Lazy Caturday Reads: Two Wannabe Tyrants and A Struggling One

Happy Caturday!!

079258366aa3aa1cb71e700f59e9028dHillary Clinton dared to speak the truth about Trump in an interview yesterday. Mary Papenfuss wrote about it at HuffPo: Hillary Clinton Compares Trump To Hitler In Disturbing Interview.

In a stinging interview Friday one-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, and his political rallies to Nazi gatherings.

She zeroed in on Trump’s rally last week in Youngstown, Ohio, where members of the crowd raised a stiff-armed, one-finger QAnon salute to the former president in a gesture chillingly reminiscent of the “heil Hitler” salute.

The QAnon gesture stands for WWG1WGA, or: “Where We Go One We Go All.”

“I remember as a young student, you know, trying to figure out how people get basically brought in by Hitler. How did that happen?” Clinton asked during an onstage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

“I’d watch newsreels and I’d see this guy standing up there ranting and raving, and people shouting and raising their arms. I thought, ‘What’s happened to these people?’” she added.

“You saw the rally in Ohio the other night,” Clinton noted. “Trump is there ranting and raving for more than an hour, and you have these rows of young men with their arms raised. What is going on?”

She added: “I think it is fair to say we’re in a struggle between democracy and autocracy.”

Trump had another rally in North Carolina yesterday. He did plenty of ranting and railing, but his security people stopped audience members who raised their arms in the “heil Hitler”-like gesture. Either Trump or his advisers must have been paying attention to the negative public reaction.

From Eric Garcia, reporter at The Independent, who attended the rally: QAnon, the Big Lie and misogyny: Inside Trump’s Wilmington rally. Trump was supposedly there to support Republican candidates; but, as usual, the rally was all about him and his many grievances.

Former president Donald Trump held a rally in Wilmington on Friday, his first since New York attorney general Letitia James announced her civil lawsuit against him, his three eldest children, his business associates, and the Trump organisation this week….

Indeed, before Mr Trump took the stage, the two monitors on the sides of the stage played a segment from Fox News’ host Jesse Watters comparing Mr Trump’s storage of documents with that of the previous four former presidents.

But the former president also used the rally to air his grievances against Ms James’s lawsuit against him, his family and his business organization, which she called “The Art of the Steal” at a Wednesday press conference.

GettyImages-987491478“There’s no better example of the chilling obsession with targeting political opponents than the baseless, abusive and depraved lawsuit against me, my family, my company, by the racist attorney general of New York state,” he said, giving her the moniker “Letitia ‘Peekaboo’ James.” [….]

Mr Trump’s dislike of female public figures who challenge him – be they Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Meryl Streep or Rosie O’Donnell – is well-known. But throughout his speech, he repeatedly ridiculed Ms James, a Black woman, in incredibly personal terms, saying that she is more focused on attacking him than focusing on violent crime.

“This raging maniac campaign for office ranting and raving about her goal – her only goal is, we got to get Donald Trump,” he said about Ms James. “In fact, I was watching it and I said ‘boy, that woman is angry, I don’t think she likes me too much.’”

Garcia on the QAnon salute:

During his rally in Ohio last week, Mr Trump and rally goers confused many when he played dramatic music while attendees pointed one finger in the air. Mr Trump repeated the practice this time, albeit it looked like fewer people raised their fingers in the air during the rally.

A few people who attended the rally had QAnon memorabilia, with some attendees wearing QAnon hats and one truck having an image of Mr Trump with John F Kennedy Jr and former president John F Kennedy, prominent figures in the QAnon conspiracy theories.

Gay Gaines said she approved of the use.

“I loved it, it was very emotional, very touching, very inspirational, very uplifting, and hopeful,” she said. “Good way to end it.”

ShortStack_265125897_1_Carol_Ramsey_MLeditTrump has been “retruthing” QAnon messages regularly on his imitation Twitter website, but yesterday he really outdid himself. Insider: Donald Trump shares Truth Social photo proclaiming him as second only to Jesus.

Former President Donald Trump shared a post on his Truth Social account on Friday, declaring him as “second” only to Jesus.

The post by Truth Social user @austinnegrete said: “Jesus is the Greatest. President @realDonaldTrump is the second greatest.”

It accompanied an image of a painting of Jesus by artist Dan Wilson.

Trump “ReTruthed,” or reposted, the Jesus comparison to his 4.1 million Truth Social followers.

Of course this is ridiculous, as is the QAnon craziness; but we know from past experience that Trump’s ranting and his sway over his audiences is dangers. Mark Follman writes at Mother Jones: Trump Continues to Escalate His Dangerous Incitement.

As the ex-president faces advancing federal and state investigations ranging from Mar-a-Lago to New York to Georgia, he has escalated an insidious form of political incitement, behavior that seems to signal a growing desperation over his legal predicaments. As I first reported beginning two years ago, Trump has long honed a rhetorical method that security experts call “stochastic terrorism”: By continually demonizing his “enemies,” he stirs random violence from extremist supporters as a means to exert and try to maintain political power.

Investigation of the January 6 insurrection showed the consequences of this technique on a mass scale—and further revealed Trump’s explicit willingness to resort to it after attempts to overturn the 2020 election via Congress and the courts had failed. According to sworn testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide in the White House, Trump knowingly urged armed supporters to descend on the Capitol that day and had wanted to lead them there. Ever since, Trump has successfully spread the use of incitement among GOP leaders, as I documented recently.

Repetition across various media is key to the technique and increases the likelihood of violence, according to recently published research from threat assessment experts. Trump has delivered on that in recent weeks: He has continued to target various agencies and individuals using his Truth Social platform, speeches at political rallies, and interviews on Fox News and other more fringe media outlets.

ShortStack_265618904_1_Marguerite_Young_MLeditAnd he has used particularly grim rhetoric. At a Sept. 3 rally in Pennsylvania, Trump calledthe FBI and Justice Department “vicious monsters” and President Biden an “enemy of the state.” During an interview on a right-wing radio show on Sept. 15, he predicted there would be “big problems” in the country if he were to be charged by the Justice Department. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he told host Hugh Hewitt. On Truth Social, Trump promoted a QAnon meme featuring him as a heroic icon of the lunatic conspiracy-theory movement regarded by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat. Soon thereafter, Trump gave an apocalyptic speech at an Ohio rally where he used music evoking a QAnon theme song, prompting fascistic salutes from the crowd.

Trump hammered home similar messages again on Wednesday in a lengthy sit-down at Mar-a-Lago with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. Asked by Hannity to comment on a new lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over alleged financial fraud by Trump, the ex-president laid into the state’s top lawyer and her staff: “They were demeaning me constantly, these people,” he said. “There’s something wrong with them. I really believe they hate our country.”

His effort specifically to provoke feelings of contempt among his supporters is no accident and furthers the risk for violence.

Read the rest at the link.

On MSNBC this morning, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had a few choice words for his former boss. Raw Story: Cornered Trump ‘doesn’t care if he burns the country down’: former adviser.

Speaking with host Ali Velshi, Cohen said the former president has big legal troubles coming at him from different directions and painting him into a corner.

He then predicted the former president won’t go down quietly.

“What stands out to you, what’s the thing you’re most thinking about right now?” host Velshi asked.

“There are so many investigations and you wouldn’t believe — if this was a television show you would turn around and say, ‘it’s too stupid! I can’t watch this, it’s stupid, it can never happen,'” Cohen exclaimed. “But it is happening in real-time in our lives.”

“Our democracy is in peril because of one man; one man who goes ahead and weaponizes the United States Department of Justice against his critics, against the country against anybody who was not one of his supporters, he is willing to go after.”

“He doesn’t care if he burns the country down in doing it,” Cohen

0b834e1e3ab544c08f19500a8ffeccb6Enough about Trump. Let’s turn to the Trump wannabe in Florida who is also a danger to democracy could end up running for president in 2024–Ron DeSantis. Could he be facing a serious backlash from Florida voters?

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Ugly new details about Ron DeSantis’s stunt point to a deeper scam.

Who paid for the migrants to be transported from Texas to Florida?

That question emerges from new revelations about Gov. Ron DeSantis’s vile stunt, in which he transported two planeloads of migrants from Texas to Florida and on to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

The Florida Republican refuses to release the state contract that funded the flights. That suggests DeSantis is seeking to bury critical facts even as reporters fill in details about the flights — and their questionable legality.

This potentially points to a deeper scam. DeSantis — whose presidential ambitions emit a stench akin to Limburger rotting in an old sock — is gushing with own-the-libs bluster, vowing to keep shoving migrants in the faces of elite liberals everywhere. But the ones truly getting “owned” by this farce are right-wing voters and Florida taxpayers. The more information that comes out, the clearer this will become.

In a useful piece NBC News’s Marc Caputo reports that the outfit contracted to ship migrants — Vertol Systems Company Inc. — has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Florida GOP candidates. One funded Matt Gaetz, a right-wing media troll who moonlights as a congressman.

That company has been paid $1.6 million so far, per NBC, and the contract totals $12 million, supposedly to cover future shipments of migrants to other states. NBC also reports:

“But the state budget authorizing the program specifies that “unauthorized aliens” are supposed to be flown from “this state” of Florida — not any other state — and Republicans who crafted the program this year said publicly that Venezuelans seeking asylum are not considered “unauthorized aliens” because they’re allowed to be in this country.”

So a big question is whether state funding of the transport of migrants from Texas to Florida violated that budgetary language. On this basis, a Democratic state senator filed a lawsuit Thursday to block further funding for the flights.

Read more at the WaPo.

bc848f30f3057dd0b612f28a08cce1c2Could DeSantis be facing serious backlash over his treatment of asylum-seekers? Check this out:

The Hill: DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing mounting scrutiny in his home state over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants to the elite resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

While the move was lauded by conservatives as a powerful protest of the Biden administration’s approach to border security, it has sparked a wave of criticism from Democrats and members of Florida’s vast Hispanic community, a politically influential force in the Sunshine State.

“With this move, this stunt, obviously he made his base very happy,” said Adelys Ferro, the executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus. “But there are many people more toward the middle and people who are independents that are very disgusted and that reject all of this.”

“We are Venezuelan Americans and we vote, and we’re going to vote in November,” she added. “And we’re never going to vote for somebody who does this.

DeSantis has been busy attacking teachers and mistreating immigrants, but will he be ready to deal with an approaching hurricane? CBS News: Tropical Storm Ian strengthens over Caribbean and could approach Florida as major hurricane.

Tropical Storm Ian strengthened as it moved over the Caribbean Saturday and could approach Florida early next week as a major hurricane, according to forecasters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday that Tropical Storm Ian was 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, moving west at 15 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

“Early next week, Ian is forecast to move near or over western Cuba as a strengthening hurricane and then approach the Florida peninsula at or near major hurricane strength, with the potential for significant impacts from storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties which could be in the storm’s path. The order also places the Florida National Guard on standby. DeSantis also put in a request for a federal “pre-landfall emergency declaration.”

Finally, what’ happening with Trump’s idol and mentor Vladimir Putin?

The Washington Post: As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.

4306128e4d89a0be73cdb541c5e153fdBut such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion, and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. Retaking it would be a major accomplishment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Focused on victory at all costs, Mr. Putin has become a more public face of the war as the Russian military appears increasingly in turmoil, forcing him to announce a call-up this week that could sweep 300,000 Russian civilians into military service. This month, Moscow has demonstrated it has too few troops to continue its offensive, suffers from shortages of high-tech precision weaponry and has been unable to gain dominance of Ukraine’s skies.

Read more at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Putin’s Draft Draws Resistance in Russia’s Far-Flung Regions.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise draft to reinforce his invasion of Ukraine ran into growing resistance across Russia on Friday as villagers, activists and even some elected officials asked why the conscription drive appeared to be hitting minority groups and rural areas harder than the big cities.

Some of the greatest anguish played out hundreds or thousands of miles away from the front line, in the Caucasus Mountains and the northeastern region of Yakutia, a sparsely populated expanse that straddles the Arctic Circle. Community leaders described remote villages where much of the working-age male population received conscription notices in recent days, leaving families that subsist off the land without men around to work ahead of the long winter.

“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen — we have so few of them anyway,” Vyacheslav Shadrin, the chairman of the council of elders for a small Indigenous group known as the Yukaghirs, said in a phone interview. “But they are the ones being drafted most of all.”

Mr. Putin announced the call-up on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” necessary to counter Ukraine and its Western backers, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he had long delayed making, even as supporters of the war clamored for a draft in order to allow Russia to intensify its assault.

Russia will mobilize about 300,000 civilians, defense officials said, focusing on men with military experience and special skills, though some Russian media that now operate outside the country reported that the number could be much higher.

But by Friday, even some of the hawkish commentators who had been urging a draft were criticizing the sweeping and uneven way it appeared to be rolling out.

Read the rest at the NYT.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind? What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, the there is so much news that I can’t possibly address everything. The Republican governors of Florida and Texas are engaging in childish behavior that actually could be categorized as human trafficking. Investigations of Trump at the DOJ, the New York Attorney General’s office, and the House January 6 Committee are moving forward. Last night CNN broke the news that Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with a subpoena from the DOJ.

Sometime today, we should get a decision from Judge Loose Cannon about whether she will name a  special master to examine government documents that Trump stole; if she orders a third party to look at highly classified documents, the DOJ will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. Justice Elena Kagen issued a scathing critique of the Supreme Court. And finally, there are revelations from a new book by married reporters Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. I’ll get to as many of these stories as I can.

 

DeSantis and Abbott Use Migrants in Despicable Stunts

The Vineyard Gazette: Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Planes carrying approximately 48 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Wednesday afternoon. Island officials and volunteers quickly rallied to find temporary shelter for the group.

“We’re immigrants,” Eliase, who said he was from Venezuela, told the Gazette. “We came here because of the situation in our country, for the economy, for work, for lots of things. I came here walking. We went through 10 different countries until we got to Texas. There a refugee association put us in a plane and told us there would be work and housing here. I feel good, despite everything. We spent four days in Texas so it’s good to be here.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr said the planes originated in San Antonio, Tex., and appeared to be part of a larger campaign to divert migrants from border states.

“Just like the reverse freedom rides in the 1960s, this endeavor is a cruel ruse that is manipulating families who are seeking a better life,” Senator Cyr said. “No one should be capitalizing on the difficult circumstances that these families are in and contorting that for the purposes of a “gotcha” moment.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later issued a statement to media outlets confirming that the airlift “was part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

A coalition of emergency management officials, faith groups, nonprofit agencies and county and town officials were organizing food and shelter for the migrants, who spent Wednesday night at St. Andrews Church in Edgartown. The Salvation Army, among others, was providing food.

In a news release Thursday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard Humanitarian Response effort asked that inquiries about how to help be sent by email to EMD@dcsoma.org.

DeSantis used taxpayer money for this, and the immigrants were never even in Florida. 

More from NPR this morning: Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston.

The unannounced flight drew anger from Massachusetts officials.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” said state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on today’s Morning Edition.

The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.

Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.

“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”

WBUR: 2 busloads of migrants dropped off near VP Harris’ residence.

Two buses of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border were dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in residential Washington on Thursday morning in the bitter political battle over the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear which Republican leader had sent them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants out of Texas to cities with Democratic mayors as part of a political strategy this year because he claims there are too many arrivals over the border to his state. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also got in on the act recently. It was first dreamed up by former President Donald Trump.

About two dozen men and women stood outside the U.S. Naval Observatory at dawn, clutching clear plastic bags of their belongings brought with them over the border, before moving to a nearby church. Harris’ office had no immediate comment.

This story is still developing.

Multiple Trump Investigations

CNN: Exclusive: Mark Meadows complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe.

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows…on October 30, 2020… (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter tells CNN. That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss – including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

The New York Times: N.Y. Attorney General May Sue Trump After Rejecting Settlement Offer.

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald J. Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.

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Letitia James

The likelihood of a lawsuit grew this month after Ms. James’s office rejected at least one settlement offer from Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. While the Trump Organization for months has made overtures to the attorney general’s office — and the two sides could still reach a deal — there is no indication that a settlement will materialize anytime soon.

Ms. James, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, is focused on whether Mr. Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets and has mounted a three-and-a-half-year inquiry that has cemented her as one of the former president’s chief antagonists. Mr. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing and derided the investigation as a politically motivated witch hunt, has fired back at her, filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to block her inquiry and calling Ms. James, who is Black, a racist.

A lawsuit from Ms. James would supercharge their drawn-out battle, offering her an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the former president and his business, which she vowed before taking office to “vigorously investigate.”

Axios: Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena yields “thousands” of Secret Service records.

The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received “thousands of exhibits” from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency.

Why it matters: Uncovering information from the Secret Service has been a major focus for the panel since testimony during its public hearings in June and July revealed the agency’s role in key events on Jan. 6.

Driving the news: Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters that the materials obtained are “a combination of a number of text messages, radio traffic … thousands of exhibits.”

 — Thompson said the the materials consist “primarily” of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.

 — “The tranches we’ve received have been significant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

 — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, said on MSNBC on Wednesday “it’s been a large volume of information that we really pressed hard for the agency to release.”

CNN: House January 6 committee seeks more John Eastman emails.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is seeking another 3,200 pages of emails from John Eastman, the Trump attorney who spearheaded the far-fetched legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The committee told a federal judge in California in a filing late Wednesday that it needs the additional documents “so that it may complete its efforts, including preparation of the final report” before the end of the year.

In the filing, House counsel Douglas Letter asked US District Court Judge David Carter to review the remaining batch of emails and decide whether Eastman’s claims of executive privilege are valid.

“In light of this exchange over the past month or so, it seems clear that further consultation with Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in the Select Committee receiving the material that it seeks in a timely manner,” the filing states. “Accordingly, the Select Committee now moves for this Court to review and rule on Plaintiff’s claims of privilege” for the remaining documents.

Judge Loose Cannon

U.S. News: Judge’s Rulings Poised to Shape Trump Document Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is expected to announce shortly a third-party attorney to review hundreds of confidential documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month, how long that special master will have to review the material and whether the Justice Department will be allowed to continue its investigation in the name of national security – highly anticipated decisions that will set the course of the prominent federal investigation.

The Justice Department has asked that Cannon rule on these matters by Thursday or it will appeal her ruling appointing a special master to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers told the judge that the Justice Department should not be able to continue its review of classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago. In the 21-page filing, his legal team attempted to discredit the federal investigation, which they called “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control,” and repeated previous claims that Trump had the ability to declassify documents while president as well as broad authority to control his records – even after he left office.

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Judge Aileen Cannon

The Justice Department filed a motion on Tuesday in response, slamming Trump’s lawyers for attempting to delay and discredit the investigation into his mishandling of national security documents, which they argued could cause “irreparable harm” to national security.

“Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a ‘document storage dispute’ or an ‘overdue library book scenario,’” the Justice Department said in a court filing. “In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials.”

As it stands, the Justice Department said it would accept one of the three judges Trump’s legal team proposed as a special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan who has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. Trump rejected the candidates put forth by the Justice Department.

Justice Elena Kagan Speaks

Politico: Kagan repeats warning that Supreme Court is damaging its legitimacy.

Justice Elena Kagan warned again on Wednesday that unsound reasoning and politically convenient conclusions have infected the Supreme Court’s recent opinions and are doing damage to the court’s standing with the American public.

“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem — and that’s when there ought to be a problem,” Kagan said during an event at Northwestern University School of Law.

Kagan has offered similar criticism of the high court on several occasions over the past summer, following its momentous, 5-4 decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and wiping out a federal constitutional right to abortion that had been recognized for nearly half a century.

However, the recent criticisms from Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama and a former Harvard Law School dean, now seem more pointed because they come just days after Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern publicly that the court’s reputation is being unfairly battered.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Kagan did not mention the landmark abortion ruling she dissented from in June, but she did refer to other decisions where, she said, the court had colored outside the lines….

Among them was a ruling the court delivered on the final day of decisions in June, striking down a key element of the Biden administration’s climate change policy on the ground that Congress should have been more explicit if it was granting the Environmental Protection Agency authority over such a “major question.”

Revelations from New Book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Book review by David Greenberg at the New York Times: A Sober Look at the ‘Cartoonishly Chaotic’ Trump White House.

“His job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.” This line from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s detail-rich history of the Trump administration, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” technically applies to his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But in truth it describes any of several dozen beleaguered helpmates to the former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years. Comprehensively researched and briskly told, “The Divider”is a story of disasters averted as well as disasters realized.

Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).

To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.

Read more at the NYT.

Links to revelations from the book:

Axios: Trump scoops from Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book.

The Guardian: Trump chief of staff used book on president’s mental health as White House guide.

The Washington Post: Trump told Jordan’s king he would give him the West Bank, shocking Abdullah II, book says.

CNN: ‘You’re blowing this’: New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of Covid.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts, and what other stories are you following?

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m very pleased to report that today’s top story isn’t about Trump or his Republican enablers. That’s a very good thing for me because I’ve reached peak Trump exhaustion once again. Today Nancy Pelosi leads the politics news.

Reuters: Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes.

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.

Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” read more

China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.

Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday before her arrival, and Chinese state media said People’s Liberation Army would hold exercises near Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.

More info from CNN: 

Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said in a statement on Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.

The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will first visit the parliament before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said….

The American Institute in Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwan relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the institute said in a statement.

Pelosi also wrote an op-ed explaining why she chose to go to Taiwan, despite criticism. You can read it at The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Yesterday the White House announced the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul.

The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Biden announced Monday evening.

Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

When U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, Biden administration officials said they would retain capability for “over-the-horizon” attacks from elsewhere on terrorist forces inside Afghanistan. The attack against Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike there since the withdrawal.

Speaking in a live television address from a balcony at the White House, Biden announced that days ago he had authorized a strike to kill Zawahiri. “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.

The strike occurred at 9:48 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation. A drone fired two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri as he stepped onto the balcony of a safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family, the official said.

Read more at the WaPo.

At NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report on a non-violent Biden success story: Biden administration task force reunites 400 migrant families separated under Trump.

The Biden administration has reunited 400 children with their parents after they were separated as migrants crossing the southern border under the Trump administration, said Michelle Brané, the executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force.

More than 5,000 families were separated under Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy and a 2017 pilot program and advocates estimate over 1,000 remain separated. Because the Trump administration did not keep records of which children were separated and where they were sent, the task force and lawyers working on behalf of separated families have had a difficult time identifying families to offer them the chance of reunification.

In the majority of recently reunited cases, Brané said, the parents were deported while the children remained in the U.S. Now, parents are given the opportunity to come to the U.S. on paid travel, bring other members of their family who are dependent on them, and live and work in the U.S. legally for three years.

Lawyers for the families have advocated for legal permanent status on behalf of separated families, but so far the Biden administration has not agreed to that provision.

Brané said the reunification also includes mental health services for families both before and after reunification. She said many of the families have suffered from profound mental health issues after their separation and counseling is often needed before they reunify. 

“You don’t want to just throw kids into an environment with a parent they may not have seen for five years,” Brané said. 

Click the link to read the rest.

Republicans are licking their wounds after the public reaction to their votes against health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. Politico: Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.

Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.

Republicans insist their decision to hold up the bill, which expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances while on active duty, was unrelated to the deal on party-line legislation that top Democrats struck last week. The GOP blocked the bill hours after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an agreement on a health care, climate and tax package — angering Republicans who thought the Democrats-only plan would be much narrower.

Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question Monday about why the legislation was held up.

“It will pass this week,” he said.

Other Republicans in Senate leadership struck a similar tone. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told POLITICO he would “expect it to pass” and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, echoed that at “some point this is going to pass and it will pass big.”

In another potential win for Democrats in Congress, Joe Manchin finally came through with something good. William Saletan at The Bulwark (link above):

Joe Manchin has rescued the Democratic agenda. After blocking President Biden’s Build Back Better plan for nearly a year—as well as subsequent, pared-down versions of the legislation—the West Virginia senator has reversed course. Last Thursday he endorsed a revised $400 billion package that focuses on health insurance subsidies, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, and funding new energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

With Manchin’s vote, the bill is likely to pass. But he isn’t just voting for it; he’s selling it. Over the weekend, he appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows—a rare feat often referred to as a “full Ginsburg”—to make his case for the bill. It was an eye roll-worthy display of political spin. Here’s a summary of his talking points.

(Abridged–You’ll need to go to the Bulwark to read all the details.)

1. It’s not Build Back Better. It’s the Inflation Reduction Act.

The vast majority of the new bill comes from Biden’s BBB framework. Most Democrats liked BBB and would be happy to celebrate the passage of these elements of it. But Manchin, who represents a conservative state, doesn’t want to be associated with BBB. He doesn’t want to look like he’s saving the Democratic agenda. He wants to look like he’s killing it.

2. It’s not spending. It’s investment.

“I couldn’t get there with Build Back Better. It was $3.5 trillion of spending,” Manchin explained on CNN’s State of the Union. In contrast, he argued, the Inflation Reduction Act knocked “$3.5 trillion dollars of spending down to $400 billion of investment.” On Face the NationFox News Sunday, and This Week, he made the same pitch: BBB was a “spending bill,” but the IRA was an “investment bill.”

3. It doesn’t raise taxes. It closes loopholes.

On Fox News Sunday, Manchin insisted that his bill’s establishment of a 15 percent minimum tax for billion-dollar companies—up from zero percent—wasn’t really a tax increase. “It does not raise taxes,” he told Bret Baier. “All we did was close loopholes.” Thirty seconds later, Manchin repeated, “We did not raise taxes. We’ve closed loopholes. . . . I made sure there was no tax increases in this whatsoever.

4. It’s not a green bill. It’s red, white, and blue.

In much of the United States, being “green” is poCpular. Restaurants, grocery stories, and retailers advertise it. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, seems to have decided that among his target audience, “green” is a dirty word. So he’s pointedly rejecting it.

“This is not a green deal. It’s not a Republican deal. It’s not a Democrat deal. It is a red, white, and blue deal,” Manchin declared on CNN. A few minutes later, he repeated: “It’s definitely not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.” On Fox, he delivered the same message: “It’s not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.

There are a few Trump investigation stories today. 

CNN: Retired DC cop who testified before January 6 committee says Trump ‘adamantly’ wanted to go to Capitol.

A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.

The comments by Mark Robinson, who has testified to the January 6 committee, further corroborate key details first revealed by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who spoke at length about Trump’s behaviorto the House select committee. Hutchinson said that she was told that Trump became “irate” when informed by security that he would not be going to the Capitol on January 6, because the situation was not secure.

Robinson was not physically with Trump on January 6. He was in the lead car of the motorcade and said that he learned Trump wanted to go to the Capitol through communications from the Secret Service.

“We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol,” Robinson told Lemon. “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.” [….]

“I think it would have probably encouraged more rioting. And (the rioters would have) felt supported. If the presidential motorcade came in support of them. So I think the insurrectionists probably would have felt as though they had the support of the President,” Robinson said.

More details at the CNN link.

Two more Trump investigation stories to check out:

Politico: Judge rejects Trump effort to toss lawsuits accusing him of Jan. 6 conspiracy.

The New York Times: Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts.

I hope you all have a great Tuesday!


Thursday Reads: SCOTUS News

Good Morning!!

I feel emotionally wrung out this morning. We are living through important events that will reverberate down through history, and we still don’t know which side will control how future generations see these events. Will we succeed in rescuing U.S. democracy, or will the forces of fascism win in the end? Will we survive the stunning series of decisions the reactionary Supreme Court has inflicted on us in the past couple of weeks? With the societal divisions being sown by the GOP and the Court lead to a new civil war? Today I’m going to focus on the latest decisions from the Trumpist SCOTUS decisions.

Nina Totenberg at NPR: Supreme Court restricts the EPA’s authority to mandate carbon emissions reductions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a major blow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change. The decision by the conservative court majority sets the stage for further limitations on the regulatory power of other agencies as well.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court said that any time an agency does something big and new – in this case addressing climate change – the regulation is presumptively invalid, unless Congress has specifically authorized regulating in this sphere.

At issue in the case were rules adopted by the Trump and Obama administrations and aimed at addressing the country’s single-largest carbon emissions problem – from coal-fired power plants. The Obama plan was broad, the Trump plan narrow. The Obama plan didn’t regulate only coal-fired plants. Instead, it set strict carbon limits for each state and encouraged the states to meet those limits by relying less on coal-fired power plants and more on alternative sources of energy – wind, solar, hydro-electric and natural gas. The goal of the plan was to produce enough electricity to satisfy U.S. demand in a way that lowered greenhouse emissions.

The concept worked so well that even after Obama’s Clean Power Plan was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court and then repealed by the Trump administration, most utilities continued to abandon coal because it was just too expensive, compared to other energy producing methods. In fact, even without the regulation in place, the reduction targets for carbon emissions were met 11 years ahead of schedule.

Fearing the Obama approach might someday be revived, the coal industry, joined by West Virginia and 16 other states, went to court in support of the Trump plan and its more restrictive interpretation of the Clean Air Act. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled against them in 2021.

But on Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the coal industry, ruling that the Clean Air Act does not authorize anything other than direct regulation of coal-fired plants….

The decision appears to enact major new limits on agency regulations across the economy, limits of a kind not imposed by the court for 75 years or more. The decision, for instance, casts a cloud of doubt over a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would require companies offering securities to the public to disclose climate-related risks – like severe weather events that have or likely will affect their business models. Also in jeopardy is a new interim rule adopted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “aimed at treating greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change the same as all other environmental impacts [the Commission] considers.”

The Supreme Court deigned to give Biden one win, on immigration. The Washington Post: Supreme Court clears Biden to end Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for the Biden administration on a controversial immigration policy, saying it had the authority to reverse a Trump-era policy that requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are reviewed in U.S. courts.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for himself and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the court’s three liberals, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Roberts said federal immigration law gives the executive discretion: He may return asylum seekers to Mexico, but is not required to do so.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

Barrett said that she agreed with the majority on the merits of the decision but that the court should not have decided the case and should have remanded it to lower courts.

Alito, writing for himself, Thomas and Gorsuch, said the Department of Homeland Security should not be free to “simply release into this country untold numbers of aliens who are very likely to be removed if they show up for their removal hearings. This practice violates the clear terms of the law, but the Court looks the other way.”

From NPR, another bit of good SCOTUS news: Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in Thursday at noon as the 116th Supreme Court justice and the first Black woman to serve on the high court.

Biden nominated Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, but we’ve made it! We’ve made it — all of us,” Jackson said in remarks at a White House event the day after the Senate vote.

“I have dedicated my career to public service because I love this country and our Constitution and the rights that make us free,” Jackson also said.

Jackson, 51, has been confirmed since April, when the Senate voted 53 to 47 on her nomination. It was expected she would replace 83-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer — whom she clerked for after shed graduated from Harvard Law School in 1996 — when he stepped down. His retirement will be effective Thursday.

Jackson will take two oaths during the livestreamed event: a constitutional oath, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, and a judicial oath, administered by Breyer.

Biden and Congressional Democrats are still struggling to deal with the Court’s decision to take away American women’s control over their own bodies and turn women in their childbearing years into broodmares.

The Washington Post: Democrats call on Biden to declare abortion national health emergency.

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing President Biden to declare a national health emergency to increase financial resources and flexibility in states that continue to allow abortion access following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Congressional Black Caucus made the initial request the morning of the court’s ruling, and the House Pro-Choice Caucus is privately urging the administration to act swiftly. 

“The fundamental right to control your body and future has been ripped away from American women,” Assistant Speaker of the HouseRep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) told The Early. “Declaring an emergency is an immediate step to help patients access the care they need.”

Supporters say time is critical because the remaining abortion clinics are seeing a massive increase in demand that is going to be difficult to meet.

“They are doing everything they can,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said of an abortion clinic treating women in the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. “But they are severely resource constrained in terms of the providers that they have, in terms of the physical facilities that they have, in terms of the financial resources they need to try to expand access to care, which they desperately want to do.” 

“This would be another way for the full legal authority of the federal government to be brought into play as we try to protect women’s health,” Smith said in an interview on Washington Post Live this week. 

Another suggestion is to change the filibuster rules for abortion laws. The Washington Post: Biden endorses scrapping Senate filibuster to codify abortion, privacy rights.

Today, President Biden chastised the Supreme Court for “outrageous behavior” and said he would support an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rules to make it easier to write abortion protections into law. Biden, speaking on the world stage in Madrid, called the court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade “destabilizing” and said an exception should be made to a Senate rule that requires 60 votes for most bills to advance.

Politico: Biden says he supports a filibuster carveout to restore abortion rights.

“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law and the way to do that is to make sure that Congress votes to do that, and if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be ‘we provide an exception for this’ — require an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” Biden said during a press conference at the NATO summit.

Biden’s comments come on the heels of the consequential Supreme Court decision last Friday to overturn the landmark 1973 decision and deny a constitutional right to abortion. The president has previously been opposed to getting rid of the filibuster — which establishes a 60-vote threshold to move most bills through the Senate — but said Thursday he would do “everything in my power” to protect the right to choose .

The president added he’d be in favor of changing filibuster rules to not only guarantee abortion rights but also a constitutional right to privacy — which he said the Supreme Court “wiped” out with its decision on Roe. He said codifying privacy rights would protect access to abortion as well as a “whole range of issues,” including same-sex marriage….

Biden’s support for ending the filibuster is his most concrete call for legislative action yet on preserving abortion rights. With the filibuster as it stands, Democrats almost certainly lack the 60 votes they would need to codify Roe in a 50-50 Senate.

So far, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema haven’t agreed to go along with this strategy.

Republicans have been hoping that violent demonstrations would follow the SCOTUS decision on Roe v. Wade, but their wishes haven’t come true so far. Kathryn Joyce at Salon: Did violence follow Roe decision? Yes — almost all of it against pro-choice protesters.

Before the Supreme Court even announced its decision overturning Roe v. Wade last Friday, right-wing politicians and media had begun warning of a wave of violent demonstrations or riots by pro-choice protesters. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., called on “all patriots” to defend local churches and crisis pregnancy centers, while Fox News hyped warnings about a “night” or “summer of rage” and various far-right activists — from the America First/groyper movement to the Proud Boys to a staffer for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake — issued threats against leftists they claimed were about to become violent. 

But it appears that most of the violence that occurred in response to the Roe decision this past weekend was directed at pro-choice demonstrators, not caused by them.

On Friday night, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a man drove his pickup truck into a group of women protesters, hitting several and driving over the ankle of one woman. Iowa journalist Lyz Lenz, who was covering the protest, noted on Twitter that the attack came at the end of a peaceful event, as demonstrators were crossing the road at a crosswalk while the man had a red light. “The truck drove around other cars in order to hit protesters,” Lenz wrote, adding that the driver “was screaming” while a woman in the truck with him begged him to stop….

That same night, at a pro-choice protest in Providence, Rhode Island, an off-duty police officer named Jeann Lugo — who, until this weekend, was a Republican candidate for state Senate — punched his Democratic opponent, reproductive rights organizer Jennifer Rourke, in the face. 

Providence police arrested Lugo and charged him with assault and disorderly conduct, placing him on administrative leave. On Saturday, Lugo dropped out of the Senate race and announced he would not be seeking any political office before apparently deactivating his Twitter account. 

In Atlanta, photographer Matthew Pearson documented a group of more than a dozen Proud Boys coming to counterprotest a pro-choice demonstration, while an Atlanta antifascist group posted photos of the group boarding a Humvee painted with the Proud Boys’ logo.

In several other states, police responded to demonstrations against the SCOTUS ruling with heavy-handed tactics and violence. 

Read about more of these events at the Salon link.

I’ll add more news in the comment thread. Have a nice Thursday!


Thursday Reads

Man reading

Man reading, by Franco Americano

Good Morning!!

News just broke of an explosion outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The New York Times: An explosion is reported at Kabul airport, after warnings of a security threat.

An explosion rattled an area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed, just hours after Western governments had warned of a security threat there.

Since the Taliban takeover of the city earlier this month, thousands of Afghan civilians and foreign citizens have gathered at the airport, which has a military and civilian side, desperate to be airlifted out of the country.

“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a post on Twitter. “Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.”

A U.S. military official confirmed that at least one explosion had occurred at the Abbey Gate, a main entryway to the international airport. Early reports indicated that the explosion was caused by at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed, but large crowds have been gathering at the gate in recent days.

I guess we’ll hear more details as the day goes on.

In other news, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have decided to interfere with the U.S. President’s immigration powers. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: Thanks to the Supreme Court, a federal judge in Texas is making foreign policy decisions.

It’s easy to miss amid the flood of other news, but thanks to the Supreme Court, a big chunk of our national immigration policy is now being run by a federal trial court judge in Texas. Oh, yes, also our foreign relations.

Not just any judge, by the way, but a Trump nominee named Matthew Kacsmaryk, who, before being named to the bench, described homosexuality as “disordered,” characterized being transgender as a “delusion” and “mental disorder,” and, of course, criticized Roe v. Wade.

My beef, though, isn’t with Kacsmaryk as much as with his superiors at the Supreme Court. In a brief order Tuesday evening, the justices — with the three liberals dissenting — refused to disturb Kacsmaryk’s ruling requiring the Biden administration to resume Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy at the southern border, first adopted in 2019.

That is bad policy. The Migrant Protection Protocols, as the program is officially named, have required tens of thousands of asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, often in squalid and dangerous conditions, as they awaited hearings. The Trump administration’s argument was that this approach would help speed up the process and reduce backlogs….

Santiago Rusiñol, Romantic Novel

Santiago Rusiñol, Romantic Novel

But who has the better policy, Trump or Biden, isn’t the real issue here. It’s what role the federal judiciary should play in flyspecking that policy and, in particular, what should happen while the legal questions are being sorted out….

As acting solicitor general Brian H. Fletcher told the justices, the order “requires the government to abruptly reinstate a broad and controversial immigration enforcement program that has been formally suspended for seven months and largely dormant for nearly nine months before that.” David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border security at the Department of Homeland Security, said complying would be “near-impossible.” State Department official Ricardo Zúñiga said that “mandatory and immediate re-implementation of MPP on a wide-scale basis would undermine the U.S. government’s flexibility and discretion, negatively impact U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations and subject already-vulnerable individuals to increased risks.”

And then there are layers of hypocrisy. The conservative justices were remarkably solicitous of the Trump administration’s unprecedented and frequent pleas for emergency orders, especially in the immigration context.

As University of Texas School of Law professor Stephen I. Vladeck noted, of 28 emergency stays that the court issued in response to Trump administration requests, 11 involved lifting district court injunctions against Trump administration immigration policies. 

Too bad all those Hillary haters refused to vote for her in 2016.

I hate to write about the pandemic again, but it’s still dominating the news because it’s getting worse.

The Washington Post: Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January.

More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.

By Steve Christopher Seward

By Steve Christopher Seward

Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with covid-19 than the national level, according to a Washington Post database. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Florida, which has the most hospitalizations for covid-19 of any state in the country, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000.

Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.

New coronavirus cases are being reported across the country at similar levels to those seen in January. About 151,000 new daily cases were being reported on average on Jan. 30; on Wednesday, that figure was 148,000. However, even as many hospitals are under strain and report shortages of intensive care unit beds, overall deaths are far lower; the daily average of deaths at the end of January was 3,100 and about 1,100 as of Wednesday.

This is interesting, but not surprising from Joshua Green at Bloomberg News: Vaccinated Democratic Counties Are Leading the Economic Recovery.

With Covid-19 cases once again rising across the country, the U.S. is struggling to curb the latest, delta-driven surge, as hospitalizations and deaths have steadily climbed. But at least so far, the economy has proved highly resilient. There are many reasons for this, ranging from generous stimulus checks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buying bonds and holding interest rates low.

But some interesting new data on the overlap of electoral politics and economic dynamism suggest another reason: The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.

Read the rest at the link.

In the red counties and states, people are poisoning themselves rather than get vaccines. Miami Herald: Calls about animal dewormer as COVID treatment soar in Texas, poison center says.

The Texas Poison Center Network has received dozens of calls this month about people exposed to ivermectin, an animal dewormer some are using for COVID-19 treatment.

But the drug, which is flying off the shelves in many parts of the United States, is not a suitable treatment and health organizations are warning against its improper use….

Of the 150 people who have called the center this year regarding exposure to the drug, 54 said they intentionally misused it.

Common side effects of the drug are allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hypotension, the center said.

“Patients who take concentrated forms that are used for large animals like horses and cows are more likely to experience severe side effects and toxicity,” Texas Poison Center said in a statement to McClatchy News. “Accidental poisonings in children may also occur when this medication is kept in the home and is improperly stored. As a result, the Texas Poison Center Network does not encourage the use of ivermectin outside of its intended use.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have all also advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials, McClatchy News reported earlier this month.

A large dose of ivermectin intended for a horse could cause a human to have complications that include “low blood pressure, rapid heart rates, seizures” along with damage to the liver and layers of skin falling off, Dr. Shane Speights, site dean at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, told KAIT8.

By Franz von Defregger

By Franz von Defregger

Some doctors in Idaho and Arkansas are even prescribing this stuff. For Christ sake, why won’t these idiots just get the vaccine and wear masks?

Florida has become the Coronavirus epicenter of the U.S. The New York Times: In Florida, the pandemic is worse now than it has ever been before.

More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic, underscoring the perils of limiting public health measures as the Delta variant rips through the state.

This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now. The average for new known cases reached 23,314 a day on the weekend, 30 percent higher than the state’s previous peak in January, according to a New York Times database. Across the country, new deaths have climbed to more than 1,000 a day, on average….

And hospitalizations in Florida have almost tripled in the past month, according to federal data, stretching many hospitals to the breaking point. The surge prompted the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to conserve water to limit the strain on the city’s supply of liquid oxygen, which is needed both to purify drinking water and to treat Covid-19 patients.

Even as cases continue to surge, with more than 17,200 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Several school districts have gone ahead with mask mandates anyway.

I wonder if DeSantis reads the newspapers or watches anything other than Fox News?

WFLA.com: Bodies stacked to the ceiling as COVID-19 surge creates backlog at Florida funeral homes, crematories.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (WESH) — At West Side Crematory in Winter Garden, they’re overwhelmed with the remains of people that need to be cremated.

There’s an influx of bodies like they’ve never seen, worse than the first wave of COVID-19. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. The staff is working day and night to honor the dead.

By Arthur John Elsley

By Arthur John Elsley

WESH 2 called 20 funeral homes and crematories and many were too busy to be part of our story. Some were too busy to even talk on the phone. One funeral director said that in a 30-minute period where he talked to his partner, four new cases came in.

Mike Marchetti, the area manager for Newcomer Funeral Homes, says as much as they don’t want to, sometimes they have to delay meetings with families and delay funerals because they only have so much staff.

“So the family comes in and they say we would like to have the funeral on Friday and we have to tell then ‘I’m sorry we can’t accommodate a funeral on Friday because our schedule is full,” Marchetti said.

A death care industry struggling to meet demands at a level they’ve never seen before, and families struggling to cope with grief at a level a community has ever seen before.

And then there’s South Dakota, where Governor Kristi Noem welcomed about 700,000 unmasked bikers to party in a a small town named Sturgis.

NBC News: South Dakota Covid cases quintuple after Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Two weeks after the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, reported Covid infections in the state have risen nearly sixfold.

South Dakota counted 3,819 new cases in the past two weeks, including seven deaths, up from 644 cases in the 14 days preceding it. That makes it the state with the largest percent increase in Covid cases in the past two weeks.

The state’s rate of Covid-19 infections per capita in the past two weeks is in the bottom half of the country, but it’s the sharp and sudden increase in case counts that sets it apart.

Meade County, home to Sturgis, has counted 330 new cases in the last two weeks, up from the 20 reported in the two weeks before the rally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case count. The 1,550 percent increase comes after the motorcycle rally, which usually draws around half a million people, possibly had its biggest year ever, according to County Sheriff Ron Merwin.

By Richard Boyer

By Richard Boyer

The Daily Beast: Warnings About the Sturgis Rally Have Come Tragically True.

In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event….

…while Southern states have been the main drivers of this surge thus far, the recent spike in cases in South Dakota warrants special concern.

The state more broadly has witnessed a 686.8 percent increase in daily case counts over the past three weeks, currently more than 10 times the nationwide rate. Meade County’s post-Sturgis uptick is certainly a contributor to this state-level increase, but neighboring counties have experienced a sharp incline in cases, too—ranging from a 1,900 percent increase in the past three weeks in Butte to a 1,050 percent increase in Lawrence.

Those two counties are also key focal points for the rally, which is not, in reality, confined to Sturgis. And because the rally is widely attended by residents all across South Dakota, it’s not surprising that counties further away—like Charles Mix County, which saw a 1,500 percent increase—are experiencing an incline in cases, too.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents the perfect storm for a superspreader event across this region: a large gathering with no testing, no masks, and no vaccination requirements. Though many (but not all) of the goings-on occurred outdoors and thus offered more protection against SARS-CoV-2 transmission than if they hadn’t been, the South Dakota Department of Transportation reported that 525,768 vehicles entered Sturgis over the 10 days of the rally. The sheer number of people in attendance paired with a lack of additional precautions presented prime conditions for viral transmission.

There’s much more at the link.

Sorry about all the bad news. Take care and hang in there, Sky Dancers!!