Lazy Caturday Reads
Posted: April 30, 2022 Filed under: just because
By Matt McCarthy
Sigh . . . yesterday on Twitter, Elon Musk was reacting sympathetically to right wing white supremacists and holocaust deniers. Today he’s dispensing medical advice based on things some random people told him. I won’t post the links; you can find his idiotic ramblings easily enough. I sure hope Musk ends up backing out of this deal. He reminds me of Trump, and another Trump is not what the world needs right now, IMHO. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the Musk takeover:
The Wall Street Journal (no paywall): The Shadow Crew Who Encouraged Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover. Behind the scenes, fellow billionaires and internet provocateurs bent Tesla CEO’s ear; Jack Dorsey’s role.
Charlotte Alter at Time: Elon Musk and the Tech Bro Obsession With ‘Free Speech.’
White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Covid-19
Tonight the self-important members of the White House press corps will meet at their traditional dinner after the event was cancelled for two years because of the pandemic. On Tuesday, I wrote about the organizers’ decision not accept an offer of free installation of germicidal UV lighting to protect attendees from airborne transmission of the coronavirus. I really think it’s a mistake for the president and first lady to attend this event.
At Yahoo News, Michael Arceneaux offers other reasons why the Bidens should not be going to the dinner: Attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a bad look for Biden.
Although the Biden administration waited until little more than a week out to confirm attendance – in part due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak stemming from the recent Gridiron dinner — it was confirmed that the president and first lady would attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner….
Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the WHCA’s annual dinner with the exception of Donald Trump. To him, members of the media are “enemies of the people.” In 2019, the Trump administration banned any of its officials from attending the dinner.
The dinner was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, so this marks the official return of a Washington tradition. I understand Biden’s good intentions, but the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is one of the traditions that I hoped would have died in the plague. Or at the very least, dramatically change while it was away.
Consider all the bad news in the world — some of which the diners are supposed to cover. Well, at least for the night, instead of doing their jobs, they are hobnobbing with celebrities par excellence. Given inflation, an ongoing plague, and the litany of other problems impacting the nation, the “nerd prom” resurgence feels ill-timed. Given the times, a return to spectacle strikes me as a bad idea.
The guest list points to the frivolousness of the event.
Martha Stewart will be in attendance as a guest of The Daily Mail. Michael Keaton will be a guest of ABC News. CBS News is apparently bringing Drew Barrymore and Melinda Gates as their guests to the dinner. Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson will be sitting at the Disney/ABC table.
Quite a few of those White House correspondents are also frivolous lightweights, but that’s just my opinion. But back to the Arceneaux piece. He agrees with me about health concerns.
Oh, and the pandemic isn’t over, no matter what the White House Correspondents Association thinks.
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris shared her health news after returning from a weeklong trip to California. “Today I tested positive for COVID-19. I have no symptoms, and I will continue to isolate and follow CDC guidelines. I’m grateful to be both vaccinated and boosted,” Harris tweeted….
One other factor that we must consider: The president is 79 years old. With all due respect, at that age, if Biden can’t walk around in a protective bubble, he should at least avoid being in rooms with hundreds of people.
I understand the venue will be testing for attendance, but if it can happen to the vice president, why not the president?
Yet, here everyone is, partying the night away with celebrity guests — as the world falls apart and in the middle of a pandemic. I hope everyone has a good night, but it feels like the wrong time to have this kind of party.
I couldn’t agree more, and I will not be watching tonight.
The New York Times: Cases are rising in nearly every corner of the United States.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising in a majority of American states, in what appears to be the first widespread increase since the peak of the Omicron surge in January.
Reports of new cases were nearly flat in the United States at the beginning of April, but as the month draws to a close, they are increasing in all but three states, signaling a wave that is increasingly national in scope.
“Most of the cases are relatively mild,” said Dr. Eric S. Toner, a senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Ted Takes Manhattan, by Matt McCarthy
The recent increase was once concentrated in the Northeast, but the effects of the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant is growing more geographically diverse. In the last two weeks, cases have more than doubled in states from West Virginia to Utah.
Hospitalizations are also on the rise nationwide, after plummeting early this month to their lowest point since March 2020. More than 30 states and territories have seen their hospitalization rates tick up in the past two weeks, and in much of the Northeast, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus has increased since mid-month by 40 percent or more.
“It’s not over yet,” Dr. Toner said in an interview on Friday. “It may be a mistake to relax all of our protective measures too quickly.”
The Biden administration is currently considering the possibility of forgiving some student loans. Here’s the latest:
The Washington Post: White House officials weigh income limits for student loan forgiveness.
The White House is considering income caps for eligibility for student loan relief that would exclude higher-earning Americans, as President Biden nears a decision on the matter, according to three people aware of administration discussions.
The administration is considering various ways to forgive some student loan debt through executive action. In recent weeks, senior Biden aides have examined limiting the relief to people who earned less than either $125,000 or $150,000 as individual filers the previous year, the people said. That plan would set the threshold at around $250,000 or $300,000 for couples who file their taxes jointly, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and the people familiar with the matter stressed that planning was fluid and subject to change.
The White House is also weighing exactly how much student debt to eliminate for each borrower. Biden indicated to reporters this week that the amount would be lower than $50,000 per person. Administration officials have also signaled that the White House will cut at least $10,000 per qualifying borrower, the people said, embracing a position Biden himself appeared to support in a private meeting with the congressional Hispanic Caucus. The administration has also discussed limiting forgiveness to undergraduate loans, excluding those who had taken out loans for professional degrees in fields such as law and medicine, the people said.
“There’s different proposals floating around the administration about how to structure this,” said one person involved in the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. “Over the course of the past week especially, administration and congressional staff have focused the conversation on debt cancellation on how to best meet the president’s desire to ensure the most economically vulnerable people with student debt benefit from any action.”
Forgiveness of $10,000 wouldn’t even put a tiny dent in what I owe in student loans, but I’m on an income based payment plan, and my income is too low for me to have to pay anything. After 25 years, if I live that long, the debt will be forgiven. In the meantime the government is spending lots of money to get me to file paperwork every year to prove I can’t pay anything. But for anyone who can benefit from a $10,000 reduction, I wish you well. Meanwhile, the government has no problem subsidizing billionaires like Elon Musk who pay no taxes.
For more on this issue, here’s a long think piece on student loan debt by Jerusalem Demsas at The Atlantic: Who Really Benefits From Student-Loan Forgiveness?
Trump Crime Family News
The Washington Post: Trump grand jury ending in N.Y. with no charges against ex-president.
A six-month grand jury that was convened late last year to hear evidence against Donald Trump was set to expire this week, closing a chapter in a lengthy criminal investigation that appears to be fizzling out without charges against the former president, people familiar with matter said.
San Francisco (Matt McCarthy)
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), who took office in January, inherited a probe launched by his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who was convinced that there was a case against Trump for crimes related to manipulating the value of property assets to secure tax advantages or better loan rates.
The grand jury was convened in November with a mandate to hear evidence against the former president. But the decision on whether to finish the presentation and ask the panel to vote on charges would ultimately fall on Bragg, who decided to pause the process, according to people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not been declared publicly.
A key problem, some of those people said, was Bragg’s concern over whether former Trump fixer Michael Cohen should be used as a witness.
Bragg has said he will announce when the investigation is over, noting that even after the special grand jury disbanded, other grand juries hearing a broad range of criminal cases in New York would be available to take action in this one if needed.
Still, the expiration of the grand jury — and the departure in February of two senior prosecutors who said Bragg was stalling the inquiry — makes any potential indictment of Trump seem unlikely, legal observershave said. By the time Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne quit, the grand jury had been inactive for weeks, with jurors being told to stay home, a person with knowledge of the issue previously said.
Lawyers in the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is a partner in the probe, are skeptical that any criminal case will be brought, people familiar with the situation said. They also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. A spokeswoman for James said the investigation continues.
Once again, Trump escapes accountability for his criminal behavior. Meanwhile, another grand jury begins deliberations in Georgia. CBS News: Special grand jury considering Trump election interference in Georgia convenes Monday.
Fulton County prosecutors will begin selecting participants Monday for a special grand jury to consider whether former president Donald Trump should be charged for his attempts to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost.
By Matt McCarthy
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked a panel of judges in January for the special grand jury because of “information indicating a reasonable probability” that the election “was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”
Willis has said in interviews that the investigation includes a January 2, 2021 phone call in which Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by that margin — an outcome that was affirmed by several recounts.
Special grand juries are unusual. They focus on just one investigation, and can be impaneled for far longer than typical grand juries, which often consider charging recommendations for a variety of investigations….
Willis wrote in the request that “a significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony.”
Willis said in an April 19 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she will wait until after the state’s May 24 primaries to issue subpoenas to public officials — meaning the special grand jury may not hear witnesses until June.
January 6 Investigation News
Kyle Cheney at Politico: Eastman to produce 10,000 pages of Trump-related emails as broader legal fight looms.
Attorney John Eastman, a key architect of former President Donald Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election, is preparing to provide another 10,000 pages of records to the Jan. 6 select committee, his attorney revealed late Friday.
It’s the latest breakthrough for congressional investigators in their ongoing fight to obtain details of Trump’s last-ditch plans to overturn his election loss.
Eastman had claimed attorney-client privilege over 37,000 pages of post-election emails related to his work for Trump. But under pressure from U.S. District Court Judge David Carter — who ruled in March that Eastman and Trump likely entered into a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election — Eastman withdrew privilege claims for nearly a third of that total.
In Friday’s court filing, Eastman’s lawyers indicated that the select committee now wants more time to consider how to handle the remaining 27,000 pages of records that remain in dispute. Carter has asked Eastman to produce a log of all the emails that remain contested, but Eastman is now asking Carter for a brief reprieve while the select committee reviews the new documents and determines how to proceed.
The committee’s legal fight to obtain Eastman’s records — all originally housed by his former employer, Chapman University — has been a top priority for the panel, which is fending off dozens of lawsuits from witnesses to Trump’s conduct in the aftermath of the election.
The panel has used the Eastman lawsuit, as well as litigation against former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, to reveal broad swaths of the evidence it has obtained showing Trump ignored overwhelming legal advice that he had been defeated. Their evidence also shows that Trump sat by on Jan. 6, 2021 as a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol, waiting hours and continuing to press allies to block now-President Joe Biden’s victory even as he watched the violence unfold on TV.
By Matt McCarthy
Also by Kyle Cheney at Politico: Second Oath Keeper pleads to seditious conspiracy.
A second member of the Oath Keepers facing a seditious conspiracy charge for his role in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol pleaded guilty Friday and is preparing to cooperate with prosecutors.
Brian Ulrich, one of 11 Oath Keepers facing the gravest charges to emerge from the Jan. 6 attack, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress’ electoral vote-counting session. He follows Joshua James, an Oath Keeper who provided personal security to Roger Stone, who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy last month.
Cooperation from Ulrich of Georgia and James of Alabama — in addition to others who have previously reached cooperation deals with the government — could arm prosecutors with substantial evidence as they work to secure the convictions of the remaining defendants, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes III.
The indictment against the broader group suggests Ulrich discussed bringing firearms and ammunition to store at a hotel in Arlington, Va., where the group amassed a cache of weapons they called a “quick-reaction force” or QRF.
Ulrich was among a group of Oath Keepers who used golf carts to travel from a hotel to the Capitol, “at times swerving around law enforcement vehicles” while another defendant, Roberto Minuta, livestreamed, prosecutors say.
A bit more from The Daily Beast: Rioter Turns on Oath Keepers Boss at Tearful Plea Hearing.
A member of the Oath Keepers accused of sedition in the Jan. 6 riots pleaded guilty on Friday, agreeing to cooperate with the feds in their investigation. Brian Ulrich, 44, was reportedly tearful as he pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, which could land him in prison for up to seven years. As part of the agreement, Ulrich said he would sit down with federal investigators and specifically fingered Oath Keepers boss Stewart Rhodes as having a role in the conspiracy to stop President Joe Biden’s certification. According to court documents, Ulrich messaged Oath Keeper leadership ahead of the riots: “Someone can tell me if I’m crazy but I’m planning on having a backpack for regular use and then a separate backpack with my ammo load out with some basics that I can [just] switch to is [sic] shit truly the fan blades. I will be the guy running around with the budget AR.”
Read more at WSAV.com: Guyton man pleads guilty to Jan. 6 charges, by Molly Curley.
NOTE: The artwork in today’s post is by Matt McCarthy, who uses Photoshop to create surrealistic cat art. You can find more of his work on Instagram, where he posts as Mr. Matt McCarthy.