Mostly Monday Reads: The Case of Consumer Protection, Fiat money, and Other off-budget Agencies.

Good Day, Sky Dancers!

Yes, it’s another rabbit hole.  Yes, it’s rather scholarly and lawyerly. Yes, we all didn’t catch this back in February when the 5th Circuit made a decision that may impact more than just the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The Bureau has been on every outrage list of right-wingers and the financial industry due to its oversight of how it snags borrowers and then proceeds to drain every last drop of money it can.  You may remember this being set up by the Obama Administration under the leadership of Elizabeth Warren before her Senate run.

The most revealing thing about the scope of the case that SCOTUS agreed to review is the weird logic of the 5th Circuit and the actual grounds of the case. This is from Scotus Blog on February 27. It’s written by Amy Howe. “Court will review constitutionality of consumer-watchdog agency’s funding.” 

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up a major case involving funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was formed in response to the 2008 financial crisis. A federal appeals court ruled in October that the funding mechanism for the CFPB violates the Constitution, but the Biden administration, which had asked the justices to weigh in, says that allowing the lower court’s decision to stand could raise “grave concerns” for “the entire financial industry.”

The announcement came as part of a list of orders from the justices’ private conference last week.

The case involving the CFPB began as a challenge by the payday-lending industry to a 2017 rule that (as relevant here) barred lenders from making additional efforts to withdraw payments from borrowers’ bank accounts after two consecutive failed attempts due to a lack of funds.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected most of the groups’ challenges to the rule, but it ultimately struck down the rule based on the CFPB’s unique funding scheme, which operates outside the normal congressional appropriations process. Instead of receiving money allocated to it each year by Congress, the CFPB receives funding directly from the Federal Reserve, which collects fees from member banks. And that scheme, the court of appeals concluded, violates the Constitution’s appropriations clause, which directs that “[n]o Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” The appropriations clause, the court of appeals explained, “ensures Congress’s exclusive power over the federal purse,” which is in turn essential to ensure that other branches of government don’t overstep their authority. The court of appeals vacated the 2017 rule on the ground that the CFPB was receiving funding through that unconstitutional funding mechanism when it adopted the rule.

The CFPB came to the Supreme Court in November, asking the justices to take up the case and overrule what it characterized as the lower court’s “unprecedented and erroneous understanding of the Appropriations Clause.” The appropriations clause, the CFPB argued, means “simply that no money can be paid out of the Treasury unless it has been appropriated by an Act of Congress.” In the case of the CFPB, the government contends, “Congress enacted a statute explicitly authorizing the CFPB to use a specified amount of funds from a specified source for specified purposes. The Appropriations Clause requires nothing more.”

Let me explain why the court’s logic and the current makeup of SCOTUS worry me.  Many quasi-agencies are funded the same way the CFPB is funded.  If they let the logic of the 5th circuit stand, you would be surprised at what would likely be eliminated next.  This is from Nina Totenburg’s All Things Considered on February 27.

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to take up a case that could threaten the existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and potentially the status of numerous other federal agencies, including the Federal Reserve.

A panel of three Trump appointees on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last fall that the agency’s funding is unconstitutional because the CFPB gets its money from the Federal Reserve, which in turn is funded by bank fees.

Although the agency reports regularly to Congress and is routinely audited, the Fifth Circuit ruled that is not enough. The CFPB’s money has to be appropriated annually by Congress or the agency, or else everything it does is unconstitutional, the lower courts said.

The CFPB is not the only agency funded this way. The Federal Reserve itself is funded not by Congress but by banking fees. The U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Mint, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which protects bank depositors, and more, are also not funded by annual congressional appropriations.

In its brief to the Supreme Court, the Biden administration noted that even programs like Social Security and Medicare are paid for by mandatory spending, not annual appropriations.

“This marks the first time in our nation’s history that any court has held that Congress violated the Appropriations Clause by enacting a law authorizing spending,” wrote the Biden administration’s Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.

Lydon Larouche, The John Birch Society, and now cryptocurrency maniacs, including Elon Musk, have been after all of these agencies for decades.  Have they found the court and the basis that could do that?  Tottenberg also notes this.

A conservative bête noire

Conservatives who have long opposed the modern administrative state have previously challenged laws that declared heads of agencies can only be fired for cause. In recent years, the Supreme Court has agreed and struck down many of those provisions. The court has held that administrative agencies are essentially creatures of the Executive Branch, so the president has to be able to fire at-will and not just for cause.

This is from the Consumer Finance Monitor. “SCOTUS agrees to decide whether CFPB’s funding is unconstitutional but will not hear case until next Term.”  We’re going to have to watch this one.

The sole question presented by the CFPB’s petition is:

Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that the statute providing funding to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 12 U.S.C. 5497, violates the Appropriations Clause, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 9, Cl. 7, and in vacating a regulation promulgated at a time when the CFPB was receiving such funding.

Thus, by denying CFSA’s cross-petition and also rejecting CFSA’s request to consider the alternative grounds as antecedent questions to the CFPB’s petition, the Supreme Court is poised to decide the Appropriations Clause issue.

While the Court’s decision not to hear the case this Term means the Fifth Circuit decision will continue to be a cloud over all CFPB actions and could slow the pace of enforcement activity (particularly in pending cases where defendants can be expected to assert the Appropriations Clause issue as a defense), we do not expect it to impact the CFPB’s ongoing supervisory activity in any material way or deter Director Chopra from continuing to pursue his aggressive regulatory agenda.

Here’s an exciting read by Dave Troy, writing for The Washington Spectator, if you’d like to visit the crockpot of crazy folks wanting to tank our economy through debt default or any other possible way. “The Wide Angle: Crash the Global Economy? It’s Harder than It Sounds.”

Just yesterday, I visited the “Rage Against the War Machine” rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by the Libertarian Party, the People’s Party, and the Schiller Institute (run by LaRouche’s widow, Helga Zepp), it was thick with leafleteers pushing LaRouche messaging and featured speeches by two dozen or so Putin-friendly speakers, including presidential candidates Jill Stein, Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard, and Ron Paul.

One speaker led the crowd in a chant, “all wars are bankers’ wars,” bringing things full circle: the assertion being that it is only because we have departed from pure, good, and undefiled Austrian economics and the gold standard can (usually Jewish) bankers print the money required to fuel endless war. It seems no one at this anti-war rally had arrived at the most obvious solution: tell Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops and go home.

Paul, the final live speaker of the day, predictably took the podium to chants of “End the Fed” with a phalanx of Russian flags behind him in the afternoon light. (Ironically, the Eccles Federal Reserve building, barely a block away, is undergoing renovations.)

The North-Paul strategy seems to be alive and well. The most obvious strategy to achieve it would be to crash the global economy by failing to raise the debt ceiling. Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly and explicitly stated his intent to pursue this, and the Washington Post recently reported that the strategy has been developed by former Trump budget director Russell Vought. But two things stand in his way.

The Debt Ceiling Crisis looms eminently. This is from Sahil Kapur and NBC News. “The big problem with trying to cut spending in a debt ceiling bill. President Biden and congressional leaders have a major hurdle to overcome as negotiators meet privately to consider a way forward and prevent a self-inflicted economic calamity.”

Heading into an expected meeting between President Joe Biden and congressional leaders this week, Republican lawmakers say an agreement on “spending caps” is important in securing their support to avert a dangerous debt default.

The House-passed debt ceiling bill would slash federal spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, requiring appropriators charged with allocating government funding to cut $131 billion compared with what Congress is currently spending.

Meeting that target without cutting defense funding would require a steep 17% cut to nondefense discretionary spending.

“Democrats will not let nondefense take a disproportionate share of deep cuts. So Republicans will have to moderate their cut demands if they want to spare defense,” said Brian Riedl, a former Senate Republican policy aide who now works at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative public policy think tank.

Riedl said they may be able to avoid the dispute by freezing spending rather than making cuts, suggesting “a two-year freeze” on federal spending as one possible endgame.

The trick is that Republicans do not want to touch Defense Spending. We’re not at war anywhere anymore so that should be the item to look for any cuts.  Spending on the Military generally is just about half of discretionary spending. No country spends the kinds of money we spend on its military budget.

We’re watching Turkey’s election go to run-offs while it appears Elon Musk is using Twitter in the interests of Erdogan and his business interests there.

Erdogan is currently trending on Twitter, along with a lot of information on how Twitter has successfully fought off Erdogan’s attempt to censor its content.

All of this should make for an interesting few weeks.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Finally Friday Reads: A Neoconfederacy of Elephant-riding Corrupt Dunces

Good Day, Sky Dancers!

So what does a Florida-based Dotard Ex-President have in common with a Massachusetts-based Computer Geeky Junior Airman?  They both have a need to share Top-Secret Documents to impress their friends.

The biggest difference is that the Geek was frog-marched into court and arrested for posting them on Discord. He was charged under the Espionage Act. The Dotard is still at large, and likely so are some Top Secret Documents.  We know he flaunted them around The Donny Dotard Clubhouse, but what other things happened with them?  There are so many questions about our classified documents processes now that we’re an international embarrassment.

There’s other news too. Ron DeSantis quietly–and in the dead of night– signed a six-week ban on abortion in Florida. Florida used to have abortion access making the South a death zone for fertile women.   Attorney General Garland has asked the Supreme Court to block the order by the Texas Grand Inquisitor on the status of mifepristone.  Regulatory chaos is likely to result in the FDA and could spread to other agencies, given the implications of the judge’s lunatic rationale. It’s the one day you can be happy there is such a thing as Big Pharma. The manufacturer of the pill has also filed for an immediate stay. We’re on Supreme Court Watch now. If they do nothing, the chaos will start at midnight with this decision and the conflicting one from Washington State.  All of these restrictions are highly unpopular with voters.

Oh, and have I mentioned Uncle Clarence Thomas sold his mother’s house to his billionaire buddy without reporting it, so he broke the law?  She still lives in the house, and her new landlord takes care of the place.

Welcome to the Neoconfederacy of Dunces or, as JJ mentioned yesterday, the Dawning of the Age of Idiocracy.

This one comes pretty directly out of some weirdo world.  This is from Hans Nichols, writing for AXIOS. “Conservatives plot text warnings on “woke” products.”  Yes, this does seem like a direct assault on the first amendment rights of businesses granted by Scalia et al. not that long ago.

A conservative group is offering a new service that texts “Woke Alerts” straight to the phones of grocery shoppers who want to know which brands are accused of taking political positions that are offensive to the right.

So, you can see that we have so much to write about this week that we’re torn between leaving something uncovered or quoting so much we run up the word counts. And, of course, JJ shows us that the political cartoon crowd has a lot of fodder.

So, there are a lot of links up top. Let me just highlight a few things.

Here is more detail on the Supreme Court Watch for the ruling on mifepristone.  This is from NBC News.” The Justice Department and the drugmaker are asking the Supreme Court to block the abortion pill ruling. The Biden administration and Danco Laboratories want to freeze a court decision that curbs access to the abortion pill mifepristone.”

The Biden administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to block part of a court decision that prevents pregnant women from obtaining the key abortion drug mifepristone by mail.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the Food and Drug Administration, urged the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to put on hold the entirety of a decision issued by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk that handed a sweeping victory to abortion opponents.

“This application concerns unprecedented lower court orders countermanding FDA’s scientific judgment and unleashing regulatory chaos by suspending the existing FDA-approved conditions of use for mifepristone,” Prelogar wrote in court papers.

Danco Laboratories, which makes Mifeprex, the brand version of the pill, filed a similar request on Friday.

Danco said it would be “irreparably harmed” if the decision goes into effect because it “will be unable to both conduct its business nationwide and comply with its legal obligations.”

This is the latest set of witnesses to discuss Trump’s Classified Documents theft.  This is from the New York Times. “Witnesses Asked About Trump’s Handling of Map With Classified Information. The map is just one element of the Justice Department’s inquiry into former President Donald Trump’s possession of sensitive documents and whether he obstructed justice in seeking to hold onto them.”

Federal investigators are asking witnesses whether former President Donald J. Trump showed off to aides and visitors a map he took with him when he left office that contains sensitive intelligence information, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

The map has been just one focus of the broad Justice Department investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after he departed the White House.

The nature of the map and the information it contained is not clear. But investigators have questioned a number of witnesses about it, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, as the special counsel overseeing the Justice Department’s Trump-focused inquiries, Jack Smith, examines the former president’s handling of classified material after leaving office and weighs charges that could include obstruction of justice.

One person briefed on the matter said investigators have asked about Mr. Trump showing the map while aboard a plane. Another said that, based on the questions they were asking, investigators appeared to believe that Mr. Trump showed the map to at least one adviser after leaving office.

A third person with knowledge of the investigation said the map might also have been shown to a journalist writing a book. The Washington Post has previously reported that investigators have asked about Mr. Trump showing classified material, including maps, to political donors.

The question of whether Mr. Trump was displaying sensitive material in his possession after he lost the presidency and left office is crucial as investigators try to reconstruct what Mr. Trump was doing with boxes of documents that went with him to his Florida residence and private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Among the topics investigators have been focused on is precisely when Mr. Trump was at the club last year. In particular, they were interested in whether he remained at Mar-a-Lago to look at boxes of material that were still stored there before Justice Department counterintelligence officials seeking their return came to visit in early June, according to two people familiar with the questions.

Hannah Knowles writes on “How DeSantis backed a six-week abortion ban — while barely talking about it. The Florida governor went from signing a 15-week ban last year to signing a six-week ban late at night on Thursday.”

The governor’s quiet embrace of the six-week ban reflects his team’s political calculations heading into 2024, as he gears up for a presidential primary where hard-line activists and voters wield influence. It underlines the continued pressure in the GOP for politicians to embrace tighter laws — even as numerous Republicans, including some DeSantis allies, worry that abortion bans have helped sink their candidates in critical general elections. And it highlights DeSantis’s longtime reluctance to make abortion a signature part of his public profile, though he has enacted major changes to laws on the procedure.

“The numbers show that Florida is a destination” for abortion, said Chad Davis, a candidate for the state House who worked for ex-state senator Kelli Stargel, the sponsor of the 15-week ban. “That’s an embarrassment to him.”

DeSantis has generally avoided talking about abortion, even as he tours the country touting other legislation he’s signed. Rather than roll out the six-week bill as a major agenda item, he gave vague endorsements: “I’m willing to sign great life legislation,” he told one reporter who put him on the spot. A six-week ban has proved divisive in his orbit, with some donors strongly opposed and other Republicans eager to simply move on.

President Biden has put out a statement on the arrest of the Leaker and his plans to review the classified documents processes.  Not let’s see hin do something about getting White Christian Nationalists out of the Military.

I’ll leave you with this from the High Priestess of QAnon.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Mostly Monday Reads: Some Cherry Reads

Hana no Yube or Flowers (Image of Evening) was made in 1938 by Funada Gyokuju. The power of this sizeable folding screen painting is in the scale of the cherry blossom tree.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

So far, things are going well here at the KatHouse.  Keeley has not had a seizure since last Monday and is resigned to her pill regime.  I hope we can continue on this path!

I’m sharing some Japanese paintings and block prints of the upcoming Cherry Blossom Season.  My late mother-in-law was born and raised in Kyoto during World War 2. The season is vital to Japan and Washington D.C., where everyone recognizes the beautiful sakura blooming on the mall.  I love it because it always starts on the Spring Equinox, which occurred the day Doctor Daughter was born. It starts on March 20 this year, and it’s another Monday, so I may give you some more Sakura artwork.

Our National Cherry Blossom Festival and the trees were a gift from Japan.  It’s certainly good they’re located in the National Mall, part of our National Park System. The last glum lady in the White House didn’t do positive things to the gardens there.  The First Lady that helped plant these trees was Helen Herron Taft.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual spring celebration in the capital, commemorates the gift of 3,020 Japanese cherry trees given by former Toyko Mayor Yukio Ozaki to the U.S. in 1912, which were planted in Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument (Potomac Riverbank) by Kawase Hasui, 1935The Sakura tree does not actually produce cherries.  They give us these brilliant pink blossoms when we need to remove the winter darkness from our national psyche. So, that’s one symbol of rebirth we can enjoy coming from Washington, D.C.  I’m keeping that in mind as I read the news today.

Erik Wemple–reporting for the New York Times–has an exciting Op-Ed today on Faux News and the Dominion Law Suit. “What is Fox News hiding in the Dominion lawsuit?”

Yet the filing is filled with frustrating dead ends, the result of the network’s aggressive effort to prevent disclosure of many of the internal communications that came out of discovery in the case, Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News. The black passages in the document raise the questions: What is Fox News hiding? And will those passages ever be unredacted?

As the Dominion filing makes clear, Fox News executives panicked in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election. The network had called Arizona on election night for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a move regarded as treason by the network’s MAGA crowd, which declared viewers would flee to the competition, especially conservative cable news outlet Newsmax.

So, Fox News tried playing both sides — a little conspiracy-mongering here, a little factual injection there. Anything to hang on to its ratings preeminence.

One way the network competed with Newsmax was to host election-denying attorney Sidney Powell and her extravagant claims. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who appeared multiple times in the Dominion filing, apparently commented on the situation, though the public, for now, doesn’t have the goods:

Impenetrable black expanses in the filing thwart a complete understanding of what was happening as Fox News faced down a ratings collapse. We do know what happened when White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a stolen election claim made by Trump: Host Tucker Carlson advocated for her firing. Similar tensions arose when anchor Neil Cavuto cut away from a news conference at which Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, was inveighing against the election. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cavuto said on air. “She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this.”

Sakura, © Meiji Hashimoto, Sakura, 1970s

Pictures of the redacted bits and more examples are included in the media critic’s take at the link.  David Folkenflik at NPR has this piece today. “Fox News stands in legal peril. It says defamation loss would harm all media”.  Faux is uniquely a propaganda outlet.  I’m not sure its demise will be significant for other media other than to create more room to breathe. Can you imagine not having to offset the Fox Lies daily?  An entire group of comedians may become unemployed, but that’s like Faux, which is a self-serving entertainment and propaganda outlet.

Outside legal observers say the Fox News Channel finds itself in real legal jeopardy in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by an election tech company over lies broadcast about the 2020 presidential race.

The amount and weight of evidence is perhaps without equal among other major, recent defamation cases.

“How often do you get ‘smoking gun’ emails that show, first, that persons responsible for the editorial content knew that the accusation was false, and also convincing emails that show the reason Fox reported this was for its own mercenary interests?” says Rutgers University law professor Ronald Chen, an authority on constitutional and media law.

Fox News has endured one humiliation after another from the rolling revelations in the case brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Private communications made public in legal filings demonstrate the network’s producers, stars and executives — even controlling owner Rupert Murdoch — knew the claims they were broadcasting were false, and at times unhinged. A trial in the case is slated for next month.

Fox’s legal team is grounding much of its defense in a claim that it was merely reporting allegations by the most newsworthy public official of all, then-President Donald Trump.

“We err on the side of speech because the more and more speech you have, the better chance of having people actually getting the opportunity to point out what’s right and what’s wrong,” attorney Erin Murphy, one of the senior figures on Fox’s defense team, tells NPR in an interview. “And that’s why we don’t suppress the speech that we don’t think is right.”

A loss for Fox would make it harder for all journalists to serve the public, she says.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to hinder the ultimate objective of the First Amendment, of getting to the truth,” Murphy argues.

The case may serve as a test for the elasticity of that argument.

Cherry Blossom Flurry, 1903, Kayburagi Kiyokata. The Smithsonian.

It also tests the elasticity of calling nearly anyone at Faux an actual reporter rather than a propaganda spewer or hate-mongering shouter of conspiracy theories. I suppose I should be more excited about the possibility of a less Trumpy network and Republican Party, but those waiting in the right wing are just as, if not more, scary.  It’s also still well-funded by freak families like the Mercers.  They die off and come back like Koch zombies.

Here’s Tim Miller of The Bulwark writing on what used to be the influential CPAC event. “CPAC: Taste the Sadness. Go ahead and laugh. They deserve it.” 

As I pulled into Matt Schlapp’s preferred Gaylord Hotel in suburban Washington for the latest rendition of CPAC, ghosts of past selves flashed through my head. I remembered 2015, my last time at the gathering. It was an early inflection point in Jeb!’s campaign. As Bush was interviewed on stage by an obsequious Sean Hannity, a Revolutionary War cosplayer in a tricorne hat led a walkout. I was backstage managing an impending Breitbart News story about how Jeb’s new spokesman (moi) and campaign manager were hostile to homophobes.

It’s been quite the journey since then.

For all the familiar flashbacks, this year’s CPAC felt . . . different and a little sad. You might even say, low energy. Rick Wilson put it well on Charlie’s podcast this weekend, comparing the event to a “collapsing neutron star . . . it’s smaller. It’s hotter. It’s more intensely crazy.” A reporter at the event had a different sad-sack metaphor, describing the energy in the building as “what it feels like when the Apple Store leaves a dying mall.”

It’s funny, in a laugh-out-loud sort of way. Because we’re not laughing with CPAC. We’re laughing at it. But cheap laughs aside, there are some consequential questions about CPAC’s decline.

What does it signal for the direction of conservative politics and for the belle of the ball, Donald Trump? Were the ballrooms barren because some of the faithful decided to at long last change the channel from the Trump show? Or did they just figure they didn’t want to contribute to the legal defense fund of a dude who pummeled another dude’s dick against his will (allegedly).

Or is the reality simply that the entire Republican party is CPAC now, so there’s no real need for it anymore? Especially when there’s a younger, more dynamic offering for  culture warriors looking for fellowship in Turning Point USA?

It’s probably a bit of each. What we do know is that Trump won the straw poll, again, with Tiny D finishing a distant second. But whether that matters . . . whether it’s a precursor of primaries to come or more of a Fat Elvis-meets-Ron Paul demonstration of fading niche power is something we can speculate about, but won’t actuallyknow until next year’s CPAC.

Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826-1869); 1859-1861; colour woodcut; RV-1353-290a
High-ranking prostitute parading under cherry blossoms

Another piece at the Washington Post has totally given me a bad case of the sads as a former History teacher at public schools.‘Slavery was wrong’ and 5 other things some educators won’t teach anymore.  To mollify parents and obey new state laws, teachers are cutting all sorts of lessons.” This is written by Hannah Natanson.

Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Passages from Christopher Columbus’s journal describing his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples. A data set on the New York Police Department’s use of force, analyzed by race.

These are among the items teachers have nixed from their lesson plans this school year and last, as they face pressure from parents worried about political indoctrination and administrators wary of controversy, as well as a spate of new state laws restricting education on race, gender and LGBTQ issues.

“I felt very bleak,” said Lisa Childers, an Arkansas teacher who was forced by an assistant principal, for reasons never stated, into yanking Wollstonecraft’s famous 1792 polemic from her high school English class in 2021.

The quiet censorship comes as debates over whether and how to instruct children about race, racism, U.S. history, gender identity and sexuality inflame politics and consume the nation. These fights, which have already generated at least 64 state laws reshaping what children can learn and do at school, are likely to intensify ahead of the 2024 presidential election. At the same time, an ascendant parents’ rights movement born of the pandemic is seeking — and winning — greater control over how schools select, evaluate and offer children access to both classroom lessons and library books.

In response, teachers are changing how they teach.

study published by the Rand Corp. in January found that nearly one-quarter of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 English, math and science teachers reported revising their instructional materials to limit or eliminate discussions of race and gender. Educators most commonly blamed parents and families for the shift, according to the Rand study.

The piece continues with a list of how 20 educators nationwide have changed and eliminated teaching “certain” subjects.  Jose Pagliery writes this in today’s The Daily Beast. “How a New DOJ Memo Sets Up Two Potential Trump Indictments. What seemed like a narrow decision could have far-reaching implications.”

When the Department of Justice took the position this week that former President Donald Trump acted improperly by urging his followers to attack Congress in 2021, prosecutors did more than open the door to a potential flood of civil lawsuits from police officers who were injured on Jan. 6.

What they actually did, according to legal scholars, is lay the groundwork for a potential criminal indictment against Trump for inciting the insurrection.

“If they took the position that the president was absolutely immune, then they wouldn’t be able to bring a criminal prosecution,” said one person familiar with the DOJ’s ongoing investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Legal scholars have come to the same conclusion.

“Had DOJ concluded that incitement unprotected by the First Amendment could nevertheless be within the president’s official functions, that could conceivably have impacted criminal charging decisions related to the same speech,” said Mary B. McCord, a former federal prosecutor now teaching at Georgetown University Law Center.

At the behest of the District of Columbia’s federal appellate court, the DOJ last week submitted a legal memo weighing in on a civil dispute by injured police officers. The department clarified that Trump’s speech, full of vitriol and fury, was not protected by presidential immunity, nor was it protected by his own free speech rights under the First Amendment.

“Such incitement of imminent private violence would not be within the outer perimeter of the Office of the President of the United States,” the DOJ wrote.

The department went out of its way to say it doesn’t necessarily support officer lawsuits against Trump, noting that it “expresses no view on that conclusion, or on the truth of the allegations in plaintiffs’ complaints.” But by making clear that Trump’s speech was outside the norms of his office, it stripped the former president of virtually any defense he could make.

“If they’re saying it’s outside the scope of immunity of civil suits, and outside the scope of protected speech, there really isn’t anything else out there protecting Trump,” said one attorney, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid rattling DOJ leadership.

The two indictments Trump could face are for his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot—a federal crime—and his attempts to overturn the election results in Georgia, a state case there.

So far, the Justice Department has not indicated its legal analysis of the looming federal case against Trump, which concerns the effort his campaign led to undermine the electoral vote by Congress. However, its new legal memo draws a clear red line on his actions during the lead up to the actual attack on Congress.

Now, I’m contemplating the difference between the rebirth of life in spring and unwanted zombies in your Government and Media.  Well, that will be another rabbit hole for me to enter, and rabbits are an elemental totem of spring.

Have yourselves a good, peaceful week, and start looking for the signs of spring!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

And don’t laugh, but I can actually play Sakura on the koto. It’s like the first thing kids learn!


Mostly Monday Reads

Cossack Mamay is tempted to drink by the Polish-looking Satan, Ukrainian folk art,

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There’s actually a lot of good news today!  Above all,  there is excellent news from the Ukrainian front that Russia is being driven back.  There are even calls now for Putin to step down! I’ll get to that in a moment, but I couldn’t resist putting this headline from The Times of London first. I love the “snub for Trump” in the lede.  So much for Trump’s lie about a secret knighthood.  They weren’t expecting President Biden, so now there’s a scramble to prepare for his visit..

I’m going to post Ukrainian art today from the various museums.  We know that the Russians targeted all types of cultural locations and that many folk art items were lost in the bombings.  It will likely be a while before we discover which great works remain.


Слава Україні!  (Romanized: Sláva Ukrayíni!)



I hope this is embarrassing for Trump, who was the ultimate clod during his visit with the late Queen Elizabeth.

Westminster Abbey is expected to be so full that only one representative from each country can attend, although they can be joined by a partner.

Questions have been asked in the US over whether Donald Trump will be invited but British sources have scotched the idea that he could accompany the US delegation and said there would not be space for Biden’s predecessors. Dwight Eisenhower, then the former president, attended Churchill’s funeral a private capacity.

A reception for overseas leaders will take place at Buckingham Place on the eve of the service, but no meetings will be allowed because of the strain on security teams, according to the Foreign Office

One more thing about Trump, and I’ll celebrate the victories of Ukraine.  This is from CNN, which I’m probably going to quit quoting because the news channel is becoming an unreliable source soon due to changes in Top Management.  “Exclusive: ‘I’m just not going to leave’: New book reveals Trump vowed to stay in White House.”   This is about Maggie Haberman’s new tell-all, as reported by Jeremy Herb.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly told aides in the days following his 2020 election loss that he would remain in the White House rather than let incoming President Joe Biden take over, according to reporting provided to CNN from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

“I’m just not going to leave,” Trump told one aide, according to Haberman.

“We’re never leaving,” Trump told another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”

Trump’s insistence that he would not be leaving the White House, which has not been previously reported, adds new detail to the chaotic post-election period in which Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat and numerous efforts to overturn the election result led to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.

Ilya Kabakov, “10 characters”, album no. 6 “The Flying Mosquito” (1994)

The man is so narcissistic he’s delusional.  Let’s switch topics now!

Today’s New York Times has this headline: “Russia’s Retreat in Ukraine Pokes Holes in Putin’s Projection of Force. Russia’s military setbacks may be weakening President Vladimir V. Putin’s reputation at home as a savvy geopolitical strategist.”  Ah, tales of yet another delusional narcissist.

Ukraine’s rout of Russian forces this weekend is creating a new kind of political challenge for President Vladimir V. Putin: It undercuts the image of competence and might that he has worked for two decades to build.

On Sunday, the Russian military continued to retreat from positions in northeastern Ukraine that it had occupied for months. State television news reports referred to the retreat as a carefully planned “regrouping operation,” praising the heroism and professionalism of Russian troops.

But the upbeat message did little to dampen the anger among supporters of the war over the retreat and the Kremlin’s handling of it. And it hardly obscured the bind that Mr. Putin now finds himself in, presiding over a six-month war against an increasingly energized enemy and a Russian populace that does not appear to be prepared for the sacrifices that could come with an escalating conflict.

“Strength is the only source of Putin’s legitimacy,” Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Mr. Putin who is now a political consultant living in Israel, said in a phone interview. “And in a situation in which it turns out that he has no strength, his legitimacy will start dropping toward zero.”

Putin is now facing internal dissent.  This is something that would be unimaginable before the Invasion of Ukraine.  From The Hill link above: “Russian municipal deputies call for Putin’s resignation.” 

More than 30 Russian municipal deputies have signed a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resignation.

The petition, posted by Xenia Torstrem, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s Semyonovsky District, was originally signed by 19 officials.

“We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin harm the future of Russia and its citizens,” a translation of the petition reads. “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of President of the Russian Federation!”

The petition comes as the Ukrainian military pursues a counteroffensive, quickly reclaiming territory and pushing Russian troops back to the northeastern border in some places.

The push’s initial gains have provoked some criticisms of Putin inside the country, a rare rebuke of Russia’s longtime leader who over the years has sought to stifle opposition.

This reporting from The Washington Post is breathtaking.

In the end, the Russians fled any way they could on Friday, on stolen bicycles, disguised as locals. Hours after Ukrainian soldiers poured into the area, hundreds of Russian soldiers encamped in this village were gone, many after their units abandoned them, leaving behind stunned residents to face the ruins of 28 weeks of occupation.

“They just dropped rifles on the ground,” Olena Matvienko said Sunday as she stood, still disoriented, in a village littered with ammo crates and torched vehicles, including a Russian tank loaded on a flatbed. The first investigators from Kharkiv had just pulled in to collect the bodies of civilians shot by Russians, some that have been lying exposed for months.

“I can’t believe that we went through something like this in the 21st century,” Matvienko said, tears welling.

The Threat of War (1986).” Art by Maria Prymachenko, This painting was destroyed in a Russian bombing.

While the Ukrainians struggle to hold on to their democracy, we appear to have about 1/3 of the population that are “democracy deniers.”  This is according to a poll by Axios.  The results are stomach-churning.   Axios refers to this poll as the Two Americas Index.

About one in three Americans prefers strong unelected leaders to weak elected leaders and says presidents should be able to remove judges over their decisions, according to the latest findings from our Axios-Ipsos Two Americas Index.

Why it matters: The findings from this poll shatter the myth that Americans overwhelmingly agree on a common set of democratic values around checks and balances on elected leaders, protection of minority rights and freedom of speech.

  • They’re also a reality check against President Biden’s speech that portrayed threats to democracy as solely driven by Republican supporters of former President Trump who refuse to accept that he lost the 2020 election.

What we’re watching: In this poll, significant minorities of Republicans and Democrats supported non-democratic norms in about equal percentages — and Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say presidents should be able to remove judges when their decisions go against the national interest.

  • Many Americans also believe the government should follow the will of the majority even at the expense of ethnic and religious minority groups’ civil rights.
  • And roughly a third said the federal government should be able to prosecute members of the news media who make offensive or unpatriotic statements.
  • Respondents younger than 35 or with household incomes below $75,000 a year were more likely to favor strong unelected leaders and to support prosecuting the media or empowering presidents to remove judges.

The big picture: If you’re looking for good news in this poll, it is primarily that the people who embrace the anti-democratic views are still in the minority.

  • But the findings are a reminder that for all of the attention and congressional hearings around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, anti-democratic views take many forms.

What they’re saying: “There’s a lot of anti-democratic sentiment, a lot more than we might have expected,” said Justin Gest, an associate professor at George Mason University who studies the politics of demographic change and advises the project.

  • The survey’s questions pose “hard tests” for society, Gest said — tradeoffs between “what’s expedient and best for the individual, and what actually sustains the integrity of our political institutions.”

  • Values like minority rights, separation of church and state and freedom of the press are “key foundations” of democracy but “they’re far from being fully supported by Americans,” Gest said. “These are things you’d think would be universal.”

You may read more analysis at the link.

One last bit of Trump weirdness.  Yesterday, Trump was seen deplaning from a private plane in Washington, D.C.”  The guessing game as to why he was there is on.

Conspiracy Update?



Have a great week! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Sunday Reads: MALcontents

Good morning. Just going to dive into the cartoons, via Cagle:

Read this thread all the way through:

Fuck Herschel Walker.

This is all for now, it’s an open thread.