Sunday, May 30, 2021

Recommended reading

American Democracy Isn’t Dead Yet, but It’s Getting There writes Susan B. Glasser at The New Yorker. A country that cannot even agree to investigate an assault on its Capitol is in big trouble, indeed.

Sinema skips Senate vote on Jan 6 commission. Manchin still has hope for Republican suppoort.

What is with these people?

In the May 28, 2021 edition of Letters from an American Heather Cox Richardson has some observations about the Senate’s massacre of the Jan 6 commission bill.

[Last week], Republicans in the Senate killed the bill to establish a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. The vote was 54 to 35, and yet the thirty-five “no” votes won because of the current shape of the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break, even if the minority doesn’t show up to vote.

[And then] McConnell responded to the budget proposal with words that were somewhat unfortunate coming, as they did, on the same day the Republicans refused to create a bipartisan commission to investigate an attack on our government. “If Washington Democrats can move beyond the socialist daydreams and the go-it-alone partisanship,” he said, “we could get a lot of important work done for our country.”

On Thursday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) continued to hope Republicans would vote for the commission, saying, “…the Democrats have basically given everything they’ve asked for, any impediment that would have been there, and there’s no reason not to now unless you just don’t want to hear the truth.” Today, after the vote, he said, “I never thought I’d see it up close and personal that politics could trump our country. I’m going to fight to save this country.”

Robert Reich
@RBReich
Says @Sen_JoeManchin about McConnell’s use of filibuster to kill independent commission: “I never thought I’d see it up close and personal that politics could trump our country. I’m going to fight to save this country.”

You can save this country, Joe, by ending the filibuster

Chris Murphy
@ChrisMurphyCT
So how did we lose a 54–35 vote on the January 6 commission?

Because you need 60 votes, no matter how many people show.

So it’s the OPPOSITE of a traditional filibuster. If you oppose the bill, you don’t even have to be in town.

Indeed, our AZ Senator Krysten Sinema went AWOL in advance of the floor vote. I assume her absence signified her opposition to the Jan 6 commission. SHAME!

Friday, May 28, 2021

UPDATE - vaccine passports

Associated Press, CNN, via the Daily Star reports that US taking ‘very close look’ at vaccine passports… - for international travel!

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the government is taking “a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports for travel into and out of the United States.

As head of the Department of Homeland Security, Mayorkas oversees the Transportation Security Administration, which safeguards the nation’s transportation systems.

Mayorkas told ABC on Friday that one of his guiding principles throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been “the value of diversity, equity and inclusion and making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised.”

The European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are scrambling to develop COVID–19 vaccine passports to help kickstart international travel. They’re working on systems that would allow travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they’ve been vaccinated, helping them avoid quarantine requirements at their destinations.

Mayorkas says the underlying point is: “Everyone should get vaccinated.”

.

'Hell's broke loose in Georgia'

From “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels.
He was lookin’ for a soul to steal.

The Gaetz-Greene Traveling Freak Show Is the GOP’s Future reports Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast. And that’s bad news for Trump, whether he knows it or not, as these attention-hungry creeps are trying to get in on the hustle he’s monopolized over the last five years.

The last time an “America First” MAGA rally was held in Georgia, Republicans lost two U.S. Senate seats, and America lost what might end up being around $6 trillion. The Matt Gaetz-Marjorie Taylor Greene show on Thursday night probably won’t cost us as much. Just some time with our family—and our dignity.

The event opened with Rep. Jody Hice, who is running a primary against Republican Brad Raffensperger for Georgia secretary of state. The crowd changed “Lock Him Up,” which was directed at Raffensperger, whose decision to follow the rule of law (though he’s wobbling now while running for re-election) obviously put him on the wrong side of the mob. With a warm-up act like that, there’s no need for an announcer to say, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” The sentiment is implicit.

Gaetz hit the stage first, throwing out a bunch of populist, demagogic rhetoric (“forever wars,” “socialism,” “rebuild America,” “world’s policeman,” “deep state”) and pandering (“gun control just means we have a steady aim!”). He took shots at the Bushes and the McCains and the Romneys and James Comey and Anthony Fauci. He observed that “Paul Ryan was giving a speech” in California, and added that after Ryan ran for vice president, the party “literally needed an autopsy.” The upshot? “This is Donald Trump’s party and I’m a Donald Trump Republican,” Gaetz declared. One thing he didn’t talk about was his wingman Joel Greenberg’s guilty pleas for crimes including paying a 17-year-old to have sex with both of them (which Gaetz has previously denied).

Not to be upstaged, Greene entered the room in a Humvee, before making her way on stage, grinning from ear to ear. But her smile belied the populist anger apparently bubbling up inside her. She called out the Democrats who tear down monuments. “You better bet we’re gonna protect Stone Mountain’s monument,” she said of America’s largest monument to the Confederacy. She feigned the Mexican accent of a supposed cartel leader talking about how much he loved Joe Biden, who she said wants a “woke” military. She also called the Squad “the Jihad Squad” and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “O’Crazyo-Cortez.” Really classy stuff. You see, she’s not a politician. She’s just like you. If you’re a jerk like that, at least.

There’s lots more, but for now, just in case you missed the messaging, here is Gaetz advocating violent overthrow of the government. Matt Gaetz Tells Fans to Carry Out ‘Armed Rebellion’ Against Government if Necessary.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appeared next to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) at a Georgia rally Thursday night, giving MAGA fans the chance to see two of most crazed lawmakers in the land at one terrible event. They lived up to their billing, with Greene putting on a mocking Mexican accent, and Gaetz—having learned precisely zero lessons from the Capitol riot—spouting off about “armed rebellion.” After whining about conservatives being “canceled,” or, in other words, being removed from social media for inciting hate and violence, the congressman moved on to talk about the Second Amendment. “It’s not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports,” he said. “The Second Amendment is about maintaining, within the citizenry, the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeted a clip of the speech and said: “This is not speech protected by the First Amendment. This is beyond yelling fire in a theater.”

Remember (paraphrased):
The Devils Went Down To Georgia
lookin’ for your soul to steal.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Bait for Bubbas

Charlie Sykes, in this morning’s Bulwark, tells us about Boob Bait For The Bubbas He adds Maybe it’s the GOP that is overreaching.

He makes an excellent case for the spread of craziness at the state level. Lest you think that he is overstating things, consider the AZ “audit”.

Onward … Charlie leads off.

During our podcast discussion today, Bill Kristol reminded me of the phrase “Boob Bait for the Bubbas,” which was colorful shorthand for “tough-sounding rhetoric designed to placate conservative voters.”

Kristol brought it up to describe the aggressive agenda of GOP state legislatures, who seem to be caught up in aggressive competition of performative demagoguery. At the state level, the GOP is at ramming speed on issues ranging from vaccinations and elections, to yoga, critical race theory, and guns.

Much of that legislation seems designed to signal cultural allegiances rather than deal with actual problems, and so raises this question: Is it the GOP who is overreaching right now?

That seems contrarian, because the conventional wisdom is that the Biden Administration and Democrats in Washington are overplaying their hand. That charge is not without merit, but let’s look at what’s happening at the state level.

In Ohio, Republican legislators are pushing a genuinely insane assault on vaccinations.

Republicans in the state General Assembly, meanwhile, are pushing sweeping legislation to weaken Ohio’s vaccination laws — for all vaccines, not just COVID–19….

The legislation would ban vaccine requirements on customers, employees or students from businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, K–12 schools, colleges, daycares, or others. It would also prevent governments, insurers, or businesses from offering incentives for people to get vaccinated, or even requesting that people get vaccinated.

In Texas, Republicans are about to legalize carrying handguns without a license, permit, training, or background check of any kind. As the Texas Tribune notes “Under current state law, Texans must generally be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test.” That’s all gone now and that’s nuts.

In Florida, the GOP just enacted a new social media law that is both unconstitutional and a cynical attack on free speech. As David French noted: “One of the incredibly bizarre developments of this dysfunctional modern time is the extent to which a faction of the Republican Party is now rejecting the crown achievements of the conservative legal movement.

“Increasingly, the GOP is looking at remarkable legal advances in the fight against speech codes, against government regulation of corporate speech, and against government-mandated viewpoint discrimination—and declaring that it prefers power over liberty. It wants more government control over speech. It wants speech codes.”

In Alabama (as I mentioned in an earlier newsletter), Republicans continue to regulate yoga in the schools, while banning the use of any Sanskrit words such as “Namaste.”

In West Virginia (and a slew of other states), GOP legislators have rushed to pass bans on transgender athletes. When pressed, the WV governor, Jim Justice, was unable to cite a single example to justify the measure.

Across the country, GOP legislators are passing bills that ban “critical race theory,” even though it’s likely that only a handful have any idea was the academic term actually means. Not that precision matters.

In Arizona, GOP legislators have not only launched a farcical “audit” of voting in Maricopa County, but then stripped the State’s Secretary of state of her authority over elections after she criticized the “Cyber Ninja” fiasco.

Arizona, of course, is only one of the many states where GOP legislatures are pushing legislation to make it harder to vote and increasingly partisan control over the election process.

The contagion of crazy is spreading quickly.

In Wisconsin, the state’s top GOP legislator “is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory.”

And we haven’t even gotten into the festival of crazy going on in GOP primaries around the country. (Check out Missouri, where the senate race may pit the disgraced former governor against a guy famous for pointing a loaded gun at BLM protestors.)

Meanwhile…

Back in DC, Republicans are still in heads-up-their ass mode about how to not deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene. Our colleague Amanda Carpenter writes:

Make no mistake: At this moment, the power in the GOP is with Trump and anyone who can keep his voters pulling the lever for Republicans in 2022. That’s why MTG is untouchable.

MTG isn’t chastened by verbal slaps on the wrists. She’s emboldened…

Greene knows where she stands. As long as she has Trump’s support and keeps his voters in the GOP tent, she’s calling the shots. Not McCarthy.

Exit take: The conventional wisdom is that the GOP won’t pay a price for this in the mid-terms.

The conventional wisdom may be wrong.

One can hope.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Recommended reading - status of COVID vaccine passports

wired.com reports: As the US Unmasks, the Pressure Is on for Vaccine Passports. Now that the CDC has relaxed mask requirements, a verification system might help identify who’s vaccinated—but it’ll be a technical and political mess.

And that’s just for the US. Multiply the hassles and SNAFUs to see the problems with international travel.

Now we know who attended the Jan 6 insurrection - real patriots, tourists, and middle schoolers

New Yorker Satirist Andy Borowitz reports: Republicans Claim January 6th Rioters Were Middle Schoolers on Field Trip.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Republicans on Capitol Hill are arguing that a proposed January 6th commission is uncalled for because the rioters were merely middle schoolers on a field trip.

Speaking to reporters, Senator Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, said that, after reviewing footage of the riot, “It’s plain to see that this was just a bunch of middle-school kids who got a little rowdy.”

"I’ve had teen-agers, and I know what kind of horseplay and tomfoolery they can get up to,” he said. “I didn’t set up a commission every time they raised a little heck.”

Claiming that the rioters’ behavior should be expected of “a bunch of crazy kids looking to cut loose,” Johnson said that the responsibility for investigating them belongs “not to Congress but to their teachers.”

"I think the teachers need to find out who were the class clowns behind these stunts, and say to them, ‘Any more nonsense like this and you’re not going to the water park on the last day of school,’ ” he said.

Flying is back ... and so is the good, the bad, and the ugly

Natalie B. Compton, Washington Post travel reporter, tells us about the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of flying in a post-vaccine world.

Here are 30 observations from my first vaccinated flight. Everything you hated about flying is back, baby.

Many people took a hiatus from travel last year, because — well, you know why. Road warriors stayed home. Newlyweds put off their honeymoons. But now that millions of people are vaccinated and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said immunized people can travel with less risk, people are taking trips again en masse.

I’m one of those people.

Two weeks after I got Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen shot, I decided to fly home to celebrate my dad’s birthday in Fresno. After a year of writing things like, “Wish I was there to celebrate with you!” in greeting cards, I could finally go eat birthday cake with my parents in person.

So I left for D.C.’s Reagan National Airport to take my first fully-vaccinated trip.

When I flew in November, airports looked like ghost towns and the tension between passengers was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Not anymore. Flying’s back, baby, and so is everything you used to hate about it. I’m talking crowds swarming the gate a half-hour before boarding; lines at every Starbucks in every terminal; barefoot travelers sprinting to their connecting flights, sandals in hand.

To paint a picture of what flying’s like now, here’s everything I noticed along the way.

Trump and his Trumpublicans are enduring threats to our national security

There is some old news in this post but the accompanying graphic prompted me to remind us of the enduring threats to our democracy.

Christopher Cox Krebs (born 1977) is an American attorney who served as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security from November 2018 to November 2020.

Krebs Capchas

Fired director of U.S. cyber agency Chris Krebs explains why President Trump’s claims of election interference are false. Chris Krebs, a lifelong Republican, was put in charge of the agency handling election security by President Trump two years ago. When Krebs said the election was the country’s most secure ever, Mr. Trump fired him. Now, Krebs speaks to Scott Pelley.

Chris Krebs: We had the Department of Defense Cyber Command. We had the National Security Agency. We had the FBI. We had the Secret Service. We also had representatives from the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal independent agency that supports the actual administration of elections. We had representatives from some of the– vendors, the election equipment vendors. And they’re critical because they’re the ones out there that know what’s going on on the ground if there’s any sort of issue with some of their systems. And we had representatives from state and local governments.

Scott Pelley: How did the day go?

Chris Krebs: It was quiet. And there was no indication or evidence that there was any sort of hacking or compromise of election systems on, before or after November 3rd.

Scott Pelley: The president tweeted after that statement, quote, “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud.” Do you remember what the president said at the end of that tweet?

Chris Krebs: Oh, I was terminated? Is that– yes. I recall that.

And then Jan 6.

Former election security chief Krebs: Trump ‘fanned flames’ of violence.

Christopher Krebs, who led the federal government’s election security efforts before President Donald Trump fired him in November, said Trump should have known his words would one day spark a mob.

“We called out #disinfo repeatedly before & after the election. Yet the President & his campaign/lawyers/supporters fanned the flames for their own selfish reasons culminating with today’s objections followed by his video message,” Krebs said on Twitter Wednesday, after a mob breached the Capitol.

“WHAT DID THEY THINK WOULD HAPPEN? They own this,” he said.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Recommended reading - Trump's slide to online irrelevance

Trump is sliding toward online irrelevance. His new blog isn’t helping. The former president’s aides said his new online presence would ‘redefine the game.’ But his heavily promoted blog is seeing few visitors.

“He’s whistling in the wind,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing online organizing and reviewed data about Trump’s audience. “People just aren’t following him to his little desk platform, and we can see that in the numbers. The difference is ridiculous. He doesn’t have that same ability anymore to constantly put his content in people’s faces the way he did before.”

The data doesn’t break out visits just to Trump’s blog, but a separate analysis shows how little those blog posts are getting passed around the Web.

Each blog post includes a Facebook and Twitter share button, allowing fans to spread Trump’s words on networks where they would otherwise be banned. But not many fans appear to be doing so: Social engagement across the Web with Trump’s blog, including reactions and shares on Facebook and Twitter, plummeted from 159,000 interactions on its first day to fewer than 30,000 the second and haven’t crossed 15,000 interactions any day since, BuzzSumo data show.

Vaccine Hesitancy

From the Daily Kos via Mrs. Scriber: UPDATE x2: There’s a lot of correlations for “vaccine hesitancy”, but one sure seems to stand out.

The AP reports:

A month after every adult in the U.S. became eligible for the vaccine, a distinct geographic pattern has emerged: The highest vaccination rates are concentrated in the Northeast, while the lowest ones are mostly in the South.

Scriber seeks the essential results. Plotting % population vaccinated against % 2020 vote for Trump reveals an interesting relation. Those states voting least for Trump were more likely to get vaccinated. This relation appears at the county and city levels. Within California, for example, cities more likely to get vaccinated were less likely to vote for Trump and counties more likely o vote for Trump were those least likely to get vaccinated.

Back to Kos …

Several people in the comments think I’m being “disrespectful” or “too dismissive” of the other factors … such as racial inequities, lack of transportation, inability to get time off of work and so forth.

Again, yes, I’m sure all of those are important factors as well, but when 43% of Republicans CONTINUE TO INSIST THEY WILL NOT GET VACCINATED—a figure which has remained virtually unchanged for the past SIX MONTHS, I might add, regardless of how much availability and eligibility has increased since then, it gets awfully difficult to continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

The number of earth-like planets - aka number of grains of sand on Miami beach

My nerdiness broke through …

Here’s another piece by JVL at the Bulwark.

For those of you who weren’t as into the nerd side of our UFO discussion, this essay explaining the Fermi Paradox is elegant and readable and highly informative:

As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe—so for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on every beach on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.

There’s also a debate over what percentage of those sun-like stars might be orbited by an Earth-like planet (one with similar temperature conditions that could have liquid water and potentially support life similar to that on Earth). Some say it’s as high as 50%, but let’s go with the more conservative 22% that came out of a recent PNAS study. That suggests that there’s a potentially-habitable Earth-like planet orbiting at least 1% of the total stars in the universe—a total of 100 billion billion Earth-like planets.

So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.

Read the whole thing here.

'American politics is being conducted under the threat of violence.'

Michael Gerson, Washington Post Columnist, reports on how The threat of violence now infuses GOP politics. We should all be afraid, he warns.

With thanks to our Editor-at-Large, Sherry.

This is not a joke. This is not a myth. This is not a drill. According to a survey last year, a majority of Republicans agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has a talent for constructive bluntness, describes a political atmosphere within the GOP heavy with fear. “If you look at the vote to impeach,” she said recently, “there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives.” The events of Jan. 6 have only intensified the alarm. When Donald Trump insists he is “still the rightful president,” Cheney wrote in an op-ed for The Post, he “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.” And there’s good reason, Cheney argued, “to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”

Sometimes political events force us to step back in awe, or horror, or both. The (former) third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives has accused a former president of her party of employing the threat of violence as a tool of intimidation. And election officials around the country — Republican and Democratic — can attest to the results: Death threats. Racist harassment. Armed protesters at their homes.

From one perspective, this is not new. Trump has made a point of encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies (“knock the crap out of them”), excusing violence by his supporters (people "with tremendous passion and love for their country”) and generally acting like a two-bit mob boss. He publicly supported Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with homicide in the killing of two people in Kenosha, Wis. (Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.) He embraced Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing guns at peaceful marchers in St. Louis. He deployed federal security forces to break heads in Lafayette Square.

If Trump has a political philosophy, one of its main tenets is toxic masculinity — the use of menace and swagger to cover his mental and moral impotence. And the mini-Trumps have taken their master’s lead. When Trump operative Stephen K. Bannon proposed that Anthony S. Fauci should be beheaded, when Trump ally Joseph diGenova said a federal cybersecurity official should be “taken out at dawn and shot,” when Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani urged Trump supporters to engage in “trial by combat,” all of this was more than paunchy, pathetic, aging White men talking smack they could never back up. It exemplified a type of politics where cruelty is the evidence of commitment, brutality is the measure of loyalty and violence is equated with power.

This approach to politics is disturbing at any time. But now it has fastened itself upon an object, a project. Rather than trying to win future elections by attracting new voters, Trump Republicans wish to reshape the electoral system to produce more favorable results. Instead of using the 2020 presidential loss as a guide for additional outreach, Trump Republicans want to ensure they can claim and enforce a victory in 2024 with essentially the same vote total as 2020 — probably the high-water mark of the Trump coalition.

In some ways, the Trump movement of authoritarian populism is forward-looking. It eternally relitigates the 2020 election as preparation for the next. Compared with the utter chaos of previous efforts, this time there seems to be a strategy at work. First, undermine Republican confidence in the electoral system and stoke the party’s sense of grievance. Second, modify state election laws to try to discourage Democratic (and particularly minority) turnout. Third, replace or intimidate state election officials who show any hints of independence or integrity.

The first goal has been achieved: In a recent poll, more than two-thirds of Republicans denied the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election as president. Results on the second goal (so far) have been mixed. Republican “reforms” have made the system marginally less fair than the status quo, but not quite as bad as some feared.

The third goal is where the threat of violence has mattered most. Officials who held the line against electoral corruption in 2020 have been worn down by threats. Some have retired or been forced out of office. State legislators who didn’t act as reliable partisans have been targeted and intimidated. All who resist Trump’s will know they will be singled out by name. They will be exposed to political jeopardy and physical peril, particularly from activists who view the right to bear arms as the right to make armed threats.

Ultimately, it is not enough for political figures to ritually denounce the use of violence while amplifying the lies that lead to violence. The only way to defuse this bomb is to embrace the truth.

Please God let it be so - From the Dreamscape - Cheney chairs Jan 6 Select Committee

Of course not. At least not yet.

This is a short version of some topics from JVL’s Bulkwark/Triad.

On the livestream last night (Thursday, May 20), Amanda Carpenter was pretty sanguine about Republican senators killing the January 6 commission. Her contention is that (1) this vote is going to be hung around their necks for forever and (2) it gives Nancy Pelosi grounds to launch a House Select investigation that can be as scrupulous and fairminded as the Benghazi committee(s).

This morning Amanda went even harder:

Twitter avatar for Amanda Carpenter @amandacarpenter

What would be amazing—meaning DO THIS—is when Pelosi appoints Cheney the GOP Chair of the Select Committee.

Why Republicans fear a Jan 6 commission

We all know, I think, that the Trumpublicans are piling on and voting against the Jan 6 Commission. As I (and others) have mentioned, they really don’t want to know what went down in the Jan 6 insurrection. You see, they already know what is there to be found. For example, after inciting the riot, what did Trump know and when did he know it, and more importantly, what did Trump do? Moreover, they cannot be trusted. Consider what Max Boot describes:

… The stated reasons for the GOP opposition to a 1/6 Commission are incoherent and implausible. Both Republican leaders denounced the commission as a partisan Democratic plot …

This will play well on Fox “News” but, like much of what the right says these days, it simply isn’t so. The bill to establish a January 6 commission was negotiated in good faith between Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and the ranking Republican member, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.).

McCarthy OK’d this plan and then reneged.

Last week, it was the ouster of Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from the No. 3 spot in Republican House leadership because she refused to go along with the “big lie” that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. This week, it’s the decisions of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to oppose the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

If that bill was not dead enough in the House, it will certainly die in the Senate.

So …

Why Republican opposition to a Jan. 6 commission could be a blessing in disguise writes Max Boot in the Washington Post.

The Republican refusal to agree to the bipartisan 1/6 Commission bill could actually be a blessing in disguise. It will free Pelosi to set up a January 6 Select Committee in which Democrats will be more firmly in charge — as Republicans were on the Benghazi committee. The Benghazi investigation was a political stunt, but this investigation is deadly serious. We must get a full accounting of the events of Jan. 6 despite Republican attempts to bury the truth. If we do, Republicans may come to regret their opposition to the bipartisan 1/6 Commission.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

AZ Senate dances to the tune of the Fanndango

Fann threatens Maricopa County with more subpoenas reports Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services May 18, 2021) in the Arizona Capitol Times.

Senate President Karen Fann said lawmakers may have to take new steps — including new subpoenas and possibly going back to court — to get information that Maricopa County election officials are refusing to provide about their ballots and equipment.

The move by the Prescott Republican comes after county officials, as promised, refused to show up at a hearing she had called for Tuesday where they were supposed to answer the questions posed by Cyber Ninjas. That’s the firm she hired to conduct a review of the 2020 election returns, including the 2.1 million ballots.

County supervisors did submit written responses on Monday. But they also made it clear they were not going to attend on Tuesday. And they said they were done answering questions related to what several consider a “sham” audit being conducted by a firm run by Doug Logan, who had previously said he does not believe that Donald Trump lost the election.

In the end, that just led to Logan and others involved with the audit telling Fann and Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, what they still don’t know and why they still believe they need to know it to finish their report.

Bear in mind that Fann has gobbled up $150K of your (!!!) tax money spending it on an “unhinged” (as some would regard it) audit - fraudit if you like. And she isn’t done. More dark money has been devoted to more of the screwy investigation. “Fann told Capitol Media Services Tuesday she does not know who is providing the extra cash.”

BUT WAIT! This hanging sack of batsh!t craziness goes from bad to worse. A WaPo observer and election audit expert Jennifer Morrell explains: I watched the GOP’s Arizona election audit. It was worse than you think. Cyber Ninjas is hunting for bamboo fibers and cheese dust.

Here’s just a small sample (with thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large Sherry0.

…In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged.

I was stunned to see spinning conveyor wheels, whizzing hundreds of ballots past “counters,” who struggled to mark, on a tally sheet, each voter’s selection for the presidential and Senate races. They had only a few seconds to record what they saw. Occasionally, I saw a counter look up, realize they missed a ballot and then grab the wheel to stop it. This process sets them up to make so many mistakes, I kept thinking. Humans are terrible at tedious, repetitive tasks; we’re especially bad at counting. That’s why, in all the other audits I’ve seen, bipartisan teams follow a tallying method that allows for careful review and inspection of each ballot, followed by a verification process. I’d never seen an audit use contraptions to speed up the process.

The fourth reason [for flagging ballots] was folding. The auditors reasoned that only absentee voters would fold their ballots; an in-person, Election Day voter would take a flat ballot, mark it in the booth and submit it, perfectly pristine. I almost had to laugh: In my experience, voters will fold ballots every which way, no matter where they vote or what the ballot instructs them to do. Chalk it up to privacy concerns or individual quirks — but no experienced elections official would call that suspicious.

Audits are supposed to make us better. They are supposed to make our elections more secure and transparent — to strengthen the public’s trust in our democratic process. Maricopa County is known for having some of the best election practices in the country: Officials had already undertaken a hand-count audit and a forensic audit of their 2020 ballots and found no evidence of fraud. Now a group with no expertise, improvising procedures as they go, is sowing doubt about the outcome of a well-run election.

This is not an audit, and I don’t see how this can have a good outcome.

Cohen - 'Just the kind of guy Trump is' - will he turn on friends and family

In the HuffPost.com Michael Cohen Reveals When And How Trump Will Flip On His Own Family To Avoid Jail. Trump’s former attorney said they could all be getting “some orange jumpsuits” soon.

Cohen spoke on MSNBC one day after it was revealed that the Trump Organization is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the New York attorney general.

From Axios.com:

Trump Organization CFO under criminal tax investigation.

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced on Tuesday a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, working with the Manhattan district attorney’s office while also keeping open its civil inquiry into the company’s financial records.

The investigation is looking into potential bank, tax and insurance fraud.

Back to Cohen:

“I really believe that Donald Trump cares for only himself, and he realizes that his goose is cooked,” Cohen said.

And that means he’ll start looking for others to blame, he said.

First, he said, Trump will blame Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and others involved in his finances.

"It wasn’t me. It was Allen. It was my accountant. It was the appraiser,” Cohen said, mimicking a potential Trump argument. “It’s never Donald. See, this is the problem. It’s never, ever Donald Trump. It’s always somebody else.”

And when investigators start raising questions about Trump’s tax returns, he’s going to blame those closest to him.

“He’s going to turn on his accountant and point the finger,” Cohen predicted. “He’s going to say, ‘Don Jr. handled that, Ivanka handled that. Melania. Don’t take me. Take Melania.’ He’s going to tell them to take everyone except for himself. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Cohen worked for Trump for years until turning on him in 2018 and cooperating with investigators. He pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and campaign finance violations for arranging the hush-money payments from Trump to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison but was released into home confinement last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, he said some of the information he provided ― including taped conversations with Trump ― shows how closely the former president directed everything around him and his organization.

And that, he said, could land the Trump family in prison.

“I do have to say that my credibility, I believe, is going to end up getting Donald, Don Jr., Ivanka, Jared, Eric, Weisselberg, his kids, some orange jumpsuits,” he said.

GOP members of Congress wage war against a Jan 6 commission

In the May 19, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson highlights “The news grabbing the headlines today is the congressional fight over the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6.”

More excerpts follow.

Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) spoke for those of us who are gobsmacked that anyone could say we do not need to investigate the most profound attack on our democracy in our history. He thanked the Republicans supporting the creation of the independent commission and then turned on the rest. “Benghazi. You guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country? Cops: this is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States. If we’re going to take on China, if we’re going to rebuild the country, if we’re going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality—and you ain’t one of them.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced he will not support it. After Trump’s second impeachment trial, McConnell said that he hadn’t voted to convict Trump because the former president would face punishment later. Now he has attacked the bipartisan commission as partisan and said, "It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” implying that there has been an investigation already—there has not—and that the fact we don’t know what such a commission would uncover means we have no need to uncover it.

All of this matters because the January 6 insurrection was an attack on our democracy, and the Republican Party has concluded that they do not want us to know what happened. A number of Republicans have said they believe that “Antifa” was behind the riot; if they really thought that were the case, wouldn’t they want an investigation?

The only logical conclusion is that they are afraid of what an investigation will uncover. And, in fact, that’s precisely what Republican senators are saying: they do not want an investigation to color the 2020 election. Today Senate Republican whip John Thune (R-SD) said that the findings of any investigation “could be weaponized politically and drug into next year” (although the bipartisan agreement requires the investigation to be over by the end of 2021). After years of weaponizing investigations—Benghazi, Secretary of State Clinton’s emails, Hunter Biden—the Republicans are facing an investigation, based in reality, that likely will reflect badly on them. They want no part of it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Bad news for the Grump and his suck-ups

Here are a couple of items from Heather Cox Richardson’s May 18, 2021 edition of Letters from an American.

more bad news for the former president [Trump]. A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James said: “We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA.” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., has been conducting a criminal investigation of the former president and his family for more than a year, focusing on finances. Now the New York attorney general’s office will be collaborating.

Closer to home, Maricopa County Board slams AZ Senate Prez.

While Republicans try to avoid a reckoning over January 6, there are signs that the hold of Trump loyalists is weakening. Yesterday, the Maricopa County, Arizona, Board of Supervisors sent a spectacular letter to Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona Senate that authorized the “audit” of the ballots cast in Maricopa County by the private company Cyber Ninjas. The 14-page letter tore apart the entire project, pointing out that the Cyber Ninjas are utterly ignorant of election procedures.

It is a devastating take down, saying, for example: “You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect.” It concludes by begging Fann “to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads. They do not have the experience necessary to conduct an audit of an election. They do not know the laws, nor the procedures, nor the best practices. It is inevitable that they will arrive at questionable conclusions. It is time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Trumpublican stench in Maricopa's 'audit'

About that pile of bat guano steaming away in Maricopa county …

Charlie Sykes, editor of The Bulwark, thinks that Maricopa is Our Future. Think of it as a rehearsal for 2024.

Following are excerpts.

Even by the standards of crazy set by the Arizona GOP, the bizarre audit of voting in Maricopa County is bat guano with hair on it. Cyber Ninjas, searches for bamboo…

And it is apparently too much for the Republicans who actually run elections there. Yesterday, they had enough.

The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a “sham” and a “con,” calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former president Donald Trump.

In a fiery public meeting and subsequent letter to state Senate President Karen Fann, the board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election.

Calling the process a “spectacle that is harming all of us,” the five members of the board — including four Republicans — asked the state Senate to recognize that it is essential to call off the audit, which officials have said is only about one-quarter complete.

“It is time to make a choice to defend the Constitution and the Republic,” they wrote. “We stand united together to defend the Constitution and the Republic in our opposition to the Big Lie. We ask everyone to join us in standing for the truth,” they added, using a term that refers to the false claim that the election was stolen.

There are two ways to look at this: (1) it’s good that responsible Republicans are pushing back; but (2) they are a small minority in the Trumpian GOP and what is happening in Maricopa County is a foreshadowing of what our future looks like.

A new CBS poll underlines (again) why there will be no bursts of rationality or principle in the GOP. “Eighty percent of Republicans who’d heard about the vote agree with [Liz] Cheney’s removal — they feel she was off-message, unsupportive of Mr. Trump, and that she’s wrong about the 2020 presidential election.”

The base (overwhelmingly) wants other Republicans to model themselves on Trump in multiple ways …

Exit take: the next time round, the GOP base will not just tolerate a Trumpian attempt to overturn an election — they will DEMAND it.

Following is the tweet of Stephanie Ruhle’s interview with Sykes in which he makes the case for (1) no chance of salvaging the GOP, and, therefore, (2) anti-Trumpers should leave the party.

Friday, May 14, 2021

'Elise Stefanik in new GOP role promises 'Yes, Daddy' ...

… but what the hey. Any of the House Trumpublicans could have filled that role. Stefanik just bows and scrapes a bit more. It’s the stuff made for satire.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz has two commentaries about the elevation of Elise Stefanik to a Republican House leadership position.

Stefanik Solemnly Swears to Defend Trump from Constitution
Elise Stefanik Replaces Ivanka as Trump’s Daughter

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — In a solemn swearing in as the new House Republican Conference chair, Representative Elise Stefanik vowed to defend Donald J. Trump from the United States Constitution.

With House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy officiating, Stefanik raised her right hand and rested her left on a first edition of “The Art of the Deal.”

"I, Elise Stefanik, do solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend Donald J. Trump from the Constitution of the United States,” she recited.

Stefanik became emotional as she finished the oath, in which she promised to defend Trump “from all enemies, foreign and domestic—but especially from that jerk Liz Cheney.”

Perhaps that’s why Trump has taken on Stefanik as an Ivanka replacement.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Consolidating her position as America’s foremost Trump loyalist, Representative Elise Stefanik stunned political insiders on Wednesday by replacing Ivanka Trump as one of the former President’s daughters.

According to those familiar with the shakeup, Donald Trump made the move after Stefanik spent months convincing him that she was substantially more loyal than his now former daughter.

In an official statement from Mar-a-Lago, Trump wished Ivanka well, adding, “She had a good run.”

Stefanik, who is running to replace Representative Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, put to rest any doubt that she could handle that job while fulfilling her responsibilities as Trump’s daughter.

“They’re basically the same job,” she said. “I just have to say ‘Yes, Daddy.’ ”

Charlie Sykes makes the case for vaccinations and vaccination passports.

Regarding what would get vaccine deniers to do the right thing, in today’s Bulwark Charlie Sykes admits that “We should not have to use gimmicks like lotteries to induce people to do the right thing. But we should continue to use whatever works. Think of it as a stimulus program for people who are bad at math.”

[But] Polls suggest that bribes work:

@MorningConsult
Nearly 3 in 5 Unvaccinated Adults Say a Big Financial Incentive Would Sway Them to Get a COVID–19 Shot.

Then bring the stick; require proof of vaccination for adults. The more businesses, venues, sports teams, offices, stores, and airlines require vaccine passports, the faster we will get our lives back. The passports provide reassurance, while creating a powerful incentive because they are the tickets to our hot summer of liberation.

And, no, passports are not an assault on our freedom. Until about five minutes ago, it was a principle universally acknowledged that the right to swing your fist stops at another person’s nose.

As Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, wrote last year: “With coronavirus, your freedom stops when it endangers others….”

Not getting jabbed is a choice. But choices have consequences; and the rest of us are free to shun those who make stupid and dangerous choices that put us at risk.

In the 1905 case, Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, the United States Supreme Court upheld mandatory smallpox vaccinations, ruling that: “Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

As Chemerinsky noted: “The court explicitly rejected the claim that ‘liberty’ under the Constitution includes the right of individuals to make decisions about their own health in instances where those decisions could endanger others.”

But this may be beside the point, because COVID vaccine passports are most likely to be required by non-governmental entities, exercising their own constitutionally protected rights.

Naturally, any such requirement will spark fustian and outrage from the anti-vaxxer right. Proof of vaccination, they will insist, is the mark of the beast, or at least incipient tyranny.

But (as I have written previously), wait until they hear about driver’s licenses, photo IDs to vote, Social Security cards, TSA screening, employer drug tests, birth certificates, proofs of residence and citizenship, real passports, and the certificates of vaccination we ALREADY require.

Via Kate Brannen, here’s a list of the required vaccinations children in Florida must have to attend school.

In case you are wondering: “The Form DH 680, Florida Certification of Immunization, must be used to document receipt of immunizations required for entry and attendance in Florida schools, childcare facilities, and family daycare homes.”

Bring it on.

Heritage Foundation issues marching orders to state legislators

In the May 13, 2021 edition of Letters from An American, Heather Cox Richardson reports on how the Heritage Foundation gets Republican state legislatures to think and act with one voice.

[…] the real blockbuster political story of the day came in the form of a video obtained by Mother Jones and written about in a detailed article there by Ari Berman and Nick Surgey. The leaked video shows Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank—explaining to big-money donors that Heritage Action has worked closely with Republican state legislators to enact voter suppression laws. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

The story is not entirely new. Heritage (as it is known) published a report last February outlining “best practices” for voting, many of which are in the new bills coming out of Republican-dominated state legislatures. And in a March article for the New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein outlined the role of Heritage Action in Georgia’s and Arizona’s voting restrictions, noting that at least 23 of the proposed state bills that dealt with voting had language that looked like that of Heritage. They also wrote that Heritage plans to spend $24 million to change voting laws in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin before the 2022 election, and that the person behind the Heritage voting policies is Hans von Spakovsky, who mainstreamed the idea of voter fraud in the Republican Party, although experts agree it is vanishingly rare.

What is new and dramatic about the video is seeing Anderson make her pitch to donors for a coordinated right-wing effort to take the vote away from their opponents. She talks of working with similar groups: “We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”

Heritage Action is fighting hard against the Democrats’ For the People Act, which would protect the right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, and limit money in politics. Heritage summarized the bill, which it called the “Corrupt Politicians Act,” in a short sheet for lawmakers. Anderson explained: “We’ve made sure that every single member of Congress knows just how bad the bill is…. Then we’ve made sure there’s an echo chamber of support around these senators driven by your Heritage Action activists and sentinels across the country where we’ve driven hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, place[d] letters to the editor, hosted events, and run television and digital ads.”

Democrats cannot pass the For the People Act through the Senate without buy-in from all 50 of their senators, and Surgey noted that in March, Heritage Action and similar groups bussed protesters to West Virginia from other states for a big rally at the capitol to pressure Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

The “grassroots” protest against “voter fraud” is, in fact, conceived, funded, and organized by one of the most powerful elite political organizations in the country.

Manchin has suggested he will not support the For the People Act without Republican support, so yesterday, he suggested a different way to address the recent voter suppression measures. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, states and local governments that had a history of racist election laws had to get clearance from federal officials before they put new election rules in place. The Supreme Court gutted that rule in 2013 with the Shelby County v. Holder decision (which is why all these new laws are going into the books). Manchin called for restoring the old system of preclearance, but applying it to all states and territories, not just the nine to which it had previously applied, thus taking away the Supreme Court’s objection that it singled out certain states.

Manchin’s workaround wouldn’t deal with gerrymandering or big money, but it would certainly be a start toward leveling the electoral playing field, and historically, support for the Voting Rights Act was bipartisan. No longer. Almost immediately, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) shot Manchin’s plan down.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Trump, the 'failed blogger'.

[Hot video ad slamming Trumpublicans for their facistical leanings.

MSNBC’s Ari Melber Comes Up With Damning New Way To Describe Donald Trump. It involves Trump’s blog.

Trump is now just a “failed blogger,” Melber said, commenting on House Republicans’ vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from GOP leadership for her failure to embrace Trump’s election lies.

Cheney’s purge was “all to appease one blogger in Florida,” “The Beat” anchor added.

"Today is important and will actually be marked in the history books as a measurable turning point for this troubled party,” warned Melber.

“It’s about the Florida blogger,” he continued. “It’s about his ego, his need to dominate ― even out of office ― and the deceitful vanity of getting millions and millions of people to pretend you won because you can’t handle being the loser of the 2020 race. Because that’s what you are, whether you have a new blog or not.”

“Now if it all sounds a little pathetic, it is.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cheney ousted by Trumpublicans

Breaking: House Republicans oust a defiant Liz Cheney for her repudiation of Trump’s election lies. NYTimes reports.

Today might be the day our Democratic system dies. And there is no getting it back.

Writing in the NY Times, Thomas L. Friedman reveals The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy.

(With thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large sherry.)

BEGIN QUOTE

I didn’t want to write again about the House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney from their leadership for calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. I was going to make this my week for happy news. But to write about anything else on the verge of Trump’s G.O.P. moving to formally freeze out Cheney would be like writing a column about the weather the day after Watergate exploded or about Ford Theater’s architecture after Lincoln was shot. This is a big moment in American history.

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party.

If someone tried a dishonest power play at the P.T.A. of your child’s school like the one in the House, you’d be on the phone in a flash, organizing the other parents to immediately denounce and stop it. If you read about something like this happening in another pillar of democracy, like Britain or France, you’d be sick to your stomach and feel like the world was a little less safe. If you heard that a banana republic dictator had forced such a Big Lie on his sham parliament, you’d want to picket his embassy in Washington.

But this is us — today, right now. And I fear that we’ve so defined down political deviance in the Trump years that we’ve lost the appropriate, drop-everything, Defcon 1, man-the-battle-stations sense of alarm that should greet the G.O.P. crossing such a redline.

“It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the ‘Dear Leader’ or you get kicked out of the party,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

But it doesn’t end there. We’re witnessing a daylight mugging of our democracy — and I am not talking only about the voter-suppression measures being passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states.

There are also the new laws to enable Republican legislatures to legally manipulate the administration and counting of the votes in their states. Election expert Rick Hasen explained it all in an essay in this newspaper last month: “At stake is something I never expected to worry about in the United States: the integrity of the vote count. The danger of manipulated election results looms.”

We’re talking about new regulations like the Georgia law that removed the secretary of state from decision-making power on the State Election Board, clearly aimed to curb the powers of the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after he rejected Trump’s request that he “find” 11,780 votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. We’re talking about Arizona’s Republican-led State Senate hiring a company owned by an advocate of the “Stop the Steal” movement to examine the November ballots from Maricopa County. And much more.

According to a new report by Protect Democracy, Law Forward and the States United Democracy Center, “Across the country, state legislators are proposing bills that would give partisan state legislators greater control over elections while hamstringing experienced state and local election administrators who have traditionally run our voting systems. …

“Many of the bills would make elections more difficult to administer or even unworkable; make it more difficult to finalize election results; allow for election interference and manipulation by hyperpartisan actors; and, in the worst cases, allow state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters and precipitate a democracy crisis.”

Had these bills been in place in 2020, it added, “they would have … raised the prospect that the outcome of the election would have been contrary to the popular vote.”

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”

You tell me how American democracy will ever be the same again and how these people can be trusted to cede power the next time they win the White House.

And while you’re at it, tell me how America can ever again be a credible observer and upholder of democratic elections around the world — so vital to our national security and the hopes and dreams of democrats in all these countries who look to America as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. The next time we want to question election results in Russia or Iran or Poland or Hungary, what do you suppose their elected autocrats will say?

They’ll say: “Listen to you? Your Republican Party turned a blind eye to a guy who told the biggest election lie in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy. And it wasn’t even in the service of some urgent, compelling policy. It was just so he could stay in power, salve his ego and deny he lost.”

So, thank you, Liz Cheney, for doing something vitally important and clarifying — something that only a conservative Republican like you could do: force the G.O.P. at every level to choose whether to stand with Trump and his Big Lie or with the Constitution and the most important conservative principle of all — reverence for the rule of law.

Because, if Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America. And when that happens, both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.

I don’t use that term lightly or accidentally. We are all the product of our life experiences, and my first reporting experience was living inside the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I saw close up what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations — so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story. And they think that they can do it endlessly — cheat just one more time, break one more rule, buy one more vote — and the system will hold until they can take it over and own it for their own purposes.

Then one day — and you never see it coming — the whole system breaks down. Whatever frayed bonds of truth and trust that were holding it together completely unravel.

And then it’s gone. And there is no getting it back.

END QUOTE

A third party looms in response to Trumpublicans

Reports the NY Times, Over 100 Republicans, including former officials, threaten to split from G.O.P.

(Thanks to our roving Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

BEGIN QUOTE

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

The effort comes as House Republican leaders are expected on Wednesday to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their ranks because of her outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump’s election lies.

"This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor declined to name the signers. Reuters reported earlier that the former governors Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey will sign it, as will former Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and former Representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

Mr. Taylor declined on Tuesday to reveal the specific changes that the coalition was planning to demand of the Republican Party in its statement.

"I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the G.OP. back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.”

END QUOTE

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Liz Cheney - In her own words ...

… why the Republicans are pissed off at Liz Cheney. See this video.

Then continue reading this piece from this morning’s Bulwark by Charlie Sykes.

The Steal Next Time. The Cheney purge may just be prologue.

It’s not too soon to start thinking about this. David Atkins writes in the Washington Monthly:

So what happens in 2024 if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election; when state legislatures who have seized control of certification refuse to certify their state tallies; when a potential Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to certify the Electoral College tally? What happens when they refuse to certify Democratic wins in purple state Senate races, throwing control of the Upper Chamber into limbo and chaos?

What happens if Biden/Harris wins the popular vote by 8 million votes and 30 electoral college votes, only to see Republicans in states like Georgia and Wisconsin decide that their GOP legislatures will send electors for Trump or Tucker Carlson or Josh Hawley instead? What happens if Democrats legitimately add to their lead in the Senate, only to see Republicans refuse to certify those tallies as well, keeping GOP Senators in place for the next session?

I would like to think this far-fetched. At this point, I’d like to be able to assure you that is too bizarre to be real; or that it is panic mongering and hype.

But, ladies and gentlemen, I give you January 6… and the rapid devolution of the GOP into full-fledged election denialism. The purge of Liz Cheney may just be prologue. As Greg Sargent writes:

This combination is toxic: Republicans are untethering themselves from any obligation to recognize future legitimate election outcomes, which will provide the rationale to overturn them, a freedom they are also effectively in process of appropriating. Cheney is insisting on a GOP future premised on a full repudiation of these tendencies, and getting punished for it.

**

Mona Charen sees the same thing. Please take the time read her in this morning’s Bulwark, “The Steal Next Time.”

She asks: “Who will prevent the next attempt to overturn the will of the voters?”

Let’s be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican office holders, including the otherwise invertebrate Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. They did not “find” phantom fraud. But the party has been schooled since then. It has learned that the base—which is deluded by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin—believes the lies and demands that Republicans fight. As my colleague Amanda Carpenter put it, the 2024 mantra is going to be “Steal It Back.”

If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many Raffenspergers will there be? How many will insist, as Pence did, that they must do what the Constitution demands? How many will preserve any semblance of the rule of law and the primacy of truth?

With this sabotage of Cheney, House Republicans are figuratively joining the January 6 mob.

Greg Sargent - Republican threat is more than cowardice

Stop saying Republicans are ‘cowards’ who fear Trump. The truth is far worse. says Greg Sargent (Washington Post Plum Line).

(Thanks to our Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

If you are strapped for time, here’s the essence in subtitles.

This isn’t ‘cowardice’
The goal is to undermine confidence in elections
Time to reckon with GOP radicalization

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, deserves great credit for demanding that his party fully repudiate Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election and acknowledge its role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. But Kinzinger is getting one big thing wrong.

In a Sunday appearance on CBS, Kinzinger repeatedly said fellow Republicans are fundamentally driven by fear of Trump. They don’t want to “confront” Trump’s lies, Kinzinger lamented, adding that they’re “scared to death” of him.

As a broad description of our current moment, this is profoundly insufficient. It risks misleading people about the true nature of the threat posed by the GOP’s ongoing radicalization.

With House Republicans expected this week to oust Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from leadership for vocally making the same case that Kinzinger is, the idea that Republicans are primarily driven by “cowardice” is everywhere.

"Liz is a living reproach to all these cowards,” one friend of Cheney told the New Yorker, a quote that drew tons of Twitter approval. Similarly, former GOP speechwriter Peggy Noonan ripped into Cheney’s fellow Republicans as a “House of Cowards” who are “jumpy and scared.”

Meanwhile, now that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Cheney in the House GOP leadership, Democrats are pounding McCarthy for “cowardice.”

Obviously fear of attacks from Trump — or from right-wing media or primary challengers — is one motivator. But by itself, this simply won’t do: It implies that Republicans would prefer on principle to stand firm in defense of democracy but are not doing so simply out of fear of facing immediate political consequences.

It is impossible to square this reading with the concrete and affirmative steps that many Republicans are taking right now.

This isn’t ‘cowardice’

Take the shenanigans in Arizona, where GOP state legislators have commissioned a recount of ballots in Maricopa County. It is being conducted by a firm whose chief executive has promoted nonsense about fraud in the 2020 election.

What’s more, the GOP-controlled county board of election supervisors has blasted the recount while vouching for the election’s integrity. Even one Republican supporter of the recount has now denounced it as “ridiculous” and “embarrassing.”

Given all this, it’s impossible to chalk this effort up to “cowardice” or “fear of Trump.” It is a deliberate action plainly undertaken to manufacture fake evidence for the affirmative purpose of further undermining faith in our electoral system going forward.

Stefanik has endorsed this effort. Oozing with phony piety, she claims she merely wants “answers” for Americans concerned about “election security.” Of course, the opposite is true: Stefanik is trying to undermine, not reinforce, voter confidence in our electoral outcomes.

This is not the act of a “coward” who “fears Trump” and would vouch for the integrity of the election if only she could do so without consequences.

Rather, it’s the act of someone who calculates that a willingness to create fake pretexts for treating legitimate election outcomes (ones that Republicans hate) as invalid is a big selling point in today’s GOP. If she does win a leadership role, her calculation will be proven correct.

The goal is to undermine confidence in elections

Underscoring the point, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chair of the Republican Study Committee, made an extraordinarily disingenuous appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” Banks had endorsed the Texas lawsuit, which would have invalidated millions of votes in four states based on fictions, and voted to overturn President Biden’s electors in Congress.

Pressed by Fox’s Chris Wallace to admit Biden won “fair and square,” Banks kinda sorta acknowledged it, but immediately pivoted to claiming those actions were entirely justified, by insisting that his “serious concerns” about the election were still valid.

This is not the act of a “coward” who “fears Trump,” and would vouch for the integrity of the election if only he could do so without consequences.

Rather, it is the act of someone who is fully devoted to the project of continuing to undermine confidence in our elections going forward.

This is for purely instrumental purposes. Republicans are employing their own invented doubts about 2020 to justify intensified voter suppression everywhere. Banks neatly crystallized the point on Fox, saying those doubts required more voting restrictions — after reinforcing them himself.

Indeed, with all this, Republicans may be in the process of creating a kind of permanent justification for maximal efforts to invalidate future election outcomes by whatever means are within reach.

I’ve already detailed the possibility that a GOP-controlled House could refuse to certify a contested state’s election results in 2024. Brian Beutler suggests other ways Republicans could use official power to undermine legitimate outcomes, such as institutionalizing “sham audits” like the Arizona one or punishing state officials who certify Democratic victories.

Time to reckon with GOP radicalization

The lies about 2020 and the increasing dedication to destroying democratic institutions in the quest for power are inextricable from one another. As Jay Rosen says, the press is comfortable calling out the former — it can be packaged as a “fact check." But being forthright about the latter requires depicting one party as far and away the only primary threat to our democratic stability. That’s accurate, but it’s uncomfortably adversarial.

Relatedly, describing Republicans as “cowards” who “fear Trump” casts their machinations as mere reluctant efforts to cope with externally imposed circumstances they’d prefer not to be dealing with. This lets Republicans off the hook in a very fundamental way. It risks misleading the country about the true depths of GOP radicalization — and the real dangers it poses.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Who and what will be left after the GOPocalypse

Mark Sumner (Daily Beast) has something to say about that. Removing Liz Cheney isn’t a turning point for the Republican Party, it’s a post-extinction event.

Here is his opinion.

BEGIN QUOTE

No Democrat loves Liz Cheney. Over the years she has consistently taken positions that were among the most conservative, most regressive, and most aggressive of any Republican in Congress. She is among those most protective of the wealthy, most willing to sacrifice the environment, and most willing to ignore injustice. Looking back at the key votes of this past year, Cheney voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against the Paycheck Fairness Act, against a bipartisan bill expanding background checks, against the SAFE Banking Act, and against the American Dream Act. She also voted against removing Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees.

In fact, Cheney cast a “No” vote on every single key vote in 2021—except one. That one exception was her vote on Jan. 13 in favor of impeaching Donald Trump for his role in inciting an insurrection against the U.S. Capitol.

Cheney is, in every way, a perfect example of the kind of Republican that progressives have fought so hard for decades. And that’s exactly why she’s being removed from her post. Because that Republican Party no longer exists.

Cheney got a chance to have her own say in The Washington Post, in which made it clear that her struggle with Donald Trump is on a level that goes beyond policy. “Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work—confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.”

Cheney also calls out House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who was willing to tell at least a modicum of the truth a week after being forced to flee from the House chamber. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said on Jan. 13. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” At the time, McCarthy suggested that Trump deserved to be censored by Congress.

Fast forward three months, and McCarthy was not only visiting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, but defending his actions on Jan. 6. With each passing week, McCarthy has moved more and more to not just defend Trump, but rewrite the history of the past four years, including the assault on the Capitol. His willingness to surrender any sign of honesty has earned McCarthy a spot that The New York Times described as “an alpha lap-dog inside Mr. Trump’s kennel of acolytes.”

Trump left office in shame, with an approval rating that matched the worst of his term in office and a record number of impeachments attached to his name. Republicans, including McCarthy, might have decided to move away from Trump and champion their agenda with someone else at the head. It might even seem logical that the 56-year-old congressional leader might push himself forward, seizing the opportunity to stand in the spotlight far from Trump’s orange glow.

Except … there is no Republican agenda. Not any more. That Republicans failed to adopt a party platform in 2020 wasn’t just some fluke of Trump’s bungled management. It’s a 20-gigawatt Broadway sign signaling that there is no there there, with a footnote that McCarthy may be the weakest “leader” Congress has ever seen.

That’s not to say that Republicans aren’t trying to pass bills. It’s just that those bills have no real purpose beyond making people angry. Making people angry—on both sides of the political spectrum—isn’t just the modern Republican brand, it’s all that remains of their party of trolls. Their base has no demands other than to be fed lies that make them angry, and to see Republicans taking action that makes everyone else angry.

Which is why they went crawling back to Trump. He knows how to spread nonsense that makes people angry, and that’s all the party is about.

Liz Cheney, with her positions and her ideas is an alien to this party. She’s talking about a turning point in a party that turned to ash years ago. Meanwhile, the Gaetz-Greene-Boebert base of the party, both in and out of Congress, see her as an alien who, rambling about conservative principles, might as well be High Martian.

So they’ll get rid of her. But only after Politico publishes a few editorials about how “Democrats love Cheney” without bothering to quote a single Democrat. Because then Republicans get to be angry at Cheney and convinced they’ve also upset Democrats. That’s their idea of a win these days.

“While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes,” wrote Cheney in her editorial, “that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.” But she’s wrong about a critical point here. The tense.

That damage has already been done.

END QUOTE

Here’s more.

The AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) describes the GQP Internecine Warfare: Liz Cheney v. Lindsey Graham.

On Thursday, Sen. Graham weighed in on the looming Republican purge of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from House leadership over her opposition to former President Donald Trump. Lindsey Graham Mocked After Making Bizarre ‘Trump Cult’ Prediction About GOP’s Future:

Cheney is the latest victim of conservative cancel culture as she’s reportedly on the verge of losing her position as conference chair, the number three Republican in the House, due to her criticism of the former president.

This is the MAGA/Qanon personality cult’s version of the Night of the Long Knives or the Röhm Purge in 1934, “a series of political extrajudicial executions intended to consolidate Hitler’s power and alleviate the concerns of the German military about the role of Ernst Röhm and the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazis’ paramilitary organization, known colloquially as Brownshirts.”

The MAGA/Qanon personality cult’s purge is to remove any Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after he incited a violent seditious insurrection on January 6, and who will not promote his Big Lie propaganda that the election was stolen from him. Hopefully the MAGA/Qanon cultists will not actually execute these Republicans, but after their “hang Mike Pence” objective on January 6, can anyone really be certain?

But Graham wasn’t all that sympathetic to her plight.

“Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no,” he said on Fox News on Thursday night. “I’ve always liked Liz Cheney, but she’s made the determination that the Republican Party can’t grow with President Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”

Chris Hayes nailed it.

… last night, in an almost refreshingly honest moment, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina explained his party’s predicament more clearly than just about anyone else basically acknowledging that they just don`t have an alternative to Donald Trump. He is their only way forward as a party.

See the Blue Meanie’s post for more from Hayes program.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The U.S. needs more workers - increase birth rate or increase immigration

Here’s the thing. We need more workers. “The U.S. economy needs more kids. Parents say they want more kids. Yet the baby bust has gotten worse.”

According to Catherine Rampell: The baby bust won’t end without government action. Following are her conclusions.

… the birthrate is now below the “replacement rate” — the level at which the current generation can at least replace itself — of 2.1 births per woman. This matters for a variety of economic reasons.

We need another generation of children to eventually grow up to become workers, keep the economy productive and contribute the taxes that fund Social Security, Medicare and other services for our aging, nonworking population. Other countries whose demographic time bombs have already detonated, such as Japan, have demonstrated how challenging it is to have a swelling number of retirees dependent on a shrinking number of workers. If the size of the U.S. workforce stagnates or declines, economic growth and living standards are likely to languish.

Possible policy responses fall into two buckets.

First would be a suite of changes that make it easier for Americans to have more kids. They include providing greater income security, so parents can afford to have the number of children they want. Also, adapting workplaces and other parts of the safety net so parents or would-be parents who want to stay in the labor force can do so more easily.

President Biden’s families-related proposal would make progress on these fronts, by extending the temporary “child allowance” he recently signed into law, guaranteeing free or low-cost child care, and implementing paid family leave, among other programs. Changing the culture around work and making “greedy” workplaces friendlier to parents will be greater challenges, though the normalization of remote work arrangements over the past year may help.

But while these changes would make some parents’ lives less stressful, and perhaps induce some people on the margin to pop out more babies, they may not have much impact on overall fertility trends. Many countries with low birthrates have implemented explicitly pro-natal policies, such as greater access to child care or cash bonuses for having babies. They’ve generally been unsuccessful at lifting birthrates.

The other policy in the toolkit is immigration.

If the United States wants more working-age people to contribute to our economy, there are millions of strivers around the world ready and eager to pitch in. Indeed, immigrants and their children have been a key driver of population, economic and productivity growth in the not-so-distant past, but dwindling immigration is another reason population growth slowed so much in the 2010s.

Ramping up immigration should be easy. Despite the nasty, xenophobic rhetoric that dominated U.S. politics in recent years, recent surveys suggest Americans are more pro-immigrant than at any previous time on record. Biden has urged Congress to undertake immigration reform, if lawmakers can get out of their own way.

Biden has pledged to recharge the economy. Without question, that will require ramping up its economic engine — its population — too.