Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Hudbay likely to dig huge open pit mine on Green Valley side of Santa Ritas

Rosemont
View from Green Valley, looking east

Q&A with Hudbay: Major find could bring mining to western side of Santa Ritas. This news piece is By GVNEWS editor Dan Shearer dshearer@gvnews.com Mar 29, 2021.

Imerys Quarry
The large white patch of calcium carbonate on the northern end of the Santa Rita Mountains can be seen from Green Valley and Sahuarita. Part of the new Hudbay find is just south of the mine [to the right in the photoraph], about eight miles from Quail Creek in Sahuarita.

Drilling exploration efforts by Hudbay Minerals, owner of the proposed Rosemont Mine, have discovered four copper deposits that could bring several open-pit mining projects within view of Green Valley and Sahuarita.

In an announcement Monday, Hudbay said the loads are of higher grade and closer to the surface than Rosemont, and that more drilling and exploration is necessary to make determinations on next steps.

Hudbay Minerals drilled in three locations in 2020–21, on the western side of the Santa Ritas:

•Near the ridgeline 11 miles east of Quail Creek;

•About a half-mile north-northwest of that site;

•In the Peach Elgin area just south of the Santa Rita Quarry – the white limestone mine visible at the northern end of the Santa Ritas.

All locations are on Hudbay land in the Helvetia Mining District.

Hudbay expanded those efforts to six drill rigs earlier this year after “encouraging initial results,” according to a release. Hudbay made it clear there is more exploration to be done but the find could conceivably lead to anywhere from one to four open-pit mines in the area, which spreads for several kilometers.

Andre Lauzon, vice president of Hudbay Minerals’ Arizona Business Unit, answered questions via email on the new find for the Green Valley News.

1 In layman’s terms, how big is this deposit?

Additional exploration and analysis is required to fully understand the size. What we have confirmed is the discovery of four new deposits of high-grade sulphide and oxide mineralization at and near the ground surface. The combined surface exposure (strike length) of the deposits is several kilometers long. The exploration program that is currently underway will focus on understanding the full extent of the deposits as well as following up on other interesting intersections beyond the limits of these new deposits but still within our private land limits.

2 How does it compare to Rosemont?

Current drilling indicates that the copper mineralization contains higher grades closer to the surface than Rosemont. The stripping ratio, a term that compares the amount of waste rock that must be removed to access the copper mineralization, is much less than at Rosemont.

3 Does it have a name?

Yes, Copper World. Copper World is the name for the area where all four deposits are located. The four new deposits discovered are called Peach, Elgin, Copper World and Broad Top Butte. The Copper World area has a rich history of mining from 1874 to 1969, during which time more than 20 small underground mines operated.

4 Hudbay has been exploring three areas on the western slope of the Santa Ritas; where are the deposits exactly?

Please see the VRIFY link provided in the press release.

5 What’s there of value besides copper? Is there a percentage breakdown?

These deposits also contain some silver and molybdenum. The details are provided in the press release.

6 Explain the digital models you’re making available online to give people a better idea of what’s down there; where can we find them.

To enable our stakeholders to better understand Copper World, we are providing an interactive online tool that includes 3D visualization of the four deposits, and 360-degree aerial and ground imagery of their locations. We provided a link to this tool in our press release and it can also be accessed via hudbay.com and through our social media.

7 Has the decision been made to mine the site(s)? If not, when can we expect that?

No, it is too early in the process. As stated by our COO, “Copper World has the potential to host at least four economic deposits with a relatively low strip ratio and may prove to be a viable open-pit operation that is either separate or additive to our Rosemont project.” If our analysis of the data shows that it is feasible, we will share those details with the public as they are available.

8 If you made the decision today to mine, when is the earliest we could see digging?

We anticipate multiple phases of drilling to be completed before we can develop a mine plan with proposed facility layout and processing strategy. Once we fully understand what we have, we should be able to estimate timelines for development.

9 Could there be more than one mine site stemming from this new find?

Based on our current exploration program, there could be multiple open pits within Copper World. As our COO shared, the Copper World project could be operated either as a separate project or to enhance the Rosemont Project.

10 Do you know enough now to determine whether it would be open pit vs. underground mining? That decision rests on what?

These near surface deposits would be amenable to open pit surface mining.

11 Would you need use of any public lands to mine these sites, as is the case with Rosemont? If not, does that speed up the permitting process?

Our drilling program has been exclusively on private land. It is too early to determine if any public lands will be required for any future mine plan.

12 Residents already are concerned about Rosemont’s estimated water usage. Does the area have the water to support another major mining operation? How is that determined?

The Rosemont Project was permitted as a net neutral water operation, since it requires recharging more CAP water than is pumped. The amount of water a Copper World project would require and any related mitigation, will be determined by the future mine plan. Hudbay designs and operates its mines in a responsible and sustainable manner that ensures local communities benefit from our presence.

13 Would dry-stack tailings be considered, and what’s the benefit?

A new project design would take advantage of new technologies and best practices to optimize operations, and minimize the impacts on scarce resources such as water. Dry stack tailings will be considered.

14 As the crow flies, how far are the nearest homes, and where are they? What’s the nearest major housing development?

There are several homes within a mile of the Copper World area, most are off of South Helvetia Road before reaching the site. Corona de Tucson is approximately six miles north and Quail Creek is approximately eight miles west from the nearest part of Copper World.

15 Would people living in Green Valley and Sahuarita see the operation once it’s up and running? Who else would be able to see it — parts of Tucson, Vail, Corona de Tucson? Who would likely hear the day-to-day operations?

It is likely that some parts of Copper World and its operations would be visible from Green Valley and Sahuarita. What and how much will be visible depends on the future mine plan and the scale of a new project. From Corona de Tucson looking south there are some natural features that will block the view of Copper World but some parts of an operation may still be visible. The Vail community is unlikely to see any part of Copper World. It is unlikely that the sounds would be audible beyond a mile or two from the operation.

18 Where would the truck route likely be located? Would a rail spur be considered for the new operation(s)?

It is too early to know what transportation options may be utilized.

20 Are you willing to give tours of the site to area residents? Media? If not, would investors be offered tours — and what’s the difference?

At the moment, there are multiple drilling rigs and heavy equipment operating on site and we are not able to offer site tours. We have developed the online visualization tool that allows anyone to explore the area in a way that is likely more effective than an in-person tour while also eliminating the risk of exposures at site.

21 What’s the next step beyond attracting investors?

See responses to questions 1 and 8. We are committed to working with our neighbors and all stakeholders to ensure that we minimize impacts, such as noise and visual impacts that may result from our operations, while providing significant benefits in terms of jobs and economic activity.

22 Briefly explain the permitting process. Rosemont involved 17 agencies; is it that involved?

It is impossible to describe the permitting process without understanding the mine plan. All mines in the United States are required to meet federal air and water quality standards, regardless of whether they are on private or federal land. In Arizona, the State issues permits to ensure these standards are met and also has a groundwater quality permitting program. Each of these permits include opportunities for public comment and input.

23 When can we expect definitive news on the future of the site?

There are numerous milestones that need to be achieved prior to determining the future of the site, and timing at this early stage is uncertain. We will provide updates as milestones are achieved and share information as we are doing now.

24 Are you currently exploring anywhere else in Southern Arizona? Where?

No, Copper World is currently our only exploration program in Arizona.

25 Does this change anything about Rosemont’s mine plan?

Hudbay remains fully committed to the Rosemont Project. The delay to Rosemont gave us the time and opportunity to explore other areas of our private property for possible mineral deposits. This exploration will not affect our ability to move forward with the Rosemont Project once all legal and other permitting related issues have been resolved.

26 Does the CAP line play into this at all?

We have a long-standing partnership with Community Water Company of Green Valley to recharge CAP water farther south in Green Valley than is possible today (Project RENEWS). We continue to advance this project and are confident that it will bring significant benefits to the groundwater balance in the area.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Trump the wedding crasher - Man, can't you shut up.

Reported in The Daily Beast: Trump Crashes Mar-a-Lago Wedding to Whine About Election Loss.

Said the groom: Happy wedding m’dear. The bride was last seen rushing for the door. (Naw. I made it up. But what follows is the kind of sh!t you just cannot make up.)

Former President Donald Trump wandered into a wedding reception being held at Mar-a-Lago but instead of toasting the happy couple proceeded to run through a laundry list of his own personal grievances, according to a clip of the speech obtained by TMZ. “Y’know, I just got, I turned off the news, I get all these flash reports, and they’re telling me about the border, they’re telling me about China, they’re telling me about Iran—how’re we doing with Iran, howdya like that? Boy, they were ready to make a deal, they woulda done anything, they woulda done anything, and this guy goes and drops the sanctions and then he says, ‘We’d love to negotiate now,’ [and Iran says], ‘We’re not dealing with the United States at all,’ oh, well, they don’t want to deal with us,” a tuxedoed Trump said. “And China, the same thing, they never treated us that way, right? You saw what happened a few days ago, was terrible, and uh, the border is not good, the border is the worst anybody’s ever seen it, and what you see now, multiply it times 10, Jim—he’s the only one I know who would handle the border tougher than me. We have to, and the tough is… in the most humanitarian way, because that’s what it is. What’s happening to the kids, they’re living in squalor, they are living like nobody has ever seen anybody, there’s never been anything like what’s, and you’re gonna have hundreds, and you have it now, they have the airplane photos, the shocks, and they call ’em shocks, and these things are showing thousands and thousands of people coming up from South America and it’s gonna be, it’s just uh, look, it’s a disaster. It’s a humanitarian disaster from their standpoint, and it’s gonna destroy the country, and frankly, the country can’t afford it because you’re talking about massive, just incredibly massive amounts. Our school systems, our hospital systems, everything.”

Trump also displayed his continuing lack of understanding about the way the American electoral system works, complaining about his loss to now-President Joe Biden. “So it’s a rough thing, and I just say, ‘Do you miss me yet?’” he continued. “We did get 75 million votes, nobody’s ever gotten that. They said, ‘Get 66 million votes, sir, and the election’s over.’ We got 75 million and they said… but you know, you saw what happened, 10:30 in the evening, all of a sudden I said, ‘That’s a strange thing, why are they closing up certain places, right?’ Now, a lot of things happening right now, I just wanted to say, it’s an honor to be here, it’s an honor to have you at Mar-a-Lago, you are a great and beautiful couple.”

Sunday, March 28, 2021

AZ AG pulls a bait and switch on COVID relief funds

The GOPlins are at it again. They’ll take federal money meant for COVID relief and put it in the pockets of the already wealthy via tax breaks.

Howard Fischer of theArizona Capitol Times reports:Brnovich takes feds to court over ban on tax cuts. Attorney General Mark Brnovich is asking a federal judge to rule that Arizona can take billions from the federal government in the new virus aid package without having to comply with a provision barring the state from using the cash for tax breaks.

As our president might say: it stinks!

Republican lawmakers fear the voters - hence voter suppression

Why FEAR? Republican policies suck. Those policies harm the body politic and the majority of voters know that.

Ruth Marcus, in the Washington Post, explains how Georgia’s shameful new voting laws are a product of GOP desperation.

The tableau of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signing a new elections law said it all: six White legislators flanking the Republican governor, his pen poised above a gleaming wood table. Behind them, a painting of the white-columned Callaway Plantation.

Not shown: the enslaved people who once picked cotton and raised livestock on the 3,000-acre plantation.

Not shown, either: Black state legislator Park Cannon, arrested by White state troopers after she knocked repeatedly to gain entrance to the bill-signing. Among other things, the new law makes it a crime — yes, a crime — to provide water or food to people waiting in line to vote.

Welcome to 2021, where Republicans have embarked on a national effort to suppress the vote at all costs. And, not to avoid the obvious, to suppress Black votes, because those ballots would not be cast to Republican advantage.

SNIP

… the final product makes it overall harder to vote, not easier. It increases voter identification requirements for casting absentee ballots. It limits the use of mobile polling places and drop boxes (they can’t be located outdoors or available outside regular business hours). It bars state officials from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to voters and likewise prevents voter mobilization groups from sending absentee ballot applications to voters or returning their completed applications. It compresses the time period before runoff elections and, in doing so, eliminates guaranteed weekend early voting hours in such elections.

Most astonishingly, the new law criminalizes giving food or drink to those waiting in line to vote, on the apparent theory that this could somehow corruptly influence voters. Here’s an idea: Make it a crime to force people to wait in long lines to exercise their right to vote.

As a lawsuit filed by voting rights groups to challenge the Georgia law noted, polling places in majority-Black neighborhoods make up just one-third of Georgia polling places, but accounted for two-thirds of those that had to stay open late to accommodate long lines in the June primary. According to the suit, “the average wait time in Georgia after polls were scheduled to close was six minutes in neighborhoods that were at least 90% white, and 51 minutes in places that were at least 90% nonwhite.”

Which underscores the point: These restrictions operate to the particular detriment of Black voters, who tend to have less access to acceptable forms of identification, have jobs that make it harder to get to the polls during business hours and live in neighborhoods with fewer polling places and longer lines.

Perhaps these restrictions, and their discriminatory impact, could be justified if there were a need to impose them. There isn’t. Not a clear one, not any one at all, except for the baseless frenzy over stolen elections and widespread fraud whipped up by Donald Trump and his allies. As Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — now the named defendant in the lawsuit — said in January, the state conducted “safe, secure, honest elections” during the 2020 cycle.

This small-minded new law is a dangerous cure in search of a nonexistent problem — unless the problem is that the more people get to cast their votes, the more Republicans lose.

Of course. Take two pieces of national legislation. (1) Trump’s tax cut added 2 trillion to the national debt, enriching the top 10% and doing next to nothing for the working class. (2) Biden’s rescue bill would put money in the pockets of those workers and that measure was opposed by all Republican lawmakers. So, how could voters not dislike #1 and love #2?

Of course. The GOP’s voter suppression actions are a sign of desperation.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Follow (and get) the money - Dominion Voting vs. Fox News

Faux News is being sued for it’s false claims about the 2020 election and Dominion Voting Systems.

Dominion Voting sues Fox News for $1.6B over 2020 election claims reports COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press, and in the Daily Star.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news giant falsely claimed in an effort to boost faltering ratings that the voting company had rigged the 2020 election.

It’s the first defamation suit filed against a media outlet by the voting company, which was a target of misleading, false and bizarre claims spread by President Donald Trump and his allies in the aftermath of Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden. Those claims helped spur on rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent siege that left five people dead, including a police officer. The siege led to Trump’s historic second impeachment.

Dominion argues that Fox News, which amplified inaccurate assertions that Dominion altered votes, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process,” according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.

Some Fox News on-air reporting segments have debunked some of the claims targeting Dominion. An email sent to Fox News on Friday morning, seeking comment on the lawsuit, was not immediately returned.

Seems to me that this is the nub of it.

There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a fact that a range of election officials across the country — and even Trump’s attorney general, William Barr — have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies were dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which has three Trump-nominated justices.

Still, some Fox News employees elevated false charges that Dominion had changed votes through algorithms in its voting machines that had been created in Venezuela to rig elections for the late dictator Hugo Chavez. On-air personalities brought on Trump allies Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who spread the claims, and then amplified those claims on Fox News’ massive social media platforms.

Dominion said in the lawsuit that it tried repeatedly to set the record straight but was ignored by Fox News.

The company argues that Fox News, a network that features several pro-Trump personalities, pushed the false claims to explain away the former president’s loss. The cable giant lost viewers after the election and was seen by some Trump supporters as not being supportive enough of the Republican.

Attorneys for Dominion said Fox News’ behavior differs greatly from that of other media outlets that reported on the claims.

“This was a conscious, knowing business decision to endorse and repeat and broadcast these lies in order to keep its viewership,” said attorney Justin Nelson, of Susman Godfrey LLC.

Though Dominion serves 28 states, until the 2020 election it had been largely unknown outside the election community. It is now widely targeted in conservative circles, seen by millions of people as one of the main villains in a fictional tale in which Democrats nationwide conspired to steal votes from Trump, the lawsuit said.

Dominion’s employees, from its software engineers to its founder, have been harassed. Some received death threats. And the company has suffered “enormous and irreparable economic harm,” lawyers said.

Dominion has also sued Giuliani, Powell and the CEO of Minnesota-based MyPillow over the claims. A rival technology company, Smartmatic USA, also sued Fox News over election claims. Unlike Dominion, Smartmatic’s participation in the 2020 election was restricted to Los Angeles County.

Dominion lawyers said they have not yet filed lawsuits against specific media personalities at Fox News but the door remains open. Some at Fox News knew the claims were false but their comments were drowned out, lawyers said.

“The buck stops with Fox on this,” attorney Stephen Shackelford said. “Fox chose to put this on all of its many platforms. They rebroadcast, republished it on social media and other places.”

The suit was filed in Delaware, where both companies are incorporated, though Fox News is headquartered in New York and Dominion is based in Denver.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Biden - Voter suppression 'stinks'

“It stinks.”

That’s how President Biden characterized the wide-spread voter suppression legislation foisted on our American democracy by the state-level GOP lawmakers in his press conference today. That just ratchets up pressure for filibuster reform, if not also its elimination. Reporters probed Biden on options. Read on.

As momentum shifts, the filibuster rule is running out of friends reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). Every time Senate reformers pick up a new Senate ally, Mitch McConnell’s anxiety level seems to reach a new level.

It was around this time four years ago when 31 Senate Democrats signed a joint, bipartisan statement in support of preserving the legislative filibuster for the indefinite future. A lot can happen over the course of four years, though.

As regular readers know, as Republican abuses became even more common, and the Senate stopped functioning as a meaningful governing institution, many of the Democratic signatories to that 2017 joint statement started rethinking their position. In recent months, for example, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) have all changed their minds about the chamber’s status quo.

They were joined yesterday by Sen. Angus King of Maine – an independent who caucuses with Democrats – who made his case in an interesting op-ed. He seemed especially interested in the issue of voting rights.

I should mention that I believe voting rights are a special case that we must address in light of the nakedly partisan voter-suppression legislation pending in many states. All-out opposition to reasonable voting rights protections cannot be enabled by the filibuster; if forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down.

More broadly, King added that ongoing filibuster abuses make it “harder and harder to justify” the rule’s existence. The Maine independent added that if Mitch McConnell and his party continue to refuse to compromise and govern, “the necessity — and likelihood — of filibuster reform would only increase.”

This comes on the heels of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a longtime reform skeptic and another signatory to the 2017 letter, also opened the door. “I don’t want to turn away from Senate traditions,” Feinstein said last week, “but I also don’t believe one party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing the filibuster.”

To re-emphasize a point we’ve discussed before, it’s important to note that while these Democratic senators are walking away from the position they took a few years, the details matter – and they don’t necessarily all agree with one another on the specific next steps. Some are on board with scrapping the filibuster altogether; others are eyeing more modest reforms of the institution’s rules.

But they all agree on the underlying point: the status quo is untenable.

As for the White House, President Joe Biden last week offered public support for a proposed reform to the filibuster rules, and Axios reported today, “People close to Biden tell us he’s feeling bullish on what he can accomplish, and is fully prepared to support the dashing of the Senate’s filibuster rule to allow Democrats to pass voting rights and other trophy legislation for his party.”

As the obstructionist tool runs out of Democratic friends, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears increasingly rattled by reformers’ momentum, yesterday warning of a “nuclear winter” in the chamber, which would create a Senate that is “not a sustainable place.”

The GOP leader used similar rhetoric last week, declaring, “Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like.” McConnell added that the partisan gridlock of the Trump and Obama eras would look like “child’s play” compared to what he would unleash if Democrats returned the Senate to a majority-rule institution.

Every time reformers pick up a new Senate ally, McConnell’s anxiety level seems to reach a new level.

The case for scrapping the filibuster

Would a post-filibuster Senate be a dream or a ‘nightmare’? asks Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). If the filibuster can serve as a check against some of the most dangerous GOP ideas, perhaps keeping it around is a good idea? Actually, no.

The filibuster reforms touted by Senate Democrats are not intended to be temporary. The chamber once operated as a majority-rule institution, and many reform advocates want to restore that model – not just in this Congress, but forevermore.

In the short term, that would at least make it possible for the narrow Senate Democratic majority to advance some of its agenda, but in the long term, it would also make future majorities – of any party – capable of doing the same thing.

And for those concerned with the Republican Party’s radicalism, that’s a real problem. Ruth Marcus devoted her column the other day to a scenario in which Democrats scrap the filibuster rule this year, only to see a dominant GOP majority in 2025 eager to take advantage. Reflecting on the “nightmare,”> Marcus wrote, “Welcome to the apocalypse.”

Congressional Republicans move quickly to implement their agenda. The border wall is fully funded. Voter ID is a requirement for federal elections, while mail-in voting is limited to those who can demonstrate a need. The assault weapons ban and stricter background check rules that Democrats enacted are repealed; instead, the right to carry concealed weapons without a permit applies nationwide. Abortions are banned after the 20th week of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood is defunded. Unions are mortally wounded by a national right-to-work rule protecting employees from having to pay dues.

The column kept going down the same path, imagining more tax breaks for billionaires, more oil drilling, more restrictions for refugees, and so on.

If my email inbox is any indication, MaddowBlog readers have plenty of related concerns along the same lines. Sure, the prospect of Democrats passing good bills sounds nice, you’ve told me, but it wasn’t long ago when Republicans held all the reins of federal power, and it’s only a matter of time before they do so again.

If the filibuster can serve as a check against some of the most dangerous GOP ideas, perhaps keeping it around isn’t such a bad idea?

Part of the problem with such an approach is that it’s a recipe for semi-permanent legislative stagnation. Lawmakers may be able to pursue some goals through the difficult budget reconciliation process, and one party or the other may in rare occasions end up with a 60-vote majority (see late 2009, for example), but leaving the Senate status quo in place indefinitely means tolerating a sclerotic Congress for the foreseeable future.

That’s not an option anyone should find appealing. The nation faces real challenges, and Americans have a legislative branch that’s supposed to be able to address those challenges.

But there’s also a principled angle worth considering: if American voters are repulsed by the “apocalyptic” scenario Marcus described in her column, they can choose to elect someone else.

In broad strokes, we know how our democracy is supposed to function: people step up to serve, telling voters about the goals and priorities they’d pursue if elected. If the electorate likes those goals and priorities, the candidates win and act accordingly. Rival candidates offer an alternative vision and urge voters to give them a chance the next time.

If the public likes what the winning candidates did, those officials get re-elected. If not, they’re replaced with someone new. It’s Democracy 101.

The filibuster short-circuits the model. Americans may endorse a series of ideas, and they may elect presidents, senators, and representatives to approve those ideas, but a requirement for a Senate supermajority – a historical anomaly – inevitably causes gridlock that derails popular and worthwhile proposals, fueling cynicism and apathy.

Yes, a radicalized Republican Party, if rewarded with power, would almost certainly approve many regressive and misguided proposals if there were no filibusters standing in their way. But that doesn’t mean the filibuster is good; it means the GOP agenda is bad. If voters don’t want the country to move in a far-right direction, they should elect officials who won’t take the country in that direction. If the electorate chooses to put far-right policymakers in power, Americans should necessarily expect far-right policies. Democracy tends to work that way.

Of course, there’s a credible argument that the Republican assault on voting rights rigs the game, creating a political landscape in which what Americans want and what they get are two very different things. It’s an important point.

But that’s a recipe for scrapping the filibuster and approving the democracy-reform For The People Act, not leaving the filibuster intact so that neither party can govern at all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Anything, and everything the GOP says is 'Not Intended to be Factual Statement'

I lead with a blast from the past, April 12, 2011, from the Phoenix New Times.

Senator Jon Kyl’s Lies About Planned Parenthood “Not Intended to be Factual Statement”.

As the United States government creeped closer to shutting down on Friday because far-right-wing-nuts don’t like abortion, Senator Jon Kyl took to the Senate floor to give a less-than-“factual statement” about the amount of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood, a federally funded organization that’s been known to end a pregnancy or two.

“Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” the senator crowed.

Nope.

As Politifact is quick to point out, only 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are “abortion related.”

So how does the senator respond after getting called out for being so clearly full of shit? Check it out below:

The senator’s remark “was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions,” Kyl’s staff says in a statement.

… Stephen Colbert [had] a ball with Kyl’s spewing of imaginary statistics and his regard for “factual statements.”

So who would come to the defense of a three-term U.S. Senator who flat-out lied on the floor of the Senate? Life News, the “pro-life news source,” that’s who. But it omitted some minor (major) details.

Perhaps next time Senator Kyl wants to blatantly lie on the floor of the U.S. Senate, he’ll preface his comments with “[this is] not intended to be a factual statement” – or, better yet: I’m talking out of my ass right now…

Fast forward, 2021.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes the same stupid reasoning: Ex-Trump lawyer: ‘Reasonable people’ wouldn’t accept her fraud claims. According to this argument, Sidney Powell didn’t defame Dominion since her claims were so outlandish that people wouldn’t have believed them.

More than a few Donald Trump allies peddled all kinds of nonsensical conspiracy theories after the Republican’s election defeat last fall, but Sidney Powell was among the most prolific voices promoting truly bizarre ideas.

In fact, Powell’s claims were so outlandish that they’re now at the center of an ongoing lawsuit, which, as NBC News reported, has led to a rather amazing defense.

Ex-Trump attorney Sidney Powell’s weekslong campaign to invalidate the results of the 2020 election was not based in fact, her lawyers said Monday. “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” Powell’s attorneys said in a court filing defending her against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the manufacturer of the election equipment she claimed was involved in the conspiracy to steal the election.

Let’s back up for a minute to review how we arrived at this point.

After Trump’s 2020 defeat, the then-outgoing president hoped a team of “political misfits” would find a way to help Trump keep power he hadn’t earned. Helping lead the charge was Powell, whose over-the-top nonsense was so ridiculous that she was eventually fired. Even Rudy Giuliani said Powell’s ideas exceeded “the bounds of rationality.”

Trump nevertheless kept Powell close, bringing her to the White House – even after her apparent ouster from his legal team – on multiple occasions to help offer strategic advice. In late December, Axios reported that among Trump aides, there was a “consensus” that the then-president was “listening to Sidney Powell more than just about anyone who is on his payroll, certainly more than his own White House Counsel.”

Obviously, Powell’s radical ideas failed to gain traction in the courts and Team Trump’s legal team unraveled. That said, that did not end the drama: her crackpot conspiracy theories involving Dominion voting machines were not well received by the company or its attorneys, who filed a defamation lawsuit.

It was yesterday when Powell’s lawyers responded that “reasonable people” would not have accepted her wild accusations “as fact,” but rather, would be seen as “claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

In other words, according to this argument, Powell didn’t defame Dominion since her claims – which she encouraged the public to believe at the time – were so plainly outlandish that people wouldn’t have accepted them as true.

Regrettably, many people did, in fact, believe the bonkers conspiracy theories. From NBC News’ report:

Powell’s claims are at odds with the nation’s post-election reality: Republican lawmakers across the country now say that so many questions were raised about the accuracy of the 2020 election that they need to pass restrictive voting laws to reinstill trust. There are hundreds of restrictive election bills being considered in 43 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Some appear to refer to conspiracy theories advanced by Trump’s attorneys. In Texas, one proposed bill requires the state use U.S.-made voting systems.

Complicating matters, while Powell’s lawyers argued yesterday that “reasonable people” would not have accepted her wild accusations “as fact,” the same court filing added that Powell “believed the allegations then and she believes them now.”

Watch this space.

Monday, March 22, 2021

In attacking Biden policies, the Republicans have resurrected a form of non-government known as HypoGOPracy.

Well, Scriber says … it is known as that now to describe the hypocrisy of the GOPlins.

In the March 21, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson explores the legal roadblocks now forming up to obstruct the Biden administration.

As the Biden administration sets out to restore a government that can regulate business to level the playing field in the United States between workers and employers, address inequality, and combat climate change, Republicans are turning to the courts to stop him.

Republican attorneys general have already launched a number of lawsuits challenging various of the new administration’s policies. …

Here is a list of those topics ID’d by Cox Richardson: Keystone XL pipeline, climate change, immigration, use of federal money to stimulate the economy (and not to cut taxes), bargaining rights of workers and unions, inc. workplace safety.

Most notably … Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court. McConnell refused to hold hearings for Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, now Biden’s attorney general, saying that his nomination in March 2016 was too close to the November presidential election to permit an appointment. This obstruction created an opening for Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, Trump replaced him with Brett Kavanaugh. Then, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed, Trump replaced her with Amy Coney Barrett less than two weeks before the November 2020 election.

The importance of those appointments is about to start playing out.

Most dramatic, though, is the court’s apparent willingness to revisit something called the “nondelegation doctrine.” According to Julian Davis Mortenson and Nicholas Bagley, authors of a new piece in the Columbia Law Review, nondelegation was invented in 1935 to undercut the business regulation of the New Deal. In the first 100 days of his term, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set out to regulate the economy to combat the Great Depression. Under his leadership, Congress established a number of new agencies to regulate everything from banking to agricultural production.

While the new rules were hugely popular among ordinary Americans, they infuriated business leaders. The Supreme Court stepped in and, in two decisions, said that that Congress could not delegate its authority to administrative agencies. But FDR’s threat of increasing the size of the court and the justices’ recognition that they were on the wrong side of public opinion undercut their opposition to the New Deal. The nondelegation theory was ignored until the 1980s, when conservative lawyers began to look for ways to rein in the federal government.

In 2001, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the argument in a decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who said the court must trust Congress to take care of its own power. But after Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that he might be open to the argument, conservative scholars began to say that the framers of the Constitution did not want Congress to delegate authority. Mortenson and Bagley say that argument “can’t stand…. It’s just making stuff up and calling it constitutional law.” Nonetheless, Republican appointees on the court have come to embrace the doctrine.

In November 2019, the same day that then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell boasted on Twitter that the Senate had confirmed more than 160 new federal judges since Trump took office (one out of every four) and would continue to confirm them as fast as possible, Justice Kavanaugh sided with Justice Gorsuch– Trump appointees both– to say the Court should reexamine whether or not Congress can delegate authority to administrative agencies. Along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Thomas, they believe that the Constitution forbids such delegation. If Justice Barrett sides with them, the resurrection of that doctrine will curtail the modern administrative state that since the 1930s has regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure.

As Justice Elena Kagan points out, the nondelegation doctrine would mean that “most of Government is unconstitutional.”

But that, of course, is the point. We are caught up in a struggle between two ideologies: one saying that the government has a significant role to play in keeping the playing field level in the American economy and society, and the other saying it does not.

When 'fully vaccinated' what can you do and not do

So you’ve just completed all your shots and finished the 2-week waiting period. That means you are “fully vaccinated.” Now what?

In today’s Daily Star These are the new CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people.

To get those guidelines you need to scroll down through the first topic, Late-stage US study finds AstraZeneca vaccine effective for all ages.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Filibusters and mass shootings - the Republican definition of governance

When the Filibuster Turns Deadly observes Gail Collins of the NY Times. Stop talking and just pass the gun bills. Here is most of her essay (with thanks to our Editor-at-Large, Sherry, for the tip).

BEGIN QUOTE

You may have heard that the House just passed a couple of very, very moderate gun safety bills. They now go to the Senate, where Republicans are hoping to let them molder forever in a closet somewhere.

But hey, maybe not. The mood in Washington is different these days. Spring is in the air! A $1.9 trillion relief program is on the books! If the Senate Democrats overcome a filibuster to tighten our gun laws — even the tiniest bit — we can tell ourselves that nothing is impossible.

The gun bills are part of the Democrats’ post-coronavirus agenda, and the debate began the way most such arguments begin, with opponents claiming that making it more difficult to purchase deadly weapons will lead to more crime. Because, see, you need a weapon in your house to scare off murderous intruders.

In the real world, a revolver kept in the bedside table is probably more likely to wind up shooting the owner than providing protection from a former lover. Or it might be picked up by a child, who …

OK, don’t want to think that through.

Anyhow, the House passed the two bills on background checks rather easily, with a few Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

“I think this is the moment,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

The bills are not going to sweep guns off the streets — they would just make it easier to enforce the rule that anybody who buys a new weapon needs to go through a background check to demonstrate that he or she isn’t a danger to society.

Soon after the House finished arguing — seriously, members were arguing — about whether that’s a good plan, mass murder broke out in the Atlanta area. A 21-year-old man reportedly confessed to shooting up three massage parlors, killing eight people.

There are so many mass shootings in America every year — we’re talking about incidents in which at least four victims got hit, and there were more than 600 in 2020 — that this one might not normally have gotten so much attention outside Georgia. But six of the victims were of Asian descent, and the country’s been troubled lately by violence against Asian-Americans. It was clearly a relief to authorities when the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, told them he was just trying to get rid of his “sexual addiction.”

Not a shock that he managed to acquire a weapon — he just walked into a store and bought it. There are tons of guns floating around Georgia, and not much harder to procure than a bowl of goldfish.

The bills making their way through Congress probably wouldn’t have done anything to stop Robert Aaron Long, but just thinking about this tragedy ought to inspire our alleged leaders to do something. Like improve the background check system.

The measures now go to the Senate, where the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, says they will absolutely not slide off into a legislative bog, never coming to a vote, or even a debate. This would be the old theory of parliamentary progress, beloved by now-minority leader Mitch McConnell.

“Put it on the floor. We’re going to see where people stand,” said Schumer, who believes that the 50 Democrats will all support the measures. But then McConnell or one of his minions will undoubtedly start a filibuster, in which the poor bills will swing haplessly in the wind forever unless supporters can summon 60 votes.

We have two very separate questions here, people. One is, what about the gun control bills? The other is, what’s with the filibuster? Is that all the Republicans know how to do?

You have probably heard — 20 or 90 times — that opponents of a bill in the Senate can stop action by launching a talking spree. As long as they keep yapping, it takes 60 votes to get them to shut up and move things along. And you don’t really have to take the trouble to orate — the rule now is that you can register an objection, begin a theoretical filibuster and then wander off to have lunch or visit with constituents. Everything stays shut down until you benevolently agree to go back to real work.

And if the Democrats try to abolish his beloved filibuster, McConnell hissed, he’ll use the other multitudinous postponement methods at his disposal. “The Senate,” he said, “would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.”

Well, that would certainly be worth watching, but the best solution here is to just force senators to follow the presumed rules and stand up there and talk until they drop.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut actually did that in 2016 — kept talking for nearly 15 hours — in order to get a vote on a bill banning people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining guns. While you’re shaking your head at amazement at the idea that this could be controversial, I will further stun you by noting that the bill failed.

END QUOTE

Saturday, March 20, 2021

On the minds of insurrectionists

In the March 19, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson takes a deep dive into the minds of insurrectionists. Here are excerpts.

When I see Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and other voices from our right wing, siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his demand that President Joe Biden debate him or pretending that the January 6 attack on the Capitol wasn’t a big deal, or Republicans voting to overturn a legitimate election or trying to keep Americans from voting, sometimes I despair of our democracy.

SNIP

… today, court papers revealed that a federal grand jury has charged four leaders from the far-right gang the Proud Boys with conspiring to “commit offenses against the United States, namely… to corruptly obstruct… an official proceeding”—that is, the counting of the electoral votes—and to obstruct law enforcement officers engaged in putting down civil disorder. The four named are Ethan Nordean (AKA “Rufio Panman”), 30, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs (AKA “Sergeant Biggs”), 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Zachary Rehl, 35, of Philadephia, Pennsylvania; and Charles Donohoe, 33, of Kernersville, North Carolina.

At least three of the four were spurred to action by the Big Lie.

On November 5, 2020, Biggs posted on social media: “It’s time for f**king War if they steal this sh*t.”

On November 16, 2020, Nordean posted: “What’s more disturbing to me than the Dems trying to steal this election, is how many people… just accepted Biden won, despite the obvious corruption… Luke warm Patriots are dangerous.”

On November 27, 2020, Nordean posted: “We tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created. The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced and has created groups like the Proudboys and we will not be extinguished. We will grow like the flame that fuels us and spread like the love that guides us. We are unstoppable, unrelenting and now … unforgiving. Good luck to all you traitors of this country we so deeply love … you’re going to need it.”

On the same day, as news broke that the Trump administration was hoping to bring back firing squads, Rehl posted: “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors that are trying to steal the election from the American people.”

Why Mar-a-Lago has been 'partially closed'

Mar-a-Lago has been ‘partially closed,’ and you’ll never guess why reports Aldous J Pennyfarthing at the Daily Kos. Here are excerpts.

It’s Schaden-Friday, folks! Spin the wheel of GOP absurdities! Where oh where will it land?

Oh, I know! How about “Donald Trump’s post-POTUS retreat is awash in COVID!”

… Trump is like Pig-Pen from Peanuts, only it’s not a dust cloud following him everywhere he goes—it’s pestilence.

Associate Press reports:

Former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach club has been partially closed because of a COVID outbreak.

That’s according to several people familiar with the situation, including a club member who received a phone call about the closure Friday. A receptionist at the Mar-a-Lago club confirmed the news, saying it was closed until further notice, but declined to comment further.

A person familiar with club operations said that, out of an abundance of caution, the club had partially closed a section “for a short period of time” and quarantined some of its workers.

You mean the guy who hardly ever wore a mask, didn’t socially distance, sneered at CDC guidance, got into a pissing match with the nation’s preeminent infectious disease expert, held numerous potential superspreader rallies, did everything he possibly could to ensure he got COVID, got COVID, and then endangered his Secret Service detail by wheeling around in his hermetically sealed limo so he could wave at gin-soaked troglodytes outside the hospital? That guy’s club is lousy with COVID?

You don’t say.

You know, maybe local health officials should shut it down permanently. It’s like a vampire nest full of languid COVID bats. Would they let a literal vampire nest stay in business? No, and this place is arguably more dangerous.

What Louie Gohmert and Rand Paul have in common with a brick

Louie Gohmert, U. S. Representative from Texas, is widely known to be dumb as a brick. Rand Paul, U. S. Senator from Kentucky, is the Senate’s version of Gohmert. The case for my assertion is made by Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog), who reports on Rand Paul’s profound ignorance. ‘Here we go again’: Rand Paul clashes with Fauci (for the 4th time). Yesterday was the fourth time Rand Paul clashed with Anthony Fauci during a hearing. If the senator thinks these exchanges help him, he’s wrong.

Whenever Dr. Anthony Fauci is scheduled to appear at a Senate hearing, everyone knows just what to expect: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a former ophthalmologist, will pretend that he’s more credible on the subject of infectious diseases than the nation’s premier epidemiologist.

Take yesterday, for example. The Washington Post reported:

At a Senate hearing, Paul pressed Fauci on health experts’ continued recommendation of masks even for people who have contracted the virus or who have been vaccinated. Paul repeatedly suggested wearing masks in those cases was “theater” — pointing specifically to Fauci wearing masks even though he has been vaccinated.

Fauci did his best to be patient with the oft-confused Republican senator, but the “theater” reference – Paul also accused Fauci of “parading around in two masks for show” – clearly annoyed the qualified expert.

“Here we go again with ‘the theater,’” Fauci said, adding, “Let me just state, for the record, that masks are not theater. Masks are protective.”

The back and forth was predictably frustrating. The Kentuckian argued that he doesn’t need to get vaccinated because he’s already had the virus; the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained that’s not quite how immunology works. Paul argued that he doesn’t have to wear masks to help protect others, and Fauci offered a lesson on variants and evidence.

The senator cherry-picked research that told him what he wanted to hear, while the scientist pointed to the epidemiological consensus.

But what was striking was the familiarity of the circumstances. Rand Paul keeps doing this, apparently under the impression that there’s some value to the pointless exercise.

Round 1: In May 2020, Paul lectured Fauci about “people on the other side who are saying there’s not going to be a surge” in coronavirus cases, so “we can safely open the economy.” The second of three infection spikes soon followed.

Round 2: In June 2020, Paul complained that Fauci’s public-health assessments were downers –“All I hear is, ‘We can’t do this’, ‘We can’t do that’” – and the crisis would ease with more upbeat rhetoric. “We just need more optimism,” the Republican declared.

Round 3: In September 2020, in a tense back and forth, Paul tried to convince Fauci that New York had already reached herd immunity, which was amazingly foolish, even for him.

Round 4 was yesterday. It didn’t go well, either.

Stepping back, the overarching problem appears to be relatively straightforward: Rand Paul doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s wholly unaware of his own ignorance. On the contrary, the former ophthalmologist genuinely seems to believe that he has unique and valuable insights, which frees him to reject the assessments of actual experts.

It was last spring, for example, when the Kentucky Republican told reporters that mitigation efforts in New York were not especially effective in saving lives – “I think New York would have lost about the same amount of people whether they did anything or not,” he said – before arguing that the crisis has been “relatively benign” outside of “New England.” (The senator isn’t great at geography, either.)

The virus claimed the lives of half-million Americans in the months that followed.

Is it any wonder that Anthony Fauci seems a little exasperated with Rand Paul?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Read this if you are planning to travel

Let’s assume you are planning to travel some time soon. It might be just a routine flight to Seattle to visit the kids. Or it might be the trip of a lifetime to witness the great wildebeast migration across the Mara river in Tanzania. You have your vaccine but so what? What else do you need? What’s required to enter your destination? What’s required to reenter the U. S.? Will quarantine requirements eat up the two weeks you have budgeted for your trip?

Will you need a ‘vaccine passport’ to travel? DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer IDs the key questions and answers.

Airlines and others in the travel industry are throwing their support behind so-called vaccine passports to boost pandemic-depressed travel, and authorities in Europe could embrace the idea quickly enough for the peak summer vacation season.

Technology companies and travel-related trade groups are developing and testing various versions of the vaccine passports, also called health certificates or travel passes.

It is not clear, however, whether any of the passports under development will be accepted broadly around the world, and the result could be confusion among travelers and disappointment for the travel industry.

Here are some key questions about the health credentials.

WHAT IS A VACCINE PASSPORT?

It is documentation that shows a traveler has been vaccinated against COVID–19 or recently tested negative for the virus that causes it.

The information is stored on a phone or other mobile device that the user shows to airline employees and border officers. The Biden administration and others want a paper version available too.

WHO IS DESIGNING THEM?

The trade group for global airlines, the International Air Transport Association, is testing a version it calls Travel Pass. IBM is developing another, called a Digital Health Pass. There are several other private-sector initiatives.

Some countries are getting involved and using the passports beyond air travel. Israel is using a new “green passport” to ensure that only people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID–19 can attend public events such as concerts. Denmark expects to launch a pass that will let vaccinated people travel with fewer restrictions.

WHY DO TRAVEL COMPANIES WANT THEM?

International air travel has collapsed during the pandemic, as countries impose restrictions such as quarantines or outright bans to curb the spread of the virus. Airlines are counting on vaccine passports to convince governments to drop some of those restrictions that discourage visitors.

"The significance of this to re-starting international aviation cannot be overstated,” said Alexandre de Juniac, the CEO of the airline trade group.

Operators of hotels that depend on international visitors are also eager to see the passes adopted.

The airline trade group tested its app Wednesday on a Singapore Airlines flight to London. A passenger put a digital version of his passport, coronavirus test results, and travel restrictions at his destination on a mobile device.

WHERE WOULD THESE PASSES BE REQUIRED?

Vaccine passports will be most common on international flights. Some countries already require proof of vaccination for diseases such as yellow fever, and the United States now requires a negative test for COVID–19 to enter the country, so a digital health passport isn’t much of a leap.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

The available vaccines are most effective at preventing serious illness, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that vaccinated travelers could still spread the virus.

“I think we have enough evidence right now to say that these vaccines cut transmission, that vaccinated people are much less likely to transmit the disease," says Ashish Jha, dean of the public health school at Brown University. “How much? We don’t know.” He guesses it’s around 80%.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against travel even as the agency has relaxed other guidelines for people who have been vaccinated.

WHAT ABOUT FAIRNESS?

Other critics say the certificates will primarily benefit people in wealthier countries and relatively affluent people within each country — those who are mostly likely to be vaccinated quickly, and most likely to have smartphones.

"It’s going to be the wealthy, the privileged, who are going to get to fly around, and other people won’t have access to that,” says Lisa Eckenwiler, who teaches health ethics at George Mason University. She sees a particular potential for unfairness if health passes expand to work places and schools.

WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?

Consumers will be nervous about sharing health information that might get hacked or exposed in a breach, says Stephen Beck of management consultancy cg42.

“When it comes down to it, people are going to ask themselves, is sharing sensitive information worth the trade-off for a leisure trip?“ he says, ”and for many, the answer will be no."

IATA and IBM say their passes use blockchain technology and the information won’t be stored in a central place.

WHAT ROLE WILL THE U.S. GOVERNMENT PLAY?

Airline and business groups are lobbying the White House to take the lead in setting standards for health passes. They believe that would avoid a hodge-podge of regional credentials that could cause confusion among travelers and prevent any single health certificate from being widely accepted.

But the Biden administration says it is up to the private sector and nonprofits to figure out how Americans can demonstrate that they have been vaccinated or tested.

"It’s not the role of the government to hold that data and to do that,” Andy Slavitt, a White House virus-response adviser, said this week. “It needs to be private, the data should be secure, the access to it should be free, it should be available both digitally and in paper and in multiple languages.”

Other governments, like those in Israel and Denmark, are taking a more active role.

''He's sued'' - Trump's legal problems

Washington Post investigators report that Trump faces an onslaught of legal problems, as investigations and dozens of lawsuits trail him from Washington to Florida. Following are excerpts.

The district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of his tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer — even one of his sons.

And that’s just in New York. Former president Donald Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And Trump must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits: 29 are pending at last count, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building.

No charges have been filed against Trump in any of these investigations. The outcome of these lawsuits is uncertain. Trump has raised more than $31 million for his post-presidential political action committee, which he could tap to pay legal fees.

But the sheer volume of these legal problems indicates that — after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House — Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.

He has lost the formal immunities of the presidency and the legal firepower of the Justice Department, but he is also without some of the informal shields that protected him even before he was president: his reputation for endless wealth and his clout as a political donor in New York.

Now, prosecutors roam free in his financial records. New lawsuits keep arriving. Some of his key lawyers have quit. A man who once used the law to swamp his enemies, overwhelming them with claims and legal bills, is finding himself on the other side of the wave, unable to control what comes next.

Until recently, “at his level, there was no such thing as being in ‘legal trouble,’ in the way that ordinary people think about it,” said Michael D’Antonio, who wrote a 2015 biography of Trump. He said Trump usually had something he could hold over the head of his opponents: withholding donations, bad press or a messy countersuit.

Today, D’Antonio said, in the urban and liberal jurisdictions where Trump is facing the most peril, “nobody needs him now.”

“What does he have to offer anybody? And in fact there’s every incentive to crush him,” D’Antonio said.

The Washington Post identified at least six ongoing investigations that could involve Donald Trump, as well as the 29 lawsuits in which he or one of his companies is named as a defendant.

Of the investigations, the oldest and broadest appear to be two in New York: a criminal probe begun by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) in 2018, and a separate civil inquiry begun by state Attorney General Letitia James (D) in 2019.

Trump has faced official inquiries in New York before: A previous attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), sued him for defrauding customers of Trump University, winning a $25 million settlement. In 2018, Schneiderman sued him again, for misusing money entrusted to a charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The charity case ended with Trump paying a $2 million penalty.

But if those inquiries each targeted a single aspect of Trump’s life, the current probes take a wide-ranging look at his financial decisions in the years before he ran for president.

Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, has indicated interest in the same issues in New York and Chicago — and requested records from Trump properties as far away as Miami. He also has sought information about Weisselberg, with the goal of “flipping” him into a witness against Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The person, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal proceedings.

Now, Vance has a tool no investigator has ever had before: the former president’s tax returns, which also contain voluminous information about his businesses.

One of the most unusual legal sagas involving Trump has to do with a group of former and current tenants in Trump buildings, who allege that Trump and his late father illegally raised their rents by using phony invoices to inflate their maintenance costs. Their case is based on a scheme revealed in 2018 by the New York Times.

In that case, plaintiff’s attorney Jerrold Parker said, they got stuck at the first step: To sue Trump, first they had to serve him.

When Trump was still in office, they tried to serve the lawsuit papers to him at the White House. The Secret Service didn’t want to take them. But process servers used a trick perfected on New York doormen: hand over the papers and flee.

"Our process server said, ‘Here it is. I’m out of here. Goodbye!’ ” Parker said.

So far, the former president has not responded. Parker said that doesn’t matter. “He’s sued,” Parker said, whether Trump accepts it or not.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Even just talking about filibuster changes might have major effects

Scriber’s Editor-at-Large (Sherry) flagged this piece on changes in the works as a consequence of talk of changing the filibuster (if not ditching it).

The pressure to reform the filibuster is already working reports Paul Waldman at the Washington Post.

Democrats in the Senate are having more serious discussion about reform of the filibuster than they’ve had in a long time. And guess what: It’s working.

First, it’s clearly having a persuasive effect on many in their own party, who are newly expressing an openness to reforming the filibuster or just getting rid of it. Once you have to really confront it, it becomes almost impossible to defend.

There are two other vivid new ways in which the pressure for reform is working: Some Republicans are expressing a real desire for bipartisanship, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is squealing like a stuck pig.

Let’s consider the bipartisanship first. Politico reports that senators from both parties are coming together to see what they might accomplish:

Its meeting this week comes as the House prepares to pass immigration bills that will further reinforce the Senate’s gridlock on that issue without some bipartisan framework to break the impasse.

“It’s something the group of 20 of us, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, will discuss tomorrow and decide whether we take this up. Or whether instead we focus on the minimum wage,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in an interview. “But there are places we can come together.”

As long as that threat is alive, the incentives for a moderate Republican push them toward working with Democrats. If you were one of them and you knew that 60 votes would be required on anything, and because of that the majority’s agenda was dead in the water, why bother negotiating? You wouldn’t care what legislation they passed in the House.

If, on the other hand, a Senate that runs by majority rule is a real possibility, you’d want to get in on the action. If bills are going to pass with 50 votes, you can work on them with Democrats and shape them to your liking, giving those Democrats the couple of extra votes they’ll need to have a margin of comfort.

In the meantime, by working with Democrats you might convince them not to get rid of the filibuster, by helping them get a victory or two that reduces the pressure to get rid of it entirely.

While we don’t know whether this will produce anything, it’s happening precisely because of the threat that Democrats might eliminate the filibuster and start passing the bills their party ran on.

And there are indeed issues where bipartisanship is possible, not only immigration and the minimum wage (Republicans won’t go along with an increase to $15, but you might get 10 of them to agree to a smaller hike), but also an infrastructure bill, which offers benefits to every state and district in the country.

But there’s one person who is terrified that bipartisanship might break out: Mitch McConnell. Which is why he issued an over-the-top warning to Democrats on Tuesday, essentially threatening to burn the Senate down if they reform the filibuster:

"Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” he said. “Even the most basic aspects of our colleagues’ agenda, the most mundane tasks of the Biden presidency would actually be harder, not easier for Democrats in a post-nuclear Senate. … We will use every other rule to make tens of millions of Americans voices heard.”

“It would not open up an express line for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books," he added. “The Senate would be more like 100-car pileup — nothing moving.”

It’s true that the rules of the Senate would allow McConnell to slow things down considerably, in part because “unanimous consent” is required for many of those mundane tasks, and if McConnell refuses his consent, things will slow to a snail’s pace.

But they won’t be halted forever. And the idea that if the Democrats reform the filibuster then McConnell will stop things from getting done is ridiculous, because that’s the situation we’re already in. To extend his automotive metaphor, it’s like someone parking in front of your driveway, then when you say, “Hey, get your car out of the way, I have to go to work,” they respond, “If you try to stop me from blocking you in, I’ll block you in!”

In his speech, McConnell offered another threat: If Democrats reform the filibuster so they can pass their agenda, when Republicans retake power they’ll do the same. The pendulum “would swing hard,” he said, adding that Republicans would pass “all kinds of conservative policies” with “zero input from the other side.” He mentioned a national right-to-work law and defunding Planned Parenthood as reasons for Democrats to fear.

In other words, McConnell’s threat is to make democracy work by giving voters the things they voted for, now and in the future. How terrifying!

His final argument is perhaps the most bizarre. Americans, McConnell insisted in so many words, want gridlock:

Does anyone really believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House and a 50–50 Senate? This is a 50–50 Senate. There was no mandate to completely transform America by the American people on November 3.

Actually, that’s exactly what they voted for. They voted Republicans out of the White House and the Senate, and voted Democrats in. Those Democrats ran on an agenda, and the voters have a right to expect that agenda to be passed.

As for the 50–50 Senate, it didn’t come about because Americans wanted everything to be paralyzed. The 50 Democrats represent 41 million more Americans than the 50 Republicans. A majority of the public quite clearly wants to see President Biden and Democrats pass the things that got them elected. And if they don’t like the results, they can elect Republicans to roll it all back.

So this is where we are. Filibuster reform is far from a certainty, but it’s never been more possible than it is right now. Seeing the writing on the wall, moderate Republicans are suddenly eager for negotiation and cooperation, raising the chances of true bipartisan legislation. And McConnell is beside himself.

Seems like things are going pretty well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The fate of the filibuster rests in the hands of a creature of the Senate, a man who gets things done

In this post I’ve featured three articles on the fate of the filibuster.

McConnell promises to nuke the entire Senate if Democrats reform the filibuster reports Kerry Eleveld of the Daily Kos Staff.

More than a decade after Senate Republicans destroyed the functionality of the upper chamber through maximal deployment of the filibuster, Democrats are getting serious about reforming the extra-constitutional mechanism and Republicans are running scared.

If Senate Republicans are deprived of the ability to grind the chamber to a halt in the minority, then they’ll just torch the entire enterprise, promised Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,“ McConnell said, adding that his past actions to kill the functionality of the chamber would look like ”child’s play."

You should read the snipped material here.

Following McConnell’s “scorched-earth” threat, [Adam] Jentleson, author of the filibuster-themed book Kill Switch, tweeted, “Trading this for the ability to actually pass bills like voting rights seems like an easy call. If McConnell’s tactics become truly onerous, Dems can always pass further reforms to end obstruction. McConnell’s goal is to make government fail, Dems’ goal should be to make it work.”

Joan McCarter, Daily Kos Staff, reports on Sen. Dick Durbin’s response: Durbin to McConnell on filibuster reform: Bring on your ‘scorched earth,’ we’ve already seen it. Selected excerpts follow.

… it might have been a mistake when McConnell tried to drag Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema into this fight on his side. Because his side is the white supremacists. At any rate, Durbin didn’t take his bluster too seriously. When asked about McConnell’s threats of “a completely scorched earth Senate,” Durbin replied: “He has already done that. He’s proven he can do it, and he will do it again.” So, basically, “Bring it, Mitch.”

Fast forward to this week and what Durbin was potentially previewing on the floor Monday, which is the filibuster reform Manchin opened the door to earlier this month: a painful, talking filibuster. “If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he should at least pay the minimal price of being present,” Durbin said Monday. “No more phoning it in. if your principles are that important, stand up for them, speak your mind, hold the floor, and show your resolve.”

Durbin might prefer a return to the talking filibuster, but he isn’t ruling anything out, on behalf of leadership. Among the suggestions he included are “reducing the number of votes needed to invoke cloture, creating a tiered system of voting in which the filibuster could be broken with successively smaller majorities, and ultimately a simple majority.” He is considering “any proposal that ends the misuse of a filibuster as a weapon of mass destruction.”

“It’s time to change the Senate rules, stop holding this senate hostage,” he concluded. “We cannot allow misuse of arcane rules to block the will of the American people. I urge my colleagues to defend democracy by making the changes needed.”

When the dust settles, we can place bets on how all this is or is not just chest thumping. Scriber thinks it is far more than that. Biden is a product of the Senate and a man who gets things done. If McConnell is going “scorch the Senate” he’d best be careful that he doesn’t get his ass fried.

Biden just fired a warning shot at Mitch McConnell and Republicans reports Greg Sargent at the Washington Post’s Plum Line.

Mark it down. President Biden has now declared in his most explicit terms yet that Democrats may soon face a stark choice: reform the filibuster or accept that their agenda is a dead letter. At bottom, this constitutes the firing of a warning shot at Senate Republicans, especially Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Or it should, anyway: It will only matter if Biden and Democrats are actually prepared to act on it, because McConnell will proceed as if they are not.

Biden’s new comments came in an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, in which Biden came out for reforming the filibuster. This is generating headlines, but what may be even more important is this: Biden displayed a newfound recognition of basic realities about today’s GOP — and about our politics in general — that can’t be wished away.

Here’s the key exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you’ve been reluctant to do away with the filibuster. Aren’t you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing your agenda?

BIDEN: Yes. But here’s the choice: I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do what it used to be when I first got to the Senate … and that is, that a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor. … So you gotta work for the filibuster.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re for that reform? You’re for bringing back the talking filibuster?

BIDEN: I am.

The most important word here is “Yes.” With it, Biden voiced an awareness, perhaps more clearly than ever before, that the fate of Democrats’ agenda will likely depend on a willingness to stiffen up their spines and reform the Senate in the direction of true majority rule.

During the 2020 campaign, Biden infamously declared that if Republicans lost, they would seek “consensus” after having an “epiphany.”

This suggested a conviction that any GOP intention to adopt a scorched earth strategy similar to that of 2009 — which employed the filibuster to deliberately withhold bipartisan cooperation for purely instrumental purposes — then it would be overwhelmed by the shock of electoral defeat. Biden also vowed to secure Republican cooperation, implying lingering faith in a glad-handing bipartisan give-and-take out of a long-vanished time.

After Biden’s win, of course, Republicans denied it had happened for weeks, and many joined an effort to nullify that outcome.

On ABC News, Biden also indulged in more of that sort of talk, declaring: “I think the epiphany is going to come between now and 2022.” Whether Biden really believes this, it’s now packaged with an explicit declaration that Democrats really might have to target the filibuster or see their agenda perish.

In this juxtaposition a rhetorical structure is taking shape that might create a path to get to that point.

How Democrats might get to reform

Adam Jentleson, a former senior Senate aide who has written a good book on the need for Senate reform, notes that when former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) nixed the filibuster on judicial nominees in 2013, it only came after a long process of extensive GOP obstruction.

“A change of this magnitude only happens if it’s helped along by structural shifts in the way people are approaching politics,” Jentleson told me. “In 2013, it was unrelenting Republican obstruction over years that made change inevitable.”

Jentleson said the same is happening now, but more quickly, because many Democrats came into this Congress expecting a repeat of 2009. We’ve also had years of public debate over the filibuster, which has punctured the mythology surrounding it, particularly that it facilitates bipartisanship, when the truth is the opposite.

So when Biden suggested in 2020 that he’d cajole Republicans into working with him, it seemed frustratingly oblivious to that intellectual progress. But that posture might also help create a route forward.

As a creature of the Senate with obvious affection for the institution, Biden can continue to express a hope for bipartisan cooperation above all — while also suggesting that if it doesn’t materialize, Democrats might have to prioritize the survival of their agenda and support reform for the good of the institution itself.

Part of the reason Biden is going to be able to get this done is that he has enormous credibility on the matter,” Jentleson told me. “When he comes to the American people and says, ‘We have no choice but to do this,’ people will believe him.”

If Democratic filibuster reform opponents — like Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — are ever going to evolve, this is how it might happen.

Indeed, as Jonathan Bernstein suggests, by floating bringing back the talking filibuster, Biden may be appealing to Manchin, who has himself suggested this. It’s unclear how much this change would do, but by supporting Manchin’s version of reform, Biden may slowly nudge him toward supporting an end to the filibuster, if and when it becomes clear — even to Manchin — that the Democratic agenda depends on it.

A deeper rethink?

Regardless, we have to hope Biden’s new comments suggest he’s rethinking some deeper convictions.

First, Biden plainly believed that Republicans would be responsive in some sense to a popular majority electing Democrats and their agenda. Second, he also seemed to believe that as a result, Republicans would end up being motivated by a good faith desire to find common ground in the public interest, rather than responding to that majority repudiation by doubling down on anti-majoritarian tactics and revanchism.

Everything we’re seeing now confirms that Republicans are radicalizing in that latter direction. So if Biden is rethinking those original expectations, that would really constitute the sort of warning shot that Republicans should worry about.

Why is Sinema sucking up to McConnell

I don’t have an answer for that but I do think it is a legitimate question.

The Daily Beast apparently thinks so and asks: WTF Is Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema? She says she’s a Democrat. So why is she handing the keys to power to Mitch McConnell?

It’s bad enough Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat, turned down the minimum wage hike with that oh-so-cute thumbs-down. Now she’s threatening to derail the whole Democratic agenda, insisting on archaic Senate rules that give Mitch McConnell and the Republicans outsized power.

“I think is a lot of people feel that this groovy, bisexual senator should be voting in a groovy way and not like a terrifying conservative,” Molly Jong-Fast says on the latest episode of The New Abnormal.

"Do you see a world in which Democrats can get her on board for filibuster reform?” she asks Senate veteran Adam Jentleson.

“I definitely think that,” Jentleson answers. “I think she’s miscalculated a little bit. I don’t think she can afford to be out as far to the right as she is right now. Even [centrist West Virginia Sen. Joe] Manchin has started to shift a little bit. And so she’s kind of out on a limb.”

“Joe Manchin can say, ‘I am the only Democrat who can hold this seat, it’s me or a Republican’… and that’s valid,” Jentleson adds. “He’s generally a pretty reliable vote for most of the things we want to pass. He can be very frustrating, but it’s literally him or a Republican… Sinema cannot say that she’s the only Democrat who can hold that seat. There are other credible Democrats who could run in a primary and win the general election.”

Sinema’s fellow Arizona Democrat, Sen. Mark Kelly, is up for re-election in just two years. “For him to win, he needs to accomplish a lot of things. He needs to be able to go to voters and say, ‘Here’s what we did,’” Jentleson adds. “And so I don’t think that Sinema can tell Mark Kelly to go jump off a bridge… It’s just untenable to say, ‘I’m going to stand in the way of all the things that Democrats want to do because of my love for the filibuster’ in a purple state. I don’t think this is a long-term sustainable position.”

So what will it take to persuade Sinema that thumbs down might be Sinematic but is hurtful for her supposed party and really damaging to the Senate? Can she not see that the filibuster is really a f*ckabuster?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

A transformational president

David Brooks, NY Times Opinion Columnist thinks that Joe Biden Is a Transformational President. We’re seeing a policy realignment without a partisan realignment.

(With thanks to our roving Editor-at-Large, Sherry.)

BEGIN QUOTE

This has been one of the most quietly consequential weeks in recent American politics.

The Covid–19 relief law that was just enacted is one of the most important pieces of legislation of our lifetimes. As Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine, the poorest fifth of households will see their income rise by 20 percent; a family of four with one working and one unemployed parent will receive $12,460 in benefits. Child poverty will be cut in half.

The law stretches far beyond Covid–19 relief. There’s a billion for national service programs. Black farmers will receive over $4 billion in what looks like a step toward reparations. There’s a huge expansion of health insurance subsidies. Many of these changes, like the child tax credit, may well become permanent.

As Michael Hendrix of the Manhattan Institute notes, America spent $4.8 trillion in today’s dollars fighting World War II. Over the past year, America has spent over $5.5 trillion fighting the pandemic.

In a polarized era, the legislation is widely popular. Three-quarters of Americans support the law, including 60 percent of Republicans, according to a Morning Consult survey. The Republican members of Congress voted against it, but the G.O.P. shows no interest in turning this into a great partisan battle. As I began to write this on Thursday morning, the Fox News home page had only two stories on the Covid relief bill and dozens on things like the royal family and cancel culture.

Somehow low-key Joe Biden gets yawns when he promotes progressive policies that would generate howls if promoted by a President Sanders or a President Warren.

This moment is like 1981, the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, except in reverse. It’s not just that government is heading in a new direction, it’s that the whole paradigm of the role of government in American life is shifting. Biden is not causing these tectonic plates to shift, but he is riding them.

Reaganism was the right response to the stagflation of the 1970s, but Bidenism is a sensible response to a very different set of economic problems. Let one set of statistics stand in for hundreds: According to a team of researchers led by Raj Chetty, in 1970, 90 percent of 30-year-olds were making more than their parents had at that age. By 2010, only 50 percent were.

There was a premise through American history that if you worked hard you would earn economic security. That’s not as true for millennials and Gen-Z, or many other people across America.

These realities have created a different emotional climate that the pandemic has magnified — a climate of insecurity and precarity. These realities have also produced an intellectual revolution.

It was assumed, even only a decade ago, that the Fed could not just print money with abandon. It was assumed that the government could not rack up huge debt without spurring inflation and crippling debt payment costs. Both of these concerns have been thrown out the window by large numbers of thinkers. We’ve seen years of high debt and loose monetary policy, but inflation has not come.

So the restraints have been cast aside. We are now experiencing monetary and fiscal policies that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. This is like the moment when the G.O.P. abandoned fiscal conservatism for the go-go excitement of supply-side economics — which eventually devolved into mindless tax cuts for the rich.

The role of government is being redefined. There is now an assumption that government should step in to reduce economic insecurity and inequality. Even Republicans like Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney, for example, are cooking up a plan to actively boost wages for American workers.

This is not socialism. This is not the federal government taking control of the commanding heights of the economy. This is not a bunch of programs to restrain corporate power. Americans’ trust in government is still low. This is the Transfer State: government redistributing massive amounts of money by cutting checks to people, and having faith that they spend it in the right ways.

Both parties are adjusting to the new paradigm. With the wind at their backs, Democrats are concluding that Biden’s decision to eschew bipartisanship to pass a relief package is better than Barack Obama’s attempts to attract it. I don’t know if the filibuster will go away, but it certainly looks like it will be watered down.

Poor economic conditions pushed the G.O.P. away from Milton Friedman libertarianism and toward Donald Trump populism. Republicans have learned that in this new era it’s foolish to fight Democrats on redistribution policy, but they can win elections by fighting culture wars. As Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute observes, we may see a policy realignment without a partisan realignment because Republicans have found so many cultural ways to attract votes.

I’m worried about a world in which we spend borrowed money with abandon. The skeptical headline on the final preretirement column of the great Washington Post economics columnist Steven Pearlstein resonated with me: “In Democrats’ progressive paradise, borrowing is free, spending pays for itself and interest rates never rise.”

But income inequality, widespread child poverty and economic precarity are the problems of our time. It’s worth taking a risk to tackle all this. At first Biden seemed like the third chapter of the Clinton/Obama center-left era. But this is something new.

END QUOTE