, principles on which “liberal” Republicans and Democrats agreed.

Although the extremist faction has now captured the Republican Party, as late as 2000 there were enough “liberals” in the Republican Party that members of the extremist faction worried they could not enact their chosen program. So they must have the Supreme Court. Stearns told the ProPublica reporters that Thomas’s “importance as a conservative [as they called themselves] was paramount…. We wanted to make sure he felt comfortable in his job and was being paid properly.”

About this time, wealthy Republican donors began to provide Thomas and his wife Ginni with expensive vacations and gifts. Ginni went to work for the Heritage Foundation, making a salary in the low six figures. Yale law school professor George Priest, who has joined Thomas and billionaire donor Harlan Crow on vacation, says that Crow “views Thomas as a Supreme Court justice as having a limited salary. So he provides benefits for him.”

That is, a Republican billionaire donor “provides benefits” for a Supreme Court justice who voted in favor of—among other things—the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that reversed campaign finance restrictions in place for over 100 years, permitting corporations and outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections, and the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act protecting minority voting rights in the United States.

The determination of wealthy Republicans to control our political system for their own economic benefit is now matched on the other side of the political equation by religious voters hellbent on overthrowing democracy to impose their religious will on the American majority.  

After voters in Republican-dominated states have tried to protect the right to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion, antiabortion forces are trying to stop voters from having the right to decide the matter. They are trying to prevent voters from signing petitions to put such measures on ballots.

Steven Aden, the chief legal officer of the antiabortion group Americans United for Life, told Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly of Politico: “Because we believe that abortion is truly about the right to life of human individuals in the womb, we don’t believe those rights should be subjected to majority vote.”

Breaking faith in democracy has led us to a place where the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is openly praising dictators, trying to join the United States into a rising global authoritarian movement based in the idea that democracy, with its focus on equal rights, is destroying traditional society by getting rid of patriarchy, racial hierarchies, and heteronormative society.  A Fox News poll released over the weekend showed that 3 in 10 Republicans agreed that “things in the U.S. are so far off track that we need a president willing to break some rules and laws to set things right.”

Today, Pope Francis undermined that argument when he said in a landmark ruling that Roman Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples. While this is not the same as the sacrament of heterosexual marriage, the Vatican’s doctrinal office said this is a sign that God welcomes everyone.

Pope Francis has tended to ignore the rise of right-wing extremism in the U.S. church but now appears to be defending his message that the church should be tolerant and welcoming in the face of the growing intersection of religion and authoritarianism. Last month, he relieved from duty Bishop Joseph H. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who has vocally supported right-wing politics and openly revolted against the Pope’s positions.

cont below

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