Tuesday ReadsPosted: July 13, 2021
There’s lots of gossip in the news because two Trump books were released today and a third is coming out next Tuesday. There’s also quite a bit of actual news out there: Fired Social Security Administration head Andrew Saul is still whining about his firing. Texas Democrats fled the state to once again try to block Republicans’ voter suppression bill. Biden will deliver a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia today. People in Cuba are demonstrating against the dictatorship there. The Trump Organization has removed Allen Weisselberg from many of it’s subsidiary businesses. Lets see how much of this news I can cram into this post.
First up, the gossip. Here are some links to check out if you want to know what’s in those tell-all books without spending money:
Social Security Administration News:
The Washington Post: Fired and defiant, former Social Security chief is cut off from agency computers.
The Biden administration has worked to off-board the fired commissioner of the Social Security Administration who said he would report to work on Monday despite being terminated on Friday, an administration official said.
“As with any employment termination, the government has taken steps to off-board Andrew Saul as we would any other former employee,” an administration official says.
Those steps should essentially prevent Saul, who was a holdover from President Donald Trump’s administration and refused to resign when requested last week, from accessing the agency’s systems after his termination. Saul previously told the Washington Post that he still planned to report to work on Monday by signing in remotely from his home in New York….
Saul has questioned the legality of the President’s decision, but a White House official says they believe the President has the authority to remove these officials due to precedent from the Supreme Court. A Justice Department memo written Thursday also outlined the justification.
Ironically, Biden’s firing of Saul was enabled by the conservative Trump Supreme Court.
Check out the Slate story to learn how SCOTUS made it easier for Biden to get rid of Trump’s political appointees.
The fight for voting rights:
Stephen Collinson at CNN: Texas Democrats are on a desperate mission to stop GOP voting bills.
Texas state lawmakers, enacting an intricately plotted escape, left their posts and the Lone Star state itself and took flight to Washington on Monday on an extraordinary mission to halt Republican restrictive voting bills built on former President Donald Trump’s fraud lies.
After stepping off two chartered jets, they insisted they planned to stay until a highly unlikely scenario unfolds in which moderate Democratic senators kill filibuster rules used by the GOP to block voting rights reform.
“We are coming to DC to put pressure on them to act, because this isn’t just Texas,” Texas Democratic state Rep. John Bucy III told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday.
“All over the South and in Republican states, we are seeing voter suppression bills. We need Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” said Bucy, who unlike his colleagues set off the long drive from Texas to the US capital.
The spectacle is the latest stunning example of how the US political system is on the edge of meltdown as a result of turmoil triggered by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, which are now taken as fact by millions of Republican voters. The move also represents the growing desperation of Democrats who believe that their chances of winning future elections, including in 2022 and 2024, are being undermined by orchestrated assaults on the voting system by the GOP.
Ian Millhiser at Vox: The GOP voting bill that literally caused Texas Democrats to flee the state, explained.
So what, exactly, is in this bill that led Democrats to literally flee their homes in order to keep it from becoming law?
The short answer to that question is that there are two versions of the bill, both modest compared to some GOP voting proposals, though both still worrisome. Both the House and the Senate versions of the bill would add new restrictions to Texas’s already very restrictive laws governing absentee voting. They also would prevent drive-through polling sites, an innovation that some Texas counties used during the pandemic to protect voter health. And they impose new restrictions and paperwork requirements on individuals who help disabled voters and non-English speakers cast a ballot.
The bills would also make it much harder for election officials to remove partisan poll “watchers” sent by political campaigns or parties if those poll watchers harass voters or otherwise attempt to disrupt the election — with the Senate bill making it particularly difficult to remove such saboteurs. And the Senate bill could impose a draconian array of civil and criminal penalties on election officials, political campaigns, and even individual volunteers who commit fairly minor violations of the state’s election law.
The state’s Republican leadership, moreover, has made it quite clear that it is willing to wield the criminal law harshly to punish even very minor election-related transgressions. Texas’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is currently prosecuting a 62-year-old man who mistakenly voted a few months before his right to vote was restored — the man, Hervis Rogers, was nearing the end of his parole period after being convicted of two felonies. If Rogers is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the crime of voting.
If the GOP’s bill passes, in other words, Texas may do far more than simply make it harder to vote. They could give officials like Paxton broad authority to bring criminal charges against individuals who commit minor offenses no more serious than what Rogers did.
To read more details about the bill, head over to Vox.
In a high-profile voting rights speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden plans to “blast the denial of the right to vote as grounded in autocracy, undemocratic, un-American, and unpatriotic,” a White House official shared with POLITICO.
And the president will call for a “new coalition” of advocates, activists, students, faith leaders, labor leaders, and business executives “to overcome this un-American trend and meet the moment” through “turnout and voter education.”
Biden will say “in no uncertain terms” that attempts to limit voting access in Republican-led states “are the most significant threat today to the integrity of our elections, and to the security of the right to vote for people of all races and backgrounds,” said the official, who shared some details of the speech. And the president will take aim at election changes that “could allow partisans to throw out the votes of anyone for made up reasons,” in what appears to be a reference to Georgia’s new law where the state legislature now appoints the majority of the board of elections and that board can replace local election officials.
Biden’s speech on voting rights at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center on Tuesday comes as the president is facing rising pressure from civil rights activists, progressives and some in party leadership to use new and aggressive tactics to combat Republican voting laws.
The protests in Cuba:
The New York Times: ‘Everyone Has a Tipping Point’: Hunger Fuels Cuba’s Protests.
Hospitals and pharmacies have run out of medicines as basic as penicillin and aspirin. Blackouts have become maddeningly frequent and agonizingly long. Cubans lucky enough to have foreign currency wait in line for hours for staples like beans and rice.
A searing economic decline, leading to hardships Cubans have rarely seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union devastated their country in the 1990s, has stirred the island’s largest protest movement in decades, eliciting a chorus of support from American politicians and angry threats from Cuba’s government.
Cubans take to the streets to protest economic
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” President Biden said in a statement on Monday, citing what he called “decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”
His comments followed an astonishing wave of demonstrations on Sunday, when thousands took to the streets around the nation, shouting phrases like “freedom” and “Homeland and life,” a twist on the governing Communist Party’s motto: “Homeland or death.”
Protesters even overturned a police car and looted a government-run store — acts of open defiance shared widely online in a nation with a long and ruthlessly effective history of quashing dissent.
The Washington Post: Biden seizes on protests with tougher tone toward Cuba.